Palace 1-3 West Ham
Keith Millen failed his managerial audition as his self-defined “lacklustre” Crystal Palace were blown away by West Ham at Selhurst Park.
First half goals from Mauro Zarate and Stewart Downing gave West Ham a seemingly unassailable lead only for Marouane Chamakh to give Palace a glimmer of hope just three minutes into the second half with a low drilled shot from outside the box (yes, Marouane Chamakh actually shot from outside the box) but not before the Hammers had hit the crossbar through Tomkins, taking advantage of yet more poor Palace defending from set pieces.
"The life was sucked out of 22,000 red ‘n’ blue souls."
With the crowd raising the decibel levels and the home side actually competing for the first time in the match it looked like an equaliser might be on the cards. Then a harmless free kick was floated into the area and with one swing of Cole’s right boot the life was sucked out of 22,000 red ‘n’ blue souls.
Palace can feel slightly aggrieved that at 0-0 the scorer of the first West Ham goal and the catalyst for most of the their good play, Zarate, did not receive a straight red for a nasty tackle on O’Keefe but this does not detract from the obvious; Palace need a new manager and fast!
The way the game panned out is actually a perfect analogy of the past few weeks at Crystal Palace Football Club.
"The crowd are loud, the football looks good and we’re clearly going to run this shower of sh**e over."
First there was hope. With Pulis in charge never had there been so much positivity going into a new Premier League season, we were at the start of something beautiful. In the first ten minutes it was all Palace, only a piece of world class defending prevents Chamakh from getting on the end of a Martin Kelly cross. The crowd are loud, the football looks good and we’re clearly going to run this shower of sh**e over.
Then we start to lose our grip on proceedings and West Ham start to come more and more into the game. Just like with the Pulis situation, there were whisperings that perhaps things were not as rosy as we may have thought that they were.
Then, bang! Everything falls down around our ears.
Zarate scores from range and Downing curls a beauty into the far corner. Pulis leaves.
Chamakh scores to give us hope and excitement starts to build. Malky Mackay is all but confirmed as our new boss and we can finally start to build for the season ahead.
Cole scores as we shoot ourselves in the foot defensively. Mackay loves a bit of “banter” and our season is once more in disarray.
The Palace rollercoaster is already in full swing for the 2014/15 season.
Towards the back end of the last season we boasted one of the stingiest defences in the division. We barely conceded a goal and whenever we did it was usually as a result of great football from the other team to which you simply had to tip your cap.
This season could not be more different.
We are all aware of our record of conceding from just one set piece under Pulis. Now we are in a situation where 4 out of 5 goals conceded have been from dead ball situations. I am looking for excuses for our lads but cannot find them.
"Is it a question of now that Pulis has gone are the players are getting slack?"
Is it a question of now that Pulis has gone are the players are getting slack because that little bit of extra effort that Pulis demanded from the players is deemed no longer necessary that he isn’t on the side line? Look at the first goal. A quickly taken corner and Barry Bannan was left trying to defend two players on his own. He does the best he can but the build-up from West Ham is so slow that there is more than enough time for someone to get out there and help him yet not a single Palace player even attempts to help out. Not one!
Martin Kelly I am pointing at you here. What the f*** are you doing just standing there and watching Bannan chase around two players like a blue arse fly? You are the right back, get out there and defend your position instead of just standing at the near looking like you’re day dreaming about bouncing on a pair of falsies.
Second goal and the finger is pointed in two different directions. Yannick Bolasie and Stuart O’Keefe, absolutely appalling.
"Stewart “I’ve got no right foot” Downing."
West Ham are running through a basic training ground drill. Get the ball wide right to the left footed winger, a runner on the inside takes out the defensive man in the middle allowing the left footed winger to cut inside and get away a shot. It was bloody Stewart “I’ve got no right foot” Downing on the ball. Where else do you think he is going?!?!
Now for the blame. Bolasie, pull your socks up and do your defensive duties. You were doing it last season, there is no excuses not to be doing it now. You just looked lazy and your lack of willing to track back completely exposed O’Keefe. You’re better than that.
Yes, I am willing to admit that O’Keefe was exposed here but his naivety saw him make the wrong decision. The run from Diame is for Delaney to pick up and he does. Only O’Keefe follows Diame in and allows the space to open up inside. The world and his wife knows that Downing is coming inside so just hold in the space that he wants to come into and he cannot get his shot off. Instead O’Keefe is pulled out, Delaney is left treading water and Downing has got an even bigger space to run into than he ever would expected.
I was criticised on Twitter yesterday by Jel of HOL Radio for singling out O’Keefe’s performance as poor. I stand by my, perhaps poorly executed, joke that he looked like a lost puppy out there.
As for the third goal. I am not even going to get into it.
All day long, schoolboy defending.
Squad Depth Exposed
I spent the best part of the evening crying into the numerous amount of ciders that I drunk, unable to shake this one thought:
If Mile Jedinak gets injured, we are… well, you know.
Joe Ledley gets injured in the warm up (I am too scared to check up on how long he is out for) and we replace him with O’Keefe. Of course this is not ideal but this happens in football and you need to have a plan if the unexpected does happen. Our plan was O'Keefe, the right winger come centre midfielder who has barely kicked a football in the last two season. 10 starts in that time or 30 starts since he joined Palace in 2010. Meanwhile we let Kagisho Dikgacoi leave and have failed to replace him. As Sam Jordan pointed out in his Flying High blog, of all the people to leave he is the one that we are going to miss the most.
O’Keefe is a player that joined as a right winger and was moved into centre midfield by Dougie Freedman. His knowledge of the position is minimal. In the Championship his willing to get stuck in got him through, in the Premier League willing is just not enough and he was overwhelmed by a, let’s be honest, distinctly average West Ham central midfield.
"The boo’s that sounded when Bannan was replaced instead of O’Keefe summed it all up."
The fact that he stayed on the field so long perhaps also shows either a lack of depth in Keith Millen’s understanding of the game or an unsure nature of making big decisions. It was clear to see that O'Keefe was out of his depth and to leave him in there, like a lamb to the slaughter, was managerially naïve from Mr Millen. The boo’s that sounded when Bannan was replaced instead of O’Keefe summed it all up. 3-1 down at home to mediocre opposition yet there was no willingness to break the defensive mould and look to go more attacking. Frustrating indeed.
Ledley getting injured was only the start of it.
The suspended Jason Puncheon, who must take a proportion of the blame for his needless sending off at the Emirates, was replaced by Barry Bannan. I like Bannan but he was exposed over and over defensively on the grounds that he is not a winger. The solid defensive side of Puncheon’s game is rarely highlighted. After yesterday I think we all might just start to value it a bit more.
Then we get to our biggest miss, Scott Dann. Since he went off injured against Arsenal we have fallen apart at the back.
Hangeland needs to rethink the way he defends as he no longer possesses the pace that he once had. A classic example of this was Zarate’s chance just before West Ham took the lead. In his mind he is still reading the game well, but his body is not getting him there in time to affect some situations.
"His range is limited."
Against Arsenal he had a good game, the first Gunners goal aside, as he picked and choose wisely as to when he was going to step out to a player when he had correctly read what was going to happen. This meant that he was getting tight on Arsenal players and often tackling them before they had a chance to quickly move the ball on. What he needs to realise now, however, is that his range is limited and if the player is more than a few yards away he simply needs to stand off and defend the second phase.
Hangeland correctly identifies the danger as Zarate is about to collect the ball and tries to get to him quickly. Instead he looks like he is wading through mud and by the time that he gets there Zarate has already turned and has the ball under control. By the time the big Norwegian gets the Zarate has already laid off the ball and ran past Hangeland. The centre back then takes longer to turn that Austin Powers in a golf cart and only catches up to Zarate after he has picked up the return pass from Vaz Te and fluffed the opportunity.
On the third he goal he is too busy jostling with Carlton Cole instead of paying attention to the ball that flies straight over his head, perfectly in his jump zone.
Further, at centre back he completed a grand total of ZERO tackles in the game.
Maybe he is past it as many Fulham fans were saying when we signed him.
Is it back to the pairing of Delaney and Dann? Time will tell.
For me he completes a hat-trick of new players letting themselves down after impressive debuts. Cardiff fans said that he has a tendency to look brilliant in flashes unless the game was televised, or against a big team, when he was always good or, at least, willing.
His debut was exciting. He worked well off scraps, battled hard and looked dangerous in the final third. But Arsenal is considered by most as a big game. Well, Mr Campbell, I have some news for you. It’s not.
"These are the big games for us."
West Ham, Burnley, Leicester, QPR etc. These are the big games for us. These are the games when we need you on form as these are the teams that we desperately need to take points from if you want to continue playing in the league where you will end up on television on a more consistent basis.
Cameron Jerome hustled 100% of the time when he was up top for us last season and this meant that teams find it at lot more difficult to build from the back. Campbell would sometimes press and sometimes not. To play in that role for us you need to waste a lot of energy and be prepared to do so.
If we are relegated this season, do you think that there is another chance for you in the Premier League? Spearheading the attack of two consecutive relegations is going to look awfully shoddy on your CV pal.
Man of the Match: Joniesta
I can’t moan the entire time so let’s talk about the little ray of sunshine that is Jonathan Williams. The kid just makes things happen. His first touch is a thing of beauty and then his first thought is always to put the opposition on the back foot. And then there was THAT cross to Glenn Murray where the latter did well until the finish.
He was only on the field for 20 minutes or so but during that time he was the best player on the pitch. He is a joy to watch and I really hope that whoever comes in to replace Pulis looks for a way to include him on a more frequent basis.
Yet another fantastic mural from the Holmesdale Fanatics. I probably say the same thing every time but the effort that goes in behind the scenes to make these displays happen in monumental and should never be underappreciated by the fans.
As for the game. Great in patches from the fans and terrible in the main. For the first twenty minutes and after Chamakh scored it was electric. Unfortunately the players didn’t respond and the life was eventually sucked out of the faithful. This is a testament to West Ham as, as bad as we were, they executed their game plan perfectly and took fully advantage of the shambles in the red ‘n’ blue shirts.
Up Next: Newcastle
A place where we are adept at getting absolutely nothing. On this performance we will get tanked up there. But this is the glorious thing about supporting this incredibly unique football club. We might just go up there and win 3-0 out of the blue and that is why we follow…
Come on you Palace!