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Thursday, 13 December, 2018

Zaha overpriced to put Gunners on the back foot

Palace forward can keep up good run of form

Wilfried Zaha of Crystal Palace celebrates
1 of 1

Premier League
Sky Sports 1, Monday 8.00pm

Crystal Palace talisman Wilfried Zaha livened up the title race with a goal and an assist against Chelsea nine days ago and he can have a big say in the battle for Champions League places by scoring against Arsenal at Selhurst Park.

Zaha has scored six league goals this season – equal to the best he has achieved in seven seasons as a professional – but is capable of delivering much much more in the years ahead.

Consistency has not always been his strong point but the penny has dropped this season and Zaha has contributed seven assists – the second highest among players from bottom-half teams.

With his ability he should be achieving a double-figure goal tally every season.

However, he has netted twice in his last four games and the goals should continue to flow now he has a manager in Sam Allardyce who encourages him to play closer to striker Christian Benteke.

The pair dismantled Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and are the obvious dangermen facing Arsenal, who desperately need three points to boost their top-four hopes.

Wins for Liverpool and Manchester City on Saturday have left the Gunners seven points outside the Champions League places.

Arsene Wenger's men have played 29 games – three fewer than Liverpool and two fewer than City – but there is very little margin for error if they are to extend their proud record of 20 consecutive top-four finishes.

The debate over Wenger's future rages on and his cause has been helped by the return to prominence of Mesut Ozil, who starred in last Wednesday's 3-0 victory at home to West Ham.

If Ozil is on top of his game and Alexis Sanchez stays fit there may be a chance for the Gunners to break into the top four.

But they will need to show more resilience at the back and improve drastically on recent away performances.

Arsenal's 3-1 loss at West Brom was their fourth defeat in five away matches (the exception being a 2-0 success at Sutton in the FA Cup fifth round).

And with the West Brom capitulation reasonably fresh in the memory, it is hard to contemplate smashing into odds-on quotes that they win at Palace.

Palace are also hard to fancy with any degree of confidence given their injury problems (as many as ten players could be ruled out) and their poor home record (four wins, one draw and nine defeats).

The teams look better in attack than defence, so odds-on quotes for both teams to score are understandable.

But there is a disparity in the first scorer prices with Zaha's 14-1 quote sticking out like a sore thumb compared to Benteke (7-1), Sanchez (4-1) Danny Welbeck (5-1) and Ozil (10-1).

Zaha's past statistics might justify such lengthy odds but his future is likely to be a lot brighter and punters should back him while the value still exists.

W Zaha first goalscorer
1pt each way 14-1 Sky Bet 

Team news
Crystal Palace
Joe Ledley is available after the birth of his son but James McArthur (back) and Yohan Cabaye (unspecified) are doubts and Patrick Van Aanholt, Scott Dann, Connor Wickham, Pape Souare and James Tomkins are injured.

Petr Cech (calf) and David Ospina (back) are out so third choice keeper Emiliano Martinez continues to deputise. Francis Coquelin missed the win over West Ham due to personal reasons but is back in the squad. Laurent Koscielny (Achilles) is out. 

Key stat
Arsenal have kept one clean sheet in their last ten Premier League away games.

With his ability he should be achieving a double-figure goal tally every season
E.W. Terms
Sky bet