A London derby is never an easy tie, and while the disappointment of our last encounter with the Eagles may have finally disappeared from the players’ minds, it is worth noting that a few of those who will step on to the Selhurst Park turf must know that the burden of proof would lie more on them than on other teammates.
A win, like we saw at Boro, may involve all 11 players having a touch in the lead up to a goal but even that happens because one or two have done something very unique and brilliant in the build-up.
Alexis Sanchez and Santi Cazorla have had their moments of sustained praise from pundits and the press, with their moments of magic proving the defining moments in games. Lately, however, Ozil has made enough by way of impact to finally be winning over the skeptics since his return from injury.
This will be a good measure for the German to show how well he has re-adapted to the physicality of the English game, because if there was anything you expect from Alan Pardew today, it will be a specific instruction to Joe Ledley to stay glued to the former Madrid man.
I’ve seen a few sympathy calls for Szczesny to retain his place as the goalie for this weekend after keeping a clean sheet against Boro, but Wenger may not be having any of that. Not that he does not have it in mind to bring him back as his League keeper but Ospina cannot be dropped now without allegations of injustice or a drop in form being raised. That said, the Colombian would do himself good to know that he is now very much under the radar and must show better handling/parrying if Szczesny is to remain watching from the bench.
It was good to see the 20-year old comfortable and untroubled last time out and news of Bellerin’s uncertainty may give the former Saints boy a first League start since that failed 45-minute midfield experiment at the St. Mary’s on New Year’s day. It’s not going to be an easy day for him however, as Dwight Gayle, Wilfred Zaha and Yannick Bolasie all have fearsome bouts of pace to cause him enough trouble. We rate him more as a center back in the long-term but he will have to prove that Wenger’s decision to sign him based on his 22-games as a full back would not be mocked.
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