Arsenal v Crystal Palace
Thursday 14 January, 20:00
Live on Sky Sports
Arsenal needed extra-time to complete a 2-0 home win over Newcastle in the third round of the FA Cup on Saturday.
Although it was laboured, Mikel Arteta’s side stretched their unbeaten run to four and it was their third clean sheet in a row.
The Gunners lacked their recent fluency against Newcastle after Arteta made seven changes from the team that won 4-0 at West Brom in the Premier League the previous weekend but got on top once he brought on more of the regulars including Emile Smith Rowe, who scored the first goal.
Arteta is sure to revert here to the energetic, youthful set-up that has served him well since Christmas with Smith Rowe as the creative hub in the No.10 role.
Bukayo Saka will be back in the starting line-up too, along with the likes of Alexandre Lacazette and Granit Xhaka. Thomas Partey and Gabriel face late fitness tests.
Bad news weekend
Crystal Palace were knocked out of the FA Cup on Friday, losing 1-0 at Wolves, and there was further bad news from cup weekend when Eberechi Eze breached Covid rules by attending the QPR-Fulham tie, prompting damaging media coverage and an FA investigation.
Roy Hodgson’s side are left to concentrate on the Premier League, where they lie 14th on 22 points. That puts them at the base of the congested mid-table pack, although there is little danger from below at the moment with Fulham in 18th having only 11 points.
Hodgson still has defensive issues with Mamadou Sakho, Martin Kelly, Scott Dann and Gary Cahill all struggling with injury. Cheikhou Kouyate looks set to partner James Tomkins at the back.
Luka Milivojevic, who was involved in another Covid breach on New Year’s Eve, is expected to start.
Arsenal’s home record was much improved under Arteta in the second half of last season but they have been slow to get going at the Emirates in the current campaign.
Their home form figures this season are W3 D1 L4, mainly due to a loss of form in the autumn when they lost four in a row at the Emirates.
It is possible to argue that was a blip, albeit a serious one, given that overall under Arteta their home figures are W10 D3 L5.
The result that turned this season’s form around was the 3-1 home win over Chelsea on Boxing Day, and that looks high-class form, but their latest two league wins came against struggling Brighton and West Brom and it is difficult to know quite where their standard is at.
A continuing positive is that Arsenal have scored in 15 of their 18 home league games under Arteta and again the three blanks came during their dismal autumn spell.
Palace can be dangerous opponents on the road and Arsenal’s defensive improvement in their recent run of clean sheets may well be tested.
The problem with Palace is their inconsistency and their away record is an up-and-down W3 D1 L3. The key has been whether the Eagles score, with the three defeats all to nil.
Palace’s overall record when scoring this season is W6 D4 L1, which indicates they will be well in the match if they can crack the Arsenal defence. Furthermore, their record when scoring on the road since the start of last season is W8 D5 L1.
On the downside, despite their reputation for defensive solidity under Hodgson, only two teams have conceded more goals this season than Palace (29 in 17 games).
Although Palace also have only one really top-class result on their away record this season (the 3-1 win at Manchester United in September), their record when scoring on the road remains eye-catching.
It might be worth a big punt on a Palace win with over 2.5 goals at 9/1 with Betfair Sportsbook.
Nine of Arsenal’s 13 home games in all competitions this season have gone over 2.5 goals and it is worth noting that 11 of the visiting teams have scored at the Emirates.
Arsenal have had five out of eight (63%) over 2.5 goals at home in the Premier League this season and Palace’s figures on the road are identical.
Over 2.5 goals is the slight favourite at 1.9310/11.