Preview by Numbers: Crystal Palace v. Arsenal

Selhurst Park, London
Saturday, February 21
10:00 a.m. EST, 15:00 GMT
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Mark Clattenburg
    • Assistants: Simon Beck and Ian Hussin
    • 4th Official: Andrew Madley
  • Reverse Fixture: Arsenal 2 - 1 Crystal Palace
  • This Match, Last Year: Crystal Palace 0 - 2 Arsenal
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 23 Arsenal wins, 3 Crystal Palace wins, 10 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: L-W-W-W-L-W
  • Crystal Palace's League Form: D-W-W-L-W-D
Arsenal players of various heights celebrate Tall's goal.
Arsenal successfully avoided the trap game that was Middlesbrough at home last week to book a date with Manchester United in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup. Meanwhile, Liverpool have been drawn against Blackburn Rovers and I've seen plenty of instances of their fans behaving as if they've already won the whole damn thing (hubris, amirite?)

But that's all neither here nor there (well, I guess it is there, if there is Monday, March 9, but I digress.) Fact of the matter is, it's time to focus on the league again, at least for 90 minutes as the return of the Champions League looms on the horizon.

Arsenal sit fifth in the league, just two points out of third place but just seven points clear of eighth place. Every point is precious. Palace away is a tricky fixture (just ask Liverpool, or Spurs a month ago) but the Gunners know they cannot afford to leave points on the table against the 13th place club in the league.

There are 39 points left on the table; let's take everything we can get.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Ramsey (hamstring,) Oxlade-Chamberlain (groin,) Debuchy (shoulder,) Arteta (calf,) Diaby (calf)
Doubts: Bellerin (ankle,) Flamini (hamstring,) Wilshere (ankle)

Santi Cazorla's game is on form. His hair, though...
Well, the injury list doesn't look too different from last week's: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Aaron Ramsey, Mathieu Debuchy, Mikel Arteta, and (heh) Abou Diaby remain sidelined. The Ox will return soonest, as he's just about back in normal training. Jack Wilshere has been back in full training for a bit now and could be available from the bench tomorrow.

Arsenal may line up tactically similar to the formation they played against Middlesbrough last weekend, considering Ramsey's injury leaves them a little short in the defensive midfield position. Against Boro, Mathieu Flamini sat deep behind a midfield attacking four of Alexis Sanchez, Santi Cazorla, Mesut Ozil, and Danny Welbeck. If Wenger decides he needs two defensive midfielders, something to consider when playing on the road, he'll have to start Tomas Rosicky (as Mathieu Flamini faces a fitness test) alongside Francis Coquelin, while dropping one of the attackers.

So that, in effect, is the question in this lineup: three attackers and two holding midfielders or four attackers and one behind Olivier Giroud? For the purposes of making a safe estimate, I'll assume Arsenal will play it safer on the road and go with the former.

David Ospina should reclaim his place as the league goalkeeper until he does something to lose it. Hector Bellerin faces a fitness test with an ankle problem; Calum Chambers may continue to deputize if the young Spaniard is unavailable.

Predicted XI: Ospina, Chambers, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Rosicky, Cazorla, Alexis, Ozil, Giroud.

Crystal Palace Squad News

Out: Sanogo (loan terms,) Thomas (thigh,) Lee (shin)
Doubts: Ameobi (match fitness,) McArthur (thigh,) Chamakh (Batman,) Jedinak (ankle)

Marouane Chamakh as "Batman"
Yaya Sanogo has been missing as of late with a hamstring injury, which is very Arsenal of him; he would not have been available to play against his parent club anyway.

Marouane Chamakh suffered a broken nose against Everton a few weeks back and has been playing with the pictured stylish Batman mask for a while now. He was removed at halftime from Palace's FA Cup loss to Liverpool last weekend and certain sources seem to indicate that he'll face a late fitness test, but I don't know what the injury is, so I've just written "Batman" in the parenthetical and I hope it has made you laugh.

Speaking of former Arsenal players, Jerome Thomas is out with a thigh injury, while Lee Chung-yong is out with a shin injury. There are doubts over Shola Ameobi's match fitness, as he has not played all season and just joined with his former Newcastle manager on a free this January. James McArthur is a doubt with a thigh injury and Mile Jedinak is a doubt as well.

Predicted XI: Speroni, Ward, Dann, Hangeland, Souare, McArthur, Ledley, Puncheon, Bolasie, Chamakh, Campbell.

Current Form

Palace had been a bogey team for Liverpool, but not
last week.
Arsenal have bounced back from the loss at White Hart Lane to win two straight, meaning they have now won seven of their last eight across all competitions. The last time Arsenal won seven matches across an eight match span was last January, when they went unbeaten in 10. The Gunners also won seven straight to end last season, but the first win in that streak was over Wigan in a penalty shootout, which counts as a draw for the purposes of discussing form. If you really want to get technical, Arsenal won the first two matches of this season (the Community Shield and the reverse of this fixture) to extend that winning streak. Any way you cut it, it's been many moons since Arsenal last won this many matches in such a time frame.

Perhaps more interesting is that Arsenal have scored at least one goal in each of those eight matches, dating back to the 2-0 loss at Southampton on New Year's Day. That loss was the only time in the last 25 matches where Arsenal were held without scoring, dating back to the 2-0 loss at Chelsea in October. Arsenal have been held without scoring a goal four times this season, all on the road; the other two were in the Champions League: at Besiktas and at Dortmund.

Crystal Palace currently sit 13th in the table, five points clear of relegation. They were 18th on New Year's Day after a 0-0 draw with Aston Villa but have since, under the direction of Alan Pardew, won three draw, drawn one, and lost one in the league. They also bounced Dover Athletic and, more importantly, Southampton from the FA Cup before getting being knocked out by Liverpool last weekend.

Palace had previously defeated Liverpool at Selhurst Park in the league; they've also beaten Tottenham at home this season. Despite those mid-to-high level scalps, Palace are 17th in home form; they've lost six, drawn three, and won three. Palace are a much better road team this year, losing only four on their travels compared to the six losses in South London. The Eagles have won just one of their last seven home fixtures.

Match Facts

Mikel Arteta's red card made this fixture last year much more
dicey than it needed to be.
Arsenal won the reverse fixture 2-1 on the season's opening day at the Emirates. Brede Hangeland, signed over the summer from relegated Fulham, headed the visitors into the lead on the half hour mark but Laurent Koscielny equalized before halftime. Palace looked set to steal a point, but Jason Puncheon was sent off for a second yellow card in the 89th minute and Aaron Ramsey banged in a rebound for the winner early in added time.

The Gunners held on to win this fixture last year, despite a red card to Mikel Arteta. With the match 0-0 at the half, Arsenal were awarded a penalty early in the second half, which Arteta dispatched nicely, but the Spaniard was soon shown red for denying a not-so-obvious goal scoring opportunity. 10-man Arsenal held their nerve, however, and Olivier Giroud secured the points with a counterattack goal in the 87th minute to seal a 2-0 win.

Crystal Palace have beaten Arsenal only three times in 35 all-time meetings; two of their three wins came at Highbury, one in 1970 in the League Cup and the other in 1994. Crystal Palace have not beaten Arsenal at Selhurst Park since November 10, 1979, when they beat the Gunners 1-0. Since then, Arsenal have won six and drawn five in South London across all competitions.

The Referee

Mark Clattenburg made few friends among the Portuguese
on Wednesday.
The referee is County Durham-based Mark Clattenburg. Arsenal have a remarkable record all-time with Clattenburg as referee, winning 21 out of 31 matches; they've lost seven and drawn three of those 31. One of the draws came earlier this season, however, as Manchester City came from behind to draw 2-2 at the Emirates in September.

Clatts has worked two Palace matches this season: the 3-1 loss to West Ham in August and the 2-2 draw with West Brom in October.

On Wednesday night, Clattenburg was in charge of the Champions League Round of 16 match between Basel and Porto; with Basel up 1-0, Clattenburg ruled out two potential Porto equalizers for offside before awarding the Portuguese side a penalty later in the second half. One of the decisions took about two or three minutes as the additional referee behind the net, Kevin Friend, consulted with Clattenburg regarding two Porto players impeding the goalkeeper from an offside position. Many of the articles about the incident focus on the controversy itself and not, you know, that the call was right. The match ended 1-1.

Around the League
  • Saturday: Aston Villa v. Stoke City; Villa Park, Birmingham
  • Saturday: Chelsea v. Burnley; Stamford Bridge, London
  • Saturday: Hull City v. Queens Park Rangers; KC Stadium, Kingston upon Hull
  • Saturday: Sunderland v. West Bromwich Albion; Stadium of Light, Sunderland
  • Saturday: Swansea City v. Manchester United; Liberty Stadium, Swansea
  • Saturday (late): Manchester City v. Newcastle United; Etihad Stadium, Manchester
  • Sunday (very early): Tottenham Hotspur v. West Ham United; White Hart Lane, London
  • Sunday (regular early): Everton v. Leicester City; Goodison Park, Liverpool
  • Sunday (late): Southampton v. Liverpool; St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton
John Painting is a contributing writer to The Modern Gooner, actress, model, and television personality. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat and talk about which of those things are lies (hint: all of them, especially the first one.)