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Back Arsenal to win to nil.
The Gunners are still struggling to get their attack firing, but they should have enough to eke out a win when Crystal Palace travel to the Emirates Stadium.
Arsenal had a dismal start to the season, losing each of their first three games to sit bottom of the table at the start of September.
In fairness to Mikel Arteta’s side, there were mitigating circumstances at play.
Arsenal had to face Chelsea and Manchester City, last season’s Champions League finalists, in back-to-back matches.
A loss to Brentford on the opening weekend was less excusable, even if Arsenal did have a number of key players missing.
It was vital for Arteta that he oversaw a response, and his team duly won their next three matches.
The highlight was a 3-0 trouncing of arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur, who were outthought, outfought, and outclassed at the Emirates Stadium last month.
The 1-0 victories over Norwich City and Burnley were somewhat less eye-catching, and Arsenal drew a blank in a goalless draw with Brighton & Hove Albion immediately prior to the international break.
That was a game that showed how much further Arsenal have to go to become top-four contenders again. Brighton dominated proceedings at the Amex Stadium, controlling the ball and pinning Arsenal back in their own half.
It was the Seagulls that looked like the big-six team. The Gunners offered little in attack and had to hold on for a point in the second half.
The main question mark surrounding this team is whether they will score enough goals. The answer so far this season is a resounding ‘no’.
Only last-placed Norwich have found the net less often than Arsenal, who are averaging 0.71 goals per game. Arteta has made the team more solid and resolute, but they must start posing more of a threat in the final third.
Patrick Vieira never played at the Emirates Stadium for Arsenal, but he is guaranteed to receive a warm welcome from the home fans when he takes his place on the touchline on Monday night. The Frenchman was a legendary player at Arsenal, where he spent nine years of his career and won three Premier League titles.
Back when he was captaining the Gunners to glory, many fans wondered aloud whether Vieira was an Arsenal manager in waiting.
He might still be, but for now, he is in charge of Crystal Palace – and he has made a promising start to life at Selhurst Park.
Aided by some excellent recruitment in the summer, Vieira has needed little time to overhaul Palace’s style.
Previously a cautious side who packed men behind the ball, attacked on the break, and lined up in a 4-4-2 formation, Palace are now proactive and possession-based where possible, with Vieira favoring a 4-3-3 setup.
Results have been mixed with only one win in seven so far, but performances have mostly been good. Palace have lost fewer games than Arsenal, with their two defeats coming at the hands of Chelsea and Liverpool – fixtures they would be expected to lose under any manager, particularly away from home.
Palace fans are right to be excited by their new direction, but no one at Selhurst should lose sight of the fact that Premier League survival remains the objective for now. The Eagles will hope to have their sights set higher in the coming years, but in a season of transition anything better than 18th place would be welcome.
Arsenal were far too passive against Brighton last time out, allowing their opponents to take the initiative and spending most of the match on the back foot. That is something Arteta’s side need to improve upon away from home, but they are unlikely to have much trouble dominating the ball against Palace at the Emirates.
Arsenal must ensure their possession comes with penetration, though. They have often lacked guile and invention in the final third under Arteta, even with a creative cast of Bukayo Saka, Martin Odegaard and Emile Smith Rowe. The Spaniard should not be afraid to unleash those talents; a so-called risk-averse approach in which Arsenal hold something back could in fact be the riskiest game plan of all.
Palace have actually registered a higher average possession than Arsenal so far this season, but they may have to rely on their counter-attacking skills of old on Monday night. Wilfried Zaha will be integral to getting his side up the pitch, but Arsenal are comfortable defending with a high line and should be able to keep the Ivorian and his team-mates quiet.
It will then be down to the hosts to find a clinical edge in advanced areas. They are unlikely to score a huge number of goals, but one will be enough if they keep a clean sheet. Back Arsenal to beat Palace to nil.
|Arsenal vs Crystal Palace Information|
|Teams||Arsenal vs Crystal Palace|
|Location||Emirates Stadium, London, England|
|Time||Monday, 18 October 2021, 03.00 PM EDT|
|How to watch||NBC Sports|
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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