Swansea 5-4 Palace
Crystal Palace slipped to a sixth consecutive loss as Swansea City scored twice in stoppage time, securing a place for the game as one of the all-time Premier League classics. Alan Pardew’s Eagles looked dead and buried when Leroy Fer scored his second goal in as many minutes, just over twenty minutes from the end, only for the visitors to score three times in nine minutes to lead 4-3.
As the ninety minutes came to an end, only stoppage time separated Palace from a desperately needed three points, but substitute Fernando Llorente twice took advantage of schoolboy defending to give the Swans their first win since the opening day of the season, seeing them climb from the foot of the table.
By the time the game was done it had seemed an age since Wilfried Zaha had given Palace the lead in the 19th minute. Gylfi Sigurdsson would level nine minutes before the break, scoring from a direct free kick for the second season running against Wayne Hennessey.
Fer’s two strikes made it 3-1 but James Tomkins would half the deficit on 75 minutes as the ball hit him inside the six yard box and fell into the goal. Seven minutes later, Zaha’s cross from the left looped up off Jack Cork and over the head of Lukasz Fabianski and into the back of the net.
Two minutes later the away end was a disbelieving mess of flying limbs as Christian Benteke despatched a Scott Dann knockdown from close range, with the ball finding the net after smashing into both posts.
The victory remained elusive, however, as Llorente scored twice in 7 minutes of stoppage time to complete the third comeback of the game.
It was simultaneously one of the most astonishing games of football that I have ever watched and the worst quality of match I have ever seen at this level. Bad football will often make for the most entertaining of games.
Something Has to Change
My spirit is broken. I knew that my spirit was broken the moment that we finished celebrating Benteke’s goal. I looked at the clock, saw that there were still six minutes left plus all of the time to be added for Wickham’s injury and I turned to Longy who was stood next to me and said; “there is still so much time left.” Despite having just witnessed one of the most astonishing turnarounds that I have ever seen from Palace, I felt no elation. Deep down I just knew that we were not going to see the game out. I knew that Swansea were going to equalise. The winner was just an extra slap across the face.
“He looked so sad” said my fiancé when watching Pardew’s post-match interview and I have taken some solace in that. I think that the penny has finally dropped and the severity of the situation has dawned upon him. Two thirds of the Palace travelling support singing “you’re getting sacked in the morning” along with the Swansea fans might have a lot to do with that.
I think that it is now clear that Pardew will be in charge of the Southampton game. Neil Warnock, Ian Holloway and Craig Burley were all sacked within twenty-four hours of their final match and that time has now elapsed. For whatever reason it appears that Pardew is going to get at least one more chance to see us out of this mess – but I just don’t see how he is going to do it. Dann’s post most interview told me that he has lost the dressing room. “I don’t know what the right thing to say is right now” said the skipper.
While we are on Scott Dann, I am starting to question whether or not I like the cut of his jib. He doesn’t appear to have the character when the going gets tough. Halfway through the bad run that we were going through when Neil Warnock was in charge, Dann just gave up playing and was awful week in week out. Pardew came in and he suddenly transformed into a superstar. The same pattern is emerging now. He is half a yard slow, easily beaten in the air and looks like a lost puppy every time the ball drops into our penalty area. People are screaming for Pardew’s head, and I am also in the camp that he is well due the chop, but are we really happy that our captain, our supposed leader, is so happy to let the ship sink - again?
Look then at the end of the game. Palace players laying prone all over the pitch with not a single one trying to pick them up. The same happened at Burnley. Zaha had played his socks off and sat on the pitch and I watched every Palace player and the bench walk straight past him and not drag him up off the ground. Are you telling me that Mile Jedinak, even after a game as astonishing as this, would have been laying on the ground? No, he would have been doing his job as captain and picking up his troops. This is not Dann’s fault. He is not a captain. He is not a leader. That is now clear. The blame here lays at Pardew’s door for stripping the team of leaders.
Many have theorised that Pardew will be given another transfer window to get it right. After the reaction of the fans at the Liberty, unless he takes ten points from the next four games I just do not see how this can be the case. However, for arguments sake, let us assume that he does keep his job into January – are we happy to let him into the war chest again? I have seen people argue that Pardew has not spent badly this season and, individually speaking, he hasn’t. Benteke, Townsend, Tomkins, Remy and Mandanda are, on paper, players that most teams in the Premier League would like to have. The problem is, Pardew appears to have a huge gap in knowledge in highlighting the correct characters to bring in. He said that he wanted to bring in Flamini as much for what he does off the field as what he will do on it. Aside from the fact that I call bullshit and he merely miscalculated and fell a man short on his 25 man squad and signed him to avoid embarrassment – he also said that he bought Flamini in as a man who understands elite level winning mentality and that this is what the squad needed. Is it? What exactly is he doing at the moment to instil a winning mentality into the players? I was at Paddington station when the players were leaving for Swansea on Friday. Flamini, along with Cabaye almost missed the train as they turned up late. Is that the kind of behaviour you want from the senior players in your squad?
If Pardew was to get another window, we fall into a deeper crisis in my opinion. He will be fire-fighting come the opening of the window. He has to buy any left back that is available. He can’t wait and pick out the right one, like he says he did with Souare. Kelly playing at left-back has almost become as untenable as his position as manager. He clearly doesn’t trust Fryers, otherwise he would have been in weeks ago. Pardew has no choice but to go hard and fast and this could result in yet another poor character at the Club. Has anyone at the Club told him that Joe Ledley has been a very competent left back in the past???
Pardew will now also have to seek out another striker if the injury to Connor Wickham is as bad as we all think. If Benteke gets injured, we are now left with Fraizer Campbell. Campbell one character that I do not question at the Club. He gives everything when he is on the field, it his just his ability that I question. Good luck finding someone that will want to come in, happily play second fiddle to Benteke and have the character to get stuck in to a dog fight. Here’s a hint, that sort of striker doesn’t exist, so sourcing anyone worthwhile will be next to impossible.
I know I am ranting, but I need to do this. It is therapeutic.
I’ll end this section by saying, I do not understand why Pardew is still in the job. The fans have turned against him. 86% of near on four-thousand people voted “Pardew Out” on the HLTCO Twitter poll. I was surrounded by away season ticket holders singing for his head. With each passing home game the groans of discontent grow around me in the Holmesdale. It was Southampton at home that finally did for Neil Warnock in December 2014 – if we lose to Southampton next week I can only see the same fate for Pardew. If it is not, then Steve Parish needs to break his silence and say something on the subject or I am going to lose my mind.
Set (in) Pieces
Pardew appears to have finally accepted that we are a team that concedes from set pieces. I guess that thirteen times constitutes a trend for Crystal Palace's Head Analyst, Ben Stevens. Thirteen times this season we have gifted the opposition goals in the simplest of fashions. The problem is startlingly clear when looking at the stats from this match. Jay Fulton and Leroy Fer, the two deepest lying Swansea midfielders, accounted for eight clearances between them. Cabaye and McArthur combined for one clearance. Exactly what are the two of them doing when the ball is put into our penalty area? By default they should be clearing more than that!
Benteke’s comically lax defending for three of the Swansea goals also shows how bad of a defender he is, and once Connor went off injured, we became an awfully soft touch in the eighteen yard box. This is hardly surprising when you consider that Cabaye is 5ft7 and McArthur is 5ft8. Under Pulis we had Jedinak and Murray, both extremely good at defending corners, in the penalty area, backing up Dann and Delaney. Now teams can bypass Dann and Tomkins and look for more favourable match ups that are all too easy to find.
With Wickham now injured, I do not see an end to us leaking goals from set pieces. So, add a tall and powerful defensive midfielder or two to the January transfer window shopping list.
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”, but you just keep taking a step away from your corner, Wayne.
Palace goalkeeping legend John Burridge did not take too kindly to Wayne stepping across behind his wall either:
“Does Wayne Hennessey ever learn? He did it against West Ham last season. Moved behind the wall again. He lets too many bad goals in for me.”
If we get to half-time with our lead intact, the game probably turns out differently as, as Pardew keeps telling us, the first goal is so important. The home fans were starting to turn on them and they looked bereft of ways to break us down. Gifting them a leveller in such a fashion is unforgivable and he needs to be dropped.
There, it has taken me two games to get on his back.
Kevin Friend and Time Wasting
Where was Kevin Friend at the Manchester City game? Wayne Hennessey, at 1-1, took the ball from one side of the six yard box to the other and the referee booked him for time wasting. Hennessey could have moved is back and across another four times and he would have still been quicker than Sergio Aguero was getting off the pitch when being substituted last week. I can only assume that Friend would have booked him for taking so long and then half of the Manchester City team that all did various things that took infinitely longer than Wayne did to take that goal kick…
Who am I kidding? He would have let them get away with it because big game biased is alive and kicking from the current crop of referees.
What Did They Say on Match of the Day?
Danny Murphy described how difficult it is for Sigurdsson to get the ball up and over the wall from close range. Backing up my argument above. Phil Neville then went on to lay into Benteke for being lazy at defending set pieces – and you will get no argument from me.
“I actually feel sorry for Alan Pardew – he can’t go out there and mark those men” said Phil. “He picks who marks the men” argued back Danny.
Man of the Match: Wilfried Zaha
Another goal and (uncredited) assist. I have already resigned us to losing him in January. Why should he put up with this shower of shite? He could walk into any team into this division and now that the assists and goals are coming, someone at the top of the league is going to realise this and make an offer that he can’t refuse.
Up Next: Southampton
I have no idea how we can go and win this. If Pardew can pick them up and find a way to win then he deserves a few more weeks – but I cannot see how this will be possible.
I’ll be happy to be proved wrong.
Come on you Palace?