Verdict: Both teams to score
Best Odds: 4/7
Now unbeaten in their last eight Premier League appearances, Roy Hodgson’s revitalized Crystal Palace side will be aiming to cause a dent in Arsenal’s top four hopes. With only a single top-flight victory in their last five matches, Arsene Wenger will be traveling to southeast London knowing his Gunners must improve on their recent poor form away from home.
After losing their first seven Premier League matches on the bounce, without registering a single goal in return, it was no surprise that Crystal Palace were tipped as this year’s relegation favorites. However, as the New Year fast approaches, under the guidance of former England boss Roy Hodgson, Palace have managed to turn their fortunes around. Picking up a 1-1 draw away at Swansea last weekend, the Eagles are now unbeaten in their last eight Premier League appearances, a run stemming back to the middle of November. Although five of those eight matches may have seen Hodgson’s side only pick up a point, Palace’s fine run of form has seen them lifted out of the bottom three. Currently sat 16th in the table, Palace are still only a single point above the drop zone and know they’re still not out of the woods.
A key part in the Eagles dramatic turnaround around has been their form at Selhurst Park. Unbeaten in their last six matches in southeast London, Palace have also managed to pick up their longest top-flight run in almost two decades. Despite Belgium international striker Christian Benteke only picking up three goals in his last 25 home appearances, Palace have managed to improve in the final third. With talisman Wilfred Zaha the Eagles star man, Palace are averaging at least two home goals per game this year and have already beaten Watford, Chelsea, and Stoke in the past two months. A squad high on confidence, Hodgson will know his will face a stern test as after Arsenal’s visit on Thursday night, Palace will then have to face off against the Premier League’s runaway leaders, Manchester City.
Palace will have striker Christian Benteke available for the visit of Arsenal after the Belgium international missed the clash at the Liberty Stadium through suspension. Jason Puncheon remains available for selection despite being charged with possession of an offensive weapon and assault.
Mamadou Sakho remains sidelined so Scott Dann will continue at centre back and Martin Kelly is expected to fill in at right-back again with Joel Ward injured.
Although Arsenal may have only lost one of their last eight Premier League appearances, a mixture of defensive issues and poor form when away from the Emirates has seen the Gunners in a battle to secure a top-four finish come May. Last Friday, Wenger’s side were involved in a dramatic 3-3 draw at home with Liverpool, despite looking defensively weak throughout the game, Arsenal were saved by a flurry of three goals in six minutes in the second half. Currently sat sixth in the table, the Gunners are four points adrift of the top four, they’re also three points behind arch-rivals Tottenham.
With Arsene Wenger set to take charge of his 810th Premier League game, equalling Sir Alex Ferguson’s record, the French boss will be desperate to improve on their form on the road. This year, Arsenal have only managed to secure two wins on the road this season, this is also the Gunners joint-fewest tally after the opening nine games of the year. Wenger has already seen his side drop points away from home against the likes of, West Ham, Southampton, Stoke, and Watford. With it becoming increasingly more likely that both Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil will be departing the Emirates next month, Arsenal’s need for goals will fall on the shoulders of Alexander Lacazette. With eight goals this season, the French international is the clubs top scorer, however, the 26-year-old has not scored in his last four appearances.
French International striker Olivier Giroud will miss the clash in southeast London after being ruled out for three weeks with a hamstring injury. Giroud will be joined on the sideline by Spanish defender Nacho Monreal, who has picked up an ankle injury. Although Aaron Ramsey has begun training again, the Welsh international is still not match fit as he continues rehabilitation on a hamstring injury.
Key Factors to Consider
- Palace won the last meeting, a 3-0 victory at Selhurst Park in April that was their first victory against the Gunners since October 1994.
- Hodgson’s side are on an eight-match unbeaten run (W3, D5) – their longest top-flight run since a 12-match stretch in October 1990.
- Arsenal have only won two Premier League away games this season – their joint-fewest tally after nine away games of a campaign in the Premier League era.
- Wenger’s side have lost just won of their last eight matches (W4, D3).
- Palace have only kept one clean sheet in the 13 home Premier League matches since their 3-0 win over Arsenal at Selhurst Park in April.
With Palace’s confidence at an all-time high, Roy Hodgson’s revitalised Eagles will be confident about carrying on their eight-match unbeaten run. With Wenger’s men enduring their worst run away from home since Arsene Wenger took charge over two decades ago, Wilfred Zaha and co will fancy their chances of testing Arsenal’s defensive unit. Although they may be far from their tantalising best, Arsenal do still possess a number of striking options. Having only failed to find the net once in their last 14 Premier League apperances, backing both teams to score at 4/7 seems like a logical bet here.
Verdict: Both teams to score
Best Odds: 4/7
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