Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Crystal Palace

Emirates Stadium, London
Sunday, April 17
11:00 a.m. EDT, 16:00 BST
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Roger East
    • Assistants: Richard West and Mark Scholes
    • 4th Official: Mike Dean
  • Reverse Fixture: Crystal Palace 1 - 2 Arsenal
  • This Match, Last Year: Arsenal 2 - 1 Crystal Palace
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 25 Arsenal wins, 3 Crystal Palace wins, 10 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: L-L-D-W-W-D
  • Crystal Palace's League Form: D-L-L-D-W-D
Sure, you may win the league, but can you drive a car?
Arsenal's come-from-ahead-then-come-from-behind 3-3 draw with West Ham last weekend had a little bit of everything, insomuch as it was bonkers, neutrals probably loved it, and it effectively ended Arsenal's outside chances at the title. The Gunners are now 13 points back of Leicester City with six matches to play. Leicester only have five to play themselves, so it's hard to see them dropping 10 points when there are only 15 available to them. So, at the top of the table, it's "Operation Anyone But Tottenham" as Leicester's lead on our nearest and dearest is a healthy seven points.

So, from an Arsenal perspective, now what? The Gunners are now six points back of Spurs with a game in hand, meaning the odds of St. Totteringham's Day this season are dwindling fast. The bigger concern is, of course, Manchester City in the rear view mirror. City are just two points back of Arsenal with an even number of matches to play and Arsenal will visit the Etihad in the penultimate match of the season. Big three points on the line there. City have advanced in Europe, so personally, I hope that keeps them just distracted enough.

Because, aside from that trip to the Etihad, Arsenal's other five matches are games that they absolutely have to win. They've got home games against Aston Villa, Norwich City, West Bromwich Albion, and this one against Crystal Palace; none of those teams are higher than 14th in the table. Their other remaining road game is next weekend at Sunderland.

If Arsenal win all five of those games, they'll have 74 points. The only way City would catch them is if they won the head-to-head encounter and also won all five of their remaining games, which includes a tricky trip to Stamford Bridge tomorrow.

That all means that Arsenal control their own destiny to comfortably finish in the Champions League group stage next season. In a season of so many disappointments, that's now the absolute bare minimum expectation yet again.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee,) Cazorla (knee,) Rosicky (match fitness,) Wilshere (match fitness)

Visual evidence that Rosicky and Wilshere played a match.
Seriously, this isn't doctored or anything!
There's very little to say about the injuries, because very little has changed. Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky came out of their run-out for the Under-21s last Friday unscathed and got another run-out for the reserves yesterday afternoon against Swansea. Tomas Rosicky completed 71 minutes and
Jack Wilshere played 90 as Arsenal lost 3-1; Serge Gnabry (remember him?) had Arsenal's goal. Obviously, both Jack and Tommy are short of a first team return.

As for Santi Cazorla and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, out since November and February respectively with knee injuries, they are not back in full training, but could be next week.

There are no other injuries to report in the squad. Personally, I would hope that Petr Cech returns between the sticks. Perhaps Per Mertesacker should return to the XI since last week's center back pairing proved three times that they couldn't deal with Andy Carroll...

Predicted XI: Cech, Bellerin, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Monreal, Coquelin, Elneny, Alexis, Iwobi, Ozil, Welbeck.

Crystal Palace Squad News

Out: Hangeland (knock,) Chamakh (groin,) McArthur (ankle,) Appiah (knee)
Doubts: Gayle (knock)

Everyone's favorite living Pokemon has been out for
two months.
Dwight Gayle left Wednesday's match against Everton at halftime, which, for lack of further information, slots him straight into the "doubts" column right now. Gayle was replaced by Connor Wickham, himself returning from injury. After missing a month and a half, Wickham has come off the bench in each of Palace's last two games.

I know you're curious about how Marouane Chamakh is doing. He hasn't played since February 6 with a groin injury and he hasn't scored a goal all season.

Elsewhere in the squad, Brede Hangeland, who scored at the Emirates last season, has made only nine appearances this season and has played just once since October (that was in December.) I've only seen his injury as a "knock," which means it's a little weird he's missed over three months. Kwesi Appiah suffered an ACL tear on international duty with Ghana in June and will not play this season. James McArthur has not played since early February.

Predicted XI: Hennessey, Ward, Dann, N'Diaye Souare, Delaney, Cabaye, Bolasie, Jedinak, Sako, Zaha, Puncheon.

Current Form

Crystal Palace could not find a winner against Everton on
Wednesday, despite James McCarthy's 52nd minute red card.
If you stretch really far, you can take some positives out of Arsenal's 3-3 draw last weekend; they've know gone four league matches without a loss, dating back to those consecutive setbacks against Manchester United and Swansea City in late February and early March. It's two wins and two draws, though, so it has not been enough to keep Arsenal relevant in the title race, especially since Leicester City keeps winning. Last weekend's draw snapped Arsenal's league winning streak at a paltry two; the Gunners have not won three straight in the league since December.

Crystal Palace, on the other hand, have not won two straight league games since the same period in mid-December. On December 19, Palace beat Stoke City 2-1. The Eagles had 29 points through 17 games and were sitting sixth in the table. Then, they drew two in a row to close out the 2015 calendar year. At the halfway point of the season, Palace were fifth, eight points back of first place Arsenal.

Then, Palace lost five straight, drew Swansea, lost two more, drew Sunderland, lost two more, then drew another. Going into last weekend's game against Norwich, Palace were 16th. They had picked up three points in 2016. Suddenly, it was a relegation six-pointer, which Palace won 1-0. They faced Everton midweek and played a 0-0 draw, despite playing against ten men for the final 40 minutes. So, Palace are still 16th, but they're 11 points clear of Sunderland for relegation; the Black Cats have a game in hand.

2016 has been terrible for Palace in the league, but they are going to Wembley for an FA Cup Semi-Final against Watford next weekend, having beaten Southampton, Stoke City, Tottenham Hotspur, and Reading.

Match Facts

Remember Giroud's blonde highlights?
Since Crystal Palace's 2013 promotion to the Premier League, Arsenal have scored twice in each match and won all five meetings between the clubs. Each of the last three matches between the London sides has ended 2-1; the first two ended 2-0.

Arsenal won the reverse fixture 2-1 way back on August 16, in what was the second match of the season. After the Gunners lost 2-0 on opening day to West Ham, Olivier Giroud notched Arsenal's first goal of the season on 16 minutes. Arsenal's lead lasted only a dozen minutes as Joel Ward scored from long distance to equalize for Palace. Arsenal took the lead on 55 minutes when an Alexis Sanchez header was turned into the net by Damian Delaney. It was a nervous encounter for Arsenal, much like many of their recent matches with the Eagles, but it should be noted that it came at a time when Palace were playing much better football than they are now; Palace won three of their first four matches this season, losing only to Arsenal in the stretch entering the first international break.

This match last year was played on that season's opening day, meaning it was also August 16. Brede Hangeland gave the visitors the lead on 35 minutes from a set piece, but Laurent Koscielny equalized for Arsenal just before halftime. Arsenal left it late, but Jason Puncheon's 89th minute red card meant that Aaron Ramsey was left alone for a 91st minute winner, as the Gunners escaped with a 2-1 win. That match came less than 48 hours after Tony Pulis resigned his position as Palace's manager.

Crystal Palace have beaten Arsenal only three times in 37 all-time meetings; two of their three wins came at Highbury, one in 1970 in the League Cup and the other in 1994. Overall, Arsenal are unbeaten in 13 against the Eagles, winning nine of them, including six straight.

The Referee

"This is where the whistle goes!"
The referee is Wiltshire-based Roger East. Arsenal have two wins from two matches with East so far this season, including the 2-0 win over Bournemouth in late December and the 2-1 win over Burnley in the fourth round of the FA Cup. The only other Arsenal match East has ever worked was last year's 2-2 draw with Hull City, in which Danny Welbeck scored an injury time equalizer after a sub-par second half effort from the team.

This is the first time Roger East will work a Crystal Palace match this season. Last year, he took charge of only one Palace match, a 1-0 loss to Everton at Selhurst Park in late January. The year before that, he also took charge of only one Palace match, also in late January and also at Selhurst Park; that, however, was a 1-0 win over Hull City. So, as you can see, I have very little to go on here...

Around the League
  • Saturday (early): Norwich City v. Sunderland; Carrow Road, Norwich
  • Saturday: Everton v. Southampton; Goodison Park, Liverpool
  • Saturday: Manchester United v. Aston Villa; Old Trafford, Manchester
  • Saturday: Newcastle United v. Swansea City; St. James's Park, Newcastle upon Tyne
  • Saturday: West Bromwich Albion v. Watford; The Hawthorns, West Bromwich
  • Saturday (late): Chelsea v. Manchester City; Stamford Bridge, London
  • Sunday (early): Bournemouth v. Liverpool; Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth
  • Sunday (early): Leicester City v. West Ham United; King Power Stadium, Leicester
  • Monday (night): Stoke City v. Tottenham Hotspur; Britannia Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and is allergic to ocelots. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat to ask if he's allergic to himself, too.