Arsenal v Crystal Palace: Gunners’ front four to overwhelm?

Date published: Wednesday 13th January 2021 2:30

Arsenal v Crystal Palace is a Thursday treat and with Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka, the Gunners could triumph again…


Tactical pattern
Arsenal are looking considerably more purposeful in possession recently. Playing Bukayo Saka in an advanced right-wing role has paid dividends, while Alexandre Lacazette is much improved and Kieran Tierney brings balance to the left – essentially stretching the opposition out to both flanks, creating more space centrally for the excellent Emile Smith Rowe. Quick, dynamic attacking football is gradually returning to Arsenal.

Roy Hodgson will try to put a stop to this with his usual tactics: sit in deep lines of four and frustrate for long periods, before hitting long balls into the channels for his forwards to chase. Crystal Palace are easy to read, and the tactical pattern of this one is obvious. Arsenal will overwhelmingly dominate the ball, patiently seeking spaces in the final third.



Key battle zone
The most important area of the pitch is Arsenal’s number 10 position. Palace’s defence is deep and compact enough to limit the hosts’ marauding full-backs, and Mikel Arteta rarely likes to play down the wings anyway, which means Arsenal somehow need to find a way to break Palace down through a compact central midfield. Smith Rowe, whose clever movement to the left and right of the 10 space has given Arsenal vertical passing options, is clearly the most important player.

But Lacazette’s role is also vital. He has looked good dropping off the front in recent weeks, linking with Smith Rowe and helping to bring Saka and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang into play. James McArthur and Luka Milivojevic will have an awful lot of work to do tracking Lacazette and Smith Rowe. As Aubameyang and Saka come infield to help, the most likely outcome is Palace being overwhelmed.

Back Arsenal to win with a -1 handicap at 6/4 (Betfair)

Keep an eye on… Eze and Zaha
Crystal Palace’s left-sided partnership of Eberichi Eze and Wilfried Zaha is one of the most enjoyable in the Premier League; it is always worth keeping an eye on how these two interact, but that is especially true after Eze’s wonder-goal in Palace’s last Premier League outing. The winger’s directness and dribbling ability pose a threat to an Arsenal defence that can get caught flat-footed.

Hector Bellerin is expected to hold a very high starting position, potentially opening up counter-attacking space to Eze and Zaha, although of course both Palace attackers will find themselves pinned back for long periods by Arsenal’s territorial dominance.


One to watch… Bukayo Saka
Arsenal’s versatile 19-year-old may have finally found his best position. Saka looks better than ever on the right wing, a role that allows him to get on the ball in lots of space and weave into the opposition penalty area. Since Arsenal generally attack down the left, the opposition is often dragged out to that side, in turn giving Saka extra room once the play is switched.

Tyrick Mitchell and Patrick van Aanholt have alternated playing left-back for Palace this season, and after the Dutchman played a full 90 in the FA Cup, it is the 21-year-old set to face Saka. He will need all the help he can get from Eze.

Back over 3.5 goals at 13/5 (PaddyPower)

Odds correct at the time of publication. 18+ Please Gamble Responsibly. Visit


Alex Keble

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