Mikel Arteta has backed his Arsenal players to put their Europa League disappointment behind them against managerless Crystal Palace in the first of “11 finals” remaining this season.
Arsenal’s cup hopes for the season were ended in a penalty shoot-out loss to Sporting CP on Thursday, meaning their entire focus is now on finishing top of the Premier League.
The Gunners have won five in a row in the top flight and are five points clear of Manchester City, who are not in league action this weekend.
While Arsenal’s European prospects are over for another campaign, it could yet prove a blessing in disguise as they chase down a first league title in 19 years.
“The disappointment is not going to go away,” Arteta said. “The disappointment is there. But it brings us clarity.
“There are 11 Premier League games to play and the next final is against Palace. We have to recover and put all our energy and focus on that game.”
Arsenal handed a first start to fit-again striker Gabriel Jesus since November in their meeting with Sporting, but Takehiro Tomiyasu and William Saliba both sustained injuries.
Arteta will evaluate the fitness of his players ahead of Sunday’s visit of London rivals Palace, who parted company with Arsenal great Patrick Vieira on Friday.
Under-21s coach Paddy McCarthy will take charge of the trip to Emirates Stadium as Palace seek a first win in 13 attempts across all competitions this calendar year.
They are still a respectable 12th heading into the weekend’s action despite their poor run of form, but the gap on the bottom three now stands at just three points.
Explaining the decision to part company with Vieira, Palace chairman Steve Parish told Sky Sports: “It’s a shame because I have an enormous amount of time and respect for Patrick.
“But it’s a results-based business. It’s very tight at the bottom, and I have to think about what gives us the best chance of retaining our status.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Arsenal – Gabriel Martinelli
Gabriel Martinelli’s penalty miss proved decisive in the shoot-out loss to Sporting, but the Brazil international has otherwise been brilliant for Arsenal this campaign.
Indeed, Martinelli is Arsenal’s top Premier League scorer this term with 12, which is the most goals a player has scored for the club while aged 21 or under since Nicolas Anelka’s 17 in the 1998-99 season.
Crystal Palace – Jordan Ayew
Palace have gone four games without finding the net and are in desperate need of their attacking players stepping up.
Ayew has not scored in 11 league appearances, but against no team has he scored more goals in the competition than he has managed against Arsenal (four).
MATCH PREDICTION – ARSENAL WIN
Palace have avoided defeat in each of their past four away Premier League meetings against Arsenal, with each of the past three finishing all square.
However, the Eagles are in terrible form and make this latest trip to Emirates Stadium with their under-21s coach in charge.
Arsenal by comparison are in good form domestically and have won eight of their nine London derbies in the league this campaign – a record they will be confident of improving.
OPTA WIN PROBABILITY
Arsenal – 54.6 per cent
Crystal Palace – 18.9 per cent
Draw – 26.5 per cent
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