Preview: Crystal Palace v Arsenal
PUBLISHED: 07:24 20 February 2015
As autumn turned into winter, it became clear that Palace were sinking fast under Neil Warnock – and a dismal run of just one win from 13 games brought his second spell at the club to an end after their 3-1 defeat to Southampton on Boxing Day.
Caretaker boss Keith Millen presided over two 0-0 draws while the board negotiated compensation for Newcastle manager Alan Pardew and the deal was done in time for their 4-0 FA Cup third- round victory at Dover.
Pardew then guided the Eagles to a further three straight wins, against Tottenham, Burnley and Southampton (the latter in the FA Cup) as they stormed out of the relegation zone.
Although that surge has begun to level off and clean sheets have been a rarity, Palace sit a healthy five points clear of the bottom three and have lost just twice under their new boss, at home to both of the Merseyside clubs.
The Eagles’ record at Selhurst Park does give them cause for concern though – only Aston Villa and Leicester have taken fewer Premier League points at home this season.
Even without the injured Yaya Sanogo – who would have been ineligible to face Arsenal anyway under the terms of his loan deal – Pardew has several attacking options to ponder.
Dwight Gayle, who is Palace’s top scorer with 10 goals, can lead the line or play in a wider role, while former Manchester United and Tottenham forward Fraizer Campbell has netted twice in the last two games.
Wilfried Zaha, who returned after an unproductive spell at Old Trafford, Jason Puncheon and Yannick Bolasie are also potential threats from the flanks, while influential skipper Mile Jedinak could return from injury to bolster the midfield.
Palace travelled to the Emirates on the opening day of the Premier League season in August and snatched an unexpected lead when Brede Hangeland headed in Puncheon’s near-post corner in the 35th minute.
Arsenal drew level on the stroke of half-time when summer signing Alexis Sanchez sent over a free-kick for Laurent Koscielny to nod home, and the Gunners pressed for a second goal after the break.
Sanchez and Olivier Giroud both went close, but it wasn’t until the 90th minute – just after Palace had been reduced to 10 men by Puncheon’s second yellow card – that Aaron Ramsey scrambled in the winner after Mathieu Debuchy’s shot had been blocked.
Palace are a decent attacking side, but Arsenal possess greater quality and it should be enough for them to seal the points with a 3-1 victory.