Palace 0-1 West Brom
Tony Pulis returned to Selhurst Park on the eve of the two year anniversary of his departure and did what he does best, setting his team up to defend for their lives before picking up a winner from a set piece. For Crystal Palace it was an all too familiar tale at Selhurst Park – failing to break down the opposition and conceding sloppy goals.
Palace have now won just two times in their last eleven league home matches, scoring on just seven occasions – relegation form if ever I have seen it.
Wayne Hennessey kept the game goalless in the first half, saving well from a Solomon Rondon header. At the other end, Connor Wickham scuffed a left footed shot wide in a first half bereft of chances.
Wilfried Zaha had a chance to put Palace in front six minutes into the second half but Ben Foster smothered the ball well before the Palace winger’s second effort was blocked.
West Brom looked threatening from dead ball situations and a scramble in the six yard bos was just about cleared by the hosts after a Craig Gardner corner and Jonas Olsson then headed just over from a free kick. Palace failed to heed the warnings and minutes later the deadlock was broken when James McLean’s free kick found Rondon at the near post and his flicked header nestled in the far corner.
Palace huffed and puffed in search of an equaliser but it never looked likely and Tony Pulis continued his great form against his former Club’s since leaving Stoke – making it 7 wins from 8 matches against Stoke and Palace.
How Long Does Pardew Have?
“We were in control of a lot of matches here [Selhurst Park] last season and didn’t quite manage to turn our dominance into victories” said Pardew in his programme notes – yet again missing the point. Crystal Palace having a lot of the ball against a West Brom team is not dominating a game. West Brom’s tactics under Tony Pulis is to control the game without the ball. Their aim is to force us to attack them in areas that they are strong. Constantly launching the ball into Connor Wickham, where any one of their four centre backs that play across the backline can comfortably compete. Forcing the wingers into central areas where West Brom have many defensive bodies. Pardew constantly confuses us having a lot of the ball at home as “dominance” when, in fact, it is the opposition dominating us.
“We lacked a cutting edge” said Pardew after the game – it would appear that the season snuck up on us as this was the same excuse on countless occasions last year, so this must be the only reason that we have not strived to sort out this problem over the summer. Three strikers have left the Club and none have come in. Not one single player has been able to play in behind the striker with any real success since the end of the 2014/15 season and yet no one has been brought in. Is it just me or is a good number ten integral if you want to play expansive football? If we are going to be “putting the ball at risk more” shouldn’t we need to be actually able to score more goals to cancel out the extra goals that we are going to concede by being more open at the back?
At 1-0 down yesterday, Pardew took off Jason Puncheon who possesses a goal threat. He took of Chung-Yong Lee, who was actually having a decent game and looked like the only Palace player who could get in between the lines with any success. He then took of the injured Pape Souare with three minutes of stoppage time left, when 0-1 down and bought on Martin Kelly as a like for like change, despite the fact that we have two young and hungry strikers on the bench. Was he even trying to get back into the game?
If all of the above were new gripes, I wouldn’t be complaining. I understand that a few think that complaining after just one game when the likes of James McArthur and Yohan Cabaye were missing, is jumping the gun however, I am not confident that those guys would have been able to make much of a difference when the tactics are so bad.
Then there are the people that are telling me that the transfer window is still open and that the additions will make a difference. How would Christian Benteke have made a difference in this one? Even if his extra height had enabled him to compete a little better than Wickham, what would he have been able to produce with nobody getting in and around him to support. Further, what difference is it going to make if he is the only player in the box trying to get on the end of a cross in between 6 West Brom defenders?
The FA Cup run might have been a valid excuse at the back end of last season but that excuse has now gone away, yet the ineffective style of play has remained the same. Meanwhile, our squad looks weaker and the bench perfectly portrayed that in this one with Keshi Anderson and Freddy Ladapo (the Freddy Ladapo whose name doesn’t even make the back of the Crystal Palace programme) as the our only two striking options. This summer has been nothing short of a disaster as it stands and with Yannick Bolasie and Mile Jedinak both looking set to leave within the next few days, it is only going to get worse. Am I confident that the faces we bring in will sufficiently replace what we have lost? At this point, I am not. I will hark back to this later in the season when injuries mean that our starting midfield is Jordon Mutch and Lee.
Before the start of every season in the pub we give our predicted league finish. I went for 19th and my friends looked shocked. 90 minutes later, not so shocked. We are allowed to reevaluate our choice at the end of the window, but we need to have an exceptional two weeks in the market for me to shift that prediction outside of the relegation zone.
The board showed a lot of patience with Dougie Freedman when we had won just three in twenty-four across the end of the 2011/12 and start of the 2012/13 seasons and I expect similar grace for Pardew, but how long can they afford to give him? With the season run in looking harder than ever, points on the board early are going to be a must if we want to avoid a relegation battle this season. Performance like yesterday are not going to yield many points.
This sense of disappointment, frustration, anger and so on is not my fault. Steve Parish and Alan Pardew have told me over and over that I should be expecting better, that I should be shedding my old Palace preconceptions that everything is going to end in tears. I’ve listened and I’ve attempted to dispel the negativity that has been ingrained into me through over two decades of supporting Palace – but 2016 has shown me no reason to believe that these better days are coming. By better days I mean, consistent top half of the table finishes and cup wins [obviously our current position is better than 2010].
If we cannot bring in the players that we need in this window and we continue to try and establish this new “expansive” style of football, we will be relegated. The core of our team are still counter attacking footballers and we should utilise them in this way until we have a new core that is capable of playing said “expansive” style. If Pardew is too stubborn to see this, then he should not be managing in the Premier League.
Buckle your seatbelts people as it is going to be a long and bumpy road. Naturally I hope that I am wrong. Years of watching Crystal Palace tells me that I am not.
Man of the Match: Mile Jedinak
Undoubtedly his last game in a Palace shirt. I have been told by several sources (as always, take from this what you will) that Pardew and Jedinak clash and that there was no way that both were going to survive at the Club. As Jedinak took off his shirt at the end of the game and threw it into the Holmesdale Road end, it became clear that Pardew has won the war.
In his final match he put in a typical Mile Jedinak performance. Unfortunately his tough tackling display wasn’t enough to help inspire the rest of the team around him, but I will miss seeing the bearded beast roaming around the middle of the park and I will always remember what he has helped us to achieve since he arrived at the Club in 2011.
Up Next: Spurs
Hopefully we will head to White Hart Lane and sit a lot deeper and use our pace on the counter attack. It is our only hope. If we try to mix it with them in the middle of the park, we are going to be on the end of a hiding.
As ever - Come on you Palace!