Arsenal aiming to kick-start season with win over Crystal Palace

By on January 18, 2024

gabriel martinelli arsenal

Arsenal will be desperate to get their season back on track with a win over Crystal Palace at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

The Gunners squad has been away enjoying a warm weather training camp in Dubai during the winter break. Many felt the two-week hiatus came at a good time as the club has been going through a tough period that has threatened to derail our entire season.

Things were looking good not too long ago as Arsenal sat top of the Premier League table on Christmas day following a solid draw at Anfield. However, a shock 2-0 home defeat to West Ham just days later saw us fall behind Liverpool. We then threw away an early lead to lose 2-1 to Fulham at Craven Cottage on New Year’s Eve. To compound matters, Arsenal then crashed out the FA Cup with a frustrating 0-2 loss at home to Liverpool, making it another early exit from a domestic cup competition.

The consecutive league defeats to West Ham and Fulham meant Arsenal had wasted a golden opportunity to cement their place at the top of the table heading into 2024.  We now sit fourth in the standings – level on points with Tottenham, three points behind Aston Villa and Manchester City, and five points adrift of leaders Liverpool. Spurs and Villa have played a game more, but Arsenal are still playing catch-up with title rivals City and Liverpool, so we simply cannot afford another slip-up at home to Crystal Palace this weekend.

Mikel Arteta will have been hugely frustrated at the manner of the defeat to Fulham as we weren’t good enough on the day. However, the loss to West Ham defied explanation as Arsenal dominated the entire game, created over 30 chances but just couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net. The Hammers meanwhile, scored twice from just three shots on target to complete a real smash-and-grab job at the Emirates.

Arsenal were also the better side in the FA Cup game against Liverpool, but once again wasted a hatful of chances – particularly in the first half when we could easily have been 3-0 up at half-time. The wasteful finishing has become a huge concern and hopefully Arteta and the coaching staff have been working on things during the break in Dubai.

The players should be chomping at the bit to get back on the pitch and put things right, so I’m expecting a top performance from the boys on Saturday. However, not only do Arsenal need to focus on putting the ball on the net, we need to ensure we are fully focussed in defence too as we’ve been giving away sloppy goals lately.

Palace are a dangerous side who are more than capable of getting a result, just like West Ham did, if Arsenal aren’t on top form all over the pitch. Roy Hodgson is an experienced manager and he’ll know how to frustrate us at the Emirates. Palace sit 14th in the table after beating Brentford 3-1 just before New Year, but they’ll be looking to bounce back from their disappointing 1-0 defeat to Everton in the FA Cup last time out.

This is a huge game for both clubs so we’re expecting a full house at the Emirates on Saturday afternoon. As usual, the game is already a sell-out but fans should be able to get hold of a ticket via a ticket marketplace.

Team news

Arsenal still have a number of injury concerns that have hampered the squad this season. Thomas Partey was left out of the Ghana squad for the AFCON due to a persistent thigh injury. He continued his recovery in Dubai and has trained with the squad in recent days so he has an outside chance of being on the bench this weekend. Although realistically, Partey may have to wait for the trip to Nottingham Forest at the end of the month to make his comeback.

Fabio Vieira has returned to training after undergoing groin surgery last year. The midfielder will be assessed at training on Friday but he could be back in the squad this weekend. Gabriel Jesus is also expected to be back in contention after missing the defeat to Liverpool with a minor knee injury. Jesus was left out as a precaution as it was the same knee that caused him trouble throughout 2023 but he should be available to face Palace.

However, Oleksandr Zinchenko remains a major doubt. The Ukrainian international has missed the last two games due to a calf injury and reports suggest he could miss out against Palace on Saturday.

Jurrien Timber has been making good progress in his recovery from a serious knee injury that he sustained on the opening weekend of the season. The defender did some light ball work in Dubai but he’s still several weeks away from being back in contention.

Takehiro Tomiyasu is unavailable as he’s representing Japan at the Asian Cup while Mo Elneny is away at the AFCON with Egypt.

As for Palace, they’ll be without Cheick Doucoure due to a calf injury while Rob Holding won’t face his former club as he’s nursing an ankle issue. Jesurun Rak-Sakyi is also out with a thigh injury, while Joel Ward will also miss the trip to Arsenal. Michael Olise is a major doubt with a hamstring injury while Jordan Ayew is at the AFCON.

Possible line-up

Arteta doesn’t have too many viable options to change things in defence if Zinchenko is out so I’m expecting the same back four that’s started the previous two matches. David Raya is also likely to keep his place in goal after Aaron Ramsdale conceded twice against Liverpool in the FA Cup.

Declan Rice will obviously start in midfield along with captain Martin Odegaard. Jorginho started against Liverpool but Kai Havertz could drop back into midfield after leading the line up front last time out.

That would make room for Jesus to return in attack. Even if the Brazilian isn’t passed fit to start, I’d expect either Leandro Trossard or Eddie Nketiah to start up front with Havertz back in midfield.

Bukayo Saka will keep his place on the right wing while I expect we’ll see Gabriel Martinelli returning on the left. The Brazilian has been a frustrating figure in recent weeks as his final ball and finishing has been poor [like all of our attackers], so hopefully he’s back on top form this weekend after the break.

Arsenal XI: Raya, White, Saliba, Gabriel, Kiwior, Rice, Havertz, Odegaard, Saka, Martinelli, Jesus


Arsenal have no room for error here and anything but a win would severally dent our title aspirations, especially if Liverpool beat Bournemouth on Sunday. Arteta has hopefully rallied the troops and our attackers have rediscovered their confidence in front of goal.

Palace shouldn’t be underestimated as they are a tricky side who can grind out results, but I’m confident we’ll pick up all three points. Arsenal 3-1 Crystal Palace