Four points from the last six available in the Premiership means that the waters have steadied a little for Arsenal in recent weeks – but the storm clouds refuse to dissipate.
With Arsene Wenger refusing to confirm or deny his future and Alexis and Ozil still teetering on the exit door, the Gunners are still shrouded in uncertainty – and the chase for Champions League places next season remain fraught with worry.
At least displays on the pitch have improved. Both the draw against Manchester City and the handsome win over West Ham in midweek have shown our team still know how to roll up their sleeves and graft, as well as play around their opponent. For the majority of this season, we have been mired in sideways football and lacking a real sharpness which has seen us look blunted and unable to pierce even the most willing of defences.
It doesn’t get any easier though, as we travel to Selhurst Park to take on a resurgent Crystal Palace side who are eager to distance themselves from the relegation places.
With this being the 3rd game in a week for us, rotation may again reign supreme in our team. At least we have a raft of options to make this easier and not significantly weaken the team.
In goal, Petr Cech has a back injury and David Ospina has strained his calf, so Emiliano Martinez will again take the gloves as he did in the West Ham victory. With three clean sheets in his four starts for the team, a continuation of this impressive run would be a great platform for the team.
Captain Laurent Koscielny is again out with a niggling achilles, but he should be back in line for selection by the next game. Brazilian Gabriel will again deputise for the Frenchman alongside Shkodran Mustafi.
It will be midfield that should be interesting. Mohamed Elneny slotted in to great effect against West Ham, and his reassuring presence allowed Granit Xhaka to play more like he is capable of. The Egyptian should start again, but with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Aaron Ramsey fit again after minor layoffs, Elneny will need to keep his foot on the gas on the pitch if he wishes to stay in the team. Francis Coquelin also returns to the fold after missing the last fixture through personal reasons.
Danny Welbeck kept his place in the team for the last two games, but will three games in a week be too much for the England man? Olivier Giroud will be waiting in the wings to take his spot and hopefully recreate his scorpion kick goal which he scored against the same opponent.
Mesut Ozil showed a welcome return to form against the Hammers, and the German could be the difference against a side who will be a formidably stout and stubborn opponent. A little bit of magic will be needed to unlock such obstinate foes, and Eagles boss Sam Allardyce will have them drilled well.
They do have a bit of a defensive crisis however. James Tomkins, Patrick Van Aanholt and Scott Dann will be out for the game, as well as James Mcarthur looking sketchy, but Joe Ledley will be back in the squad. Wilfried Zaha and Christian Benteke have linked up well in recent games and provide an aerial and ground threat, so Gabriel and company will have to be on their game to deny them.
The stats point to an Arsenal win – but we all know the game is not played on paper. Sam Allardyce has lost nine of his last ten against Wenger, and Crystal Palace have never beaten a Wenger side in the Premiership. In fact, the Eagles have won only two of their last 33 top-flight games against the Gunners. Form though, shows that the home side will be full of confidence. Four wins from their last five games is better than the away team, and they will give no inch on the pitch.
It will be a huge test for the Gunners, but this game is one that needs to be won in order to keep the pressure on the teams above us. Dropped points here, and we can say goodbye to genuine hope of anything in the League. We have given ourselves this position, and it’s only us who can get ourselves out of it.
Predicted team: Martinez, Bellerin, Gabriel, Mustafi, Monreal, Elneny, Xhaka, Theo, Ozil, Alexis, Giroud.
Predicted Score – 2-1 Arsenal.