Crystal Palace v Arsenal preview: Roy Hodgson surprised by Eagles' Premier League revival
Last Updated: 28/12/17 7:23pm
Roy Hodgson has admitted he did not expect Crystal Palace to be starting the second half of the Premier League season outside the relegation zone, as they prepare to host Arsenal on Thursday.
Palace were bottom of the table with no points and no goals after four games when Hodgson was appointed manager following Frank de Boer's short-lived reign.
Hodgson lost his first three matches in charge - 1-0, 5-0 and 4-0 - but since then Palace have taken 18 points from 12 games to climb up to 16th place and be two points above the relegation zone.
"We're trying to chip away at those first seven games when we had zero points," Hodgson said after Palace's 1-1 draw at Swansea City on Saturday.
"It's an enormous handicap to give yourself and have a big minus goal difference as well.
"We needed big performances to get on an even keel, and that's what we've done in the last two or three months.
"We've brought ourselves into a pack of teams who have to look over their shoulders and be worried that the spectre of relegation is not leading them.
"I expected it to take a lot longer to get ourselves into contention to the other teams.
"But we know there's an awful long way to go and that it's going to be a fight for every point until the end of the season."
Palace extended the longest unbeaten run in their Premier League history to eight games at Swansea on the weekend, but will face a tough examination when Champions League-chasing Arsenal visit Selhurst Park on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Arsenal have dropped to sixth in the table, three points behind rivals Tottenham in fifth and four adrift of Liverpool in the fourth and final Champions League berth, albeit with this their match in hand.
And ahead of his team's trip across the capital, Wenger has insisted he has "learned to cope" with battling richer rivals during his 21 years in charge of the north London club.
"I have been in that position for 21 years so I can't start to complain now," said Wenger, of Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho's frustrations with Manchester City flexing their financial muscles.
"There have always been three or four teams richer than I am. I've learned to cope with that.
"We deal with our own situation as well as we can. Man City, Chelsea and Man United are all richer than us.
"You have to find ways to be successful."
Palace will have striker Christian Benteke available for the visit of Arsenal after the Belgium international missed the clash at the Liberty Stadium through suspension.
However, defender Mamadou Sakho misses the clash with a calf strain, Joel Ward is still struggling with a groin problem, although Jason Puncheon remains available for selection despite being charged with possession of an offensive weapon and assault.
Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud misses the clash in southeast London with the France international sidelined until January 15 with a hamstring problem.
Defender Nacho Monreal has also been ruled out due to an ankle injury that is expected to take 10 days to clear, while midfielder Aaron Ramsey will be unavailable as well as he battles a hamstring problem of his own.
Palace have won only one of their last 12 home league games against Arsenal (D5 L6), though it was a 3-0 victory in this exact fixture last season.
Arsenal have only failed to score in two of their last 19 league games against Palace - the 0-3 loss last season and a 0-0 draw at Selhurst Park in October 1997.
After losing their first three home league games of the season without scoring, Palace are unbeaten in their last six at Selhurst Park (W3 D3 L0) and have scored exactly two goals in each game.
Arsenal have only won two Premier League away games this season - their joint-fewest tally after nine away games of a campaign in the Premier League era (level with 1994-95, 1998-99, 2000-01 and 2005-06).
This will be a good game. You look at Arsenal against Liverpool and it was an entertaining game. But seriously, you are not going to win anything at all playing like that. I am going to go 3-2 to Arsenal though…
PAUL PREDICTS: 2-3 (20/1 with Sky Bet)