Two former Gunners midfielders face off in the Selhurst Park dugouts on Monday night as Patrick Vieira’s Crystal Palace welcome Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal for another captivating London derby.
The Eagles managed to hold Manchester City to a goalless stalemate before the international break, while Arsenal’s top-four charge gathered momentum with a crucial 1-0 win at Aston Villa.
One week on from being inducted into the Premier League’s Hall of Fame for his endeavours as the driving force of Arsenal’s midfield, Patrick Vieira will surely envisage no better way to celebrate the accolade than by getting one over his former club, and his current squad are no pushovers.
The Eagles boss will hope that the recent international break has not disrupted his side’s momentum, as Palace strung a six-game unbeaten run together in all tournaments and advanced to the semi-finals of the FA Cup after putting four unanswered goals past Everton, with Chelsea now lying in wait at Wembley for an intriguing showdown.
With Brighton & Hove Albion failing to get the better of relegation favourites Norwich City on Saturday, Palace remain 12th in the rankings at the time of writing, and top-half side Aston Villa are only two points ahead of them following their recent loss 2-1 to Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Keeping three clean sheets on the bounce in all competitions is just what is needed before Crystal Palace try to quell Arsenal’s impressive youthful attacking forces, but for all of their resilience in recent weeks, a record of two wins from their last 10 Premier League matches is still an underwhelming statistic and Vieira will be praying his men rise to the occasion on Monday.
The goalless draw with Man City stretched their winless run at Selhurst Park in the Premier League to five games since overcoming Norwich City on December 28, and Arsenal have been nothing if not ruthless on opposition’s turf since the turn of the year.
Against Villa before the international break, Arsenal ground out another hard-fought but crucial victory to remain in the driving seat for a top-four finish.
Bukayo Saka’s well-taken strike settled the contest before the half-time whistle blew, but it was Arsenal’s stoic and resilient efforts in defence which was the most impressive, and a step into the right direction for Arteta and his young guns.
Having posted three wins from four in the month of March, Arteta’s feats were recognised with his second manager of the month award, and while the Spaniard’s side are clinging onto the fourth spot at the time of writing, Tottenham Hotspur could temporarily usurp them with victory over Newcastle United on Sunday.
Arsenal’s games in hand, of course, cannot be overlooked – although they face two daunting challenges with Chelsea and Manchester United before the end of the month – and their postponed North London derby with Antonio Conte’s side is yet to be rescheduled.
Nevertheless, the Gunners have stuck to the task at hand admirably with six wins from their last seven outings in the Premier League, and they have also triumphed in each of their last five away from home in the top flight – not since 2013 have they enjoyed such a longer streak on the road in Premier League.
However, Arteta’s men had to rely on a last-gasp Alexandre Lacazette equaliser to salvage a 2-2 draw against Palace at the Emirates – the fifth stalemate in the sides’ last seven meetings – but Arsenal’s young guns starred in a 3-1 Selhurst Park win last May, but this is a totally different Palace side from last season.
Let the showdown commence.
WHEN AND WHERE?
Date: Monday, 4th March 2022.
Time: 8:00 pm (UK).
Venue: Selhurst Park.
Referee: Paul Tierney.
Assistant Referee: Constantine Hatzidakis, Neil Davies.
Fourth Official: Peter Bankes.
VAR: Jarred Gillett, Wade Smith.
Palace’s chances of gleaning a result from this London derby have already taken a hit, with star attacking duo Michael Olise (foot) and Wilfried Zaha (thigh) not returning to training before Vieira’s pre-match press conference on Thursday.
The Eagles boss has, however, stated that the talented duo could make the cut for Monday, and on a much brighter note, both Nathan Ferguson and James McArthur have both been training with the team after long injury spells, and could also make the squad.
Arsenal did not come through the international break unscathed either, with Bukayo Saka testing positive for COVID-19, but the 20-year-old has now recovered and should be fine to feature from the off.
Arteta has also revealed that Takehiro Tomiyasu is closing in on a return from his latest calf problem, but Aaron Ramsdale is more of doubt due to his hip injury, so Bernd Leno ought to enjoy another run-out in goal.
Emile Smith Rowe picked up a minor fitness concern while with England but was fit enough to come off the bench against Ivory Coast, although Gabriel Martinelli will eye an immediate recall to the XI after missing the Villa win due to illness.
Both Wilfried Zaha and Michael Olise will be huge misses for Crystal Palace providing they don’t make the cut for Monday night, two of The Eagles’ most creative and decisive players in the final third. If both players don’t make the team, then Vieira will be reliant on the services of Eberechi Eze and Odsonne Edouard.
The former has been on the fringes of the Palace team for most of the season, but he put in a sparkling performance in Palace’s 4-0 rout of Everton in the FA Cup quarter-finals before the international break and will be looking to get right in the creative swing of things when Palace may need him most.
The 23-year-old possesses the ability to create something out of nothing, bypass opposition lines with his superb ball-carrying, and the vision to pick apart opposition defences. Palace will be crying out for that kind of uniqueness in the final third if they are end to Arsenal’s impressive run on Monday night. Conor Gallagher will also be crucial for Palace in this game, his energy, dynamism and application in midfield will be to any success Palace enjoy.
Tyrik Mitchell and Marc Guehi – both new England international – will be looking to build on their impressive debuts for Gareth Southgate’s men as they come up against Arsenal’s key man Bukayo Saka on that left-flank.
Arsenal’s impressive form in recent weeks has been down to the brilliance of both Martin Odegaard and Bukayo Saka in Arteta’s talented attacking weaponry, and they both will be key to Arsenal’s chances not only on Monday but in their charge for the last Champions League spot.
However, they aren’t the only player proving vital to Arteta’s setup, but both Granit Xhaka and Thomas Partey have proven solid and competent operators in the middle of the park for the Gunners especially the latter who has swiftly become one of the key figures in an every improving and progressive Arsenal side. How they aim to deal with Palace’s threat on Monday will be certainly intriguing, and yet adds another exciting layer to what could be an engrossing clash.
The on-loan Chelsea player has really enjoyed a stunning campaign in Patrick Vieira’s midfield, becoming the key cog in an ever evolving machine.
The new England international’s desire, passion, application, determination and willingness to go the extra mile as added a much needed energy and spark to Palace’s midfield, unlike they ever harnessed during Roy Hodgson’s days at the helm.
It’s unclear where his immediate future lies with the uncertainty at Chelsea right now, but the midfielder won’t be worried one bit about that as he is confident is development and progress will carry on as time moves on.
Eight goals and three assists from 25 appearances is nothing short of sensational, and again the 22-year-old will be looking to hamper Arsenal’s play with his relentless pressing, enthusiasm and combative edge as he did in the thrilling 0-0 draw with Manchester City in Palace’s last league appearance.
If Arsenal need to be worried about anything on Monday night, its certainly Conor Gallagher.
Need we say more about one of Europe’s most highly coveted and decorated young footballer right now? 20-year-old Bukayo Saka has elevated himself to become Arsenal’s most important player this season, and their hopes of capturing their first top-four finish in five years rest on his young shoulders.
The England international has excelled tremendously, registering 14 Premier League goal involvements so far this campaign (9 goals, 5 assists) taking his game to a whole new level both in his finishing, ability to link up with the likes of Lacazette and Odegaard, and his stunning trickery and enthusiasm on the right flank.
Defenders now are afraid to step up to Saka, and that’s how good the Hale End product as evolved over the past year. After testing positive for Covid-19 while on international duty, Arsenal and Mikel Arteta will be hoping and praying their main man is full fettle for Monday’s hugely anticipating encounter.
Crystal Palace (4-3-3): Guaita (GK); Clyne, Andersen, Guehi, Mitchell; Gallagher, Kouyate, Hughes; Eze, Mateta, Edouard.
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Leno (GK); Cedric, White, Gabriel, Tierney; Xhaka, Partey; Saka, Odegaard, Martinelli; Lacazette.