It may be time for the rest of the Premier League to wake up to the fact that Arsenal are putting together a run that could catapult them into a real, live title race. With eleven straight wins under their belt – seven in the league – Unai Emery’s men are developing the most important habit a team can have, an ability to see off opponents that was absent for the last few years under Arsene Wenger.
Palace, for their part, are a conundrum. They have, in Roy Hodgson, an intelligent manager who turned the ship around after a terrible start to the season under Frank de Boer. The one problem he hasn’t managed to cure is their tendency to fall into damaging losing runs, and they’re on one at the moment after three defeats on the bounce. If they pick up form soon, the Eagles could be a mid-table side – but if things continue as they are, they could be thrown into a relegation scrap.
Crystal Palace vs Arsenal Prediction: Crystal Palace 0-2 Arsenal
Last Monday’s 3-1 win over Leicester may have come with a huge slice of luck for the Gunners – somehow, defender Rob Holding managed to handle the ball in the penalty area without the referee seeing it. Holding avoided a red card, and his side didn’t concede a spot kick. Here’s the thing – a past Arsenal side may well not have heeded the warning. Luck happens in football sometimes, and Emery seems to have instilled in his players an ability to turn it into results. Coming up against a Palace side low on confidence is ideal for this Arsenal side, and you’d expect them to exploit the situation to the full.
Our recommended tip: Arsenal 2-0
Our score prediction is also our recommended bet. Arsenal have built their recent run on putting opponents away with minimal fuss, and three of their last four league games have been won by a two-goal margin (the other was a 5-1 win at Fulham, but… Fulham). Having spent Thursday night eking out a win over Sporting in Portugal, Emery’s men may start slow here – but they have the players and the collective mental strength to get the result they need, and this tip is available at 8/1 (9.00) with Betway.
As up-and-down as Wenger’s last season was (most of his last several, to be fair), Palace were one of the teams over which he managed to deliver home and away wins. The Selhurst Park meeting, which came a couple of days after Christmas, saw a 3-2 win for Arsenal with Mustafi scoring the opener before a Townsend equaliser. Alexis Sanchez, now at Manchester United, added two more for the Gunners before a James Tomkins consolation.
When the sides met again, at the Emirates in late January, Arsenal were out of sight early. Leading 4-0 by the 22nd minute, they settled for that total in a 4-1 win.
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Players to watch: Wilfried Zaha & Mesut Ozil
It may seem like the obvious choice to highlight Zaha as the player central to turning Palace’s season around. However, it is obvious for a reason – he’s not been at his sparkling best in recent games, so neither has the team. Of course, he needs other players to take some of the pressure off him, but an early, dazzling dribble from the Ivoirien could lift the entire Selhurst Park crowd and help the team. Is it fair that he’s always the one expected to make things happen? No, but really, who else would you pick?
Ozil’s display against Leicester was an art installation of what he can do when things are functioning around him – and why his form has been fitful over the years. Scoring the first goal himself, and then laying on another two for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, reminded Arsenal fans why his signing, five years ago now, got them so excited. If he can get close to full flow against the Eagles, it could be a very long day for the home crowd.