Crystal Palace v Arsenal

Scouting Report - Crystal Palace

Before every Arsenal fixture, we’ll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners’ next opponents. 

Arsene Wenger's side visit Selhurst Park on Saturday to play promoted side Crystal Palace, to find out more, we asked tactical expert Michael Cox and journalist Richard Cawley. 

Crystal Palace parted company with manager Ian Holloway on Wednesday afternoon after a difficult start to their Premier League season.

The Eagles have recorded only one victory so far, against Sunderland, the sole side below them in the Premier League table.

"In addition to winning the second-highest number of aerial duels this season, they’ve also made more tackles than any other side"

Michael Cox

Holloway’s assistant, Keith Millen, will take charge of Saturday’s fixture, with a permanent successor expected to be appointed next week.

Millen is likely to continue with the broad approach favoured by Holloway, which involved a back four in conjunction with a midfield triangle and three forwards spread across the pitch.

At times, Palace’s play this season simply hasn’t been of Premier League quality, with plenty of misplaced passes in unnecessary situations - they have the second-worst pass completion rate in the division, behind West Ham.

However, Palace are a very combative side. In addition to winning the second-highest number of aerial duels this season, they’ve also made more tackles than any other side.

In this respect, the key player is Mile Jedinak, a mobile and feisty Australian central midfielder who covers the pitch laterally, fighting fires across the width of the pitch. He’s also Palace’s most prolific passer, starting moves from his deep-lying role.

His midfield colleagues will be two from three: gifted but raw Spanish passer Jose Campana, powerful all-rounder Kagisho Dikgacoi, and forward-thinking Stuart O’Keefe. Dikgacoi will probably start against an Arsenal side likely to dominate possession.

Former Arsenal striker Marouane Chamakh, whose goal on his full debut against Stoke remains his only shot in eight appearances, will probably spearhead Palace’s attack. His primary job is to hold up the ball, however, and a variety of pacy wide forwards - Dwight Gayle, Jason Puncheon, Jimmy Kebe and Yannick Bolasia - offer willing support on the break.


A major part of Palace’s downfall in the 4-1 defeat to Fulham on Monday night was their poor defending of set-pieces - although they could do little about Pajtim Kasami’s wonder strike, the next three goals all came following dead-ball situations.

The biggest job the new manager will have is to get some cohesion to the squad. In previous seasons the one thing that Crystal Palace have always had is unity. They might not have had the most gifted of squads going back over the past few campaigns but they have always really had a good work ethic and bond.

I think it's fair to say that, for the time being, it's not there anymore. Even Ian Holloway alluded to it in his press conference after the Fulham game and in his departing press conference on Wednesday. The new manager needs to get them playing as a team because at the moment they look more like individuals.

I'm not totally sure that there's a system at the moment because they signed so many players in the summer, and the team has been changed around a lot due to injuries as well. There doesn't seem to be a lot of continuity in terms of selection either.

"The Eagles have had pockets of play where they have done well but they haven't gone on to dominate games"

Richard Cawley

Some of the performances haven't had the results they have merited so far. They've had some key decisions go against them. On the opening day against Spurs they kept it tight and you can debate whether the penalty against Dean Moxey should have been given for handball.

The Kagisho Dikgacoi sending off against Manchester United was another harsh decision. The Eagles have had pockets of play where they have done well but they haven't gone on to dominate games. If you look at their games against Southampton, Swansea and Fulham, Palace have allowed them to coast through the closing stages of games and haven't been able to find a way to chase a game effectively.

Joel Ward has been Palace's most impressive player this season. He did well last season in the Championship but he has been a shining light in a defence that has conceded 17 goals in eight matches. Mile Jedinak was a rock last season as he broke up play and got Palace moving forward and is still a very important component in that central midfield area.

Yanick Bolasie's return to the side is a very timely one. He's quick and direct and he also likes a trick or two. He would probably admit himself that he does need to add some consistency to his end product but he does have the ability to hurt teams.

I think Palace will stick to the formation they have been using on Saturday. When they're playing against a free-flowing team like Arsenal it would be unwise for them to go gung-ho and play open. Keith Millen has already talked in his pre-match press conference about the Gunners' front four and trying to stop their passing pattern. But that's easier said than done.

Holloway tried to make a transition to playing a more passing style of football but that never really materialised, the team always seemed to be reluctant to move away from the defensive structure that Dougie Freedman built before he left.

They have to do what they're best at on Saturday and that will be keeping it tight and looking to sneak a result via a set-piece. 

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