Arsenal v Crystal Palace

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Interview

‘Nobody can question his love for Arsenal’

Jack Wilshere

Speculation over Jack Wilshere’s future has dominated Arsène Wenger’s media briefings in recent weeks.

The England international has entered the final months of his current deal but the boss only sees Wilshere’s future in north London.
 
“I see him here because he is an Arsenal man,” Wenger said. “He was here at the age of 10 and I believe as well he’s not only been here for a long time but he has some leadership qualities. He has a football brain. He is completely focused on Arsenal.
 
“The fact that he has been away and come back makes him realise as well that life here is not so bad maybe. That is something that is important that he can be one of the leaders in the future.
 
“He is much more patient and mature now. Before his desire to play was the only thing that mattered. Today he can analyse better. Is he fit or not fit? What is he to do? He has a lot of prevention to do and he does that religiously now. Before he was a bit more, My body can take that’ like we all are when we are 20 years old.”

“Who would question his love and commitment for the club,” Wenger added. “Nobody. We have to find an agreement that makes him happy and the wish that in the future he remains fit.”

Pre-Match Report

Arsenal v Crystal Palace: The Brief

There's no denying that it's been a tough week for everyone of an Arsenal persuasion. The defeat at Bournemouth got things off to a bad start, and the intense media glare and constant off-field speculation has made it doubly trying.

So it comes as a relief to turn back to matters on the pitch, and a chance to start the process of climbing up the table. As Granit Xhaka says, the team need to iron out the "small details" that are holding them back on the road - and with three games out of the next four at home, we have an opportunity to build confidence again.
 
But Crystal Palace under Roy Hodgson will certainly make life difficult. The Eagles were rock bottom when the former England manager took over, now they are firmly ensconced in mid-table. While we have only lost one of our last 16 games against Saturday's opponents, they are unbeaten in five on the road.
 
It is all set up to be another big test for Arsene Wenger's men, and you can read on for a comprehensive pre-match briefing. We’ve got classic goals against Crystal Palace, team news, an exclusive chat with the manager, match facts, graphics and a chance to have your say.


HOME COMFORTS?

Wenger on an opportunity with three of the next four games at home...

“It is [a boost]. I’m convinced that we have to bounce back and focus on our performance. Also, we must not forget that we did some good things at Bournemouth. We must wipe out what we didn’t do well. We made some positional mistakes, so therefore we have to focus on our game. That is to go forward and create chances. That’s what we want to do."

Arsène Wenger on pulling together

TEAM NEWS

ARSENAL: Cazorla (calf), Giroud (hamstring), Kolasinac (foot - doubt), Ozil (knee)

CRYSTAL PALACE: Schlupp (ankle), Townsend (ankle - doubt), Dann (knee), Puncheon (knee), Loftus-Cheek (ankle), Sakho (calf), Ward (groin), Wickham (knee)


THE OPPOSITION

Former Gunner Adrian Clarke:

“Roy Hodgson never goes hell for leather. It’s just not part of his DNA as a coach. He is first and foremost a pragmatist. He will set up to defend and counter, but he is not silly and he would have seen the teams that have got after Arsenal in recent weeks. The shape will be the most important thing, but when they turn over possession expect bodies to fly forward in numbers. Palace have the tools to create problems for Arsenal."

THE LAST WORD

Wenger on protecting the players from the off-field speculation…

“I do it by getting them to focus on what is important for us. That means the performance, the way we want to play, by reminding them of our goals for the season, the targets we have and how important every game is now for our future. The best way to not be distracted is to focus on what we want to achieve."

Follow the Crystal Palace game LIVE on Arsenal.com

Follow the Crystal Palace game LIVE on Arsenal.com

Gallery

Pictures: First team train ahead of Crystal Palace

The first-team squad were back in training ahead of our Premier League clash against Crystal Palace at Emirates Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

The last time we met the Eagles at Emirates Stadium we were 2-0 winners, with Olivier Giroud scoring an incredible scorpion kick early in the first half.

Our club photographer was at London Colney to capture the action and sent back these exclusive images:

Press conference

What's the latest on Alexis and Mkhitaryan?

There was one big topic of conversation at Thursday's press conference: the futures of Alexis and Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

Arsene Wenger was questioned in detail about a potential deal that would see Alexis head to Manchester United and Mkhitaryan come to us.

This is what the Arsenal manager said:

on the latest on Alexis to Man Utd…
That is a story where you are well-documented in the media. I have not a lot to add to that. It can happen, it can as well not happen.

on if it’s still at that ‘maybe, maybe not’ stage…
Yes, that stage.

on if Alexis could play for Arsenal again…
Yes, of course. If it doesn’t happen, he will play on Saturday.

on how likely the transfer is to happen in the next 24 hours…
I’ve worked on transfers for 30 years, so it is likely to happen. But at any moment, at any minute, things can break down. That’s how the transfer market is. As long as it’s not over the line, you have to accept that it can as well not happen. These kind of things are never guaranteed.

on if Mkhitaryan would come the other way in any deal…
That is my understanding, yes.

on if he likes Mkhitaryan …
Yes, of course. If it’s a possibility, it’s because I like the player.

on Mkhitaryan liking Arsenal…
Yes, we played many times against him when he was at Dortmund. He certainly appreciated the quality of our game and the way we play football. That’s why certainly he loves the club as well.

on if wages would be an obstacle…
No, the wages would not be a problem.

on if Mkhitaryan would be an Alexis replacement…
Look, this would be an exchange of players, and I think one would replace the other. Are we still on the transfer market after that? Yes.

on whether he regrets not selling Alexis in the summer…
Look, the problem was exactly similar to what it is today. I only accept to let him go if somebody else comes in for him and it was not possible in the summer. I would have done it, but it was not possible as it happened very late on the last day of the transfer market and that’s why it didn’t happen. Overall, if it happens now it is because somebody else comes in for him.

on reports of Alexis receiving a big wage increase at Manchester United…
I wouldn’t like to comment on the numbers because that’s Manchester United’s problem. If they want to come out with the numbers they’ve offered to Sanchez… I respect Manchester United because they generate the money they pay to the players from their own resources. You have to respect that. After that, it’s down to them to know how much they want to give to the player. Overall, Manchester United is a club that is very well managed financially and on the pitch as well. That’s why I don’t have any problems with the money they pay.

on whether it will skew the transfer market and wages other clubs pay…
Modern football has created a kind of game where the best players in the game are grouped to a various small number of clubs. That makes football less unpredictable and much more predictable. I would say the gap in financial resources between the biggest clubs and the smaller clubs has increased tremendously in the last five years.

on whether Alexis’ decision comes down to money…
No because they are professional players. I have no problem with Alexis Sanchez. His attitude has been outstanding with us. He was in training yesterday, fully committed and prepared 100 per cent. One thing you cannot question about Alexis Sanchez is his professionalism and his commitment. After that, he’s 29 years old and the next contract will of course be very important for him.

on whether Arsenal can’t compete with United and City’s wage offers…
Yes, financially yes. That doesn’t mean that you cannot compete on the pitch. That will not be an excuse big enough to not compete on the pitch. Of course, there’s no mystery that United and City have bigger financial resources.

on whether Arsenal will have to tweak the wage structure to pay top players more…
That would need a longer explanation than just a short press conference. It’s debatable but not feasible. I do not want to come out with the numbers now because I feel it would not be the right moment. We did the maximum we could afford to do. One day maybe I will come out on that. Today’s not the moment.

on whether Alexis will play if a deal isn’t done…
Yes because it’s the deadline now. I left him out at Bournemouth because I was scared that the transfer would happen before we played Bournemouth. It was already quite advanced so I didn’t want to be in the position where I tried with him and he has to go back, so he doesn’t play.

on him being in the right frame of mind to play…
As you said - you’re well informed - it’s now in the next 24 to 48 hours that it will happen or not.

Press conference

Team news: Koscielny, Monreal, Ozil and Giroud

Arsene Wenger has revealed the latest team news ahead of Saturday's Premier League game against Crystal Palace.

The Arsenal manager provided updates on Laurent Koscielny, Nacho Monreal, Mesut Ozil, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Olivier Giroud.

on the latest team news…
From the last game at Bournemouth, we have some uncertainties with Maitland-Niles, who was sick yesterday with flu. We should have Koscielny back, we should have Monreal back available for Saturday. Maybe Ozil will be back as well. That’s the good news.

on Giroud…
Olivier Giroud is one week away.

Goals

Check out our best goals at home to Crystal Palace

We’ve scored some special goals at home to Crystal Palace during the Premier League era.

Remember Gilles Grimandi’s volley? And what about Thierry Henry’s piledriver? Or Olivier Giroud’s scorpion kick last season?

Watch five our our best goals against Saturday’s opponents above and then vote for your favourite below:

Press conference

'Theo is intelligent, focused and has integrity'

Having brought Theo Walcott to the club as a 16-year-old, Arsene Wenger has not only overseen his development as a player but also as a man.

The Arsenal manager admits it was tough to end a relationship that stretches over 12 years, but paid rich tribute to the England forward.

"Personally I’m very attached to Theo, because he’s a person who is intelligent, has complete integrity, total commitment and focus on his job," Wenger said.

"I remember he arrived here at the age of 16 and went to the World Cup straight away. Of course when you look back, he’s scored important goals in big games. We speak about cup finals or Champions League games, or the local derbies, where he put in outstanding performances against Tottenham.

"I just regret what happened but he didn’t play enough recently. I wish him well and thank him for everything he has done for us. He will always be welcome here."

Press conference

Wenger on Crystal Palace, VAR and the future

With VAR in the news this week, Arsene Wenger was asked all about it in his pre-match press conference on Thursday.

The Arsenal manager also discussed a range of other subjects and you can see what he had to say below:

on what he thinks of VAR so far…
Look, what you want is to improve the system that exists at the moment and we will contribute to improve it. There are some hiccups at the start of the functioning certainly and we need to clear up the way it works, yes I agree. Is that enough to renounce? I would say no, I am still a fervent supporter of it and I believe we have to move forward with it and improve the system certainly, but we have to go with it. You cannot imagine that in the future it will not be used, we will have to find the proper way to do it, but it has to go that way.

on whether he is confident going into Saturday’s game…
I am confident yes, but it is down to our performance. Crystal Palace were in a good run before we played against them and since they have had positive results again, so we just have to focus on our performance and make that we win the game.

on whether he ever considers that this could be his final season in the face of adversity…
No, that’s not the way I respond. I agree completely that 2018 until now has not been very positive but I am long enough in the job to know that what is important is how we respond to it and to focus on the performance. My personal situation is a bit secondary to all of that, what is important is how the team responds and what we make of 2018. We have many challenges, it is difficult at the moment, but as well very exciting because we have many challenges in front of us and we can come back in the Champions League. We of course play the semi-final next week and after we have the Europa League as well, which is another target, so we have to very quickly get over this transfer period because for us especially this period has been more disturbing than ever. Why? Because we have big players that are at the end of their contract and that is the first time that it happens, that we have such influential players close to the end of their contracts and it has been more destabilising than ever.

on whether this has been the most stressful period for him…
I don’t know, I have no stress measurement at all. Of course it occupies you on the pitch, off the pitch and at night as well because you’re very busy. After that, I think I can deal with the kind of stress it creates. The experience I have helps me to focus on what is important at the right moment.

on the news of his exchange with Mike Dean…
No, I have nothing special to add on that. I think the referees have their own sanctions and they have to live with that. I don’t especially want people to be punished, I think you just want them to make the right decisions and to help them make the right decisions and that’s all I want. After that, what happens is down to them and they have their own rules, I expect that.

on whether it’s fine to have an exchange with the referee after a game…
I don’t know what is fine, I have heard so much in the dressing room that was not punished and so much worse than what I said that has not been, people got away with it. I heard a lot at half-time as well where I never spoke in 21 years to referees at half-time in the dressing room, so I was quite amazed by the fact that I was charged.

Press conference

Wenger on Aubameyang, Malcom, Ozil and Wilshere

With less than two weeks until the end of the transfer window, potential transfer deals dominated Thursday's press conference.

Arsene Wenger was asked about a host of players, and the futures of both Mesut Ozil and Jack Wilshere - and this is what he had to say:

on Malcom…
No, I don’t think we are close to doing that.

on if he thinks we will sign Malcom in January…
I don’t think so, no.

on Aubameyang and if he could join Arsenal…
I have nothing to add to that. These kind of things, it’s better when it’s secret and when you don’t come out on it, and when you announce it when it’s over the line. Apart from the deal we just spoke about, Alexis and Mkhitaryan could happen, yes, but nothing else is close.

on Aubameyang’s character and if he’d fit in at Arsenal…
Yes, because character can be a very positive note and it can be a very negative note. I believe overall you look at the achievements of a player during his career and usually, when a career has been very positive, the character has been used in a positive way.

on Jonny Evans…
There as well there is nothing to add at the moment.

on if Ozil will be at Arsenal in February…
In February? Yes, of course.

on how close we are to confirming Wilshere’s future…
We know what we want. We want him to stay, we want him to extend [his contract]. He wants to stay. After that, we have to find a satisfying financial agreement with Jack that is good for him. That’s what we’re trying to do.

The Breakdown

The Breakdown: Arsenal v Palace preview

We’re back in Premier League action on Saturday when we host Crystal Palace at Emirates Stadium.

Ahead of the game, tactical expert Michael Cox and former Gunner Adrian Clarke examine our opponents in detail.

THE MANAGER

MC: Many Premier League clubs have benefited from the ‘new manager bounce’ this season, but none as much as Crystal Palace. The Eagles became the first side in top-flight history to not score in their first seven games of the season – the first four of which saw Frank De Boer in charge – and yet 16 matches later, they find themselves in 12th place under the management of Hodgson. They’ve lost just one of their last 12 matches, which was in the reverse fixture just after Christmas, when Arsenal recorded a 3-2 victory at Selhurst Park, and were a last-minute penalty kick away from defeating league leaders Manchester City on New Year’s Eve.

AC: Hodgson never goes hell for leather. It’s just not part of his DNA as a coach. He is first and foremost a pragmatist. He will set up to defend and counter, but he is not silly and he would have seen the teams that have got after Arsenal in recent weeks.

FORMATION

MC: For long periods this season Palace have played a 4-4-2, the formation Hodgson has become most associated with, although during Christian Benteke’s lengthy injury absence, the manager deployed natural wingers Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend as a strike duo, giving the side a more mobile, unpredictable feel. Hodgson has also experimented in terms of system – he played a 4-3-3 at home to Manchester City. In fact, last weekend’s 1-0 victory over Burnley was the first time this season he’s played a conventional 4-4-2 with two proper centre forwards, with Benteke joined by Bakary Sako, who scored the winner.

AC: The shape will be the most important thing, but when they turn over possession expect bodies to fly forward in numbers. Palace have the tools to create problems for Arsenal. Historically we’ve dealt well with Christian Benteke very well in recent years, ever since he came here with Aston Villa -it’s just those two flying wingers.

STRENGTHS

MC: Palace are an excellent counter-attacking side, breaking forward from their deep defensive position quickly. 

DANGERMAN

MC: The key to Palace’s counter-attacking threat is the positioning of Zaha, who can be used up front, wide in a 4-4-2 or a 4-3-3. One of the Premier League’s star performers this year, his acceleration and trickery have proved difficult to stop.

AREAS TO TARGET

MC: Defensively, Palace are without Scott Dann, Mamadou Sakho and Joel Ward. Patrick van Aanholt and Jeffrey Schlupp are in competition – both are naturally attack-minded players and can leave space in behind.

Fixtures

Friendly Match
Ticket Info
International Champions Cup
Ticket Info

Results

Premier League
Premier League