Crystal Palace v Arsenal: Selhurst Park not the place for goals
A share of the spoils rates a good wager but the even better one is that we don't have three goals at Selhurst Park on Saturday, says Jamie Pacheco.
Crystal Palace v Arsenal Saturday January 11, 12:30 TV: live on BT Sport 1
Palace going well but injury crisis a concern
It's been a good season so far for Crystal Palace. When you looked at their team at the start of the campaign it looked workmanlike with only Wilfried Zaha around to provide inspiration and unpredictability in the final third. And that's pretty much how things have worked out.
The main focus has always been on keeping things tight the back with the three midfielders also mostly tasked with working hard and offering protection to the defence, while Zaha is given the ball as much as possible and Jordan Ayew is asked to score the goals. It may not sound particularly exciting but more often than not it's highly effective.
They are however going through an injury crisis with no less than four first team defenders out with injury. Their biggest problem is on the left with both Jeffrey Schlupp and Patrick van Aanholt unavailable. To make matters worse, skipper Luka Milivojevic is suspended.
Arteta making an impact
What exactly went wrong with Unai Emery is something only the insiders at the club will know. But a couple of weeks into Mikel Arteta's time at the club, the team look happier, more motivated and more up for it.
The best example is captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Even when deployed out of position on the left wing, he's been tracking back tirelessly, talking to his team-mates, running the channels and doing everything he can for the cause. Whatever it is that Arteta is selling, the skipper and the rest of the team are buying it.
Callum Chambers, who has played a lot of minutes this term, is out injured till the end of the season and beyond.
Stalemate the bet
This is one of those where different stats paint very different pictures. Arsenal have lost just once in their last 14 away league games at Palace, as Opta point out. So that's a good reason to dismiss the 4.20 about the home win.
But Opta also tell us that Palace are unbeaten in their last three against the Gunners. That would make a lay of the visitors at 1.91 worth a second look.
The problem there of course is the injury and suspension count for the hosts as it's hard to know they might fare without so many important players. If you want to play this market, the draw is definitely the most attractive option of the three at 4.00, especially given two of the last three between these two ended with a share of the spoils.
Attractive enough to warrant a bet.
Unders and overs the wrong way round
The over/under 2.5 goals market makes 'unders' the outsider at 2.14 and that doesn't look right to me. There have been fewer than three goals in 60% of Arsenal's away games this term and a mammoth 80% of Palace's home games have gone that way, so based on how their respective seasons have gone, I'm not sure why 'unders' isn't a strong favourite.
It can only be because of the trend for goals in this fixture. The last six ended 2-2, 2-3, 2-2, 4-1, 2-3 and 3-0 so it's been full of goals.
But these are quite different circumstances. Arteta's top priority will be to improve on Arsenal's abysmal defensive record, something he's already done to an extent by keeping clean sheets against Manchester United and Leeds over the past week.
As for Palace, I wouldn't be the slightest bit surprised if Roy Hodgson was eyeing up 0-0 before a ball is kicked in anger. With their absences it may not be such a bad game plan.
Irrespective of the pattern for goals when these two play each other, the absence of goals in Palace's home games makes 'unders' very much a bet.
Can Arsenal's centre-backs score again?
We don't fancy goals here but we'll look at the goalscorer markets anyway. Aubameyang scored in both matches against Palace last year and is rated a 4/5 chance to score, although his chances of getting a goal here are somewhat decreased if he carries on being played wide.
When these two drew 2-2 back in October both Arsenal's goals came from centre-halves. David Luiz is 8/1 to repeat the trick with Sokratis available at 13/1.
For Palace, it's not really worth looking beyond Ayew (5/2) and Zaha (13/5). They have five and three goals for the season respectively; no-one else has more than two.