It’s match day number two for us this evening as the footballing authorities saw fit to turn this game against Palace to a Monday night one under the lights for something like the fourth or fifth time in a row I think (I haven’t bothered to check that). That’s because they want an upset and after seeing footballing minnows Tottenham beat United, then seeing West Ham do over Chelsea yesterday in the London Stadium, I’m sure they’re hoping for the same again tonight.
Palace away is a tough fixture. We have a fair few examples of that in recent years and even last season on the opening day, when once again Sky sniffed an upset, we came out on top albeit after a really tough game. We should be under the illusions that this should be no difference.
It’s funny though, because this game against Palace feels a lot tougher than when you see teams play at Selhurst Park when the season is full flow and I think it does mean something. I think Palace fans can be very vociferous and whilst the season is young and the ray of hope still exists that any club can have a great season, they get a little louder. If Palace play Liverpool at the end of November, or a Tottenham in December, I bet they don’t give as tough a game and as tough an atmosphere as we’re going to get tonight. It feels like we always have to do it the hard way when it comes to Crystal Palace.
But you have days like that and you have teams like that in which you have to overcome if you want to be one of the best sides in this division. There is no time for sympathy or ruing bad luck; you have to have runs of games that are going to be difficult and if you want to be competing for the major honours at the end you have to do the business on tough away nights like tonight.
This is going to be a challenge, we all know that, but it should be one these Arsenal boys are ready for. Arteta will have been drilling them all week, we’ve had over a week to prepare seeing as our opening game was the Saturday before last, so they should all be ready and pumped.
In terms of team news, it doesn’t like we have any major injuries that we have picked up other than Timber, which is where the first real question on who Arteta lines yup with needs to be looked at. I think he will go for Zinchenko. He played in a midweek behind-closed-doors friendly against Luton, he got 60 minutes under his belt and although Arteta was saying something like “hopefully he’ll be back soon” when he was asked about him last week in his presser, I think Arteta is chucking him in today. He’s done that before with Zinchenko; remember last season when we didn’t see anything of him, then suddenly he started against United at Old Trafford? I think Arteta will do that tonight because I think – for all of his injury problems – Zinchenko is a guy who when he’s fit he can just slot in. He isn’t somebody who needs to start with 10 minutes as a sub, then 20, then 30, the 60 minutes from the start, then after his fourth appearance he’s ready to play 90, he just strikes me as somebody who will come in. Maybe he doesn’t last the whole match but maybe we get most of a game out of him.
The rest of the team, I think, picks itself. Although that can’t really truly be said given the squad Arteta has now. But gut feel tells me it’s Ramsdale in goal, White at right back, Saliba and Gabriel are the two centre halves with Zinny at left back. Base of the team has to be Partey and then I suspect Arteta goes Rice and Odegaard, with Martinelli wide left and Saka wide right. But who to play up top? Last weekend it was Eddie because he ‘played like a beast’. Has he done the same this last week? Or was that just Arteta trying to ‘big him up’? I have absolutely no idea. But I do wonder if it might be Havertz through the middle to cope with physicality of Andersen and Guehi at centre back that Palace will offer.
Palace will have Eze there pulling the strings behind Eduoard who, despite not really being too prolific since joining from Celtic, appears to like a goal against us and scored last weekend. So I’m expecting the same tonight; remember when Benteke couldn’t finish his dinner, let alone chances, yet bagged his first goal in years a couple of seasons back at The Emirates? Yeah, that.
I think with the long distribution of Andersen too, they’ll look for willing runners getting behind our back line and I think that means that we’ll see us stretched, although whether or not they will look to drive that through the wide left channel on their side remains to be seen. Last season it was Zaha that they tried to unlock and Ben White had a pretty good game in keeping him quiet. this time around I suspect they will look to operate more centrally and play through us; Eze certainly will be the one to watch from that perspective.
I’m not quite sure how this one will go tonight. We should have enough to control possession, but at this early stage of the season, with the crowd sure to be raucous, it feels like we’re in for a rough ride. Key is to silence that home crowd and if we can start fast, start quick, if we can score early, then it changes the complexion of the game. If we see Palace get a few early chances in to whip up the crowd, then it might end up being a tough old evening.
If you’re going then sing up for the Arsenal. I’ll be there from my sofa with my heart rate raised as usual, hoping for a win and crossing everything!
Catch you all tomorrow for a post match debrief and then in the evening we’ll be doing the Same Old Arsenal pod, so join us then if you can – I’ll pop a link in it in tomorrow’s blog.
Have a good one people!