ARSENAL travel to Crystal Palace on Saturday . Jack Lambden (@_JackL_) analyses the encounter.
Crystal Palace v Arsenal | Saturday 11th January 2020, 12:30 | BT Sport
Arsenal travel to Selhurst Park below their opponents in the Premier League table and an unthinkable seven points above the relegation zone, showing just how much work Mikel Arteta has on his plate to turn the Gunners’ fortunes around.
Realistically, the chances of the North London club finishing in the bottom three are slim to none but their league position is a sign of the how far the team has fallen from regular top four finishes. Although there have been bright moments since the Spaniard’s appointment, Arsenal have struggled to string together a complete performance for 90 minutes of a game, the only real highlight being the 2-0 defeat of Manchester United.
The game of two halves against Leeds, a match in which they could quite easily have been 3-0 down at half-time, ended in a positive outcome but was yet another example of a topsy-turvy match for a disjointed squad and the gaffer laid into his players for how lacklustre they were in the first 45 minutes.
At times since Arteta has taken up the reigns, the Gunners have been aggressive, brave on the ball and pressed the opposition high to good effect and despite at times a barrage of shots on their goal, a more positive approach has led to the team keeping consecutive clean sheets.
There is of course many aspects of Arsenal’s game that the young manager needs to try and remedy but if he is given the time and resources to improve the squad, it could be a match made in heaven.
Crossing London, Crystal Palace fans are about where they would expect to be after just over half the season, maybe even overperforming considering how little they spent in the summer and the injury problems which continues to fester.
As solid as Palace have been at the back (quite remarkable considering how many defenders are unavailable) the problems remains the lack of goals scored having bagged just 19 in 21 games so the team are on course to fall well short of the 51 they recorded last season. Jordan Ayew has worked hard at the top of the pitch to produce five goals but Palace continue to rely upon Serbian Luka Milivojevic’s set-piece prowess and some creative magic from Wilfred Zaha too much.
Experienced Hodgson will have to managed his squad wisely with up to 12 players out for the visit of Arsenal. Milivojevic’s red card against Derby is being appealed but should the Serb have his ban upheld, the Eagles will be without a man who has scored four goals and one assist in his last four games against Arsenal which is a bitter blow.
McCarthur to make his mark
The absence of the aggressive midfielder who has 8 yellows and a red to his name this season, means that the ‘James Mc’ pair, McArthur and McCarthy, will need to be tough in the tackle if Palace are to try and win the crucial midfield battle which could determine the outcome of this match.
The two have registered 14 tackles between them in their last 2 league appearances and with 5 each made in the 2-2 draw at the Emirates back in October, it’s an angle I want to get on side again.
Looking at the prices, McArthur is 5/2 to register 4+ tackles with SkyBet which looks too big considering all of the above. If you look at the Scotsman’s tackle stats per-game in 2019/20, each time he has made four or more it has been against possession based sides, namely Chelsea (5), Everton (5), Wolves (4) and Aston Villa (4), as well as the Gunners as already mentioned, so Saturday could be yet another occasion that occurs. On that basis, 3+ tackles at Evens is also a value play in my view.
Xhaka to collect a card
On the theme of getting stuck in, a man that got away with blue murder in the Leeds cup tie was Granit Xhaka. Despite repeated fouls which each would have warranted a yellow card, the Swiss international avoided a booking and heading into this game, this is something that will surely be in the back of referee Paul Tierney’s mind when officiating the game.
Tierney isn’t the most card prolific of referees when compared to his colleagues but with Arsenal picking up 22 cards in 10 away games and Xhaka conceding four fouls per game since Arteta’s arrival (more than his season long average of 2.1, the highest in the league), the 2/1 on his name being taken here at William Hill is a selection I will be backing.
As tiresome as Danny Murphy’s commentary on Monday evening was, he was right in saying that Xhaka will just keep fouling until a card comes his way so it wouldn’t susprise me to see it forthcoming in this match.
Gunners to notch
On the outright front, Arsenal to score two or more goals looks a good way to go too. The Gunners have scored at least twice in their last five games against the Eagles and with top scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang set to return from illness, they’ll be confident of converting chances into goals.
Arsenal’s Expected Goals (xG) figure has risen from 2.95 in total across the three games prior to Arteta’s reign officially beginning to 4.06 in the three Premier League games since he’s taken over which is in a signal of intent in itself.
However, with the Gunners still displaying plenty of cracks at the back and conceding as many goals against the South London side in recent meetings as they’ve scored at the right end, I’d rather get a second selection on side to double up with the Arsenal goals instead of backing them to win the match against injury-hit Palace.
Games involving Crystal Palace and Arsenal often see a high number of corners across this and each of the last few seasons so by adding over 8 match corners to over 1 Arsenal goal, we get odds of 131/100 with Bet365 which look far more appealing as a combi than they do as singles.
Arsenal’s away form is hardly anything to write home about but with Palace, predominantly a counter attacking team, picking up exactly the same amount of points at the atmosphere cauldron Selhurst Park as they have away in the past four and a half seasons, the Gunners should be hopeful of coming away with a decent result to avenge the VAR inflicted denial of three points in the reverse.
Crystal Palace v Arsenal – James McArthur 3+ tackles (Evens SkyBet)
Crystal Palace v Arsenal – James McArthur 4+ tackles (5/2 SkyBet)
Crystal Palace v Arsenal – Granit Xhaka to be carded (2/1 William Hill)
Crystal Palace v Arsenal – Arsenal Over 1 Goal and Over 8 Match Corners (131/100 Bet365)