Crystal Palace Preview: Sound of Confusion

By curious coincidence Arsenal travel to Crystal Palace and West Bromwich Albion in the next few days. It’s the reverse order in the scenes of last season’s crimes and we’ve got to avoid it being another criminal performance tonight.

Three points take us to within six of Manchester United in second place. We won’t finish second this season but keeping that gap down doesn’t make me feel as bad as when I look at the 24 point gap to City at the top of the table.

Guardiola’s team are causing some consternation. Not because of how far ahead of us they are; no, it’s nothing important like that. The edginess stems from the possibility of City going unbeaten through the season. It’s the last thing some people have to hold onto; the last vestige of pride in the club.

Yet the real issue is how far ahead City are of us. You can point to the other teams and say it’s more or less the same for them. I don’t care; that’s their problem. Mine is how far and how quickly Arsenal have fallen behind. With Liverpool spending £75m on a defender, I am left conflicted. They are addressing their weaknesses, quickly and are willing to pay a premium to do so.

Are Arsenal prepared to be as pragmatic, although I reserve the right to change that to ‘stupid’ if Van Dijk turns out to be a pup at Anfield? Would we pay a ‘tax’ on a player? Would Arsène sanction a deal where he knew we were being charged a premium because of tapping up or because of who we are? I don’t think the answer is clear-cut. Far from it, in fact. His previous behaviour makes the answer to that more likely to be a ‘no’.

Arsène says he’s expecting to be “busy in the transfer window”; I’ll believe that when I see it. I know what you’re thinking: “Such cynicism in one so young”, but it’s how Arsenal’s words need to be treated.

Time for Action

At Palace last season, we bade farewell to the back four. A week later, it was cast aside for a back three at Middlesbrough. In the north London derby, the quartet resurfaced with Rob Holding ‘rested’, but that defeat cast it to the four winds – or the back four winds if you like – until now. Arsène thinks the back three made our game too “lateral” and switched to 4-2-3-1 again.

It doesn’t look any more successful than using the 3-4-3 variation. We aren’t scoring any more goals away from home than before and our goal difference is barely improving. That point was succinctly made on Twitter this week:

And it is; there’s no point in denying it. Ours is worth an extra point to rival teams.

The change to a back four brought casualties, the most high-profile of which is Sead Kolasinac. Wenger commented yesterday that the new signing is a wing-back who might be able to fit in as a full-back. At some point. It’s hardly a ringing endorsement of his transfer acumen, making the Bosnian out to be another Kallström who we signed because it was better than signing no-one.


It’s not the case, surely?

For tonight’s team, I don’t expect any changes beyond those enforced to the line-up which started against Liverpool. Mustafi will be in for Monreal but that’s pretty much it. Ainsley Maitland-Niles seems likely to keep his place, but I wouldn’t imagine it was clear-cut after Mo Salah gave him the runaround last weekend.

Glory Boys

Wenger’s options are limited. I expect Jack Wilshere to start which leaves the choice of his midfield partner between Xhaka, Coquelin and Elneny. The current incumbent is enduring this season rather than enjoying it, but nothing is shaking Arsène’s belief in him. Nor I hasten to add, are Coquelin or Elneny doing enough in the team to usurp Xhaka.

It leaves the line-up:

Cech; Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Maitland-Niles; Wilshere, Xhaka; Sanchez, Özil, Iwobi; Lacazette

Three points are the order of the day. Nothing else will do if we’re to challenge for this top four place that everyone tells me is so important.

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow.

171 thoughts on “Crystal Palace Preview: Sound of Confusion

  1. This is one of the best games for slick one-touch passing I have seen from Arsenal for some time.

    We deserve to be more than 0 : 1 up for the amount of attacking play we have had. 0 : 1 does not give much comfort against a fluke goal etc.

  2. O yea, and for all those that say Ozil doesn’t track back, guess who that was one on one with Zaha, could it be the German wizard and then winning the ball from him.

  3. Not used to seeing Ozil harrying a forward right back on our line. We’re up for it alright, but no way wrapped up at half time. Zaha and Cabaye always look dangerous with the ball.

  4. I wonder if there is ANY truth to reports that surfaced last night that our new hired transfer and contract men think both Ozil and Sanchez could possibly sign a new deal

  5. C,

    Is it too much to hope they’ve been assured AW is leaving in the summer and a new manager they can look forward to is being lined up? It couldn’t just be the wage packet on its own, could it?

  6. Probably not, C.

    Some plonker stirring up the fans hopes — at least those who want them to stay — like me.

    Of course, if they want to leave, then — ça fait rien.

  7. Half-team quiz: Which footballer will be next to follow George Weah in becoming President of his country?

  8. If O & S are leaving, then regardless of the rules, those deals are done and dusted by the players and the other clubs – subject only to whether Arsenal let them leave in January, for a little dosh, or in the summer.

  9. Why the fuck did Sead, Kos and Jack not track Townsend, both fucking just watched him stroll to the ball and neither wanted to make thr challenge.

  10. Palace have decisively worked out that our right hand side is defensively all over the shop. Chambers and Bellerin have a long night coming.

  11. Bellerin could do with some time off as he’s shite going forward and pretty horrible in defense.

    We play well for 50 minutes, then they score and we fold. Is that how it’s going to play out☹️.

  12. CBob,

    The static play of the CBs leading to their goal was probably because of the bloody zonal system we play.

    Each Arsenal player looks after the ‘square’ each of them is allotted and they don’t bother tracking the oppo player.

  13. What a fucking ball by Jack and Sanchez scores again!!!!!!

    Arsene you really have cocked it up, I mean we could legitmately lose Ozil, Jack and Sanchez and be left with Iwobi, Ramsey and Welbeck……sigh🤒

  14. It’s a mindset, CBob. They seem to mark their zone, and ignore the player who does the scoring, by standing still and blaming someone else after the event.

  15. I so hate it when we’re up a goal or two and start showboating in our own half. It’s raining banana skins.

  16. Taking off Lacazette rather than Jack or Xhaka, is because we are winning 1 : 3 and the defence needs shoring up.

  17. Xhaka just did his hamstring when he slipped, tried to get up and immediately grabbed it and fell back down. At least that what it looked like and he is back in the pitch

  18. 4 minutes, that’s like an eternity now. Do we really look more solid with le Coc on the field?

  19. Brilliant in parts when attacking — Dreadful when the opposition attack at pace.

    Any chance we will buy an experienced BIG CB who does not get out jumped by every other team when a cross comes in? No?? Probably right.

  20. Once again Arsenal struggle to close down the game. Cech, as always, failed to find our players with his clearances, either that or put the ball out of play.

    At 3 – 1 up we should have done everything to retain possession, if that means lateral passes between the back three for the last ten minutes, so be it.

    If Saha and co. had a little more composure in front of goal we could easily have lost the game in the final minutes.

  21. C,

    Players like Sanchez (forwards) are always going to lose the ball a lot. That goes with the territory. Pep though sets up his teams to ensure that, when that happens, opponents are mugged before they can launch a counter-attack. Indeed, Pep’s team then launch a counter-counter-attack.
    Sanchez will waltz into the City team. He is much better than Sterling et al. And the way he was playing today, I think he’s been told he’ll be on the way very shortly.

    Ras, I agree. Arsené’ looks a broken man. His dream is over. The board has probably told him that Sanchez is on his way and he doesn’t expect much better than mid-table. He looked totally distracted when Woy tried to shake his hands. Even the goals don’t delight him anymore.

  22. Wilshire really reminded me of Santi today in midfield. He’s got that close control that Ozil just doesn’t have in heavy traffic. Why not just pair him with Le Coq as an enforcer (and give Le Coq very specific instructions that he is not – repeat not – to do anything ambitious with the ball: just play a link man and hunt for the ball in defence).

  23. Very good 3 points and good for Chambers and Sead to get 90 mins. Attack was a joy to watch and Ozil and Jack are getting an understanding of each other and its a joy to watch. Sanchez gets the goals but I want to give some credit to Lacazette who might not have scored but showed his all around CF play tonight and teeing up Sanchez was good stuff, it really fucking was. He is a tireless runner and chaser and his hold up and link up play is a joy especially when you consider he is so small but rarely does he get knocked off the ball or simply just ‘lose it’ .

    Xhaka also looked better like he was thinking quicker when he had the ball.

  24. C,

    “Close control” is the wrong word. But Ozil is not as strong on the ball as Wilshire. I much prefer seeing him out on the wing, cutting in onto his left foot.

  25. Freddo,

    For me its just different styles, Jack has always been one who enjoys and looks for the physicality and plays through it whereas Ozil is more of a glider and rides the challenges or goes around the challenge but also the way they play is why they compliment each other with Jack having that quick burst coming back in midfield while Ozil has the talent and deceptive pace to glide past people.

    That piece of skill Ozil pulled off near the end of the match right before he passed to Jack who couldn’t get it out of his feet was sublime.

  26. Did anyone see Sanchez going nuts (again) about the lack of pressing around him? Watch City. Nobody at City has to wave their arms to call for pressing because they have pressing totally ingrained into them (it’s called coaching) and Pep will do the yelling from the sideline if needed (it isn’t).

  27. Morning all,

    from the sublime to the ridiculous all in one match. Some of our play was fantastic, but why do we score 3 goals and still feel that we were hanging on? No other team manages to put itself under so much pressure. With 3 goals against Palace all of the teams around us would have been coasting and completely in charge of the game. Does Wenger really think this is a good way to play football? He just doesn’t know who will turn up from game to game and whether they will remember their jobs. It’s like a Sunday pub team that turns up once a week to play and has no interaction during the week.

  28. Wavey,

    Wavey you are correct .It would be a cert that the other teams having scored 3 goals ( away from home) would be a lot more secure. Close the game out with no drama. Arsenal are unable to do this. Why?

    It comes down to AW. This malaise is now firmly entrenched in the Team. It will end when the reign of AW is ended.

    He’s been for years tactically he’s not been at the ‘races’.

    We have seen repeatedly over 5-6 – 7 years defensive frailties resurface again and again repeatedly.Yes the major teams lose matches but never on the scale that Arsenal has. We have been savagy beaten by Bayern, Man U on more than one occasion, Barcelona. Lost countless number of Games in the PL.

    It highlights simply that AW is not capable of creating a balanced team that can do ‘all things’ necessary on a consistent basis. He can’t create a team in the true sense. This is borne out by the defensive fuck ups again and again.

    The 1st decade of his tenure bears witness to this. He inherited a top class defence. It was drilled and had leaders. He had merely to add to that, which he did. Viera, TH etc.

    AFC have not truly been truly in contention for the second part of his 20 year tenure. Why?

    It’s a kop out on his part to blame it all in the riches etc of first Chelsea, City and Man U.

    The inability to gain optimum from the players he’s decided to buy highlights be simply can’t do it.

    I watched carefully his Presser and last interviews. He’s a dead man walking. He knows it.

    Wait for Change.

  29. A win is a win, and yes I’ll take that everyday of the week until we change manager and them some more…
    The truth is that I can’t change anything at Arsenal right now (don’t bet against that happening in the near future though) so while I fervently wait to see some good changes at the club starting from the manager to the playing staff, I’ll take every near draw wins that come our way, while hoping to see some smatterings of beautiful football along the way.

  30. Ras,

    “In my heart I prefer to play with one defender,” he replied, with a smile.

    The man has no understanding of the need for an organised defence. All title winning teams have had a strong defensive unit providing the base for a successful team, It’s just not possible to win titles without solid defenders. To believe that it is possible to win titles without defenders is taking naivety to a whole new level.

  31. Wavey,

    It’s like when you’re a kid and everyone wants to be a forward. Childish, self-indulgent and ultimately just plain idiotic. Just reinforces my view that without the defence and structure that he inherited AW would have won sweet FA and been given the boot within two or three seasons.

  32. The attack play was a joy and honestly, our defending was decent for much of the game (Zaha since his return from injury has been causing problem for every club bar none) and then we went up 3-1 and we tried to see out the game, hauled off Lacazette for Le Coq and it all went to pieces.

    Personally, with this team and this manager, fuck it lets just be an attacking team. No point is trying to see out matches we are shit at it. Maybe not let the troops attack but let the front 4 keep attacking as they were.

    Happy for the 3 points and I’ll take positives from it.

  33. What does everybody think about what Souness and Henry said about Sanchez and the goal celebration or not celebration from the team?

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