Firstly, I hope you all had a great Christmas. Secondly, this game has a fair amount of reasons why it will be a severe test for our side as we look to return to winning ways and keep up with the teams above us.
Selhurst Park brings with it a terrible nightmare from last season, when we turned in one of the worst performances in recent memory in losing 3-0. The home of the Eagles is perhaps one of the most vocal of home supports, and the atmosphere will be absolutely electric.
Roy Hodgson has his team on an impressive run. No losses in the last eight games is no small feat, especially when you consider he took over Crystal Palace with the side having lost seven from seven and failing to score in any of them.
The Eagles are flying right now. They tore apart Leicester City recently, and the form of Wilfried Zaha is crucial to the team playing effectively. It leaves players like Andros Townsend and Yohann Cabaye with less pressure to deliver, and Christian Benteke is beginning to hit some semblance of form.
Bottom line, we keep Zaha quiet, we clip the wings of the Eagles.
In terms of our team, Nacho Monreal limped off in our draw with Liverpool, and luckily for us, Shkodran Mustafi has just returned from injury, so we have a replacement to partner Laurent Koscielny. Olivier Giroud’s hamstring will keep him out until at least late January, so the reliance on Alexandre Lacazette will be a big one for goals.
Aaron Ramsey is still out, but the form of Jack Wilshere shows the Englishman has taken his chance with both hands. Jack has been excellent since slotting in after Ramsey’s injury, and when Rambo does return, he may find an instant return to the side a little harder than first imagined.
Goals don’t seem to be an issue, and we’ve gone on a run in previous games when our defence has been watertight. What is an immediate issue is our tempo. In some games we are devoid of it, and yet it is our greatest weapon. When we play with pace we ally it with our close control and intricate passing and it can be unstoppable. The trouble is, we rarely go through the gears for longer than five minutes.
This will have to change to silence the Palace crowd, who can really give the home players a boost. They will be aware of our atrocious away record – two away wins this Premier League season – and they will make life extremely difficult for our players.
This game needs to be the renaissance of our away performances. It needs to herald the turnaround if we are to catch Liverpool, tottenham and Chelsea. These teams all won on Boxing Day and the pressure is on us to grab the points.
We have another away game against West Brom this weekend, the games are coming thick and fast. The tests will continue, and we really need maximum points from both. If we fail to do this, then the gap will grow and we can foresee another season of missed targets.
Predicted lineup – Cech, Bellerin, Koscielny, Mustafi, Kolasinac, Xhaka, Wilshere, Ozil, Iwobi, Alexis, Lacazette.
Predicted scoreline – 2-1 to The Arsenal.