Sunday, December 10, 2023

Palace preview: 11 finals, 11 battles

It’s Crystal Palace at home today, in our final game before the Interlull.

Given that Man City were in FA Cup action yesterday (spanking Burnley 6-0), this one takes on even more importance by virtue of the fact it gives us a chance to open up an 8 point lead at the top of the table. Even if City would have a game in hand, it’s an opportunity we can’t afford to miss.

In terms of team news, from what we know neither William Saliba or Takehiro Tomiyasu will be available. We await news on the latter, although he has been withdrawn from the Japan squad; while L’Equipe are reporting the former will be out for ‘several weeks’. Hopefully he can use the international break for recovery, but it’s a blow to lose two important defenders.

That will mean Rob Holding coming into the back four today, starting his first Premier League game of the season. We should see Thomas Partey back to anchor midfield, Martin Odegaard and Bukayo Saka will start after being rested in midweek, and I think Leandro Trossard will get the nod up front. It’s great that Gabriel Jesus is back, but I don’t think it would be wise – having been out for so long – to start him twice in three days, even if he only played 45 minutes against Sporting.

Last time out, Trossard provided a hat-trick of assists, so I think he’s earned his place. It is going to create a competitive environment as the season goes into the business end, but that really is the best kind of problem a manager can have. On the left, despite playing the full game against Sporting, I expect Gabriel Martinelli to start, unless Arteta springs a bit of a surprise.

As for Palace, we know their recent record has been bad, and Patrick Vieira paid for that with his job, but we should not take anything for granted today. They’re very much in the relegation battle, and that’s plenty of motivation in and of itself. When you look at the games we have left, basically every single one is against opposition playing for something because of how tight it is at both ends of the table. Whether it’s scrapping to stay up or fighting for Europe, this is the reality we’re facing.

And while Palace’s results haven’t been great, it’s not as if they were getting battered every week. Man City needed a late penalty to take all three points last week, they’ve also drawn with Liverpool and Man Utd, so I’m sure the manager will have told his players they are in for a potentially tough afternoon today. They will probably set up in a defensive/counter-attacking system, and that can – as we know fine well – be tough to break down. I think we’re going to have to work really hard, with maximum efficiency up front needed, for three points later on.

But nobody ever said it was going to be easy. These are the challenges you face when you’re playing for the biggest prize there is in a domestic season, and let’s hope we’re ready for it today.

Right, I’m gonna leave it there. It’s a slightly shorter one than normal, but I’m over for the game, and need to sort myself out and get going.

There is a preview podcast over on Patreon for you to pass some of the time, and hopefully see some of you in the usual spots a bit later on.

Come on Arsenal!

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