Palace 0-3 Newcastle
Crystal Palace were swept aside by Newcastle United on a wet and blustery afternoon at Selhurst Park and will spend Christmas in the bottom three. Yohan Cabaye and Hatem Ben Arfa scored either side of a Danny Gabbidon own goal seeing the visitors comfortably home.
For the first time since the Fulham debacle the Eagles failed to show up allowing Newcastle to completely control proceedings. Yohan Cabaye, backed up by Tiote, bossed the middle of the park and had our boys chasing shadows for a majority of the afternoon.
"Unlike in recent weeks we faltered at key moments in the match."
Unlike in recent weeks we faltered at key moments in the match. "We had one great chance, Cameron's chance with twenty minutes to go. If Cameron scores then it would have given everybody a lift and made Newcastle a little bit nervous" said Pulis after the match. During our run of good form these "great" chances were hitting the back of the net. This was not the case yesterday and it was back to being outclassed by our opponents.
Why So Poor?
In recent weeks the only real disruptions to team selection was the injury picked up by Dean Moxey and with Ward's ability to switch to left back it did not become an issue. As a result we could field a consistent eleven and this is crucial when playing against superior opposition week in week out. The players gain a solid understanding which results in good team performances that can, at times, counteract said superior footballing ability.
Unfortunately injuries to Dikgacoi and O'Keefe meant that a reshuffle was needed and this directly affected our performance. Ward was moved into centre midfield in place of KG/O'Keefe and Moxey returned at left back and, in simple terms, it did not work.
Firstly Moxey was so far off the pace that I can only imagine that he was not fully fit. Time and time again Newcastle got in down the left hand side and were lucky not to be more severely punished.
"Ward looked lost in centre midfield."
Secondly Ward looked lost in centre midfield. He was always too close to Jedinak, which in turn affected the captains performance and left space in the middle that Cabaye and co easily exploited.
It all seemed a bit too square pegs in round holes.
To be fair to Pulis this is probably only the second time he has gotten it wrong since his arrival, with the first being his (in my humble opinion) team selection at Norwich where he wrongly changed a winning team.
Barry Bannan is a centre midfielder. He has been doing a sufficient job out wide, however, it is in the middle of the park where he excels (think Hull away) so why not play him there. If Bannan starts in the middle, Joel Ward continues at left back and Bolasie plays wide then we have players playing in positions that they are more accustomed to. Instead Pulis selects what looks like an unfit full back, plays a full back in the middle and a centre midfielder out wide. It didn't make sense to me at the start and the result only reaffirms this point for me.
Pulis made two changes at the break. Parr replaced Moxey and Bolasie replaced Bannan. He correctly identified the left hand side as the problem and removed Moxey from the fray. However, instead of fighting the problem with one of the best fullbacks in the division (Ward) he brings on Parr to make his Premier League debut. The Norwegian's performance was very below par, pun fully intended, meanwhile Ward continued to run around like a headless chicken in the middle of the park.
"Instead they got the ball down and played on the ground."
One substitution (Bolasie for Moxey) would have been enough at the break. Moving Bannan to the centre would not only have offered the team more balance but would have also meant a more productive performance in relation to the conditions. With the wind and rain the way it was it was not a day for long ball. Newcastle tried a few long balls early, looking to get the very impressive Remy in behind, however, they quickly realised that there was little to no chance of being able to accurately hit a long pass. Instead they got the ball down and played on the ground.
Sure we are not as adept at doing this but Bannan does posses this ability. In the middle of the park he would have been able to keep the ball on the grass and bring Puncheon and Bolasie into the game in wide areas where we might have been able to hurt Newcastle.
That felt like a massive rant...
Not Bottom at Christmas
On the plus side, we were supposed to be already down by now yet sit 18th and only a couple of decent results away from mid table. There is certainly an element of us doing well to be in this position, however, we have been helped by a considerable number of very poor teams turning out this season. After the doom and gloom that was the start of the season, I actually believe that this is probably the best shot that we have of securing consecutive Premier League seasons for the first time in our history.
As we are in touch money will be spent in January, Pulis will be able to further enforce his playing style with new additions and keeping our head above the many poor teams that are in this league might just be possible come May.
Man of the Match:
I'm not awarding one on the grounds that no one deserved it.
Average at best. It had its moments but a little bit like the performance, it was a bit flat.
Up Next: Aston Villa
Can we pick up a result? It is hard to tell on huge grounds that it is impossible to know which Villa will turn up. Will it be the Villa that turned over Arsenal in the own backyard or will it be the Villa that were a damp squib against United last week? Hopefully it will be the latter and we can get some much need points.
Come on you Palace!