Sunday 1st January 2017- 16:00-Sky Sports 1HD
Arsenal will be looking to bring in the new year, with a win that would take them up to third in the league, and move them away from the chasing pack of Spurs and Manchester United in the race for the top 4. However, a game that may have been seen as a routine victory 10 days ago has now turned on its head thanks to Palace’s appointment of Sam Allardyce. Palace, who were the worst performing team in the Premier League in 2016, were slipping towards relegation having only won once in the league in their last 9 games before the appointment of Allardyce.
There is an argument that he had an immediate effect during Palace’s draw with Watford on Boxing Day. Although Palace conceded the lead and had a missed penalty, they showed some fight and resilience, traits that are synonymous with Allardyce teams. In his post-match interview, Allardyce saw the result as 2 points dropped, as opposed to 1 gained. The result took Palace 2 points clear of the relegation zone. Although it appears that Allardyce will have to navigate January without one of Palace’s key players, as Wilfred Zaha has been called up to the African Cup of Nations to represent the Ivory Coast.
In terms of team news for Palace, Damien Delaney is suspended, but fellow defender James Tomkins could return after a thigh injury while midfielders James McArthur and Joe Ledley are also back in contention.
Striker Loic Remy has resumed training but needs a couple of reserve matches before he is considered, while Connor Wickham, Bakary Sako, Pape Souare and Steve Mandanda remain long-term absentees.
As Allardyce seeks his first win for his new club, Arsene Wenger takes charge of an Arsenal team that have never lost at home on New Year’s day under his watch. This will also be Wenger’s 200th Premier League game at the Emirates. In fact, Palace have not won at Arsenal since October 1994, in the league.
Two under-par efforts against Everton and Manchester City have left the Gunners in a familiar position in the Premier League – behind the eightball, trailing clear leaders Chelsea and with much work to do heading into the new year. Arsene Wenger praised their resilience and spirit after they narrowly got the better of West Brom on Boxing Day but, it was extremely hard graft indeed. A couple of speculative shots from Alexis Sanchez was all they could muster in a quiet first period as West Brom packed the penalty box with players – the Baggies looked utterly crestfallen at not being able to quite see out the job after Olivier Giroud popped up with four minutes left on the clock to guide home a well-placed header. Wenger’s team remain capable of some of the best football in the country but can also be shoved around – as Everton proved – and they still look a carbon-copy of the team from the last decade in need of some steel.
Arsenal are likely to be without Theo Walcott for their Premier League clash against Palace today. The forward missed the Boxing Day win over West Brom with a minor calf problem and is not expected to recover in time to face the Eagles.
Reported Palace target Kieran Gibbs (knee) is definitely out, while Shkodran Mustafi is fit and available following a hamstring injury and Danny Welbeck’s return from a long-term knee problem is progressing well.