Mikel Arteta is eager to ensure his players are fully focused on their return to action against Crystal Palace on Monday as Arsenal begin their end-of-season run-in.
The Gunners have won six of their past seven Premier League matches to take control in a tight battle for a top-four finish.
With a gap of more than two weeks between matches, however, and a number of players returning from international duty, Arteta is keen to avoid slipping up against Palace.
“I’ve got to try to refocus them. When they’re on international duty all the time they’re being asked to do different things, different roles, different kind of pressures,” Arteta said.
“For some of them, it was their first international, so emotionally for them as well it’s very draining.
“I’ve got to make sure that everyone is fine and look forward to the challenge that we have ahead.”
Arsenal have nine matches to see through in their quest to qualify for the Champions League, while Palace’s only realistic target at this point is to finish in the top half.
The Eagles, managed by Arsenal midfield legend Patrick Vieira, are unbeaten in four league games and are through to the FA Cup semi-finals.
Having come within seconds of beating Arsenal in a 2-2 draw earlier this season, Vieira is now looking to dent his former side’s top-four prospects in this latest meeting.
“It’s about the concentration we have to have, especially against that kind of team,” the Frenchman said. “We know from when we started to today, we’re in a different place.
“Arsenal have a good squad and a good manager. Now they have a really clear understanding about how they want to play, are playing better football and have confidence.
“It’s going to be challenging for us but we’re in a really good period as well.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Crystal Palace – Michael Olise
Palace may well be without key attacker Wilfried Zaha, who sustained a knock on Ivory Coast duty, but they have some other players capable of stepping up.
Look no further than Olise, who has eight assists in all competitions this term – only Zaha (nine) has provided more in a single season since Palace returned to the top flight in 2013.
Arsenal – Bukayo Saka
Arsenal also have a few fitness doubts, including Aaron Ramsdale and Saka, who was recently struck down by coronavirus.
Arteta will certainly hope to have Saka available, the winger having scored the winner in his most recent appearance against Aston Villa – his ninth league goal of the season.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Palace have won just one of their last nine Premier League games against Arsenal (D5 L3), with five of the last seven meetings between the sides ending level (W1 L1).
– Arsenal have lost just one of their last 16 away league games against Palace (W8 D7), though that defeat did come in a Monday night game back in April 2017 (3-0).
– The Eagles have won just one of their last 15 Premier League games on a Monday (D6 L8), winning 2-1 at Brighton in February 2021. Palace have drawn all three of their Monday games this season, including the reverse fixture against Arsenal in October (2-2).
– Palace have won just one of their last 17 Premier League London derby matches (D8 L8), beating Tottenham 3-0 in September this season. The Eagles have never beaten both Arsenal and Spurs within the same league campaign before.
– After losing their first two London derby matches this season, Arsenal are unbeaten in their last four in the Premier League (W3 D1). The Gunners are looking to win three consecutive London derbies in the league for the first time since March 2015.