Palace 0-1 S'derland
Crystal Palace tasted defeat for the second season running against Sunderland on Monday Night Football at Selhurst Park. Jermaine Defoe pounced late to punish a flurry of errors from the hosts in the space of a few seconds and saw the Black Cats pick up their first away win in six months.
From the outset the Sunderland game plan was clear, five men across the back with a block of three in front of them, leaving it to Palace to find a way through. With the Selhurst Park victory over West Brom still relatively fresh in the memories of all Palace fans, a win that came thanks to two goals deep into the second half, patience was the order of the day. Instead, the difficulties that Palace showed at the back end of last season in breaking teams that sit deep down reared their ugly head again.
Palace boasted 67% possession, the highest number since returning to the Premier League, in the match but for all of the ball that they managed only 7 shots on target with only 1 really troubling Costel Pantilimon – a brilliant drive from Yohan Cabaye that was superbly tipped over by the lanky Sunderland stopper just seconds after Defoe hadn’t given the visitors the lead.
Jason Puncheon’s Early Season Form Mark III
For the third season running, Punch has not turned up before the New Year and this culminated with him being dragged at Half-Time in this one. With Marouane Chamakh returning, he really needs to up his game if he is to keep his place.
Puncheon’s form is tantamount to our struggles in breaking teams, which set up like Sunderland did, down. When we signed Cabaye we expected him to slot into the number 10 role and be the man that would be able to pick holes in defences and enable us in games of this nature. Instead, the Frenchman has effectively replaced Mile Jedinak and as a result is more often than not passing from a deeper area of the pitch, which is not as useful when trying to find a way through a defence that sits on their eighteen yard line.
The 5-3-2 that Sam Allardyce was actually a stroke of genius – although I have seen many people suggest that this was text book Big Sam, which I think is a bit harsh because I am positive that he hasn’t played 5-3-2 very often in his career. The five at the back enabled doubling up on either winger at all times and because of how deep they were it cramped the space meaning that the full backs Joel Ward and Pape Souare, both of whom had awful games, had no room in which to overlap.
In turn, this counteracted Cabaye’s ability to affect the game from deep. What the number 7 does extremely well is pull the opposition midfield towards him which opens up space down the flanks which he then exploits with pin point passes out to the wingers. With the midfield three of Sunderland remaining disciplined (which was absolutely required and a major part of them not conceding) and the extra man on either flank, due to playing with three centre backs, meant that more often than not either Bolasie or Zaha were at least doubled up on and on the occasions that they did beat their markers, the cross would have to beat several Sunderland players in the area to have a chance of finding Connor Wickham.
What is the answer? For me, either Cabaye has to push further forward or Chamakh moves into the ten position. Either way, it means no place for Puncheon – he has to earn that position back in my eyes as he simply has not been able to adjust to playing in the same midfield as Cabaye.
Until January, of course, when Puncheon will without a doubt turn it on like he always does.
Palace Fans and Scapegoats
We love a ‘Scapegoat’ at Palace and after last night it appears to be Connor Wickham. Now do not get me wrong, I have been guilty of this in the past, however, only after a build-up of poor performances (unless you were Jerome Thomas, I just disliked him from the start for some reason). The amount of abuse that Wickham received on Twitter and, undoubtedly, the forums, which I have not checked in order to try and maintain some semblance of calm in the face of sheer short-sightedness, last night was widespread and brutal and quite often misplaced. “He didn’t win one header” was a constant not only from my Dad stood next to me at the game but also in tweet after tweet – except that the stats that show that he won more headers than all but one player on the pitch. A classic example of people seeing what they want to see!
I am not going to sit here and suggest that Wickham had a great game last night, however, much of this was as a result of little/shocking service into him. Did he seem to lose interest later in the game as the poor service continued? It certainly looked like it. Is this unacceptable? Of course it is. But for everyone to write him off after just four appearances for Club, two of which he played a huge part in winning results, is ridiculous.
At Chelsea he played the perfect lone man forward role that was pivitol in the three points that we took away from Stamford Bridge and at Liverpool he pulled us ten yards further up the pitch with his hold up play and enabled the wingers to build the pressure that eventually led to the winner.
“He is rubbish and we overpaid for him” being an opinion based on one poor performance is laughable. People often consider that a player would like to prove themselves against a former team, yet no one ever seems to mention that said players’ old team might want to prove a point against him. They were just as up for the game as Connor was, the only difference was they sustained this performance as they were performing as a team, Wickham instead got frustrated as we underperformed and his early good forward play dropped off.
If he is still putting in performances like that in 5-7 games time, then have a go. When he has just been out for 7 games just shut up and give him some time instead of crucifying the kid for a mere 80 minutes of football.
I sincerely believe you’ll all be eating humble pie. If not I’ll put my hands up and say I was wrong – which I am almost certain that many of you will not do if/when he starts scoring goals.
Scott Dann Shooting Himself in his Own Foot
For the second reason running, just as it looks that there is no way that the England set up can ignore him any longer, he goes and makes a catastrophic error that leads to a goal under the floodlights at Selhurst Park. Both Bolasie and Wayne Hennessey also have to share some of the blame. Yala should not be trying Cruyff turns in the centre circle when he is the second last man back and Hennessey should either ‘sh*t or get off the pot’ when rushing off his goal line, instead of stuttering into ‘no man’s land’ like he did.
Will this impede Dann’s chances of an England call up? Most definitely. Live on TV, giving all of the England set up a chance to say “we told you so”. He is probably back to square one. Which is about as stupid as people destroying Wickham for one bad performance – but that is just the way things are now in the modern footballing world.
Should We Have Expected Any Different?
This is another example this season of expectation ruining rational thought. Basically the entire results can be summed up in one phrase: “Typical Palace” as encapsulated by Doc Brown in this tweet:
The frustration comes from managing to find a way to break down West Brom a few weeks back, but in reality this is the more likely performance against a team of this ilk. We will see it again this season, do not doubt it, as we continue to build towards a team that has the players that can break down teams that indulge in anti-football on a more frequent basis.
Man of the Match: Yohan Cabaye
He barely put a foot wrong and never gave up the ghost. More good news is that he didn’t pick up a booking which would have ruled him out of the game against his former club Newcastle this coming weekend.
Up Next: Newcastle
1 win in 31 years against the Toon Army. Hopefully they will come and play football against us and beat their old manager and, in turn, give us space to do our thing. If they decide to come and shut up shop – then fingers crossed that we have learned from the mistakes that we made in this one.
Come on you Palace!