Crystal Palace have had a stuttering, but by no means disappointing, start to the season - registering seven points from their opening seven games of their campaign. Two draws in their previous two games that told very different stories. The first, a crushing late collapse against arch-rivals Brighton and Hove Albion, before a spirited draw from a two-goal deficit against a quality opponent in Leicester City.
Monday night’s London derby fixture away at the Emirates Stadium could prove to be a different challenge for Vieira’s men, with the Gunners hitting their stride following narrow wins over Norwich City and Burnley, before a defining 3-1 victory over North London neighbours Tottenham Hotspur.
However, in their most recent match, Arsenal were also held to a stalemate by the Seagulls, whom they often struggle against. Once again showing their vulnerability - something the Eagles will be keen to pounce on.
Heading into the weekend, hosts Arsenal sit in 11th, with their ten points fairly reflecting the Gunners’ inconsistent start, three points and three places above Palace in 14th. Mikel Arteta’s side has struggled to put the ball in the back of the net so far this term, scoring just five goals in their opening eight games, three shy of the South London side.
The three-time Premier League champions do, however, eclipse the Monday night opponents in the number of goals conceded this season, 10 to 11 - clearly demonstrating the strengths and weaknesses in both sides making for the perfect match up on the evening of the 18th.
The Eagles’ prospects of a positive result will be hugely boosted by the rumoured return of Eberechi Eze, who cemented himself as a key player for Palace in his maiden campaign following his switch from West London club, Queens Park Rangers. Patrick Vieira did caveat the news of Eze being back in training by stating: “we don’t want to put any kind of pressure on him or any kind of date on when he will be ready,” suggesting that perhaps the Palace faithful should temper expectation.
The Eagles boss also explained that defender Nathan Ferguson, who has battled injury issues ever since he arrived from West Bromwich Albion in the summer of 2020, “has started working on the field by himself with the physios.”
These two players aside, Vieira was delighted and relieved to announce that there are no fresh injuries off the back of the most recent international break, meaning the former Arsenal midfielder will be spoilt for choice when returning to his old stomping ground.
Meanwhile, Arsenal will find themselves somewhat depleted with a definite absentee in their midfield metronome Granit Xhaka, with the controversial Swiss out until mid-December with a serious knee injury.
Another potential name on the injury list is versatile attacker Gabriel Martinelli, who only turned 20 this summer, but will likely miss Monday’s clash according to Arteta. “Unfortunately, [Martinelli] got injured last week. It’s a minor injury, but we don’t know if he’s going to be available.”
To add insult to injury, literally, the defensive midfield duo of Thomas Partey and Mohamed Elneny are both slight doubts for the match against Palace, with both players struggling to find consistent game time so far due to knocks and niggles. Both players did play for their respective international sides, Ghana and Egypt, in the international break, so Gunners fans can be optimistic about seeing them return to the squad for the next fixture.
How to watch
Arsenal v Crystal Palace takes place at 20:00 this Monday the 18th and given that it is the final match of game-week eight will therefore headline Sky Sports’ popular late-night discussion and analysis show, Monday Night Football.
If you are unable to watch the game live, then be sure to stay tuned on VAVEL UK for live updates and in-game analysis.