Crystal Palace – Arsenal: 2nd Match of the Season Already a Must-Win? Alexis Ready to Start, Ramsey on the Right?

Arsene Wenger and Alan Pardew, a pair of managers who have had priors, meet again.  This time it’s an early season showdown which holds extra meaning.  Arsenal must rebound from a very disappointing 2-nil defeat, at home, to West Ham United, while Palace hope to build on their good play and the three points they took at newly promoted Norwich City.

Matches played in August always beg questions of the transfer window.  In our opener, our lone signing thus far, goalkeeper Petr Cech, highly touted as THE signing which would gain us points in the title challenge, backfired in spectacular fashion.  The helmeted keeper looked bad on both West Ham goals even if there were likely deeper questions to be asked about defensive organization at set pieces and overplaying out of dangerous situations. In their match at Norwich, Palace’s big summer signing, Yohan Cabaye, a player Pardew (then at Newcastle United) almost lost to Arsenal, played a critical role.  Pardew’s off-season re-capture of Cabaye from Paris St. Germain already looks a very canny move, even more so in that many Gooners felt Francis Coquelin had a rough outing in the rear-of-midfield role Cabaye might have played for us.

How will Wenger react?  How will Pardew counter?  What can we expect–beyond the US style cheerleaders greeting the players as they enter the pitch–in this early test?  Will Wenger ring the changes or double down on his ideas?  Will Pardew seek to strike early or will he hang back and attempt to absorb our pressure and hit on the counter?

From the manager’s pre-match press conference we’ve heard that Alexis Sanchez and Hector Bellerin are ready and/or recovered.  Will both move directly into the starting line-up?  If so, at whose expense?  Wenger also gave notice about longer term injuries.  Jack Wilshere is on track for next month, Danny Welbeck’s return seems further delayed, and Tomas Rosicky, it appears, had knee surgery the week before the opener and cannot be expected until the trees have lost their leaves.  Wenger, keen to avoid a sense of panic after the opening week loss, has danced around transfer questions while weighing in on the treatment of medical personnel at another South London club.

As much as we all love Eva, our focus must remain on the club in Croydon rather than the one on the edge of Kensington.  Coming off the nice win at Norwich the Eagles will be keen to give 100% in their home opener and reward their always up-for-it supporters.  Beyond Cabaye’s solid outing, capped by an injury time goal, they also scored through Wilfried Zaha on the counter and Damien Delaney at a set piece.  The match might have been closer but for an equalizing Norwich goal called back for dangerous play.  In the end the scoreline was perhaps glossier than merited but Pardew got solid performances from all parts of the pitch which he and his players will want to build upon.

How then should Wenger set up for this one?

In interviews following the opener the manager didn’t single out any players but noted that none of his men had particular good matches.  As such, a couple of key changes is all I can picture him making.

My hunch is that Wenger will give Alexis a full hour-plus to show what he can do playing just to the left of center–and working closely with center forward Olivier Giroud and our man in the hole, Mesut Ozil.  Although Francis Coquelin struggled in this same fixture last season, having to play most of the match after receiving an early yellow card, I cannot see our rear-of-midfield stalwart being dropped.  Instead, he’ll likely be asked to stay on task, keep the passing simple and the positioning shaded toward the back.  The big question is who will partner him: Aaron Ramsey (as he did vs WHU) or Santi Cazorla (or possibly Mikel Arteta) in the other holding position?

Another question is who will get the call on the right side of our attack?  Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain looked bright in attack from that position–and he also scored our most recent goal, the belter with his left foot in the Community Shield.  As nice as that goal was, I think he may pay for his mistake on the 2nd Hammers’ goal with a spot on the bench.  Or maybe not.  It might be a nice birthday present (he turns 22 on Saturday) for the manager to give him a boost of confidence and another run out.

Theo Walcott, now our 3rd highest paid player, is probably also chomping at the bit.  Could he get a run in the first 11?

I don’t think he will, too many changes (and perhaps too many all-out attackers) being the rationale.  Instead–to a chorus of worries from anxious Gooners worried about players being played out of position–Santi, I believe, will slide back and more central while Rambo will get the call with the right hand position.  Of course, once the ball is in play he’ll slide central too, as is his wont.  This means the Ox and Theo will have to feature from the bench.  Hopefully, whoever plays on our right side of attack will be keen to create better interaction with the selected fullback.  Is Debuchy ready for a harder charging effort this week or will Bellerin’s superior pace get the nod?  I’ll go for the former.

Bench = Ospina, Bellerin, Gibbs, Gabriel, Arteta, Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain,

To me, no matter who plays, it’s all about playing our game and allowing our inherent quality to conquer the occasion and get the first points of the season.  Already we’re looking up from the bottom of the table, so, make no mistake, the stakes are high and the pressure is on.  By contrast, Palace, having taken the full points from their opener, can set out in a conservative yet opportunistic fashion, trying to gain control of the match with or without the ball.  Solidity at the back will be key for both teams as is getting the first goal–something that’s always tougher–in our case–when we’ve yet to score one in league play.  Good movement, spreading the pitch and working as a collective seems essential as is remaining disciplined to those priorities–no matter the twists and turns the match takes. Could it be just that touch easier given the disappointment of the opener and the fact that we’re playing in hostile grounds knowing that a less than solid performance will likely see points dropped again?

I think it might but maybe others see things differently.  How would you set out the team and what elements are you looking for?  Is this match an early season must-win, a true gut-check for the club or one where we just have to play at the correct level and allow our better qualities to shine?  Who will you be watching and why?

Go on then (you Gunners)… and have it at, fellow Gooners…

by 17highburyterrace

70 thoughts on “Crystal Palace – Arsenal: 2nd Match of the Season Already a Must-Win? Alexis Ready to Start, Ramsey on the Right?

  • Nice one again, Seventeenho. I reckon you got it spot on with the line up. Key is to stay calm, play without desperation. Control the game and remain solid and take our chances. It will not be easy as Palace have nothing to lose and will be full of confidence, but I reckon we will come good. 🙂


  • Nice post 17, enjoyed that…

    Bellerin for me fellas, especially if Ramsey starts instead of AOC, which is the way I would go…

    I guess that it could be a bit tense and very tight/tactical.

    Wenger won’t want to lose two on the bounce, so he might go all safety-first?

    U21’s beat Fulham tonight.
    I didn’t see the game, but I was told that Iwobi had a very impressive game.
    Zelalem scored our goal…

  • Hi

    Good preview, I will miss game on an airplane over somewhere… On way to Europe so perhaps can see a game or two on EU time, as close to live as I get…

    Anyway, I gather Bellerin is still hurt. For me the lineup is good. I think the first 20 or so will tell the story. If there are no Araenal mids regularly within say 5m of the side lines, then we will have a rough day, win or lose…

    As to other debates, AW has made the most and then some, no trophies or otherwise, than anyone else might have. Especially when you consider that while the board and most fans showed him strong loyalty, he too never followed his inner little boy to somewhere with more money. In both directions that is hard to find these days. Just as one of my other favourite coaches Rafa Benitez perhaps. Thus, to me, the institution is the synergy across both sides of that equation, in both directions. I personally look forward to seeing AW no Silent Stan et al there in 5 years.

    TA, may be able to write a post on the planes. One hopes…

    Cheers — JGC

  • All my super stellar opinion only of course…

    And just ASK … Sigh,

    Meanwhile, tonight, sorry Oz, go the All Blacks!!

    — JGC

  • TA and 17ht,

    I think it was me who replied JM and put the “lucky” sentence in. Yes TA it was me.

    I will play Theo on the right wing, Alexis on the left wing supplying balls to Ollie. Sounds like during the offseason I had that lineup and I am still sticking to it.

    Jgc, I reckon bellerina is back in the squad. Le Prof mentioned it yesterday.

    17ht, we will start with a defensive line and then counter. Its risky but I think Le Prof will do that as we are not mentally ready to go all out yet.

    Maybe put Rambo as a super sub?


  • And why am I getting the impression that the kids that goes out on loan impresses more than our lads?

    Hope that is just for one game and bring the 3 points back home you Gunners

  • Been reading the posts all summer, but not commenting. I tend to hate the window and all the hogwash it brings, especially in the comments section.

    I am part of that chorus 17 spoke off…quite simply, if a C(A)M is not good enough to get a start at C(A)M, then he should not be accommodated elsewhere at the expense of the team balance, width and cohesion. I also do not think from all our pre-season games and last week there is any compelling case for why Ramsey/Santi deserve a start on wing above Ox, who has been largely excellent in pre-season and was also bright last week. As a manager at this level, you need to have the balls to drop one of Santi/Ramsey (I like both and so do not have a preference), because that is what is in the interests of the team.
    From the above, I would start both Ox and Alexis in a 4-2-3-1.

    Just my opinion. I think if we push too much Palace will destroy us on break, so I’d like to see us drop deeper and play slighter more on counter. For that, we need pace out wide (and perhaps even Theo as CF?) and that is why I would go with wingers on the wing. (Me and my radical ideas 😉 )

  • D-Money

    Interesting thought. In American nfl football, we’d say best player at the position vs best available player period. I think I’d normally disagree a bit, BUT, when it comes to wide vs inside players, then my prejudice is for a (slightly) less talented wide specialist over a better second choice CAM. Especially after last weeks lack of width.

    I could perhaps join a chorus of wanted a dedicated winger! Where did THAT come from??! 🙂

    Cheers — jgc

  • Nik

    Good news then. I favour Bellerin where speed or wide attack are needed. Plays to his strengths relative to Debuchy perhaps.

    Cheers — JGC

  • Good preview 17! With Jack still out injured and Bellerin and Alexis back on deck my starting 11 versus Crystal Palace is:

    GK: Cech
    RB: Debuchy
    CB: Mertesacker
    CB: Koscielny
    LB: Monreal
    CDM: Coquelin
    CM: Ramsey
    CAM: Ozil
    RW: Ox
    ST: Walcott
    LW: Sanchez

    Solid back five and plenty of off the ball movement up front for Ozil to pick out.

  • Hi all.. Nice to hear your voice again.. I though I won’t see this site again.. Hhehehe..

    I think we must chance some players include Cech.. No player is bigger than the club.. Is it..??
    Cech.. Debuchy.. Mertesacker and Giroud didn’t play well last week.. So it would be fair to replace them all..
    Ospina.. Bellerin.. Gabriel and Walcott must start..
    but I doubt Wenger will play Gabriel and Koscielny pair.. I’m afraid they’re substitution.. And Wenger will prefer to play Chambers if Mertesacker absent..

  • Hello Kampers 🙂

    Geoff, a post by you would be very much appreciated. It’s time for a Geoff theory. 🙂

    Interesting results today. Big away wins by Norwich and Leicester, and Spuds giving two goals and points away is very welcome. 🙂 Big game tomorrow.

  • Welcome back DMoney, I’d go with that line up but prefer Ramsey instead of Ox on the right. I can see why you are going with the young Englishman though.

  • HI all,
    Thanks 17 a good read and i like your team.
    Though i to would change Ramsey for Theo , i thought Ramsey had a bad game last week and Theo must play he has more goals in him then Aaron and deserves to start imo.

    I wonder what the future holds for Joel Campbell.??/ Can he make the grade at Arsenal, must assume he is of this season, but maybe he could be the man to step up this season.

    I also wonder if Arteta will get a game, i would like to see our captain play, a wise head may well be just what we need tomw.

    We have plenty going forward so we could play him and le Coq and replace another.
    For me the first goal is nvery important tomw, they will park the bus if they score.

  • Mr Monster,
    I do hope the dooming is not needed at 3.30pm tomw, i am a little nervous about this game though.
    I would also like to see Paulista play, i think he is going to be great, he is faster then BFG

  • Good shout on Arteta, PG.

    You asked my Dutch team in last post: it is Roda JC. I used to live one KM away from the old ground and watched many games. My first ever game was…. Roda v Liverpool FC in the 70th. 🙂

  • Thanks Skipper.
    I think Arteta will be a good calming infulancne.
    Aslo thanks on the Dutch Roda JC, i have nothing but respect for Dutch football.
    MOTD time 🙂

  • Thanks professor,
    Him and Per will (would) really keep our team as a solid unit
    Wise and calm, in what is a pressure game against a good team.
    I would defo select him.i have always admired Arteta and all his imput to our club.
    COYG good luck 3 points.

  • Pg, unfortunately, Dutch club football is struggling badly at European level. This is not due to lack of talent but lack of financial competitiveness. 😦

  • Roda, where in the Low Countries are they Total?

    Excuse my ignorance of Ere Divisie, but I know of Ajax, PSV, Feyenoord, Twente and Herenveen, but the rest, I’m sorry…
    Obviously too much red wine doesn’t help either 😦

  • 17ht,

    Great post, it is already a must win for us as we need to pick ourselves up and show that we can challenge for the PL.
    it has been almighty quiet for us in the TW and I don’t expect much to happen between now and the end of the month. I do believe that we need a couple of players but if we pick up a defender, who will AW replace. If it’s a midfielder, what will happen to Rambo, jack and others. This year I believe that everyone needs to step up a notch and they must learn to pick themselves up and lead by example. It’s the best team we’ve had in a long time. It’s time for action and not excuses.
    I believe that we can make a real run in the PL and if the players honestly believe it, we could go all the way.
    Palace will not be an easy opponent and forget about what Cabaye could have brought to our team. We have strong players. Let’s just go out and put a run of wins under our belt.

    By the way, hi to all the guys here and it’s great tgat the Bergkampesque hiatus was not a long one.

    Take care

  • Very South of Holland, Allezkev. Roda used to be a regular top four team and won a couple of ‘FA cups’ in the nineties and noughties, but have lost ground recently. In fact, they were relegated season before last but fought their way straight back into the Eredivisie. One win and one loss out of their first two games provides a bit of hope for survival.

  • Morning fellas and a big welcome to the likes of Alex, Henry and D-Money chiming in for the first time this season… 😀

    I’m up for this one (and found I couldn’t keep myself asleep, albeit I went to bed early)…

    That’s about as close as I can come to getting the 18 right…without doing so… (Only Bellerin (in for Debuchy) was off…) With this group I wonder if we’re almost playing a bit of a 4-1-3-2…In other words, If Ozil, Ramsey and Santi just keep moving there’s no reason for any of them to really get stuck in either central nor wide positions. Giroud and Alexis, of course, will also rotate from off the shoulders of the last defenders and deeper spots. All told, I like it as I just think this group of attackers has the best field sense and chance to work well as a group. I know, however, that Gooners will crucify the manager for choosing to leave Ox and Theo on the bench if things don’t go our way…

    Still, I think that covering for one another is a real key, esp. given that the CP front line of Wickham, Bollasie, Puncheon and Zaha presents both size and pace. As such we need to keep them under pressure and off the ball as much as possible. No silly giveaways this week… Also, good rotation amongst Le Coq and the Spanish FBs is a real key… We cannot afford to get caught with all those guys pushing up into attack…

    That’s about as far as I can go trying to preach patience and discipline. What I’d really like to see is Arsenal scoring early and often… 😀

  • TA

    theoretically you have mail!


    great comment on TWs and our team. We can argue all day but theres enough very good players to compete. Or should be.. We will see! 🙂

    cheers — jgc

  • There it is!!! GIROUDl!!! First goal of the Season… 1-nil… More please… 😀

  • Sorry, but as good as the finish was, Ozil turning around the ball and hitting the pass, first time, is the part that makes me most moist…(moistest?)… 😀

  • Bewty!!

    One case where Ozil looked great but OG made him look better…

    And look, players wide on both sides!! 🙂

    In an airport lounge in Singapore so I get to watch?!? Too weird!

    Cheers — JGC

  • TA and 17

    Your email talks about what we are seeing here.. At least so far, and imp of course?

    Cheers — JGC

  • Looking forward to it, professor… (the e-mail, that is…)

    The intent on the Ozil pass was stunning but Giroud had plenty to do as it was behind him a bit… We continue to look bright but the 1-2s aren’t coming off…

    FUCK… Palace level… Cech a bit unsighted?… It was very well placed, in truth

  • We are less composed again… Too frenetic, trying too hard to do too much … :-/

  • Ozil almost gets another cross to work (Ramsey backheel blocked)… At the other end, better defensive help from Alexis on our left side…

    I agree Professor, that Rambo has missed a few touches, but I think we’re still playing pretty well. Palace are doing some strong but desperate defending…

    Set Piece won by Monreal and even more desperate as we continue the pressure… Corner now…but it was poor from Santi…

  • Better organization at the resulting set piece…Scott Dann offside…. Goal before halftime would be a treat…

  • Ref was gonna give a yellow but then realized it would be a red…very close for Le Coq… McArthur gets one instead…

    Half-time 1-1… Infinitely better than a week ago…IMO… Shame about the level scoreline, but I like our chances here…

  • Too muc Bellerin and Coq trying to dribble out. First twenty we were slower feet and faster ball, way more patient. When they equalised we lost composure. Before that we were letting it run a touch too much to their pace rather than our control.

    My 2p anyway — jgc

  • Not so bad from the boys after the first half. We are lucky that Coq is still on the pitch though, Mason of old would have given him a second yellow in a second.

    Lack of composure in the final third is obvious, players opt for shooting rather than passing the ball to the player in a better position.

    Their goal was a result of our poor defending. There was nobody to block the ball, to clear it or whatever before it found its way to Ward. Čech didn’t need that one.

    It’s a shame, we should have been ahead.

  • Hey Admir… On their goal, replay shows Ozil immediately pointing at Alexis… Our talisman, I think, is having a little struggle… Probably should have done better on the break (from their corner) but got lucky with his blocked pass coming back to him so he could set up Ozil for the assist.

    Overall, we’re pushing up much (much) more in search of attack than I feel OK about. At times, Le Coq and both FBs are in the final third. I understand about pressure and trying to keep the ball in but it’s all a bit scattershot when Palace can break or if they can get the ball to their hold up players or reverse fields on us.

    Seems to me that Ramsey has the freedom to play anywhere on the pitch–as does Alexis, of course. Thus far Ozil’s providing the most width of anybody…

  • 17

    I’d say Nacho, Bellerin and others are regularly within 5ish meters of sides.,good width. Too much over trying. Imo of course.

    Need a good quicker finish here as my plane leaves around end of game and with boarding…

    Patience and pressure are our keys. We did it the first 20 odd… Not just hard running pressure.

    — JGC

  • 2nd half on….Bolassie out, should make life easier on our left side… Agreed, JGC we cannot afford any sense of panic…Keep working the ball, keep making chances and good things will happen…

  • F*** that was close!!

    Mutter, not the quick ending I had in mind… 😦

    — jgc

  • Oooh…That seemed a good one for Rambo to hit…nice work from Santi and Alexis to get it to him…

  • Wish plus patience equals numbers found…

    Coq and Santi about 15 and 5 steps deeper. Better screen to hold possession and less running their game.. Much better now.. More … Composed.. 🙂

  • Oooh…Bellerin in no man’s land on the lofted pass…Luckily Puncheon scuffs the shot…

  • Subs Professor? Le Coq has been spot on with his challenges this half but I’m thinking Arteta sooner than later…

  • So…Ramsey to drop in Le Coq’s spot?….Ox to work the right channel…

  • Was thinking Coq and he went…

    Oils delivery has been sublime today.. AR shoulda had one there..

    I’d bring Gabriel to shut it down last 15 if it’s still this way. Or similar extra defender

  • Cabaye is keeping them in this…Cheeky little player, IMO… Our tallest guys (Giroud and Mert) are looking leggy…

    Arteta in for Alexis…

  • Well

    Gotta fly.. Tell the boys to hold on… Gibbs for a tired Ozil it seems?

    Cheers — jgc

  • Laterz Professor… Have a good flight… Gibbs to play ahead of Nacho… I like it… Tough on Theo, maybe… Giroud not moving too well today, IMO but will have to go the full 90…

  • We’re riding our luck here…What’s up with Cech’s kicking?

    Santi unlucky not to score there…very nice save… Where’s the follow up?…

  • All-in-all, good victory. We have won eight out of our last nine on the road since that defeat against Spuds. Only United have managed not to lose in the league (we did them in the FA Cup though). It’s time to recreate that form at the home soil. 🙂

    Arteta made a key block, Özil was magnificent, Giroud put an end to his bad luck in the league with a world-class finish.

  • Nobody with any post match beyond Admir and JM? Maybe waiting on TA’s assessment… 🙂
    We got the result, which in the end is all that matters, but it was far from easy. Inneresting (but not surprising) that Bellerin (should) get an assist but was also caught at the center of our most significant let-offs at the defensive end. Coquelin got lucky that Mason didn’t penalize the professional foul at the close of the first half. Otherwise his challenges were good, I thought. That said, if I were in charge he would lose his place if we bought a player like Cabaye. The funny bit is that Cabaye is (more than) worth whatever the “undisclosed” record fee (probably around 15 million) Palace paid for him but most Gooners would balk at the 20-25 Arsenal would have to pay for a guy almost 30…

    I would too…and really I’m just pointing out (another) one of the conundrums facing management… But maybe that’s a discussion for another day. We did enough and got the result. Now gotta wait until (next) Monday night for Liverpool…

  • take that Jose BORinho LOL
    v Arsenal = lost
    v Swansea draw
    v City lost and spanked.

    Time for Chelsea to eat humble pie

  • It’s a long season, PG, but yes, Chavs are in a spot of bother… Time for AbraMooo-vich to spend big somewhere or other–or maybe try and thwart whatever business we might have in the works… (They’ll definitely spend whatever it takes to get Stones from Everton, I would guess–but look for them to come in for the likes of Benz or Cavani and offer higher wages as well…) In the meantime they at least need to “show a response” next week at West Brom while we take care of business vs Liverpool.

    Truth be told, I thought both teams looked better–or at least more cynical and experienced–in that match today than we have as of yet. To me, with the lead on two occasions, we looked out of sorts at the back and better teams might have punished us. AW, post-match, was correct–we showed a good response but still need to convert more of our chances… At least we’ve got a long week to prepare for the next one…

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