Patrick Vieira returns to Arsenal as a manager on Monday night, and Mike Norman believes his Crystal Palace side can leave the Emirates with all three points...
"I'd definitely rate Palace going unbeaten against Brentford, Brighton, Leicester and West Ham (all in the top 11 of the table) higher than Arsenal's draw with Brighton and 1-0 wins over Burnley and Norwich, who are 19th and 20th in the table respectively."
Spurs win aside Arsenal have been poor
It's been a very mixed start to Arsenal's Premier League season, three defeats, three wins and a solitary draw. But you could argue that the Gunners have only lost one game that they weren't expected to lose, and that the 10 points they've accumulated from their other six games is about on par with what would have been expected.
Yes, it was a shocking home defeat to Brentford on the opening day of the season but did anyone fancy Arsenal to beat Chelsea? Not many. Were they fancied to win away at Manchester City? Most certainly not. So I dare say if you offered Mikel Arteta 10 points from the four games following three straight defeats then he would have taken them and ran.
The problem we have of course is that Arsenal defended dreadfully against the Bees, they were poor against the Blues, they were diabolical at the Etihad, they struggled to single-goal victories over Norwich and Burnley, and they were lucky to get a point against Brighton last time.
That leaves Arteta with just one impressive display to shout home about - and it was impressive - albeit that came against a struggling Tottenham side who just didn't turn up for the North London Derby.
Make no bones about it, this Arsenal team is no great shakes. The likes of Takehiro Tomiyasu, Ben White and Albert Sambi Lokonga haven't drastically improved the Gunners since their summer arrivals, and similar to last season Arteta is already relying on youngsters Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe, and the goals of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, to make his side tick.
Palace much improved under Vieira
Crystal Palace have won just one of their opening seven Premier League games, but they've actually lost one fewer than their Monday night opponents.
Managed by former Gunners star Patrick Vieira, the Eagles have lost away to Chelsea and Liverpool - two games they were heavily fancied to lose - this term, while the seven points they've accrued came courtesy of an excellent win over Tottenham, and very respectable draws against an in-form Brentford side, West Ham, Brighton and Leicester.
The Eagles are pressing much higher up the pitch which has translated into them conceding fewer chances and goals than last season - only Manchester City, Everton and Wolves have a better xGA (expected goals against) than Vieira's man this term - while going forward they look much improved.
Summer recruits Connor Gallagher and Odsonne Edouard have made immediate impacts with their performances and goals, while Michael Olise came off the bench to score against Leicester last time and could be set for his full Eagles debut on Monday night.
In other words, for the first time in a few seasons Crystal Palace aren't just reliant on their talisman Wilfried Zaha.
No trust in Gunners
Comparing Arsenal and Crystal Palace based on just league performances this season I'm inclined to think that the Eagles are the better side. That might sound a silly thing to say given that the Gunners sit three points ahead of Monday night's opponents, but let's look at the facts.
Both clubs have lost to Chelsea this term, and both have lost to either Manchester City or Liverpool. And both recorded very impressive wins over Tottenham.
So that leaves four other games, and I'd definitely rate Palace going unbeaten against Brentford, Brighton, Leicester and West Ham (all in the top 11 of the table) higher than Arsenal's draw with Brighton and 1-0 wins over Burnley and Norwich, who are 19th and 20th in the table respectively. Plus the Gunners lost at home to Brentford of course.
We can also add in the fact that in arguably a tougher set of opening fixtures Vieira's men have scored three more goals than Arsenal, while conceding just one more than Arteta's men.
Arsenal can be backed at 1.684/6 to win the game, and that's a price that I just don't want to go anywhere near. I wouldn't put anyone off laying the Gunners at that price, thus getting the draw and a Palace win onside, but I'm happy to back the away win here at 6.25/1.
It may come as a surprise to many but Crystal Palace have lost just one of their last six league meetings with Arsenal, while at the Emirates Stadium they're unbeaten in their last three games, winning 3-2 there three seasons ago and drawing 2-2 and 0-0 in the last two campaigns.
At least three goals look likely
When you put your faith in a 6.25/1 shot in a football match I don't think there's any real great need to back anything else at a much shorter price but I most definitely favour Over 2.5 Goals at 1.9620/21 as opposed to Under 2.5 Goals at 2.0421/20.
I fancy Palace are marginally the better team right now but it would be foolish to write off Saka, Smith Rowe, Aubameyang and Martin Odegaard as an attacking force, as we saw against Tottenham they can be deadly when at their best.
But equally, I don't believe the Gunners defence is up to scratch, and without the injured Granit Xhaka in midfield I definitely fancy the Eagles to score one or two in this game; I think we're set for an entertaining contest with at least three goals being scored.
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Mike's 2021/22 Profit & Loss
Staked: 7 pts
Returned: 15.80 pts
P/L: +8.80 pts
*Based on 2pts main bet (first listed or only bet), 1pt all other bets