Palace 4-1 Stoke
Crystal Palace hammered Stoke City to earn back to back wins in the Premier League since December 19th – when the Eagles also beat the Potters.
Two goals in three first-half minutes saw Alan Pardew’s men race into an early lead. On nine minutes James Tomkins, making his full Palace debut, took advantage of some hesitant defending from Jon Walters and poked home an Andros Townsend free kick.
On twelve minutes Stoke’s vulnerability from dead ball situations was exploited again. This time, Scott Dann met a Jason Puncheon corner with a powerful header. With all four goals that Palace had conceded in the Premier League before today coming from set pieces, and with Stoke conceding twice from set pieces here – somewhere in England, Tony Pulis must have been watching the game and wondering what had happened to all of his hard work.
The visitors rarely threatened and only looked likely to score when gifted opportunities by the Palace defence when their concentration level momentarily dipped. Tomkins generously put in a cross for the visitors and Dann was caught in possession, but Stoke could not take advantage of the half chances that followed.
Tomkins was replaced at the break by Damien Delaney and the Irishman quickly impressed with a 'last ditch' challenge on Marko Arnautovic and later, at 4-0, Delaney would nip in to prevent Wilfried Bony from tapping into an empty net.
It was not until the 71st minute that Palace put the game to bed, and this time, it was two goals in a four-minute spell that did for the visitors. First, James McArthur’s deflected shot flew past Shay Given. Second, Townsend went on a solo run, Puncheon’s overlap pulled out the defenders and the winger cut in and curled the ball low and into the far corner to open his Palace account.
Palace’s wait for a clean sheet in the league would extend to an eleventh game, however, as Marko Arnautovic scored the goal of the game with the very last kick of the game.
Not Getting Too Carried Away
After such an emphatic win, it is easy to get carried away – but I am here to temper your mood slightly. At points, we were brilliant and probably saw flashes of the “expansive” style of football that Pardew talks of. However, at other points, our defence looked appalling, and a better side than Stoke would have taken advantage. We could easily have gone in level at the break but for poor Stoke finishing and the mood around the place will have been a lot different.
What I think is clear, is that if we play like this on a consistent basis, we will only grow more accustomed to the style and have the potential to better our best Premier League finish. This relies on being lucky with injuries and suspensions (especially when it comes to Christian Benteke who is the key to us being able to pull this style of pay off). But with such luck, there is a good chance that a lot of us, including myself, might have to eat a bit of humble pie where our manager is concerned.
Before I get too pro Pardew, however. I am not down with him requesting that the crowd not to sing "you're getting sacked in the morning" to Mark Hughes. He is a Palace pantomime villain. He moans constantly and never has a single good word to say about us. Stick to the changing the style and leave the singing to us.
The Differing Views on Jason Puncheon
I am genuinely baffled by the people that continue to be outspoken against Punch’s performances. The man misplaced two passes in the entire match – 96.2% pass accuracy – with his last misplaced pass coming in the 20th minute of the match. For comparison purposes, 96.2% is the best of any player in the Premier League to attempt 25 passes or more this weekend. Yet after the game, people are saying that he gets caught in possession too often for their liking.
In this match, Punch was caught in possession on two occasions. One was when Bojan nipped in behind him, and it is clear that Punch did not receive a shout. The second time was when he was boxed by three Stoke players and not a single Palace player offered him an option.
The way some Palace fans go on, one could be mistaken for believing that Punch is giving up possession every second touch in the game. He touched the ball on 77 occasions in this match – which means that he was NOT dispossessed on 75 occasions; “but those two times are too many for my liking” is the sort of rubbish that people spurt.
Let’s compare Jason Puncheon’s stats to others:
Time Dispossessed per 90 minutes:
- 2.7 - James McArthur
- 1.5 - Mesut Ozil (Arsenal)
- 1.5 – David Silva (Man City)
- 1.4 – Rafinha (Barcelona)
- 1.4 – Jason Puncheon
- 1.3 – Ivan Rakitic (Barcelona)
- 1.0 – Luka Modric (Real Madrid)
- 1-0 – Andres Iniesta (Barcelona)
- 0.6 – Kevin de Bruyne (Man City)
So, James McArthur is dispossessed almost the double the amount of times a match than Puncheon is. Are there ever any suggestions that McArthur gives the ball away too much? That is without even considering that McArthur misplaced four times the amount of passes in this match than Puncheon. I am not me taking shots at McArthur as he was my man of the match, but I am suggesting that people see what they want to see when it comes to Puncheon.
In the Premier League, David Silva and Mesut Ozil are both dispossessed more than Punch. Meanwhile, the very best in the game are getting dispossessed at least once a game – unless you’re a complete freak of nature like Kevin de Bruyne. Remember, Puncheon is a winger by trade. He is still learning the position of deep lying midfielder. He is a very quick learner and maybe this rapid acclimatisation to the role is the reason that you seem to expect such impossible heights from the Palace number 42 – but do try to remember that he has been playing there for less than a year.
Some more criticism; “But when he is dispossessed, it is in dangerous positions.” Yes, because Jason Puncheon often gets on the ball very deep, as per clear instruction, and this means that he is more at risk of being dispossessed in dangerous areas than any other Palace player on the pitch. So guess what, he is going to get dispossessed in dangerous areas occasionally.
Another criticism is – “how many of those passes were backwards?” or “he slows the play down too much.” SO WHAT! Puncheon’s role in the team for the last year has been to keep possession of the ball. To keep us ticking over. He is under instruction to make percentage passes more often than riskier passes. But guess what? Puncheon made four key passes in this match – that is two more than anyone else on the field. So among all of those backwards passes and slowing down the game, he still manages to set up more chances than anyone else.
But yeah, he should be dropped.
Man of the Match: James McArthur
It was a close run thing between the Scot, Puncheon and Townsend (who Match of the Day raved about)– but McArthur pips it. He was everywhere. Intercepting, tackling, passing and scoring. If he can stay fit for the season, he will have a very good shot at winning Player of the Year.
Up Next: Southampton (League Cup)
The annual cup excursion to St Marys is here. With Southampton having to play a lot of games because of the Europa League, I think that this will be an excellent opportunity to make it a third cup win in a row on the South Coast.
Come on you Palace!