Aug 16, 2014 at 5.30pm UK at ​Emirates Stadium
Crystal Palace
Koscielny (46'), Ramsey (91')
Chambers (44'), Cazorla (60')
FT(HT: 0-1)
Hangeland (35')
Puncheon (48'), Chamakh (68'), Kelly (77')
Puncheon (87')

Preview: Arsenal vs. Crystal Palace

Sports Mole previews Arsenal's Premier League season opener against Crystal Palace at the Emirates as the Gunners look to build on their 2014 FA Cup triumph.

Arsenal begin their season with the visit of Crystal Palace on Saturday, arguably in their best position to mount a Premier League title challenge in some time.

Manager Arsene Wenger has done his business early and the 3-0 Community Shield victory over Manchester City last weekend showed that confidence is high in the Gunners camp following their FA Cup triumph in May.

A squad that is no longer burdened by a nine-year trophy drought has been enhanced by the world-class attacking talents of Alexis Sanchez, who joined from Barcelona for a fee in the region of £35m.

Calum Chambers and Mathieu Debuchy have also come in to compensate for the exits of Bacary Sagna and Thomas Vermaelen, but Wenger may feel that his defence is lacking depth, especially with Per Mertesacker not yet available.

The German only returned to pre-season training this week and, along with fellow World Cup winners Mesut Ozil and Lukas Podolski, has been given extra time to rest before resuming domestic duties.

There is therefore likely to be a start in midfield for England international Jack Wilshere, who has been criticised by Wenger for his smoking habit and yet backed to have a breakthrough campaign.

Theo Walcott is still over a month away from returning from the anterior cruciate ligament injury that prevented him competing in Brazil, while Serge Gnabry and new goalkeeper David Opsina are doubts for this weekend.

Chambers may be asked to partner Laurent Koscielny at centre-back against a Palace side who scored fewer goals – 33 – than any of the other 16 teams that retained their top-flight status last term.

Fraizer Campbell has been signed to help improve their attacking potency, and could be partnered up front by former Gunners striker Marouane Chamakh at the Emirates Stadium.

It was the improvements inspired by Tony Pulis at the other end of the pitch which helped the Eagles go from relegation certainties to mid-table comfort in a remarkable 2014 turnaround.

Palace went on a club-record run of five consecutive wins to help them secure a second successive season in the Premier League for the first time, and co-chairman Steve Parish now has ambitions beyond relegation avoidance.

Pulis has improved his defence with the acquisition of experienced Premier League performer Brede Hangeland and Martin Kelly from Liverpool but has otherwise been fairly quiet in the transfer market.

Behind the Norwegian, Julian Speroni and Wayne Hennessey are competing for the number one jersey. Jonny Williams and Adrian Mariappa face late fitness tests, while Jerome Thomas is definitely out.

Palace have not beaten Arsenal in any competition since a 2-1 victory at Highbury in October 1994.

Possible starting lineups

Arsenal: Szczesny; Debuchy, Chambers, Koscielny, Gibbs; Arteta, Ramsey; Cazorla, Wilshere, Sanchez; Giroud

Palace: Speroni; Ward, Hangeland, Dann, Delaney; Puncheon, Jedinak, Ledley, Bolasie; Chamakh, Campbell

Sports Mole says: 2-0

Who will win Saturday's match between Arsenal and Crystal Palace at the Emirates Stadium?

Edin Dzeko #10 and Stevan Jovetic #35 of Manchester City celebrate a goal by Jovetic during the first half of the International Champions Cup match against the Olympiacos on August 2, 2014
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Preview: Man City vs. Arsenal
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