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Returning Sanchez to be the difference for Arsenal at Crystal Palace

14 Aug | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Returning Sanchez to be the difference for Arsenal at Crystal Palace

The new Premier League season is only a week old, but the Gunners are already under pressure if they are to mount a genuine title challenge

The error-strewn debut of Petr Cech, universally lauded as the Premier League signing of the season before a ball had even been kicked, during Arsenal’s opening-day defeat to West Ham served as a reminder that nothing in football is ever guaranteed.

Soundbites declaring that he would be worth a completely made-up figure like 15 points a year are rendered meaningless once the referee’s whistle blows and the match gets under way.

This is not a criticism of Cech, who has too much quality to be anything other than a fine signing for the Gunners.

It is also not unsurprising that the 33-year-old endured a nervy game at the Emirates.

Changing clubs after 11 years is not easy – even when remaining in the same city – while his lack of match sharpness after spending most of last season on the bench has also been overlooked.

Supporters and team-mates hailing Cech’s arrival as the final piece in the jigsaw or some other familiar football cliché is to be expected. What is disconcerting, though, is that manager Arsene Wenger would appear to share the same view.

The addition of a world-class goalkeeper bolstered an already-excellent squad, but it was – and remains – short in a couple of key areas. That can make a difference when challenging for the title.

Wenger’s unwavering faith in Francis Coquelin is curious considering the 24-year-old was nowhere near the first-team 12 months ago.

Signing a robust central midfielder – Morgan Schneiderlin would have been perfect – to play alongside his myriad of playmakers and a striker capable of running in behind and unsettling defences – Christian Benteke, perhaps – would have been proactive and potentially decisive.

This was supposed to be Arsenal’s season.

It still might be, of course, but only once in 19 years has a team lost their opening Premier League game – Manchester United suffered a 1-0 defeat at Everton in 2012/13 in Sir Alex Ferguson’s final season as manager – and gone on to win the title.

Their trip to Crystal Palace at Sunday lunchtime, therefore, is huge – especially with title rivals Manchester City and Chelsea guaranteed to take points off each other later on in the day.

Arsenal’s recent record on their travels in the league is stellar. They are unbeaten in their last six games – winning five – and are 8/11 to claim their first three points of the season this weekend.

Wenger is expected to start Alexis Sanchez after the Chilean forward, who was given an extended break following the Copa America, was a second-half substitute last weekend.

How the Gunners missed his dynamism. The 26-year-old hit 16 league goals during his superb first campaign in English football and is 9/2 to open the scoring on Sunday.

While the boisterous and rickety Selhurst Park has a reputation for being a tricky away day, Palace have actually only won four of their last 13 games there.

That is probably because the mercurial talents of Wilfried Zaha and Yannick Bolasie are better utilised when counter-attacking on bigger pitches away from home.

In attempting to play the same way on their own turf, they often find themselves boxed in.

Boss Alan Pardew, therefore, will look to summer signing Yohan Cabaye to offer his side a foothold and added quality in the middle of midfield.

And if Cabaye is able to dictate the tempo, then the Eagles have enough quality going forward to at least trouble their London rivals.

Even in their recent success away from home, the Gunners have kept only a single clean sheet.

At 12/5, then, Arsenal to win and both teams to score is an intriguing – and probable – selection.

Wenger will be counting on it.

Even at this early stage of the season, his side need to win.

Crystal Palace v Arsenal betting

READ: Darren Lewis: Benzema? To challenge Chelsea, Arsenal need a far less sexy signing

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