Arsenal have the chance to move eight points clear at the top of the Premier League table by beating Crystal Palace on Sunday.
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With Manchester City facing Burnley in the FA Cup quarter-finals this weekend, Arsenal have the chance to move eight points clear at the top of the Premier League table.
They maintained their five-point advantage last weekend. City ran out 1-0 winners over Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park, putting Arsenal under pressure.
But Mikel Arteta’s men delivered a perfect response on Sunday, brushing aside Fulham in a 3-0 win at Craven Cottage.
It was one of Arsenal’s strongest showings of the season. The match was over as a contest at half-time after goals from Gabriel Magalhaes, Gabriel Martinelli and Martin Odegaard put the Gunners in a commanding position at the interval.
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And although City will have a game in hand on the Premier League leaders after this weekend, an eight-point lead would hand Arsenal a major psychological boost.
Arteta’s side set the tone for the campaign with an authoritative 2-0 victory over Palace on the opening weekend.
They have only gone from strength to strength since then and will fancy their chances of doing the double over the only team in the division without a win since the turn of the year.
A 1-0 loss to Brighton & Hove Albion on Wednesday means Palace have now gone 12 games without a victory in all competitions – and that run is likely to be extended further this weekend.
Arsenal should have too much quality for Crystal Palace, who have been dragged into the relegation battle in recent weeks.
Arsenal played some superb attacking football in the aforementioned triumph over Fulham, but Arteta will have been equally pleased with the clean sheet.
He had previously been critical of his team’s defending in the 2-2 draw with Sporting CP in the first leg of their Europa League last-16 tie last week.
“We are conceding too many simple goals,” the manager said. “We spoke about the importance of boxes, especially in a competition where you are in or out. We did not defend that well enough, and we have to be better at threatening the opponents as well.”
Arsenal gave up just two shots on target against Fulham, a team that had scored in four of their previous five home games.
Another clean sheet is a distinct possibility against a Palace side that have struggled all season long when it comes to putting the ball in the back of the net.
Only Everton, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Southampton have inferior attacking records to Patrick Vieira’s side. If we only take 2023 into account, Palace rank rock-bottom.
Confidence in the camp is low and the team’s talisman Wilfried Zaha has not found the net in the Premier League since before the World Cup.
This could be another difficult afternoon for Palace, who will struggle to both avoid defeat and breach Arsenal’s backline.
Crystal Palace’s poor form since the beginning of January means they are now part of the relegation conversation.
Despite the fact they are 12th in the standings, Vieira’s side are certainly not sitting comfortably as we approach the business end of the season.
The Eagles are only three points clear of the drop zone heading into the weekend, and no team has collected as few points in 2023.
However, most of Palace’s matches this calendar year have been tight. Only one of their 11 Premier League encounters since New Year’s Day has been a defeat by more than a one-goal margin.
There was just one goal between Palace and the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City, despite the fact Vieira’s team lost all three matches.
On this occasion, though, it could be worth a punt on a tie with a -2 handicap – in other words, an Arsenal win by a two-goal margin.
Palace are reasonably solid at the back, so this is unlikely to be a blowout. But Arsenal have sufficient quality to win pretty comfortably, especially if Palace goalkeeper Vicente Guaita is still sidelined with injury.
When Gabriel Jesus suffered a knee injury during the World Cup, Arsenal fans feared that their title bid could be blown off course.
In fact, the Gunners have coped surprisingly well without the Brazil international. Eddie Nketiah thrived as the stand-in initially, before Leandro Trossard stepped up to the plate in the last few weeks.
Sunday’s game could be the moment Jesus is handed his first Premier League start since November.
The former Manchester City man was playing brilliantly prior to the tournament in Qatar, although he was not scoring as freely as he would have wanted.
Jesus has scored only five times in his 15 Premier League appearances up to now, but there is reason to believe he could add to his tally this weekend.
Jesus will be chomping at the bit to get going again, and he is the type of striker who could cause Palace’s defence problems.
Joachim Andersen and Marc Guehi are both good centre-backs, but they sometimes struggle to handle forwards like Jesus who possess world-class movement.
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