Arsenal will be looking to secure a fourth Premier League victory on the bounce for the first time since October 2018 when they travel to Selhurst Park to lock horns with Crystal Palace this evening, kick-off 7:00pm.
The Gunners, who were held to a goalless draw by Palace in the reverse meeting at the Emirates Stadium back in January, will make the short hop to east London looking to build on last Wednesday’s 1-0 win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
After Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang pounced on a mistake made by Chelsea duo Kepa Arrizabalaga and Jorginho, the Gabon international squared the ball for Emile Smith Rowe to tap home his second goal in as many games.
Victory over the Blues, plus taking into results elsewhere since then, has left Arsenal tenth in the table, four points behind sixth-placed Tottenham Hotspur, meaning work still has to be done if the club are to qualify for the UEFA Europa League for next season.
But considering the Gunners appear to have hit form at the ideal time, beating Newcastle United, West Bromwich Albion and Chelsea in their last three, they may not have been able to pick a better time to face a Palace side who have nothing to play for in their two remaining matches.
With three wins on the bounce in their sails, the Gunners have every right to be feeling confident ahead of this evening’s game, a strength that manager Mikel Arteta, who has never beaten Palace as a manager, believes can give his side a boost ahead of next season.
“Winning creates a different environment around the place. It creates much more belief, Arteta said during his pre-match press conference on Tuesday.
“When you start to get on a run and you start to understand why this run is happening, it always helps to build for the future.
“A new season is a new season, and to get momentum from one season to the other is not necessarily what is going to happen. But certainly it’s really good to analyse performance and result-wise why those things happen.
“It’s really important for us to make the improvements we need for the following season, and to know which keys we have to touch to make it work better.”
This evening’s trip to Selhurst Park will see the Gunners play in front of several thousand supporters for the first time in months, with Premier League clubs having been allowed to start accepting the return of supporters ahead of, hopefully, increasing the numbers allowed inside from the start of next season.
On playing in front of the fans once again, albeit not their own, Arteta continued: “It’s so great to have fans. We’re going to be lucky enough to have our fans back in the last game, which we can’t wait for.
“To have fans there as well is going to make the atmosphere much better and back to how this game must be played.”
Ahead of the trip across the capital, Arteta has issued some relatively good news on the injury front, confirming that Brazilian centre-back David Luiz, who is poised to leave the club at the end of next month upon the expiry of his contract, is the only absentee.
The former Chelsea man is currently sidelined with a hamstring injury and faces the prospect of not playing for the Gunners again, although there is hope that he could feature against Brighton & Hove Albion on Sunday.
Issuing an update on the injury front, Arteta said: “No big changes. I think everybody is fit apart from David. Let’s see how Granit is as well.
“For the rest I think we are all okay.”
With that said, Arteta will have no shortage of options to choose from, as well as the fact that his squad should be ready and raring to go after a week without a fixture.
Following last week’s victory over Chelsea the likes of Hector Bellerin, Willian, Nicolas Pepe, Gabriel Martinelli and Alexandre Lacazette will all be pushing for recalls, meaning Arteta could have some difficult decisions to make when deciding on his attacking line.
Full Arsenal squad available to face Crystal Palace:
Goalkeepers: Bernd Leno, Runar Runarsson, Mat Ryan & Arthur Okonkwo.
Defenders: Hector Bellerin, Calum Chambers, Cedric Soares, Gabriel Magalhaes, Rob Holding, Pablo Mari & Kieran Tierney.
Midfielders: Willian, Nicolas Pepe, Bukayo Saka, Reiss Nelson, Granit Xhaka, Dani Ceballos, Thomas Partey, Mohamed Elneny, Martin Odegaard, Miguel Azeez & Emile Smith Rowe.
Strikers: Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Eddie Nketiah, Gabriel Martinelli & Folarin Balogun.
Source by Football London