Arsenal vs Crystal Palace Preview: Gunners hoping to start new year with improved performance

Arsenal vs Crystal Palace Preview: Gunners hoping to start new year with improved performance

Arsene Wenger's side were disappointing in their final three fixtures of 2016, but will be hoping to re-ignite title challenge against the Eagles

Jordan Owusu-Adu

Arsenal’s first fixture of the new year see the gunners welcome Crystal Palace to Emirates Stadium on New Year's Day, and manager Arsene Wenger will be hoping the new year will bring some more improved performances compared to the ones from his team gave as they closed out 2016.

New year, more quality 

After two disappointing away defeats to Everton and Manchester City, a late Olivier Giroud header secured three points in a 1-0 victory over West Bromwich Albion on Boxing Day. 

Those games were pretty unspectacular, and ahead of his side's clash with Crystal Palace, Wenger said that he felt the Premier League had not yet delivered in terms of match quality so far this season: "We have not produced the games, the Premier League has not produced the games that are remembered."

He continued, “Maybe both teams are always top quality. I think everybody is under pressure not to lose." Wenger also explained, "Every game has become so important, maybe as well because the difference between the favourite teams and the smaller teams means that some teams just defend.”

Defensive work still needed

On the topic of defending, recently appointed Crystal Palace boss Sam Allardyce will be hoping his team will be able to carry over their positive defensive performance from their Boxing Day draw with Watford into today’s game. 

Under their previous manager Alan Pardew, the eagles had conceded 23 goals in nine matches, but they looked more solid against the Hornets.

Allardyce said ahead of the game: “Defensively we need to be a little bit better when we’re out of possession. We have to defend as a team."

The veteran manager added, “We looked more resilient at Watford. It looks like we can get back to that. The creative side was pretty good - we can improve a bit.”

Team news

Arsenal are set to be without forward Theo Walcott for the second game running due to a minor calf injury. But they can welcome back German centre back Shkodran Mustafi, who has been missing because of a hamstring injury picked up in last month's win over Stoke City.

Damien Delaney will be missing for Palace as he serves a one-match suspension but James McArthur, Joe Ledley and James Tomkins could all feature in the starting line-up.

Predicted line-ups

Arsenal: (4-2-3-1) Cech; Bellerin, Koscielny, Gabriel, Monreal; Coquelin, Xhaka; Iwobi, Özil, Sanchez; Giroud.

Crystal Palace: (4-2-3-1) Hennessey; Kelly, Dann, Fryers, Ward; Cabaye, Flamini; Townsend, Puncheon, Zaha; Benteke.