Palace 1-1 Norwich
Crystal Palace and Norwich City played out a score draw in horrendous conditions at Selhurst Park. Two pre match pitch inspections were undertaken as the rain refused to relent and if the game was played two hours later there would have been a good chance of a postponement. Referee Mike Dean, however, deemed the game playable and the result saw Palace slip back into the bottom three.
Norwich took the lead with the only real moment of quality in the first half. Gary Hooper disposed Danny Gabbidon and squared to Bradley Johnson who curled a beautiful shot into the corner, finding the net via the post.
Palace had previously squandered two great chances as Jason Puncheon volleyed into his standing foot and Cameron Jerome somehow missed when completely unmarked at the back post. The latter chance saw Norwich stopper John Ruddy make a dive to stop the ball and the slide after the dive could not be halted and he crashed into the post.
Arguably Marouane Chamakh could have seen red after he reacted to a being fouled, however, Dean produced a yellow for both players and Palace were to equalise shortly after. Martin Olsson for the second time this season cleared a Palace shot off the line, this time denying Jerome after he denied Barry Bannan at Carrow Road, but this only delayed the inevitable. The resulting corner was swung in and Jedinak was fouled for a penalty. Puncheon converted and Palace went looking for the win in the second half.
Ruddy almost spilled a Puncheon cross into his own net before Jerome was again guilty of missing a golden chance as he blazed over from eight yards out. He was later replaced by Gayle who produced a stunning turn to beat two Norwich defenders only for the weather to intervene, seeing the ball just slip from his grasp before he could get his shot away.
"Fer was dismissed in the closing stages for a second bookable offence."
Fer was dismissed by Dean in the closing stages for a second bookable offence, although it would have been hard to argue against a straight red. Both cards were picked up for fouls on the Palace captain Mile Jedinak who was once again a beast in the middle of the park. As often happens when a team go down to ten men Norwich simply look to shut up shop and Palace failed to take advantage of the extra man.
The result really did neither team any favours and we will have to wait until later in the season to see how worthwhile a point it is.
Midfield Conundrum: The Beginning of the End for Barry Bannan?
As the teams were announced many Palace fans immediately pointed out that Barry Bannan was missing from the starting eleven. Bannan has produced a string of fine performances this season, however, it is clear that the signs of a Bannan dropping have been there in the past few weeks as he has been substituted early and often. Here is why.
"Since Pulis has arrived we have fielded exclusively a 4-4-1-1 formation and this spells disaster for the diminutive Scot."
Since Pulis has arrived we have fielded exclusively a 4-4-1-1 formation and this spells disaster for the diminutive Scot. At Norwich he was immediately move by Pulis from the middle of the park to wide left and has spent most of the time there since, with Villa being the notable exception where Chamakh’s suspension saw him moved in behind Jerome. The reason he was moved out there was twofold. Thomas and Bolasie were both injured and Kebe being unfit vs Bannan scoring the winner at Hull the week before meant that Bannan got the nod. The injury to Kebe then meant that he was the only viable option in this position.
Whilst his performances have been adequate out wide, it has only really been in the middle of the park where he has been able to influence games (dead balls aside).
"Several events will now conspire to keep him out of the starting eleven."
Several events will now conspire to keep him out of the starting eleven. Chamakh’s brilliance in the second striker role means that he has to be one of the first names on the team sheet. His hold play and link play between the midfield and striker is immense and there is just no way that Bannan can be as effective as the Moroccan, especially when considering the more direct style of play that Pulis likes to employ. So the advance midfield role is out of the question.
Then we have the return of Yannick Bolasie. Now do not get me wrong, the jury is still out on Bolasie as a Premier League player. You have his man of the match performance at Villa Park where he was a constant menace vs his performance yesterday that was nothing short of infuriating. Even Yala himself said on Facebook; “Strange game for myself today. Nothing seemed to be clicking.” If Yala can find some consistency then there is just simply no way that Pulis will put Bannan in ahead of Bolasie. Further still, when Bolasie was substituted yesterday it was Williams that came on and not Bannan... Although this is not Williams’ natural position, he is more adept there than Bannan with his more direct style of play. Then, as previously mentioned, there is still Thomas and Kebe to return from injury and, if the tabloids are anything to go by, the potential arrival of Matthew Etherington.
So to fit Bannan in you are now having to look backwards. Jedinak is clearly a mainstay so that leaves one holding midfield slot up for grabs. The requirement of the KG position, as I will call it, is to be combative and as box to box as possible. Whilst Bannan has the box to box in him, he lacks the physical presence that is required from the KG position to break up play as often as is desired. Again, Pulis clearly shares this view as his sub at half time saw KG removed, after a quite frankly shocking performance, and replaced by Parr, seeing Ward move back into the middle. Going forward in this position we still have O’Keefe and Guedioura yet to return from injuries, players that are much more physically commanding than Bannan.
Whilst many of us have been impressed by Bannan, I just cannot see how he now fits into our team with Pulis at the helm. This really could be the beginning of the end for Barry, almost before he has even started.
Man of the Match: Jason Puncheon
I have been very critical of Puncheon since his arrival, however, I do not believe that this criticism has been unfair. Early on in his Palace career he looked out of form and uninterested. Form can dip and this is acceptable, a lack of effort is not. He sauntered around the pitch, always went backwards and looked like he’d struggle to trouble an ant with a magnifying glass and sunlight.
"The last few weeks have been better from the man on loan from Southampton."
The last few weeks have been better from the man on loan from Southampton. With the exception of the Villa game, where he was appalling, his effort has increased tenfold, his form is improving and he is actually starting to trouble fullbacks. For a 20 minute period in the second half he was almost unplayable and in better conditions would have undoubtedly unlocked the Norwich defence.
He also showed the bottle to step up and take the penalty, which was impressive.
There is still a lot to come from Puncheon I feel. Let’s hope that he no longer disappoints.
No idea whether it was the cold, rain, hangovers, football or a combination of all but it was undoubtedly the worst atmosphere this season. Hopefully we will be back on it by the time that we play Spurs.
Up Next: West Brom
A weekend off from the Premier League to participate in the magic of the FA Cup... against a team we played a few weeks ago that, just like us, will field mostly a second team and not really care either way about the result. Just hope that we get to see a couple of youngsters, preferably Kaikai and Boateng.
Come on you Palace!