14 August 2014 21:26
Crystal Palace’s preparations for their opening league match at Arsenal have been overshadowed by uncertainty over the future of Tony Pulis.
Spirits were high at Selhurst Park at the end of last term as Pulis led Palace to a superb finish of 11th after the club were languishing in the Premier League relegation zone when took over last November.
Indeed, such was Palace’s form – which included five straight wins between March 29 and April 19 – that the Welshman was awarded the division’s manager of the season award.
However, the joy of last season could soon turn to despair as rumours in the media have suggested that Pulis could depart amid talk of a rift with Palace co-chairman Steve Parish over the club’s activity in the transfer market.
Parish himself failed to end that speculation on Thursday when he told the London Evening Standard: “I can’t comment. I don’t know anything about it.”
The two are apparently now set for showdown talks to discuss Pulis’ future and the speculation is less than ideal ahead of Saturday’s curtain-raiser at the Emirates Stadium of Saturday.
While it remains to be seen if Pulis will be in the dugout, Martin Kelly could make his debut in the game after the defender joined from Liverpool on Thursday, penning a three-year deal.
Forward Fraizer Campbell and centre-back Brede Hangeland could also make their Palace bows, but there are doubts over the availability of Damien Delaney (knock), Adrian Mariappa (rib) and Jonathan Williams (thigh).
While the mood at Palace appears somewhat despondent, there is a stark contrast at Arsenal, who head into the clash on the back of an excellent 3-0 victory over Premier League champions Manchester City in the Community Shield last Sunday.
Santi Cazorla, Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud were all on target at Wembley, where Mathieu Debuchy, Calum Chambers and Alexis Sanchez made their Arsenal debuts.
Alexis’ big-money arrival from Barcelona has particularly caught the imagination at the Emirates and the forward’s signing has added to the feel-good factor that has grown since Arsenal ended a nine-year trophy drought by beating Hull City in the FA Cup final in May.
And midfielder Ramsey believes Arsene Wenger’s men can use that momentum to push for the Premier League title this season after finishing fourth in 2013-14.
“I think there’s going to be about six teams involved right until the wire,” Ramsey told the club’s official website.
“It’s going to be difficult but I think we have a great team here and great team spirit. We’re in a good place at the moment.
“Hopefully we can get off to a good start in the season and put [ourselves] in a good position.”
Ahead of the match, Wenger revealed centre-back Laurent Koscielny (Achilles) should be fit to play.
However, Abou Diaby (hip), Theo Walcott (knee), Ryo Miyaichi (knock), Serge Gnabry (knock) and close-season signing David Ospina (thigh) will miss out.
Wenger also hinted last week that Arsenal’s Germany international trio of Per Mertesacker, Lukas Podolski and Mesut Ozil would not feature after their World Cup-winning exploits.