Crystal Palace-Arsenal Preview


Arsenal went nine years between trophies, and now they have two in three months.

Arsene Wenger thinks he's positioned the Gunners to aim for more in 2014-15.

A week after comfortably winning the Community Shield, Arsenal open the Premier League season at the Emirates on Saturday against Crystal Palace, who are in disarray following the shock resignation of manager Tony Pulis.

Arsenal finally emerged from their trophy drought with a piece of silverware by beating Hull City 3-2 in the FA Cup final on May 17 - the club's first major title since the 2005 FA Cup.

It didn't take very long to add another, as the Gunners routed Manchester City 3-0 on Sunday, claiming their first Community Shield since 2004.

Now, Wenger hopes his tactics in the transfer market will pay off on the pitch, and lead Arsenal to its first Premier League crown since the Invincibles of 2003-04.

"We have more money available to buy today than we had five years ago," Wenger said. "We can compete better. For years we have lost top players without the ability to replace them because of financial management."

Wenger's latest lavish acquisition is Alexis Sanchez, who was deemed surplus goods at Barcelona and moved to London for a tidy 31 million pounds.

The forward had 19 goals in La Liga last term, and was a star for Chile at this summer's World Cup, scoring twice in four matches. He's expected to feature as a dynamic playmaker behind striker Olivier Giroud, although Wenger seems comfortable employing him in a range of positions.

"He can play through the middle and (on) both flanks," Wenger told the club's official website. "He's a striker type, and I believe he gives us many options."

Arsenal certainly have plenty through the midfield. Santi Cazorla and Mesut Ozil are back to provide offensive flair to a midfield that is still seeking some steel - an area Wenger is expected to address before the close of the transfer window.

Ozil was last summer's extravagant addition, joining Arsenal from Real Madrid for 42 million pounds.

Still, the scoring responsibility may fall to Giroud, who led the team with 22 goals in all competitions and scored the final tally on Sunday against City. The Frenchman had a goal in a 2-0 win over Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Oct. 26, and assisted on one of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's two goals in a victory by the same score at home Feb. 2.

Arsenal haven't lost to Palace since October 1994.

"We want to set a marker and we don't want to miss that opportunity," said midfielder Mikel Arteta.

While Wenger is starting his 19th season at the helm of Arsenal, Crystal Palace are left to search for a replacement for Pulis, who unexpectedly quit Thursday - less than a year since stepping in for the fired Ian Holloway in November.

The league's reigning manager of the season, Pulis was reportedly at odds with co-chairman Steve Parish over the club's policy in the transfer market.

Palace has elevated assistant Keith Millen to caretaker manager until a suitable replacement can be found, and the reported dispute could pose a problem for a club trying to build on some impressive success last season.

The Eagles lost nine of their first 10 league matches last season. However, they went 5-2-1 over the final eight matches to finish a surprising 11th in their first season back in the top flight since 2004-05.

Despite their impressive league finish, the Eagles scored just 33 goals, the fewest for any team that wasn't relegated.

Perhaps finding a suitable offensive threat at forward led to Pulis' departure since Crystal Palace addressed that area with Fraizer Campbell. The forward, a once-heralded youngster with Manchester United, had six goals for relegated Cardiff City last season.