By Dan Ferguson
In my preview against West Brom, I asked how many managers have been sacked in the run-up to playing Arsenal.
The answer is eluding me because it would take some quite epic research to get close to it.
So I will say this: we know Arsenal can have a galvanising effect on their opponents. Fringe players try extra hard in training. The burnt-out players find an extra Adebayor, (his name should be synonymous with a percentage or fraction), for a couple of weeks.
Not only that, but you also have to factor in the usual, predictable Arsenalisms of a game. You know the ones? If your star striker cannot hit a barn door for 10 games, he will score against Arsenal. If you have a 9-year-old debutant, he will be MOTM. If you have a 40 year old, 3rd choice veteran as an emergency goalkeeper, he will also be MOTM. That kind of typical avoidable nonsense that Arsenal always court so well.
Allardyce will have this effect on Palace.
There is a pretty good infrastructure there. They are a half decent team that has been awful for the last 2-3 months. Some of their players have already talked about a marked improvement since he took over. How can a professional set up with a half-decent manager be markedly improved in the space of one game? If they are going to come out with this kind of PR nonsense, spray your hair white and put on a French accent. Or pencil a little goatee in and adopt a Spanish accent.
Anyway, there are three key things to contend with.
One. Allardyce and Wenger’s history. I think many people don’t realise that this means very little now as Wenger is so old and has been at the helm so long, that other managers have also aged and stopped giving a shit. If there is a modicum of motivation, it is only Allardyce’s and there isn’t enough previous between the clubs for him to call upon. So football will have to be played instead of mind games.
Two. There are a few important stats to look at here. My stat man, (and beacon of Arsenal faith/Wenger loyalty) Alan, informed me that Allardcye lost just two of his last 15 Premier League games as manager. This was with a woeful team but he worked out how to get them playing. We know he can do this. Nevertheless, he has never won at the Emirates in 12 attempts, losing 9 of 12 games and shipping the most goals of any manager to come to the Emirates.
Three. Park the bus. For this, see West Brom. Long ball to Benteke, or through the lines to Zaha. Cabaye is a decent player if he gets the time and is fit. But he needs moving parts and Palace will come to draw, thus play behind Cabaye, (or at least his speed of thought), in the main.
So what is there on offer? I suspect another game of empty seats I’m afraid.
(This should really be discussed in another post, as it is a really incendiary issue among some fans. There are some who claim they cannot sell on Arsenal exchange. Others who have nobody they can give their ticket away to. Some who state that the travel strikes hugely affect them. Some who just cannot be bothered and are wealthy enough to swallow it up. But I suspect there were between 3-7k unoccupied seats in the last sell-out game)
Giroud will score according to Alan. We will win again because Olivier has a great record against Palace.
Mustafi is back in the fold, and the defence still remains pretty strong – even with Gibbs out and Montreal having a two-game recent wobble.
Ozil or Sanchez may well be rested here for the Bournemouth game in a couple of days. Though with no Theo or Ox in the squad, I cannot see this. Either way Arsenal will dominate possession and surely they cannot be as profligate as they were against West Brom?
I had a challenging debate with a friend the other day who suggested that dropping Ozil would make sense.
When I countered with the fact that he made the Giroud goal on 86, he countered with something along the lines of, “Sure. But how do you know that a player coming in for him and trying twice as hard couldn’t galvanise the team and create three goals against a team as deep and listless as West Brom? I mean we aren’t talking about unlocking Barcelona here are we?”
I had no words.