On Thursday night, Arsenal will host Crystal Palace and will be hoping to make it 4 league wins on the bounce. It would be a result that could take us as high as 8th and potentially within 6 points of top 4. It is crucial that we come away with the three points in this one, against a team who we haven’t had the greatest success against in years gone by. In fact in our last 5 league games against Palace, we have only come away with a win once.
The biggest key to success is to deal with Zaha. From what I have seen from Palace this season, they have thrived in games where Zaha isn’t double-teamed and can find him in space. However, everything goes through him. Worryingly so from a Palace fan perspective. If he gets marked out of a game they often seem lost for ideas regarding how else to create chances. Unfortunately, it is easier said than done to deal with Zaha. In fact it is easier said than done to score goals against Palace right now. However, what I have seen is that if we can get an early lead the goals may come a lot easier. Much like in Liverpool’s recent 7 goal thrashing of them.
That being said, here is how I’d line up:
Leno – Goes without saying. He is one of the best keepers in the league and will I’m need to pull off at least one or two saves in this one.
Maitland Niles – I’d go with Maitland-Niles at RB. I think that it is about time we see him given a chance in this role. As well as Bellerin has been playing recently, for me Ainsley is a better one on one defender. I remember early in his Arsenal career he was tasked with dealing with Salah at LB and did so very well. I think he might just do a slightly better job at contained Zaha.
Holding – A new contract is exactly what this guy deserves. He has been extremely reliable recently. I doubt Arteta views him long term as the right side CB to get Arsenal winning titles again, but he can certainly do a job for us for the time being.
Gabriel – Pablo Mari has been excellent since Gabriel’s positive test. However, we cannot forget the fact that Gabriel has still been arguably our best player this season. If the medical team don’t deem him sharp enough to start, then I’d be more than happy seeing Mari starting. However, it would be great to get this guy back in the team.
Tierney – Not only one of the Premier League’s best LB’s but also one of its best leaders. I’m sure he will be causing Palace a headache up and down that left side. It is crazy to think that some rival fans reckon he is overrated. The same fans that reckon Reguilon and Luke Shaw are better than KT. Genuinely, I wouldn’t swap him for anyone.
Partey – Similar to the Gabriel situation, I would not rush him back. And Arteta will know better than I do just how fit he is. But he can really revolutionise this side both in attack and defensively. It will finally feel like a new signing, having only seen Partey play on a few occasions so far.
Ceballos – I’ve been liking what I’m seeing from Ceballos recently. He seems to be playing with a bit more confidence and his getting in those more advanced positions. Xhaka has been playing brilliantly, however a Xhaka-Partey pivot at home to Palace is just a little bit conservative for my liking. Though, if needs must, I’m sure we can rely on Granit to help see the game out.
Saka – Him, Tierney and Leno are the first names on the teamsheet right now. That is incredible when you think about it. He is 19 playing for one of the biggest clubs in the country and is the first name on the team sheet. In a position where he is competing with both our record signing and a player with years of Premier League experience and a couple of winners’ medals too in Pepe and Willian. He is really showing them how it’s done right now and is surely a shoe in for that Euros squad if he stays fit.
Emile Smith Rowe – Among other players of course, ESR is one of the main reasons why we have been able to turn our form around. We plays direct. He takes the ball on the half turn. He is always looking to be a man or play a quick one-two in the final third. What makes him so impressive is that he knows his job isn’t done just once he’s made the pass. He knows to then get on his bike and try and help out further. This is a key trait that the best attacking midfielders have. Like De Bruyne who can create and score. Let’s just hope our Croydon De Bruyne will in his career live up to the original Belgian one.
Aubameyang – I’d start Aubameyang here. Rumour has it Martinelli’s injury is nothing serious and could be available for selection here, but let’s just protect him and give him the rest of the week to recover. I think what that Martinelli injury scare has taught us is that this guy plays at such a high intensity (even in pre-match warm ups) that we have to use him sparingly during the congested fixture season. Meanwhile, Auba has been really improving in the last few weeks. Funny to think how at the beginning of the season, every fan was crying out for Auba through the middle. Now, every fan wants him on the left again making way for Lacazette. I think with the form Tierney is on and the freedom both full backs will get with Partey back in the side, we will start seeing some more goals from Auba as the wide deliveries improve. It will also help to have ESR creating chances.
Lacazette – This guy has to start through the middle. There are a couple of other rotation decisions which would be forgivable, but not playing Lacazette would not be. We have so much talent in attack and a player of Lacazette’s profile really helps to bring it all together. If you look at all of the “vintage Arsenal” goals in the last few years, Lacazette is involved in most of them. His link up play is really smart. I think he was made to look clumsy early in the season because he didn’t have Saka and ESR running off him when the ball was played into his feet. Well he is not isolated up top anymore and is playing some of the best football of his Arsenal career.