If any Arsenal fan was expecting to get any kind of good news from both Everton or Newcastle yesterday and feeling confident after Saturday’s ‘fun’ results, then they were brought back down to earth yesterday, as West Ham overcame an Everton side who with every passing week look more terrible, making our defeat to them all the more maddening. Then in the afternoon some early promise was replaced by a pathetic Newcastle performance with players on the proverbial beach for the Geordies as the Scum swept past them. And I’ll have to admit, the nature of the win for them yesterday had me wobble a little bit. That was quite a statement yesterday, albeit against a poor side who looked all over the place in the second half, but it puts the scummers ahead of us on goal difference and only a draw minimum puts us ahead when we play Crystal Palace this evening.
This will be a very tough game for us. It was tough tonight even before that disgusting lot from round the corner shuffled in to fourth yesterday. It was tough because we’ve already seen how close they came to a win when they played at The Emirates and it’ll be tough because they have a good recent record against us. In the last six games both home and away we have drawn four, lost one and won one. We beat them at Selhurst Park in front of no fans last season and that was our first win there since 2017. In the last six matches we have a decent record – three wins, two draws and a loss, but every one of those wins has been extremely hard fought; I can’t remember any easy rides there and I’m not expecting it tonight.
For our opponents the eyes will be on which players are available for selection. As you’d expect Big Paddy Vieira gave nothing away in his press conference late last week, saying they are working on the fitness of Zaha and Olise being questioned after they missed out of their respective international duties with a hamstring and foot inflammation respectively and my hope is that both players are not risked with an FA Cup semi final on the horizon. They also have questions over Nathan Ferguson and James McArthur. I expect the calf-kicker McArthur to come back in to the side tonight and hopefully Paul Tierney can be a little less sh*t in seeing clear and obvious decisions like the treatment Saka got from McArthur in the reverse fixture by Mike Dean. I say that, but this is the referee that saw nothing wrong with Harry Kane’s studs up challenge on Robertson that was as clear as day a red card you’ll ever see at the Toilet Bowl, so I won’t hold out much hope.
The hope I do have, however, is a full strength team to go to Crystal Palace tonight. In the pre match training video that the club released on Twitter last night there was no sign of Tomiyasu, which was slightly concerning and with that, I suspect we won’t see him tonight. It will be yet another blow to a player who has been so good and this calf problem really is starting to look a lot more serious if he is missing. It’ll mean he’s essentially played once this year – three full months without him and a third of the season. But hopefully in Cedric we have a player who has just got back in to his national side, is feeling good about himself, is ready to deputise once again.
And if he plays I think we will need him. Palace are in form and playing well. They have confidence about them that belies their 12th place position. They are undefeated in their last six games in all competitions and that includes a 0-0 draw at home to Man City and an impressive 2-0 away win to Wolves. And it wasn’t a smash and grab either. They will look to use their width to catch us out tonight. If Zaha and Olise are missing it will be a blow to them, but in Ayew they have a fouley player who gets away with a lot and Schlupp has plenty of pace about him. They have the talent and players who can hurt us – we’ve seen that already this season – so it is important that we don’t crumble under the pressure this evening and continue our good form.
And when I talk about pressure, what I’m talking about is being a chaser rather than being a team who has already picked up the points and is sitting in fourth. We’ve been there for a few weeks and this is the first time we’ve played last and therefore need to react to the weekend results. Can this young team deliver? We certainly all hope so.
My hope for today is to continue the good form and not do anything stupid. In the reverse fixture it was a Partey mistake in our half, followed by some poor defending by Gabriel to back off before Benteke knocked the ball in just inside the box. Then it was a Sambi loss of possession high up the pitch followed by a swift Palace counter. That second goal is one I fear more from Palace, but we have players in form that I hope will be able to respond better than we did for the Palace game at home. We need to see continued excellent form of Partey, Odegaard and Saka and I would like to think that Gabriel and White will have better performances than the home version of this game, because White was very culpable for their second goal by backing off as much as he did.
In terms of line up I’m not sure if Ramsdale is fully fit, despite training, so I think i’ll have to assume it’ll be Leno in goal, Cedric at right back, White and Gabriel through the middle, with Tierney at left back. In the heart of the team it has to be Xhaka and Partey and in front of them you can’t not pick Saka and Odegaard. Lacazette up top is obvious but who plays in that left wing position? I suspect he’ll opt for Martinelli given Smith Rowe missed one of the England games, but I’d be happy with either. Whatever he goes for, there are options on the bench in Pepe and either ESR/Martinelli so we have the opportunity to shift it if we need a goal.
As you can tell by the tone of today’s blog I’m nervous about this game, but if we can start well and positive as we have in our last few games, it might make me feel more comfortable (ish) about the possibility of picking up a point or some points tonight.
Come on you reds – let’s see these recent good performances continue in to this evening please!
Chelsea aren’t safe in the top 4. They play Southampton away on Saturday sandwiched between their games with Real Madrid on Wednesday and Tuesday. If you were a Chelsea player, would you care all that much about finishing top 4? Good chance many of their players will be moving on in the summer, so focus on the cups?
Wishful thinking on my part? Perhaps.