Match Preview: Crystal Palace vs. Arsenal

By - Friday 25th October, 2013

After a tumultuous week for Crystal Palace, the attention turns to the pitch once again – against league leaders Arsenal, no less

Palace fans may be hoping former Real Madrid man Mesut Ozil is rested this weekend. Photo by sama093, used under Creative Commons.

Another year, another manager. Ian Holloway’s departure as Crystal Palace manager on Wednesday evening did not come as a major surprise following the speculation surrounding his job which exploded after a 4-1 defeat at home to Fulham but amongst the ensuing chaos and media attention it may have escaped the attention of some people that there is, however, the small matter of a match against the league leaders Arsenal on Saturday.

The Gunners are in excellent form, with only two defeats in their previous twenty-five matches. Palace interim boss Keith Millen may take heart from the fact that one of those defeats was earlier this week…albeit against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League. Arsenal were held by Norwich in the first half of their Premier League clash at the weekend, but came out fighting in the second half to show some exquisite skill and impressive team work, racking up three more goals without reply to ensure a 4-1 victory.

Jack Wilshere has courted controversy off the pitch of late, but his performances on the football field have been superb, with the England international in excellent form in central midfield. Palace will need Mile Jedinak to be back on form after some less than impressive performances of late from the Australian midfield stalwart. Who partners the Eagles’ captain in midfield is an interesting question. Stuart O’Keefe was one of the better performers in the heavy defeat to Fulham on Monday night and should keep his place, but with Kagisho Dikgacoi potentially returning, Jose Campana may miss out. The Spain U21 international was substituted at half-time against the Cottagers, although he looked to be carrying an injury.

Keith Millen takes temporary charge of the Eagles for this match but it is unlikely that we will see many changes employed

Damien Delaney and Adrian Mariappa will need to be alert to prevent an Arsenal strikeforce with eighteen goals from eight Premier League games this season from increasing their tally significantly. Welshman Aaron Ramsey has improved dramatically to become an integral part of the Gunners’ midfield this season and has netted five league goals so far this campaign. He is ably assisted by £40m man Mesut Ozil who has been a revelation for Arsenal since his deadline day arrival in the capital, scoring two league goals in five appearances, whilst pulling the strings in midfield. Olivier Giroud will continue up front, looking to add to his tally of four league goals.

Keith Millen takes temporary charge of the Eagles for this match but it is unlikely that we will see many changes employed, as Ian Holloway revealed they had prepared together for the match, and there has been no time to alter any tactics in training sessions. The only unenforced changes for the Eagles may centre on Marouane Chamakh who returns to face his former club for the first time since his departure in the summer. The Moroccan striker has provided some indifferent performances at the beginning of his Palace career, with some sparks but little real impact, and missed out altogether against Fulham. However, the lure of getting one over on a club – with whom relations soured towards the end of his time there – may prove to be a large enough carrot for Millen to chop and change his team around to include Chamakh. Either Dwight Gayle will miss out, or one of the wingers will be sacrificed in his place.

Jason Puncheon is perhaps most likely to face the axe after some ineffective performances despite his key role in the victory over Sunderland. The Southampton loanee has done little to impress the fans at Selhurst Park and was barely noticeable on Monday night, with Yannick Bolasie on the other wing providing flair and excitement, as well as creating opportunities and threatening the Fulham defence. If Chamakh does not get the nod, then Jerome Thomas may replace Puncheon anyway, with the former Charlton man producing a decent cameo in the second half.

Let’s be honest, there’s a reason Arsenal are firm favourites to win the match, but Palace will be fired up and looking to impress, looking to create a shock. Although I can’t see an upset on the cards, there’s a good chance of the Eagles keeping a respectable scoreline. Palace’s players must perform better than they have of late, and allow the decibel levels at Selhurst Park to rise, creating an intimidating atmosphere which shows they will be no pushovers.

Crystal Palace 1-4 Arsenal

Crystal Palace vs. Arsenal, Saturday 26th October, Selhurst Park Stadium. Kick-off 12.45pm. Coverage on BT Sport 1 from 11.30am. Limited tickets remain. BT Sport is allowing free access this weekend.

Matt Woosnam

Matt Woosnam

Matt Woosnam is a Kingston University student in his final year as a Politics & International Relations undergraduate. A campaigner on mental health he is the founder of @Talk_Out, as well as part of the TalkEasyTrust, and seeks to break down stigma by encouraging talking out. Matt is also an avid Crystal Palace fan and the online editor of Five Year Plan Fanzine, as well as a regular contributor to the Croydon Guardian.

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