Arsenal v Palace Lineup and Preview: Two Former Arsenal Midfield Masters Playing Chess

It has been a very long wait to see our boys in action but, finally, it will happen tomorrow. We are facing the Eagles at their turf and it will be hard to get all three points, let there be no doubt about that. An international break always disorientates a team and a manager struggles to get back into the groove, and this is made even harder by having to play away from home.

We know that Vieira sets his team up very tightly. They play disciplined footie that is usually not very exciting but effective nevertheless. Palace could finish as high as ninth this season and that would be a real achievement. We all remember what happened at the home fixture earlier this season, when we got a very late equaliser, a little against the run of play.

They are a tough nut to crack at any time, and the fanatic home crowd and disruption of the interlul will all make this a potential bruised banana skin for us. But it looks like everyone is available except for Ramsdale. Saka looks to have recovered from Covid, although Arteta has not stated that he will certainly play. The most pleasing aspect of our team now under Arteta is that we play with a certain pattern, structure and style of football that is very effective in controlling games. We are still a work in progress but we are now playing the sort of football that gets us results if, as always, lady luck is also on our side.

Ramsdale will be missed but Leno is good and keen to show us again what he is capable of. The back four is quite settled and and they all know their roles and responsibilities.

Xhaka and Partey are essential in Arteta’s system and every time they start together is a real bonus for us. I urge you to concentrate for a while on how this duo, who will probably play against Gallagher, Kouyate and Schlupp, controls the space and time in midfield. Yes they both will make a mistake or two in each game but they really control proceedings and without them we really are a much lesser team. It is not all fancy stuff but it is so effective. Key to it all is their spacial awareness (mainly Xhaka) and ability to break up attacks of the opponent early on (mainly Thomas).

The attack remains a work in progress, but with Odegaard in a free role between midfield and attack and Laca also operating in that vertical space we have two players who make things happen for us. The ones who are most likely to benefit from this space-making and excellent passing of the ball of the Norwegian and Frenchman are of course the wingers: (hopefully) Saka and Martinelli or Smith Rowe. I think the latter is the better finisher and in general much more effective player on or left wing, although Martinelli adds thrust and unpredictability that can help to crack the Eagles’ wall.

So I trust in our game plan and setup but here is the thing…. Vieira is an ex-Arsenal legend and he will have studied Arteta and Arsenal very well this season. Ex-players who turn into managers tend to really do that with their ex-teams. Hence, his goalless draw against City last month. So we have to be at our best tomorrow and take the game to Palace without being silly by giving them an opportunity to score from a counter or set-piece. At times they may take the game to us and put us under pressure too; Palace is a versatile team under Vieira and this really will be a tough game to win.

I expect this to be more of a chess game than a football game and patience and strategic adjustment (and a bit of luck) are likely to win if for either of our former midfield masters. Paddy must have one eye on the FA cup semi-final with the beatable Chavs and maybe he deep-down wants to help his former club too on this occasion. We really need the three points and have nothing else to play for. Let’s bring it on!

Expected Line-up:


Soares – Big Ben – Big Gab – Tierney

Partey – Xhaka

Saka/Pepe – The Ode – ESR/Marti


Come on You Rip Roaring Gunners!!!!

By TotalArsenal.

59 thoughts on “Arsenal v Palace Lineup and Preview: Two Former Arsenal Midfield Masters Playing Chess

  • T you have a special talent for framing the essence of matches and match-ups.

    Their home crowd is the best in the league. Ramsdale was in full training, so I’m hopeful. I know Leno can do a job, but Aaron’s distribution is an attacking weapon.

    We have more to play for, simply put. Remember when i was calling Partey – lazy Partey, early this season? Now i see him as maybe the best central midfielder in the league.

    That’s how I like players to change my mind.

  • Tomiyasu is still out unfortunately and Saka is a big doubt, Ramsdale is close but not quite there yet so all this means that our resources will be stretched at Selhurst Park, a ground that I’ve enjoyed watching many good results for the Gunners and where I have many happy memories, hopefully more good times this evening would be very welcome.

    Interesting to hear Antonio Conte the manager of Tottenham – who was banned from football for four months following protracted legal proceedings after he was found guilty of being associated with corruption in Italian football – has been sounding off about Arsenal.

    Who does that joker think he is, Alex Ferguson?

  • Then that’s good Total, wasn’t he sent home from the England camp, I guess that’s where I saw it.

    Could be an opportunity to play him off of the bench and start ESR so he doesn’t get kicked up into the air again?

  • The referee for this evenings game is the questionable Paul Tierney, we’ve had him once this season and it didn’t go well.

    On VAR is the hopeless Jarred Gillet so we’ll probably get a good old kicking with no action taken against the perpetrators and Xhaka will get carded for his only foul.

    We’ll need to really dig in to escape without any serious injuries and the points.

    Can we take the points?

    Of course we can…

  • J, I read somewhere that Partey has been doing lots of additional training as he knew he had to build his fitness levels. If so, that’s a great attitude and we are now seeing the results.

  • Here are last weekends results:-

    For the weekend:-
    1st Madhu with 4/6 plus 1 correct score and most correct predictions = 10 points
    2nd Total & Eris with 3/6 plus 1 correct score = 5 points
    4th Stuart with 1/6 plus 1 correct score = 3 points
    5th Kev & GN5 with 1/6 = 1 point
    Season to date:-

    1st Eris – 165.19
    2nd OX10 – 141.86
    3rd Madhu – 130.46
    4th Total – 126.36
    5th Kev – 123.73
    6th GN5 – 121.83

  • Next weekends choices:-

    Arsenal v Brighton
    Southampton v Chelsea *
    Brentford v West Ham *
    Leicester v Crystal Palace
    Manchester City v Liverpool *
    Empoli v Spezia

  • Arsenal v Brighton H
    Southampton v Chelsea * 0-2
    Brentford v West Ham * 1-2
    Leicester v Crystal Palace D
    Manchester City v Liverpool * 2-2
    Empoli v Spezia H

  • Wow Huge result for me to get out of the bottom. COYG win tonight and get back to your rightful place. Nervy, scrappy anything will do just win it boys.

  • Tierney is apparently going to see a specialist about his knee on Tuesday and arteta has said it does not look good.

    If he is out for any real length of time then top 4 will not happen. Tavares is still to raw to be a starter and not even close to Tierney levels. We will also miss his leadership qualities in this very young squad.

    Let’s cross everything and hope that he is back soon

  • Thomas Partey is having the worst game I have seen him play on months. If we can start passing properly and score early in the second half we may have a chance

  • The team’s rusty and Palace have studied us well, as mentioned in the post. We need a hell of turnaround to get something from this game.

  • Two Gabriel ricks, not like him but maybe he misses Tierney.
    Maybe bring on Holding and go three at the back and throw the kitchen sink?

  • I can’t remember us playing so badly for a very long time. The whole team seems off.

  • Do you really not think it was a pen?

    Odegaard seems to give away quite a few pens. His tackling is quite poor.

  • The only positive to take from this game is it is almost finished. It has been a god awful performance from almost every player.

    This will be my last post as it seems I am coming across quite negatively tonight.

    On a more positive note we should be able to beat Brighton.

  • You are welcome here as you are, Wedge. Just needed to point that out. At least you have commented tonight.

    Second half was better but we didn’t take our chances. Thought that was not a pen and after that it was game over.

    I expected it to be hard. Post interlul away games are always hard and Palace had little to lose. We started poorly and paid for it handsomely. Many players under par but Vieira won it tactically in the first half. Second half much better but still not enough.

  • Gabriel looked out of sorts with the whole left side being changed. Partey looked injured all game and was not a surprise to see him come off. I really hope this is a one off game, away at a tough stadium, after an international break.

    I think the main reason I am so negative is because I am not used to seeing this. That in itself is a good thing.

    Gallagher and Zaha were both outstanding tonight and Viera has done a great job.

  • I knew tonight would be hard but still hoped for a draw. Brighton at home is a great game to get this train back on the tracks. Spurs could easily drop points at villa next week, Chelsea reminded us that no easy games in this league.

  • I had a bad vibe about this game all day, you try to fight it but it was there from breakfast, nagging away at the back of your mind, I guess that with the Spuds getting 5 goals yesterday it almost seemed set up, preordained even for this result.

    Referee Tierney was unsurprisingly as biased as I’ve come to expect from him he really is an awful official, but I have to agree with Wedge it looked a penalty to me as well, but it came from Partey losing the ball in midfield and not reacting as his opponent breezed past him, a game to forget by him.

    Tottenham are favourites for 4th now, they have two players who can win them games in Kane and Son even when they are playing pants whereas we blew the opportunities to win this game this evening because for all our enterprising technique we lack badly that gift of finishing efficiency.

    Of course we can still do it but we’ll probably need to beat Man United at the Emirates, get at least a draw at Stamford Bridge, win all our other games and probably beat Tottenham at Tottenham.

    With Tierney out for the rest of the season if what Total suggests is true and Soares looking for all his hard work out of his depth we maybe need Arteta to think outside the box – can he do that?
    Xhaka at left back isn’t the answer, he gives his all wherever he plays but he’s no left back, so maybe three at the back and wingbacks is an option? What do you lot thank about that?

  • I did have a bad feeling about this fixture and only hoped we could get a Draw but it wasn’t to be, through a combination of some unlucky bounces, poor defending and a generally lack lustre performance by the boys, particularly in the first half.
    Palace have been good against teams who play like us and would do this to most teams who go there unprepared or in disarray, as we appeared to be. They took 4 points of us and City and 6 points off Wolves. They beat Spurs by the same scoreline at the same venue but Spurs managed to beat them 3-0 in the reverse, by matching them physically and taking their chances; I recall palace finished with 10 men too in that game. So, we needed to have been more physical and match them for aggression. When we did a bit of that in the second half, we created a bit more.

    Maybe, the injury to Tierney was too close to the start of the game and had an effect on game plan, but you’d think Tavares would seize the opportunity to stake a claim and Gabriel would look after him. We looked thin on the bench; no Pepe and no Tomiyasu; the number of academy players on the bench could even dampen the spirits as there were no game changers amongst them. Still, kudos to Arteta for making some bold changes, showing he really wanted to get something from the game.

    We must move on from this or the narrative would read like the wheels coming off at crunch time. Really hope the injury to Partey isn’t that serious and he can return by the next game. Of all our players, he is the one irreplaceable we have, on the form he was in before the break. Arteta has work to do and he has to return to his intense self to keep the team grounded and focused on the price.

  • …on the prize**

    Lacazette was not his useful self today. To think Arteta kept them all match sharp with the game behind closed doors. An inquest is needed as to what went wrong tonight (last night, actually).

  • the loss was a tough one to take. Credit where it’s due CP looked more hungry, quick, athletic and deadly when given a chance. We on the other hand looked dreadful, unable to string passes together and unable to take chances. We were better ins.wcond half as CP took the gas off the pedal. While the defeat in itself is not the issue but the manner of it is dissapointing. With Partey leaving in teh middle yet again we are in for a long couple of months.
    Two points that worries me and i had mentioned earlier after Jan clearout is the squad depth. A league with 38 games and as physical as PL cannot be managed with 13 first choice players. Arteta should know this better as he had played in this league for years. Edu should have known this better as well. There is not rookieness here. If we don’t make top 4 and looks unlikely now it will be down to our squad depth. I think it’s beyond ridiculous to even talk about Laca. It’s so easy now to look at his pattern. He never controls the ball tries to pass the ball the moment he touches it and most times he misses it. He then tries to fall over to earn a foul. It’s fairly aobvious that refs have watched him closely and i doubt of we will get any fouls for his antics till end of the season. With no one to replace him he playes every game knowing taht tere is no competition for him.
    Second point of taht if we don’t get 4th and hold on to 5th which also looks slightly difficult now with injuries then the TW becomes that much harder tk achive our target. We may have to downgrade our targets. Spurs will become more attractive London club than us in the immediate future. That’s a real worry and we may have to unearth Tomi like gems in the next TW windows.
    We kept on thinking that spurs and Conte are not good enough. I have palyed enough sport in my life to say that in sports never mock our competitors. Always respect them know their strengths and just concentrate on your game and team. I understand that tehre is rivalry but we spend far too much time on Spurs than ourselves to be successful.

  • TA we ignore the realities at our own peril. Yesterdays performance and the fallout in terms of injuries is much more of significance rather than the result. I for one is worried about the squad depth.

  • I know it is easier to read the harsh comments as bitter fans but most of these are honest assessments of last night’s game.
    The whole team had an off game at the same time and Palace were better in every single phase of the game. I don’t think we played any better in the second half, place just didn’t have to up the intensity as the game was won. Big problems could come from this game – injuries to key players, a shift in confidence from us and spurs.

    If we only get top 6 then so be it and I would have taken it at the beginning of the season. I still believe in arteta and the team and think we are moving in the right direction. Europa may even be a better step for us in terms of squad building and player minutes.

    As I said before we could easily beat Brighton and spurs could easily drop points to villa. Then we are right back where we were 5 days ago.

    Let’s not let the heads drop too much and move on from this in the right way.

  • Madhu,
    Losing a game is only one reality… We lost that game. Don’t let yourself be ruled by your constant fears, at BK we thrive on the big picture and hope. We finally lost an away game again. We had a bad day and it all went Palace’s way…. That’s football my friend.

  • Wedge, we could have scored three in the second half and were much better. First half we were off and Palace bossed us in midfield, and then they took their chances before we could get into our stride. That’s football. But I liked what I saw in the second half except for not scoring. A bad day at the office but no need to see structural problems. None at all.

    As you said on Saturday we have a new chance to get three points. I don’t care about Spurs, just about us and what we can influence. OGAAT baby OGAAT. 🙂

  • TA are you still saying taht we have enough squad depth and can go by with the next 9 games. Tierney i still a doubt, Partey went off with injury, Tomi is yet to come back. Our squad playwrs rarely get chance to play unless someone from first 11 gets injured then we throw them to lambs. The only position we have some rotation is left wing between Gabi and ESR. These are legitimate concern and defeats are part of any game, but it’s also equally prudent to look at fallouts as well. I agree we shouldn’t care about Spurs but look at how we will do over the next 9 games.

  • Why change a winning team? It seldom pays off. Tavares struggled but there is no need to panic. Soares is doing a great job for us at the moment. I agree the squad is thin. We will cope.

  • There have been times as a player when I have come off the pitch, defeated, disappointed, frustrated and, at least for some games, after a space for reflection usually conclude that it just wasn’t our game, we just didn’t get our mojo working. It felt like that at Palace. They were excellent, we were not. Positives for me are: 1. Mikel made some very good substitutions and tactical tweaks to try and turn it around. 2. Second half, we improved and had more control. 3. Our boys never gave up, even when they must have recognized the result was beyond them. 4. Granite kept his head and his extending record of staying on the pitch. 5. Performances like that a few and far between.
    The fact that we are disappointed is because we have hopes, and those hopes have been fostered by this exciting young team and manager.

  • If you remember I seldom hold back when it comes to criticize Arteta.
    But I really think it wasn’t his mistake last night.

    Maybe he could have fired up the boys better before the game, and maybe he could have changed the system as it was easy to anticipate and prepare for it by a cunning manager like Vieira, but these are minor issues. Even in hindsight he shouldn’t have started Gabriel as his concentration – as a young father – has left much to desire, but I would probably give him the nod, too.
    And I’m really pleased with Arteta’s willingness on making the changes mid-game. The tweak from 4-2-3-1 to 3-1-4-2 was bold, and while didn’t work out based on the look of play it easily could have.

    I wouldn’t fault Tavares either, he wasn’t the disaster-class implied by the 2-3 ratings he was given (but maybe after my preferred formation lost the elections in Hungary on Sunday I might be too apathetic to rage or blame anybody at all). The problem was that everybody played below par yesterday. Which is a bit expected in the front 3 but is a huge risk when the defense doesn’t click. From the expected goals department we lost the game to 1.40:1.05 which doesn’t imply a 3-goal defeat. Our 1.05 is alarming, especially as we missed all our chances. But to be honest this is Arteta-ball. And you were fine with winning games by 1:0, so there was little chance to score 3, albeit Mikel did the best he could.

  • Thanks to the last two comments by Stuart and PB I don’t need to write a post anymore. There is not much I can add.

    I thought that we were better once Xhaka and Emile played a station deeper. Our left side was sorted then. I think we suffered from Partey being isolated in deep midfield early on and we paid the price for it. Maybe we should have started with both Xhaka and Partey on one line, but I guess Arteta now wants to push Granit up and put pressure on our opponents that way. Vieira had his team over-crowding the midfield and giving Partey and the Ode very little time and space. If then on top of this our first touches are poor and our passing too wild and inaccurate, there will be trouble.

    Big Gab was indeed not his usual self but he tried to help Partey out and this left space to explore. I refuse to be hard on Tavares who of course needs to settle in – Soares had a similar difficult start. Not easy to do in an away game and with an off-colour LCB.

    I really liked what Lokonga brought to the party late on. We looked fresher and more threatening after his introduction.

    It is fair to say we did not look like scoring (easily) last night, despite having a few decent chances. But Citeh struggled with this too a month ago. Palace had just everything going for them early on and after that it was an uphill struggle. But like Stuart said, we never gave up and gradually started to play better.

    Three points from Villa and Palace away isn’t too bad, but we need to be ready for the next battle on Saturday. With a game in hand we are still in the driving position and with a focused OGAAT approach can get all the way. Now I never expected to get into the top four this season but it is still well possible. That’s what excites me and makes me proud of Arteta and the boys. Bring on BHA.

  • Arsenal v Brighton H
    Southampton v Chelsea * 2-3
    Brentford v West Ham * 2-2
    Leicester v Crystal Palace A
    Manchester City v Liverpool * 2-2
    Empoli v Spezia H

  • Total, Thank you for your sober and settling comments. It was a huge disappointment to lose but Palace were by far the better team in the first half, we recovered somewhat in the second half but lady luck was not on our side.

    Losing Tierney for the balance of the season is a crushing blow and may mean that our hope of a top four finish is lost along with him.

    I want to thank yourself and Stuart for having the courtesy of commenting on my post about Vieira as nobody else could be bothered.

  • Cheers GN5. You wrote a fine post and it deserved a lot more attention. It seems like Gooners are all just focusing on the finish but it’s much better to just enjoy each as it goes.

  • Thanks GN5. It was a fine post and would have been read and appreciated by many. I thoroughly enjoy the jaunts into our illustrious past which give opportunity to reminisce, to remind and to give a perspective on the seasons of life and the one we are in now. As the saying goes, “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots”. Keep us connected with our roots, Cyril. I imagine, more than anyone on this site yours go deeper than us all.
    PB, there is an “Idiot wind” blowing though the nations to which we are all susceptible. Hungary, no exception. I try and live according to another line from Dylan, “to live outside the law you must be honest”. It is a challenge I often crumble under, but persist in the hope and belief that the truth is out there. And, ultimately it will prevail.

    Arsenal v Brighton H
    Southampton v Chelsea * 1-1
    Brentford v West Ham * 1-2
    Leicester v Crystal Palace D
    Manchester City v Liverpool * 0-2
    Empoli v Spezia H

  • No doubt, the boys would have to shake off the lows of this defeat and focus on the run-in and just take each game as it comes. As pointed out, in the first half, Cedric was our best performer and Nketiah took that particular honour in the second half. We did miss clear chances which, on another day, ESR, Ode, Nketiah and Laca would have put away.

    Tavares once held sway at left back and a few didn’t see a way back for Tierney (maybe, losing his place, while he was in form, damaged the young man’s confidence). I think he can do that again. It is in midfield that we have a need to adjust our structure and this may affect our momentum. But, we would just have to wait and see.

  • GN5, I am one of the many who read and found that article about Vieira enjoyable. I also took in the video of that FA cup win that had Fergie stunned in the end (I loved the look of disbelief he wore after his side pretty much battered our team, only to lose in the shootout).

    It has been a rush for me the last two weeks, to be honest, as I had to put in the hours so as to be free to take a trip into Canada shortly. Hopefully, I can take in the articles a bit more while out there.

    Thanks for all the good work you do on here. Congratulations, Madhu, on topping the log for last week. Good job!

  • My predictions for this selection are as follows:

    Arsenal v Brighton H
    Southampton v Chelsea * D 2-2
    Brentford v West Ham * A 1-2
    Leicester v Crystal Palace H
    Manchester City v Liverpool * D 1-1
    Empoli v Spezia H

  • Stuart both sides of my family were huge Arsenal supporters and my paternal grandfather saw the very first game at Highbury when Arsenal moved from South London in 1913 the Highbury stadium cost 125,000 pounds to build.

    He took me to see my first game on November 22nd 1947 and I was hooked for life, so this is my 75th season supporting the Gunners. I’ve written many articles on my life as a boy growing up around Highbury during and after WW11 and my families post game gatherings. I’ve always enjoyed researching our history and writing about it – as it makes the memories flood back.

    My dad had his picture in the game programme on his 75th birthday, you could imagine his reaction when he opened it at the game. – unfortunately the programme was lost.

    We were a very poor family so my many cousins and myself had to be very creative in finding ways to get into Highbury – but we nearly always succeeded.

  • Hmmmm. Just thinking about what you had got up, finding very creative ways to get into Highbury, all those years ago. It must have been quite the experience to look up to as a young man growing up then. 😂

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