Arsenal have risen to 11th in the rankings for the time being – which could certainly change over the weekend before their encounter with Palace – and while they are on an upwards trajectory, mid-table obscurity is still far from where they want to be.
Furthermore, only basement side Norwich City have scored fewer than the five goals that Arsenal have chalked up so far in the 2021-22 Premier League season – although three other teams can also boast just a quintet of strikes – but the Aaron Ramsdale-marshalled defence has conceded just once in their last 360 minutes of top-flight football.
Such new-found defensive resilience is hardly a surprise given that all of Arteta’s first-choice defenders are fit and firing on all cylinders, and four of Arsenal’s last five Emirates encounters in the league have ended in victory before the return of the Invincibles captain.
Vieira left Arsenal for Juventus a year before their move to the Emirates Stadium, and while he would don the red and white for Dennis Bergkamp’s testimonial in 2006, competitive fixtures at the ground have been few and far between for the 45-year-old.
The Premier League and FA Cup-winning captain can certainly expect a warm welcome from the Emirates faithful as he prepares to face his old club as a manager for the very first time, but sentimentality will go out of the window for 90 minutes as the Eagles aim to soar to another respectable result.
Just before the international break, a resilient Palace found themselves 2-0 down against Leicester City following strikes from Jamie Vardy and Kelechi Iheanacho, but substitutes Michael Olise and Jeffrey Schlupp turned the game on its head to rescue a point for the Eagles.
Four of Palace’s seven league games so far this term have now ended level, but only one has ended with Vieira’s side coming out on top – that memorable triumph over Tottenham Hotspur – and that string of results has left the Eagles 14th in the table at this early stage.
However, Palace have lost four of their last five away from home in the league and have conceded 13 goals in that miserable streak, but Arsenal’s 3-1 win at Selhurst Park last season represents the Gunners’ only win from their last six in this London derby.
Forward Gabriel Martinelli is a doubt with a minor muscle injury, while Granit Xhaka is a long-term absentee with knee ligament damage. Crystal Palace have no reported injury problems. Eberechi Eze and Nathan Ferguson continue to make good progress with their respective recoveries from serious Achilles injuries. I like the way Crystal Palace have come together under Patrick Vieira, and their pressing playing style is very effective too.
This is a big moment for Vieira, who is taking his new team back to his old club. He will get a great reception but Arsenal are on a roll and I think they will create enough chances to win this one quite comfortably. The Gunners have scored just five goals in their opening seven league games, their fewest at this stage of a season since 1986-87. Mikel Arteta’s side have lost four of their 14 Premier League home fixtures in 2021 – they haven’t fared worse in a calendar year since six defeats in 1997. Arsenal have won their last seven Premier League home matches played on a Monday, scoring 15 goals and conceding just two. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has scored seven goals in eight Premier League appearances on a Monday.
The Arsenal from the first 45 minutes of their North London derby win over Tottenham Hotspur were nowhere to be seen on the South Coast, as Arteta’s side were nullified and were arguably fortunate to come away with a point at the Amex Stadium.
The Gunners had fleeting opportunities of their own which they could not convert, but compared to the horror show of results in August, 10 points from the last 12 on offer is a marked improvement for Arteta – the September manager of the month.