B'nemouth 0-2 Palace
Crystal Palace won in the Premier League for the first time in ten attempts thanks to goals from Scott Dann and Christian Benteke at the Vitality Stadium. The win was not enough to lift the Eagles out of the relegation zone, but it could prove to be the perfect confidence boost for the six-pointer against Sunderland on the weekend.
The performance in the game against Everton was the first time since Allardyce’s arrival that his input on the training ground was starting to make a difference. The performance at Bournemouth suggests that the players are starting to buy into what the former England manager is trying to do.
The change in formation is the most obvious. Against Everton in the last Premier League match, Allardyce switched to three centre-backs, and with the signings that have been achieved in this window, it looks like he intends to continue down that road. Naturally, the game against the Toffees was littered with mistakes that can certainly be put down to an adjustment to the new style. Against the Cherries, the mistakes were far fewer and, in the main, the players had a far great understanding of the roles that they were to play.
A lot of what I have read and listened to have broadly spoken of the formation as a 3-5-2, but I don’t think that is quite what it was last night. Off the ball, especially after we had taken the lead, the formation switched to a very deep lying 5-4-1, with Zaha and McArthur giving the support to the full-backs and with Cabaye and Puncheon sitting in front of the back four. On the ball at 1-0, it looked more like a 5-2-2-1, with Zaha and McArthur trying to get up alongside Benteke when they could.
Before we scored, I read it more like a 3-4-3, with McArthur and Zaha supporting Benteke. Either way, the formation was extremely fluid and served to cause Bournemouth a fair headache as our players would be popping up in unexpected positions.
Spirit & Luck
What was clear last night was that the team have rediscovered their spirit. Patrick van Aanholt was well in the mix of the goal celebrations, everyone was getting involved in the celebrations, the bench looked delighted, and for the first time in a long time, it felt like a team.
This has led me to believe that good team spirit might just be the secret behind good luck, for we had a lot of luck in this one. The Jack Wilshire shot that hit the post could have easily bounced back in off Wayne Hennessey. Van Aanholt left his leg hanging out in the penalty area and for the only time on the night the Bournemouth player decided to stay on his feet instead of going down. Damien Delaney sliced a clearance in front of goal that could have easily ended up in the back of Hennessey’s net. Two weeks ago I have no doubt that all of these incidents would have resulted in goals. Fingers crossed this good luck will continue for the rest of the season.
I do have one niggling doubt in the back of my mind. After the Southampton win, we all thought that we had turned a corner. The performance was good, we kept a clean sheet, and we all thought that good things would follow. Instead, nine winless games followed.
Southampton are one of the worst teams away from home in the division, so the win should not have been that surprising. Similarities ring true with Bournemouth. They have one win in seven, they are dropping like a stone and have now conceded as many goals this season as we have. Basically, they are not a very good team at the moment, so I am trying to temper my excitement until I see a performance like this across a few games and against a slightly better opposition.
Man of the Match: Christian Benteke
This was one of those performances that you needed to be at the game to fully appreciate. The amount of work that he did off the ball so far exceeded his usual output, it was almost unbelievable. He never gave up, pressed every pass they tried to make around him and kept it up for the entire ninety minutes. The goal in stoppage time was just rewards for the effort that he put in.
Up Next: Sunderland
A huge match that will have a huge bearing on both team’s seasons. A loss for either team could be extremely damaging, with a win potentially resulting in sky-high confidence that could carry either team through the rest of the season.
Despite the win against Bournemouth, I think that this is still a must win and I nervously await Saturday.
Come on you Palace!