Arsenal face Crystal Palace on New Year’s Day. Newly appointed Crystal Palace manager Sam Allardyce enjoys beating the big teams so he would love nothing more than to get one over on Arsene Wenger, especially at the Emirates. In their last five meetings, Arsenal have won four of them with the most recent one ending as a 1-1 draw.
Palace’s last win was a 3-0 victory over Southampton. It seemed that things were getting better for the South London side and Alan Pardew was given more time. A 3-3 draw with Hull followed and then two consecutive defeats to Manchester United and Chelsea convinced the owners that Pardew’s time was up. His replacement, Sam Allardyce, has been in charge for one game and that was a 1-1 draw with Watford. He will be keen to get the new year off to the best possible start and a win against Arsenal would make a statement. The former England manager has never been relegated from the Premier League and he does not intend to start now.
Arsenal were joint top of the league after beating West Ham and Stoke. It didn’t last though as they lost the next two games against Everton and Manchester City. They bounced back with a Boxing Day win against West Brom but they are now fourth, nine points behind leaders Chelsea. The Gunners must win this game if they are to keep up the pressure at the top, especially with rivals Tottenham Hotspur one point behind them in fifth place.
Kieran Gibbs is unavailable for Arsenal due to a knee problem. Wenger has said he should be back for the FA Cup match against Preston. Shkodran Mustafi is fit again and available for selection which is good news since he is yet to suffer defeat as an Arsenal player. Welbeck came back into full training after seven months out with a knee injury and could return in some capacity for the game against Crystal Palace. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could also return against the Eagles. Theo Walcott has been ruled out until the new year with a calf strain. Mathieu Debuchy, Santi Cazorla and Per Mertesacker all have long-term injuries.
James Tomkins, Joe Ledley and James McArthur could all return for Crystal Palace at the Emirates and face late fitness tests. Loic Remy, Connor Wickham, Steve Mandanda and Bakary Sako are all out. Damien Delaney will miss the game through suspension after picking up five yellow cards.
Both teams are capable of winning this match but Sam Allardyce is still settling in as Palace manager and getting to know his best players. Arsenal can use this to their advantage and produce their first home win of 2017 to get the year off to a promising start. My prediction is: Arsenal 2-1 Crystal Palace.