Crystal Palace preview: only a win will do so will Alexis be risked and will Ramsey play?

Sanchez set to start against Palace

Sanchez set to start against Palace

If there are positives to be gleaned from a defeat, then the discussion it generates is surely one of these. While you can praise your team after a win only so many times, there are endless ways to dissect why it has lost.

Of course it’s all a bit exaggerated: there is no sure way of knowing why the team lost, especially for the fans. The players or the manager can be closer to an answer, but I firmly believe even they don’t always understand why a certain result came about. Sometimes things just happen, there is no reason. The stars aligned in such a way on the day.

I’m getting sidetracked, though. My point was that defeats generate debate and, as a result, people make educated guesses. Different (sometimes contrasting) points of view make for entertaining reading and allow you to form your own opinion better.

That’s not to say I wouldn’t have traded it all for a scrappy 1-0, because it’s not the case. I simply illustrated that if you are willing to listen, odds are your opinion straight after a defeat and a week later can vary greatly, sometimes they are even placed at the opposite ends of the spectrum.

Anyway, back to the task at hand: Crystal Palace. I wish we played someone else straight after a defeat, since I still remember how hard it proved to win at Selhrust Park last season: the pitch was awful, our attacking game wasn’t exactly fluid, while our defensive performance nearly cost us at the very end. Beggars can’t be choosers, however, so we’ll have to work with what we have.

Tough game last time at Selhrust Park

Team news update

In terms of personnel it means no Wilshere, Rosicky or Welbeck. Wilshere is recovering from the ankle injury and is on schedule, while the situation with Rosicky and Welbz is different:

“Tomas has had surgery on his knee. His agent said he will be out for one or two months, but it will be longer. How long exactly, we don’t know yet.”

December is the mooted date. Not exactly an ideal scenario, but mercifully midfield is overflowing with players right now, so Rosicky’s absence is not the end of the world.

While on Welbeck Arsene said the following:

“It is much slower than expected. It was a bone bruising at the start. You think that it will be quite quick. He is an important player for us and the fact that he is not available is a bit of a concern.”

Welbeck played stoically at centre-forward from September till December and then it all went downhill for the Englishman. He really hasn’t featured much since the turn of the year and the fact Arsene can’t even put a return date on him is worrying.

Coupled with the fact Akpom, Gnabry & Sanogo all went out on loan, Podolski has been sold and Wenger is willing to let Campbell go, I do think another attacker is incoming. You simply don’t rely on just Giroud, Walcott, Oxlade and Alexis for an unknown period of time, waiting for Welbeck to get better. I’m pretty sure the trio of Alexis, Giroud and Oxlade will play when fit, something that leaves Theo as our only real option from the bench. It’s not a healthy situation and I’ll be hugely surprised if it’s not addressed by September 1st.

Will Welbeck’s prolonged absence make Arsene consider an outside solution?

As for Palace, the Eagles will have to make do without Speroni (their №1 goalkeeper), Williams and our old pal Chamakh. However they still have plenty of players capable of doing the damage (including their latest acquisition, Yohan Cabaye), so we’ll have our work cut out. You can read a more detailed analysis of the threat Crystal Palace poses and the ways to nullify it here.

Squad and approach

It’s safe to say what we did last time didn’t exactly work. ArsenalColumn puts it down to positional indiscipline rather than on-field partnerships, however I don’t think it should serve as a shield for certain individuals. I’m looking at Ramsey and Cazorla first of all. The former is a mixed bag, the latter was mostly ineffective due to being shunted out wide. Something that’s unlikely to happen again in the light of Alexis’ return.

So here’s the question: who misses out? Arseblog suggested a Cazorla-Coquelin duo isn’t the long-term answer and I tend to agree to an extent: Cazorla is 30, he won’t play for Arsenal as long as Ramsey or Wilshere probably will, so building the team around him can only lead to dissatisfaction from Aaron and Jack. Something that may cause them to think about their own future. It’s not like they will want to sit on the bench and wait till Cazorla leaves, is it?

However, I’ll say a very simple thing: Cazorla and Coquelin dovetailed nicely and consistently last season, something we are yet to see from Francis and Rambo. I’m not saying this partnership is doomed, but I’m not willing to risk it. If Ramsey wants to play, he has to prove he can consistently deliver for the team. Right now Coquelin is indispensable, so I firmly believe the player next to him has to adapt to Le Coq. If he doesn’t, he shouldn’t play.

Ramsey should either adapt or get dropped

With Bellerin available once again, the rest of the team picks itself really. I’d go with the following: Cech – Bellerin – Mertesacker – Koscielny – Monreal – Coquelin – Cazorla – Ozil – Alexis – Giroud – Oxlade.

However, there’s another factor at play. We all know how Wenger trusts his players to get over their mistakes. I still remember how four days after losing to Monaco Arsene fielded an almost identical team, with the exception of Gabriel for Mertesacker and Oxlade for Welbeck (Ox has only just returned from injury before Monaco, so it’s fair to say he would have started against the French outfit had he been fitter). I fully expect Arsene to start Bellerin and Alexis, however, the Chilean might start for Santi. If he does, it’ll be an indicator Wenger gives Ramsey the chance to make amends. If we see Ramsey dropped and Cazorla moved back infield, well, I’d say Wenger’s patience with Rambo have run out.

The verdict

Only a win will do and I think everybody involved understands that. That’s why I think Arsene’s selection will be indicative: he’ll pick the players he trusts to deliver in these circumstances. If that means hurting egos, he’ll do it. No time for compromise and experimenting: pre-season is over. We can’t drop points again, not because it’ll put us out of the title race, no, but because a draw or a loss can have lasting psychological ramifications.

So come on you Gunners.

Back on Monday with a review

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