How Arsenal’s team has evolved since 3-0 defeat at Crystal Palace in 2017
Arsenal travel to Crystal Palace this weekend looking to continue the impressive momentum built under new manager Unai Emery.
Selhurst Park hosted one of the Gunners’ most dispiriting defeats towards the end of Arsene Wenger’s reign in 2017 when an Eagles side battling against relegation cruised to a 3-0 win.
Arsenal aren’t expected to suffer the same fate this weekend, though, priced at 4/5 to take all three points, with Palace at 3/1 and the draw 7/2.
We’ve looked back at the team from that day to see how it has evolved into the Arsenal side of 2018-19.
Emiliano Martinez – Bernd Leno
Martinez started in goal that day with both Petr Cech and David Ospina ruled out with injuries in what was one of his 13 appearances for the club since joining in 2010.
The 26-year-old remains on the books at the Emirates after a number of loan spells away from the club, acting as the club’s third-choice this term.
Cech may have started the season as No.1, but injury has presented new signing Leno with an opportunity to cement himself in Emery’s starting XI – and he certainly helped his cause with a superb save from Harry Maguire in the recent win over Leicester City.
Hector Bellerin – Hector Bellerin
Bellerin has become a divisive figure in north London in recent years. After breaking through as such a promising youngster, the Spain international’s defending has been criticised, although Ian Wright is having none of it.
I put this out yesterday and today I’m reading Arsenal fans telling me about his defending! One word, Fu**off. 😡 https://t.co/MwMeDjndgj
— Ian Wright (@IanWright0) October 23, 2018
Shkodran Mustafi – Shkodran Mustafi
Another player who has had his critics at Arsenal, Mustafi arrived as a World Cup winner in a big-money move from Valencia in 2016, but his form has been inconsistent.
The defender is benefitting from a fresh start under Emery, although he will face competition for his place from the returning Laurent Koscielny.
Gabriel Paulista – Sokratis
Gabriel played just five more times for Arsenal before leaving in the summer of 2015 to join Valencia.
Sokratis, meanwhile, moved to the Emirates this summer in a £17.7million deal from Borussia Dortmund, tasked with adding some steel to their defence.
The 30-year-old impressed at the start of the season, only for a hamstring injury to mean his place in the side has been filled by Rob Holding in recent weeks.
Nacho Monreal – Nacho Monreal
Now a veteran of the Arsenal side having joined the club from Malaga five years ago, the 32-year-old is one of the most reliable members of Emery’s squad.
Granit Xhaka – Granit Xhaka
Like the aforementioned Bellerin and Mustafi, Xhaka has often been criticised by members of Arsenal’s support as he has struggled to develop into a natural holding midfielder.
Those deficiencies have not been as evident this term, thanks in no small part to a new partner in central midfield. Speaking of which…
Mohamed Elneny – Lucas Torreira
“Lucas gives us good balance in the team between offence and defence,” Xhaka said recently of his new team-mate, who joined Arsenal from Sampdoria in the summer to provide the bite sorely missing in their midfield.
“He lets me play my game with the ball and go a bit more in front. I am happy with him.
“You can see that he’s important for us because he’s strong in defence and in duels. He can play easily from side to side and going forward, he helps with our balance.”
Matteo Guendouzi is pretty good, too.
Arsenal (all competitions)
Without Lucas Torreira:
• 439 minutes
• 9 goals scored
• 10 goals conceded
With Lucas Torreira:
• 641 minutes
• 23 goals scored
• 4 goals conceded
— Premier League Panel (@PremLeaguePanel) October 22, 2018
Theo Walcott – Henrikh Mkhitaryan
Walcott captained the side on that miserable night at Selhurst Park and was heavily criticised after admitting: “They wanted it more. You could sense that from the kick-off”, comments Wenger later described as “not acceptable”.
The following January saw Walcott end a 12-year association with Arsenal in a transfer window which saw Mkhitaryan leave Manchester United to join the Gunners.
Mkhitaryan, however, continues to struggle to recapture his Bundesliga form in England.
Mesut Ozil – Mesut Ozil
Can we just accept he’s a very talented footballer who maybe could be a little more consistent and maybe isn’t good at doing the defensive stuff? No? Okay, good stuff.
Alexis Sanchez – Alex Iwobi
Sanchez became an increasingly difficult presence at Arsenal prior to his move to Manchester United in January, and Iwobi has been the surprise player to step up in the Chile international’s absence this season.
“The manager has just given me the confidence to express myself and to believe in my ability, which I have been trying to show,” Iwobi said.
“In training, too, he is always letting me try new things – be positive, be direct and prove it in the games. It is working for me so I just have to keep it going.
“Do I feel like a better player than a year ago? I’d just say I am more confident. I feel that even if I make a mistake, I am able to go again. I think that is the difference between me last year and this year.”
Danny Welbeck – Alexandre Lacazette
Welbeck was preferred to Olivier Giroud in attack that night against Palace but has resumed his role as a squad player under Emery this term – responding with four goals in nine appearances.
While many expected Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to be the Gunners’ first-choice striker this season, Lacazette is producing his best football since moving to north London, with five goals in six starts in all competitions.