A year to the day since they lost at Arsenal in the opening match of last season, Crystal Palace appear to have their best chance on Sunday of beating the Gunners for the first time in 21 years.
Although the league table after one match does not count for much, Palace were third and Arsenal 19th following last week’s opening day results when Palace showed some mature guile to win 3-1 at promoted Norwich City while faltering Arsenal crashed to a shock 2-0 home defeat to West Ham United.
Palace boss Alan Pardew has had a profound impact at Selhurst Park since taking over in January when Palace were 18th and heading for relegation but they rallied under the new coach to finish 10th.
They have now won 11 of the 19 league matches played since Pardew’s arrival including wins over Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City and Liverpool last season.
There is now such renewed confidence in the side they could end Arsenal’s run of five successive league wins against them and beat them at Selhurst Park for the first time since 1979.
Their last win over Arsenal in any competition was at Highbury in 1994 — one of only three Palace wins since they first met in 1933 — and although history clearly is not on Palace’s side, a long overdue win is not out of the question.
Pardew though, was counselling caution when he spoke to the media on Friday saying that he was a little disappointed by Palace’s performance at Norwich despite the win and would have to match Arsenal man for man.
“It’s difficult to stop them,” Pardew said of the way Arsenal like to attack. “But we need to play our game. Generally, our performance at Norwich was below our best.
“Their manager (Arsene Wenger) has enough experience to use that negative from last weekend as a positive this weekend.”
Despite his obvious reluctance to talk up his squad’s chances, Pardew recognised that Palace were improving and said the summer signing of France international midfielder Yohan Cabaye for a club record fee of 10.0 million pounds ($15.62 million) in July, represented a turning point for the club.
“The signing of Yohan was a benchmark. If he can come here, any world class player can come here. We need to stay on this upward curve,” he added.
While Palace would be delighted to create a little bit of positive history on Sunday, Arsenal will be equally keen to avoid losing the first two matches of a Premier League season for the first time since 1992-93.
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