Although it may not strictly be Boxing Day this festive set of fixtures is finally brought to a conclusion this evening when Crystal Palace play host to Arsenal at Selhurst Park. Roy Hodgson’s men have not lost in their last eight matches as the turnaround in South London continues and they will look for more points that will in turn move them further up the table.
Palace currently find themselves 16th in the Premier League but they go into this game knowing that a win would move them up to 13th behind Brighton on goal difference, that however is on the assumption that the win is a slender one. Should they go on and repeat the 3-0 win they earned here late last season then they would leap ahead of the Seagulls.
That could be deemed as wishful thinking but at the same time Arsenal are going up against one of the form teams in the division at present, people may well point to the fact that their run has been padded somewhat by draws but ultimately they are proving hard to beat and that is what has lifted them out of the bottom three.
The Eagles though cannot afford to rest on their laurels as they are only a point clear of the relegation zone and they will be looking to add further daylight between themselves and Bournemouth by extending the run of games without defeat to nine. It became eight last Saturday thanks to a 1-1 draw with Swansea.
A point away from home is not to be sniffed at but you get the feeling that their was an element of disappointment for Roy Hodgson as they could only draw against the league’s basement side. Whether they felt the new manager bounce that Leon Britton would have given the Swans at least in the short term can be argued but there was arguably a hint of two points dropped there.
As for their opponents Arsenal I’m not sure if last Friday’s clash with Liverpool was one point gained or two points dropped at the Emirates due to the topsy turvy nature of the game. Arsene Wenger’s men looked dead and buried when 2-0 down early in the second half but then the Merseyside outfit all but collapsed in less then 10 minutes.
From 2-0 down to 3-2 up it looked as if the Gunners were to complete an incredible fightback and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, there was however one final twist in the tale and that being Roberto Firmino’s powerful effort that could only sting the wrists of Petr Cech and loop into an empty net.
Honours even in North London and that coupled with the goalscoring exploits of Harry Kane has seen Tottenham edge above Arsenal in the Premier League table. That was the case on Saturday after Tottenham’s win over Burnley and now the gap stands at three points after Mauricio Pochettino masterminded a win over his former club.
That coupled with Liverpool’s five goal haul of their own on Boxing Day has seen these two clubs just pull clear of Arsenal in what is looking like a hotly contested race for fourth not only that though but with both Chelsea and Manchester United dropping points the race for second has also contracted slightly.
Quite simply Arsenal cannot be left behind in the race for the Champions League places and they will look to get revenge for the defeat that they suffered here a few months ago, one that all but ended their hopes of a top four finish in the 2016/17 campaign after eventually being pipped by Liverpool on the final day of the season.
Not only that but the scrutiny will once again be on Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez as the question as to whether they will depart next month edges ever closer to being answered, both players scored last Friday and Arsene Wenger will be looking for them to continue that form even if it something of a parting gift
As to what will happen this evening, the fact that Crystal Palace have not lost in eight league matches is not something to be ignored and to be honest I think they will make it nine. I don’t think they will be able to repeat last season’s performance but at the same time I think they will be able to frustrate Arsenal. I reckon this one will be a draw.