After going down to a thoroughly unexpected home loss to West Ham United on opening weekend, Arsenal are targeting their first points of the season against another London club, Crystal Palace.
A convincing success at Norwich City suggested that the Eagles are continuing to go places and look a good bet to improve on last season’s final placing of 10th. Although fortunate not to be pegged back to 2-2, they played with the authority of an established Premier League side, proving clinical in front of goal and coming up with a mightily impressive set-piece routine to double their lead.
With so much pace and creativity on either side, defenders must be on their game and Palace have enough attacking talent to cause real problems for the Arsenal centre-backs. Yannick Bolasie was only a substitute at Carrow Road but will relish the chance to run at Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny, while Yohan Cabaye – after scoring on his debut – will be keen to impress against a side that came close to signing him two years ago.
Tipped to make a truly significant title challenge, few expected anything other than an Arsenal victory as they searched for an 11th straight win over the Hammers, but a totally below-par performance led to a defeat which had manager Arsene Wenger demanding a response. He will be keen to ensure that his players do not feel the weight of expectation on their shoulders to that extent here, and indeed for the remainder of the campaign.
Goalkeeper Petr Cech has received criticism for the manner in which he was caught out for both of the goals, but if anything, the Gunners’ play in and around the final third was more of a concern, as far too many passes went uncharacteristically astray and nowhere enough of their shots found the target. Things became so desperate that Alexis Sanchez was called upon from the bench weeks earlier than his mooted return date.
There are no new injury problems for Palace, so goalkeeper Julian Speroni and striker Marouane Chamakh remain the only absentees.
Hector Bellerin could reclaim his place in the Arsenal line-up after recovering from a thigh strain, but midfielders Tomas Rosicky and Jack Wilshere are still out along with Danny Welbeck.
Last Meeting: Arsenal just about held off a late Palace onslaught as they triumphed 2-1 at Selhurst Park in February. A foul on Danny Welbeck allowed Santi Cazorla to put them ahead with an early penalty, and the former Manchester United striker contributed to the second goal just before half-time as his shot was saved by Julian Speroni only for Olivier Giroud to net the rebound. Glenn Murray scored deep into added time following a goalmouth melee and still had time to hit a post as the away side to scrape through.