Before every Arsenal fixture, we’ll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners’ next opponents.
Arsène Wenger's side face Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Saturday. To find out more, we asked tactical expert Michael Cox.
Arsenal narrowly recorded a 2-1 victory over Crystal Palace on the opening day of the campaign, but so much has changed at Selhurst Park since then.
Neil Warnock has been both appointed and sacked, and now Alan Pardew has jumped ship from Newcastle to take the reins at the club where he became famous as a player.
Yet despite the various managerial upheavals, Crystal Palace remain recognisable as a Tony Pulis side.
The current West Bromwich Albion manager had a tremendous impact in the second half of last season, and Pardew's approach has generally followed that template: 4-4-1-1, with the midfield working extremely hard without the ball, the wingers springing forward quickly at transitions, and former Gunner Marouane Chamakh supported by a quick, mobile centre forward.
Palace are likely to play cautiously and reactively this weekend; while probable midfield partnership James McArthur and Joe Ledley are both comfortable in possession, there’s little chance of them genuinely outplaying Arsenal.
"Palace are genuinely threatening on the counter, with Bolasie capable of incredible skill, Puncheon a cool goalscorer, and Zaha rejuvenated"
Instead, with the centre backs sitting deep, expect Palace’s central midfield duo to remain in defensive positions, break up play with good positioning, then transfer the ball out wide quickly.
Tough-tackling defensive midfielder Mile Jedinak could also make his first start of 2015, having missed matches because of the Asian Cup and then injury. He makes more interceptions per game than any other Premier League player, and protects the defence brilliantly.
Palace have options out wide - over the last month, Pardew has fielded either Jason Puncheon or Yannick Bolasie on the right, and Wilfried Zaha or Dwight Gayle on the left. Their task is simple: protect their full backs for long periods, track the opposition full backs when necessary, then spring forward directly.
Palace are genuinely threatening on the counter, with Bolasie capable of incredible skill, Puncheon a cool goalscorer, and Zaha rejuvenated after a quiet 18 months at Manchester United.
Gayle seems likely to be used up front, as Yaya Sanogo is ineligible against his parent club. Gayle will prowl the channels, probably playing up against Per Mertesacker rather than Laurent Koscielny, and while he often goes for long spells without seeing the ball, he is an excellent finisher.
The key player, however, might be Chamakh. He has impressed hugely since switching to Palace a year ago, and is capable of winning aerial duels to provide flick-ons for pacy attackers, as well as being defensively diligent without possession too, often tracking the opposition¹s deep-lying midfielder.
His defensive work at the Emirates on the opening day was hugely impressive - the frequency of his tackles (green), clearances (purple), and interceptions (blue) were all hugely impressive for a natural forward.
Chamakh will be keen to impress against his former club, and if Palace are get a result, the Moroccan must be on top form.
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