Arsenal vs Crystal Palace: Three Key Battles
Arsenal will welcome Crystal Palace to the Emirates Stadium in Sam Allardyce’s first away match as new manager of the Eagles, as the ex-England boss looks for his first victory.
In Allardyce’s first game in charge Palace put in a much-improved performance against Watford, but it was a tale of two penalties as Christian Benteke saw his tame effort saved by Heurelho Gomes before Troy Deeney smashed his spot-kick home to ensure the match ended honours even.
Arsenal, on the other hand, were indebted to Olivier Giroud who scored a late winner to spare Arsenal’s blushes and keep them nine points adrift of Chelsea in the title race.
Here at The Boot Room we explore the key battles to look out for when the two sides meet…
Christian Benteke v Laurent Koscielny
With Loic Remy, Bakary Sako and Connor Wickham all sidelined through injury, Allardyce’s striking options are heavy reliant on ex-Liverpool forward Christian Benteke.
Benteke has thrived since his summer arrival though, scoring eight times in sixteen Premier League appearances this season – a quarter of Palace’s overall total so far.
Yet out of his eight league goals, Benteke has only managed to score once against top-half opposition, and will be looking to add to this tally against an Arsenal side lacking confidence.
The Belgian will find himself up against tough opposition in Arsenal’s Laurent Koscielny on New Year’s Day however, who is quickly becoming the heartbeat of Arsene Wenger’s side in defence.
Koscielny made 100% of his tackles against West Brom, not putting a foot wrong, yet will face a completely different test against Benteke’s aerial and physical threat.
With the Gunners only keeping one clean sheet in nine Premier League matches, and their set-piece defending being heavily exposed during their loss to Everton a fortnight ago, it will be interesting to see who comes out on top when the two sides meet at the Emirates.