Palace 3-0 Arsenal
Crystal Palace shocked the world of football on Monday night. Sam Allardyce’s men run over Arsenal with a performance filled with passion, commitment and skill. The only further surprise was that the winning margin was not greater.
Andros Townsend opened the scoring on 17 minutes, converting Wilfried Zaha’s eighth assist of the campaign, and the Eagles never looked back. Arsenal huffed and puffed with the ball, but the hosts easily contained the threat and picked their moments to pounce and attacked with strength, pace and flair, bamboozling Arsene Wenger and his men in the process.
Just before the hour, something magical happened. As an appreciation to the shift that the Frenchman was putting in in the middle of the park, Selhurst Park started to sing the name of Yohan Cabaye. The song was sustained for minutes and just moments after it stopped, he repaid the crowd with a glorious finish to make it 2-0. The France international has been heavily linked with a move back to his homeland in the summer, but the way he sprinted towards the corner that hosts the Ultra’s, pulling the shirt out in front for him, face riddled with passion, might just have people wondering if his stay in SE25 may be extended. Meanwhile, the camera on the big screen panned to Alexis Sanchez and his facial expressions were akin to that of a naughty child having their bottom spanked.
Six minutes after Cabaye’s strike, Crystal Palace were in dreamland. Townsend “anticipated the contact” as the commentator put it, and went over in the box to win a penalty in front of the carnival-like Holmesdale Road end. Up stepped Luka Milivojevic, and the YouTube videos that we all watched upon his arrival at Palace didn’t lie. He dispatched the penalty into the bottom right-hand corner before knee sliding towards the mess of bodies celebrating behind the goal.
From this point on the score could have been anything. The Arsenal players had given up, as had their fans who refused to give the ball back to their own players when it went out for a throw-in. Only poor execution in the final third kept the score at 3-0. Although, Mesut Ozil will not forget Zaha in a hurry.
Wilfried Zaha - Haters Gonna Hate
Wilf now has 9 assists for the season, more than double what he managed in the previous three season combined. On top of that, he also has six goals. It took him two whole seasons to score his previous six goals. All the stats show that the consistency is now there, yet the haters carry on with their nonsense.
I get that admitting when you’re wrong is a hard thing, but get over yourselves. He is the real deal, end of conversation.
Look at the below visualisation. All those players have either the same amount or more assists (9) than Wilf or more – with the most being 11 assists. While all those players are busy trying to affect the game at the top of the pitch, Wilf is burdened with a defensive responsibility that would not interest any of those other players. Imagine what he could do if with all that defensive responsibility removed? Then stop imagining that, because that means he is no longer in a Palace shirt.
We are not going to be able to hold on to him forever, that is clear. He is going to outgrow us. However, I don’t want him to take the easy move to a team like Spurs in the summer. Next season, we should be able to trouble the top half of the table and he will be able to have another season of development which should catapult him beyond the likes of Tottenham. I will be able to take it if he leaves us for the very top because that is what he deserves.
Mamadou Sakho – Whatever it costs?
In the first half, at 0-0, a ball flashed across our six-yard box at pace, and Sakho dives towards his goal. At the angle he is coming in at, surely he can only put it in the back of his own net. Maybe, just maybe, he can get it over the bar if he is lucky. Instead, he manages to clear it outside the penalty area with a backwards header.
Without a shadow of a doubt, he has surpassed Craig Moore as the best centre-back that I have seen play for Palace [attending games since 1994]. I am very wary when it comes to splashing out big money, but there is no doubt that this man would be worth every penny. Ability aside, he fits the Palace mould perfectly. That all being said, Klopp thinks he is shit, so he might as well just give him to us for free.
The Sceptic in Me [Advance slight buzzkill warning]
You have my friend John Petrie to thank for this, but something that he said after the game awakened a fear inside me:
“They’re all playing because they want out at the end of the season.”
While what he said was tongue in cheek, it went from me chuckling to waking up in a cold sweat this morning with worry.
Steve Mandanda is off, of that I have no doubt. If rumour has it right, Scott Dann will be sold because he has a “top earning defender” clause in his contract, which means that he would have to go if we wanted to sign Sakho. However, if we lose Cabaye to Marseille, Wilfried to Spurs and, potentially, Benteke to a host of suitors – Sakho certainly wouldn’t sign.
As mentioned above, the way Cabaye celebrated with such passion, I really hope that we can keep hold of him – something that I was not saying before Allardyce arrived (there I go, praising Allardyce again). If we can keep him, I think the rest will fall into place. Of course, there is probably going to be some problems with Financial Fair Play, and this means that this summer is going to be one of big decisions for Parish and the American’s. Do we push and try to achieve what we set out to do this season, or do we clear out and start again?
All I know is, I don’t think my mind could handle Cabaye leaving and Jordon Mutch getting into our starting XI next season.
Man of the Match: Andros Townsend
He covered 11.86km, the most of anyone on the pitch, scored a goal, won a penalty and tormented Arsenal offensively and defensively. It was the complete performance. The turnaround has been quite astonishing.
January 14th, post the 3-0 loss at West Ham, I wrote:
“I genuinely cannot believe what I am watching. Andros Townsend is staking a claim for the worst player that I have ever seen in a Palace shirt.”
Now, he looks like one of the signings of the season when considering the price that we got him. It is no secret that Sam Allardyce, and no doubt Sammy Lee, are behind his 180-degree turn. Allardyce talked after the game about getting the winger to “enjoy his life as a footballer again.” The joy on his face when Cabaye scored was plain to see. But, the real secret is undoubtedly getting him fit. In January, Townsend hit a free kick that threatened people in the upper tier of the Holmesdale, and the crowd booed. Yesterday, he smashed a shot that could have broken one of the windows of the corporate boxes in the Whitehorse Lane end, and the crowd applauded his effort. Why the contrast? When you’re putting it in for a Selhurst Park crowd, you are given license to make errors. If we can see that you’re are putting it all on the line, you’re golden.
Andros, I apologise for the bad mouthing that I did earlier in the season and thank you for applying yourself. If you press the opposition at full sprint for 100 yards a few times a season, you’re good in my books.
As for other contenders for man of the match, Sakho, Cabaye and Zaha were of course in the picture. But, continued props to Hennessey, he produced a top save at 0-0. Everyone groaned when they saw Martin Kelly’s name on the team sheet, but he produced a sterling performance. Joel Ward put in his best performance for seasons, largely nullifying the threat of Sanchez and Schlupp also produced his best performance to date in a Palace shirt.
Up Next: Leicester City
The fixture list doesn’t get much easier. This will be a completely different proposition as there is no way that Leicester will abandoned defending the flanks as Arsenal did. Can we beat them? At the moment, I feel like we can beat anyone. If we find a way to beat the defending Champions, it will be the first time that we have won 4 home games in a row in the top flight at Selhurst since December 1990.
Come on you Palace!