With half of the season now officially completed following the 3-3 draw with Liverpool last Friday, and Arsenal still sitting uncomfortably outside of the top 4, every single point being played for takes on a new significance.

In just a few hours, Arsene Wenger and his side will be making the short trip across London to Selhurst Park to take on a well-performing Crystal Palace side with the hope of earning all 3 points.

Palace are a team undoubtedly rejuvenated under Roy Hodgson. Before he arrived, they were a team filled with talent that were seemingly unable to find the net during Frank de Boer’s incredibly short reign at the club.

18 points from 12 games was almost unimaginable following the first 4 games of this season, which Palace lost while failing to find the net – this continued into Hodgson’s first 3 games also, but obviously things have improved.

Perhaps a team with the likes of Yohan Cabaye, Christian Benteke, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Andros Townsend and perhaps most of all, Wilfred Zaha were genuinely just having a bad streak of luck at the beginning of the season, but whatever the case, they are now surging up the table, having gone from rock-bottom to 16th – with a win tonight capable of moving them as high as 12th. It’s some turnaround.

Amazingly, Palace are currently on the longest unbeaten run in their Premier League history with 8 games without loss – in contrast to the visiting side.
Arsenal currently have the worst form in the top-6, having won 2 of the last 6 games, drawn 3 and lost 1.

With this being the case, it is integral that Arsenal pick up wins – not draws or losses – against the teams below them in the table. While the league appears to be sowed up already, the race for Champions League positions is as competitive as it has been in years – dropping points in matches where the Gunners are clear favourites will be punished across the second half of the season.

Uninspiring draws against West Ham United and Southampton were followed up with a solid win against Newcastle United and a credible draw against Liverpool following a languid performance (bar 5 insane minutes).

This visit to Selhurst Park will be a far tougher preposition than it would have been at the start of the season, but Arsenal will still be confident of making the trip back across London with 3 points... the same however, could have been said when this exact fixture was contested in April of this year, when Sam Allardyce’s Palace turned Arsenal over 3-0.

That humiliation was actually one of only 2 clean sheets Palace have kept at home in the past 13 League matches, so Gunners supporter will be hoping that the free-scoring antics of one particular stretch in the Liverpool match will be replicated against Hodgson’s side, considering goals have been hard come-by in League fixtures during the month of December.

Arsenal’s away form has been very poor thus-far this season – recording only two away league wins (Everton and Burnley); their joint worst of a Premier League season after nine away games.

In terms of teams, both sides will be missing players. Palace are perhaps worse off than Arsenal, as Mamadou Sakho is out with a strained calf and Joel Ward misses the game with a groin problem. Jason Puncheon remains available for selection despite being charged with possession of a weapon and assault.

Also available is Benteke, who missed the Eagles clash with Swansea before Christmas with a suspension. The striker has re-found some form following a slow start to his season after returning from injury, and has punished Arsenal in the past – a brace that helped Aston Villa to a 3-1 win in the opening game of the 2013/14 season springs to mind. This fear may be alleviated slightly with the knowledge that the Belgian striker has only managed to find the net three times at Selhurst Park in 25 League matches. Nonetheless, he possesses an undeniable threat from both set-pieces and on the counter.

Arsenal’s personnel will be lacking both Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey – both out with hamstring injuries until January. Defender Nacho Monreal has also been ruled out due to an ankle injury that is expected to take a week and a half or so for him to recover.

The team that Wenger will select is anticipated to be similar to the one that was fielded against Liverpool, with the defence changing Monreal with Shkrodan Mustafi, as was the case at half time in that game following Monreal’s knock.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles did a great job of tempering Mohammed Salah, who has devastated other teams but the young full-back managed to maintain him well. Even though Sead Kolasinac is fit, it appears the young Englishman will retain his place, with Hector Bellerin expected to do the same on the other flank.

In central midfield, the combination of Jack Wilshire and Liverpool goal scorers Granit Xhaka and Ozil (playing in a deeper role than usual) worked well on Friday night, and will hopefully do the same again tonight.

The front three is expected to be Alexandre Lacazette and Alexis Sanchez – who combined well on Friday night, even without the Frenchman finding the net, he was influential in the goals; and Alex Iwobi.

Iwobi was poor against Klopp’s side, with his new-found role as a right-winger being found out a little, with his positional intelligence and a number of loose first touches meaning he was perhaps Arsenal’s weakest player on the night. If he is to be dropped, the alternative would be to implement Danny Welbeck in his position, as he is a more natural winger than Iwobi – although still lacking match fitness.

However the team lines out, a tough and dogged game appears to be in the works. A comfortable Arsenal win is difficult to envision considering both teams form, so a win by any means would be a sought-after result.

Arsenal visit Selhurst Park to play Crystal Palace in the Premier League tonight, with kick-off at 8pm.