Arsenal will make the short trip to Selhurst Park on Saturday to take on 19th-place Crystal Palace in a London derby. The Gunners are coming off of another home loss to a German side in the Champions League as they were humbled 2-1 by Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday. Palace’s last game came the day before when they were beaten 4-1 at home by Fulham. That proved to be the last match in charge for former manager Ian Holloway as he and the club agreed to part ways after the defeat. Keith Millen will be in charge of Palace for this match as a caretaker manager.
Palace has managed just one win in eight Premier League matches so far this season, but they’re being kept out of the basement by Sunderland, who are below them with just one draw. It’s always hard to predict what kind of effort a team is going to put in immediately after they lose a manager. Some squads respond with their best efforts of the season while others show why the manager was dismissed in the first place.
To be honest, it probably doesn’t really matter who ends up managing Palace for the rest of the season, as they’re likely to end up back in the Championship League when it’s over. This will be guaranteed if the rumours that Tony Pulis is about to take over prove to be true. Still, Arsenal, who sit on the top of the table with 19 points, can’t simply show up at Palace’s ground just after lunch time on Saturday and expect to be handed three points without a fight.
Manager Arsene Wenger may have to go into this match without the services of midfielder Jack Wilshere as he seemed to reinjure his ankle against Dortmund during the week. Forward Theo Walcott suffered a setback with his abdominal injury last week and is still expected to be two or three weeks away from a comeback. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Lukas Podolski, Yaya Sanogo and Abou Diaby are also still out with various injuries.
The good news for Wenger is that midfielder Mathieu Flamini should be back in the lineup after missing the last game due to a head injury suffered last weekend in the 4-1 win over Norwich. Everybody else appears to be healthy and ready to go. The Gunners will be looking to start a new undefeated streak as their previous one reached 12 games before the Dortmund match. However, their unbeaten streak on the road is still alive at 13 with 11 wins and a pair of draws.
Palace has lost five games in a row and they’re hoping the losing streak doesn’t reach half a dozen as they haven’t lost six in a row since back in 2001 when they were in the Championship League. Both Arsenal and Palace hold something in common, which is the fact they’ve each used 24 different players so far this season, which leaves them in a tie for tops in the league. Eight different players have scored at least once in the league for the Gunners. Arsenal have used so many players due to injuries while Palace has been searching for a winning combination.
However, Palace have also had their share of injuries and will be missing Glenn Murray, Jonathan Williams and Jack Hunt as they’re all out long –term. Defender Patrick McCarthy could back it back to the lineup though as he’s returned to training after suffering a groin injury.
Overall, these two sides have met 30 times over the years with the Gunners winning 19 of them, drawing nine and losing just twice. They’ve outscored their London neighbours 64 to 24. At Selhurst Park they have eight wins, six draws and a loss and have outscored them 30 to 14. This is a huge game for Wenger’s squad as the pace picks up after this weekend. They meet Chelsea next week in the League Cup and then meet Liverpool and Man United in the league. If they hope to remain in this year’s race for the title it’s imperative they don’t slip up in this contest.