Crystal Palace-Arsenal Preview
Arsene Wenger is in serious danger of souring his own legacy at Arsenal.
The Gunners are eight points outside of the top four prior to Saturday's game against Crystal Palace at the Emirates, leaving Wenger's group at risk of missing out on Champions League qualification for a second straight season.
The downturn at Arsenal has been stark, with the side starting the campaign well only to fall away in the last month, winning just two of the nine most recent matches in the Premier League.
A 4-2 defeat to Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup on Jan. 7 and a goalless draw with Chelsea in the League Cup three days later means Arsenal have not tasted victory in five consecutive matches in all competitions (0-3-2), while Wednesday brought a further set back as Theo Walcott ended his 12-year stay at the club.
The 28-year-old scored 108 goals in his 396 appearances for Arsenal, but has embodied the club's stagnation in recent years and saw his form dip to such an extent that he did not start a single Premier League match this season prior to this week's £20 million move to Everton.
However, despite being sidelined by Wenger, the England international only had positive things to say about his time at Arsenal.
"I would like to say a big thank you to everyone involved at the club - manager, coaches, backroom staff, and all the many people at the club that have been part of my family for the past 12 years," Walcott said in a statement.
"I would also like to thank all my teammates I have had the pleasure of playing alongside, but most importantly the fans for their incredible support. I feel sad to leave but also excited for a new challenge. I wish everyone at the club every success for the future."
Beleaguered Arsenal are in need of a major boost, but Saturday's visitors to north London will be no pushovers.
Roy Hodgson has rejuvenated Crystal Palace (6-7-10), taking them from the foot of the table up to 12th, five points clear of the drop zone.
The Eagles have won their last two Premier League games and lost just one of the last 12 - a remarkable run given a start to the season that saw them pick up no points and score no goals in the first seven matches.
However, Palace's veteran coach is not going overboard just yet.
"I have no desire in January to celebrate (being in 12th place)," Hodgson said following last week's 1-0 win over Burnley. "The only thing that interests me is where we are on the final day, and being one place above the relegation zone. Anything else would be a huge bonus, especially having seven games, seven defeats and no goals.
"It's nice now that things are no longer looking so bleak, and we should enjoy that, but there will be lots more games where you do enough to merit the three points, and then suffer in the second half because a one-goal lead can always be cancelled out."
Palace's injury issues continue to pile up, with Jeffrey Schlupp, Andros Townsend, Jason Puncheon, Scott Dann, Mamadou Sakho, Joel Ward and Connor Wickham all unavailable.
The Gunners are expecting to be without Nacho Monreal due to an ankle injury, while Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla are out. Laurent Koscielny is also a doubt for the Gunners due to an Achilles problem, while attacking pair Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil have been heavily linked with departures in the January transfer window.
Arsenal won 3-2 when these teams met at Selhurst Park last month, with Sanchez scoring a second half brace to rescue a win for the Gunners.
Updated January 17, 2018