Arsenal’s 2015/16 Premier League campaign will likely be remembered as the master class in how to shoot oneself in the foot.
If Arsene Wenger himself were to devise a chain of events that would make it as easy as possible for his Gunners team to win the title, it probably wouldn’t have worked out as favourable as this one.
The three teams that have prevented the north Londoners reigning supreme in each of the previous 11 seasons – Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea – have all performed way below par, clearing a path for what should have been one of the most straightforward conquests in recent years.
Arsenal even managed to beat rookie leaders Leicester City home AND away, accounting for two of the Foxes’ three defeats this season.
Yet, despite all this, they somehow find themselves 12 points adrift of Claudio Ranieri’s leaders with just six matches left to close the gap.
The wafer-thin hopes they harboured of doing so were essentially eradicated in a 3-3 draw with West Ham United last weekend, leaving the confirmation of a top-four finish their real primary objective for the remainder of this term.
But having messed up the title so spectacularly, what’s to say they can’t fall away in the race to finish amongst the Champions League places?
Given that they qualify for the competition every season, few will be backing against the Gunners snaring a top-four spot, but siding with Crystal Palace to beat them this weekend, thus planting the seeds of top-four failure, will pay off…here’s why:
Win, Lose or Draw?
The Eagles teeter on the verge of guaranteed Premier League survival after securing their first win of 2016 against Norwich City last weekend and can seal the deal by catching Arsenal cold.
Not since 1994 have they beaten their cross-capital counterparts, where two John Salako strikes entitled Palace to a 2-1 win at Highbury.
It’s this scoreline that runs through the core of the duo’s recent head-to-head ledger, with the previous three meetings ending this way, only in favour of the hosts.
Arsenal took the laurels in the two meetings prior to these three too, winning 2-0 home and away in the 2013/14 edition.
These figures may serve to quash belief in a shock win, but the nature of the results is exactly where our Palace support is derived.
The Gunners pounded Watford 4-0 in their last league game at home, but before they leaked exactly two in three straight matches and lost the lot, with one side notching bang on two in five of their last eight.
In a similar vein, Palace have registered a brace in four consecutive road games across all competitions, conspiring to lose just one of these.
Given Arsenal’s recent struggles at home, another two-goal salvo from the visitors will be enough to ensure maximum points are snared.
Recommended bet: Palace to beat Arsenal @ 31/4
As we’ve ascertained, Alan Pardew’s troops will notch twice, so any goal from Arsenal will knock us into overs territory.
The astute odds masters at bwin towers make over 2.5 goals a 31/50 banker, but four of the past five Eagles outings have fallen shy of the three-goal mark and, with a distinct chance of this one ending 2-0, another unders instalment might be worth a wager.
Recommended bet: Under 2.5 goals @ 5/4
Who’s Going to Score?
As would be expected, Arsenal players dominate the goalscorer markets, leaving some meaty prices for the Palace protagonists to lug around.
One of those outside shots is Connor Wickham.
The former Ipswich Town and Sunderland striker was introduced ahead of Emmanuel Adebayor when Dwight Gayle withdrew injured during his side’s midweek goalless draw with Everton.
He has hit four on his most recent pair of away outings and after watching similarly-built Andy Carroll cause the Gunners so many problems at Upton Park last weekend, Pardew would be foolish to allow anyone else to lead the line.
Recommended bet: Wickham to score first @ 13/4
As mentioned, Palace have found the net exactly twice in each of their previous four road games. The astute mathematicians among our readership will have already deduced that equates to eight goals in total.
Of this octet, seven came after the break. If their post-interval scorer-troubling streak stretches into this game, the visitors must be backed to win the second half at least.
Recommended bet: Palace to win the second half @ 23/4