Five Year Plan

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Southampton 1-0 Crystal Palace: Ratings and analysis from St Mary's

No repeat of the FA Cup win down at St Mary's earlier in the season. Here's Mark Gardiner's assessment...

It wasn’t a great game last night, and sadly the abiding memory will be of a match-losing error by a Palace stalwart, although the finger could reasonably also be pointed at errors in judgement by other such men prior to the game. Despite conceding the majority of possession Palace had the clearer chances and frustrated Southampton for long periods, so the blow of a late undeserved & gifted winner was doubly cruel (a feeling not helped by the drive back up the M3 to find it closed...) The hosts lacked conviction for much of the match and we should not have walked away pointless. Southampton had three shots on target all game – two spilled by the keeper, and the rebound swept in for their goal.

There were three enforced changes to the Palace team: Ledley, McArthur & Gayle in for the injured Mutch and the suspended duo of Ledley & Jedinak. What did catch the attention was the lack of cover on the bench, a situation more akin to Holloway’s days: three defenders and Ameobi along with the youngsters Gray & Boateng. Suddenly very light in midfield the decision to loan out Bannan & Guédioura was compounded by Jedinak’s throwing an elbow. This undoubtedly had an effect on the game as it unfolded. Palace looked to be lining up in a 4-4-1-1 formation with Gayle the spear point, but again it didn’t turn out that way.

Those expecting a rerun of the pulsating cup tie were sadly soon disillusioned. Very little happened in the first half – Southampton lacked confidence and whilst impressive around the fringes of the box created few chances. Palace found themselves outnumbered in midfield with the opposition full backs pinning back our wingers, both of whom had to do a lot of defensive work. At one stage Bolasie switched roles with Gayle, playing through the middle while Dwight went wide left; this would become a more permanent change in the second half. McArthur, having his least impressive game in a Palace shirt, was booked, while our only semblance of an opening was when Forster dropped a cross but recovered before Zaha could benefit. Perhaps our fate was foreshadowed when Speroni parried a shot from an angle: instead of pushing the ball around the near post it went back into danger, and somehow Pellè missed an open goal from 6 yards.

Fortunately the second half was an improvement on the first, although both teams still managed to mislay a number of passes. Palace started brightly, the wingers carving out chances for Puncheon, whose quick turn & shot hit more than was saved for Forster, and Bolasie, again denied by the keeper, before Zaha beat Forster only to see the ball rebound to safety off the far post, betraying an ignorance of the laws of geometry. That brief spell was our best of the game and although we did carry more threat on the break, we never really worked the keeper that hard again, a shot from Kelly being our only other on target that was a routine save. Southampton didn’t threaten that much, although Yoshida did miss a good chance from a corner. It looked like Palace switched to a more usual 4-2-3-1 to match Southampton, though Bolasie was now playing down the centre, and there was more space as the game stretched & players tired.

The game turned on substitutions. Tadic came on and started to run at defenders, being memorably cleaned out by Delaney at one stage, while Ward-Prowse replaced the disappointing Djuricic. Palace, lacking any experienced midfield replacements, couldn’t stiffen the centre which was weaker than usual, McArthur perhaps being inhibited by his yellow card. Almost unexpectedly the Saints struck with 5 minutes left, Ward-Prowse evading a weak challenge from Dann in the centre of goal, but his shot lacked venom & was straight at the advancing Speroni. It was an effort that should have been comfortably held by Julian but it bounded straight off him to Mané who knocked the ball into the net. Pardew’s only realistic response was to throw on Ameobi (Murray would have been a great alternative), and some late pressure saw Zaha create a final chance for Bolasie, whose finish was that of a man who’s scored 1 Palace goal in about two years. 

Ratings:

Speroni – 4 – Escaped when he spilt a shot and was reprieved by Pellè’s miss, but did not when he really could have thrown his shirt on Ward-Prowse’s effort – still can’t figure out how he let the ball escape from his grasp. Add in a flailing arm at a corner that left him defenceless & it was not a good night for Julian.

Ward – 6 – Made a few errors but nothing costly.

Kelly – 6 – Struggled a bit with Southampton’s movement down our left in the first half, perhaps not helped by Bolasie / Gayle sometimes not tracking back with the advancing Clyne. Showed well in support of the attack with a good left-footed cross and a shot on target saved easily enough.

Delaney – 6 – Struggled at times against Pellè and his replacement Long, but made one superb covering tackle that took ball & man to stop a dangerous break in the second half. Booked for frustration at opponents running away with the ball for a Palace free kick.

Dann – 6 – Mostly as impressive as usual but made one early error that could have cost us, and then his challenge on Ward-Prowse was so limp that it opened up the centre of the goal & exposed Julian for the goal.

Ledley – 7 – Fought well in midfield & sparked some attacks with good short passing.

McArthur – 5 – A rarity: an unimpressive showing from James. Caught in possession too often & his passing wasn’t as good as usual. Booked for trying to pull back a breaking opponent, perhaps this stymied his more combative side. Really should have been taken off long before he was, but then we had no real midfield cover on the bench.

Bolasie – 6 – Didn’t get many chances on the left flank, although did set up Puncheon’s chance. Looked better down the middle, forcing one save from Forster & setting up Wilf’s chance, but badly missed our last opening. Could have helped Kelly out more than he did.

Zaha – 7 – What was most impressive was Wilf’s work rate in defence, helping keep Bertrand relatively quiet. Looked good in attack, linking well with Puncheon & Bolasie and was unlucky with his effort that hit the post & somehow stayed out.

Puncheon – 6 – The good & the bad last night. Most of the Palace attacks came through Jason but he also gave the ball away in dangerous areas. Shame his shot on the turn wasn’t a yard or two to either side.

Gayle – 5 – Very anonymous, both playing down the middle & later on the left wing.

Subs:

Ameobi – 5 – Late sub thrown on in a losing cause.


 

FYP Podcast 132 - A win and a draw and some French accents!

Another bloody midweek game for Palace so the FYP team wait until Tuesday's trip to Southampton to discuss that and the visit to West Ham a few days before.

So a win and a defeat; we've had worse pods!

FYP print editor Rob Sutherland steps in for Kevin Day and there are, for some unexplained reasons, lots of French accents...which I guess is apt for a team managed by Alan Pardew.

They also answer your questions and look forward to this weekend's trip to West Ham.

Click on one of the links below to download!

Stream FYP Podcast 132 on Soundcloud here

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Eye on the Opposition: Southampton (A) (3/3/2015)

Here's Jack Pierce with a look at tonight's opponents, Southampton.

Well, they're not battling relegation as so many thought after last summer's exodus of manager and key players but Southampton's gallant push for Champions League football is running out of puff. A fantastic first half of the season appears to have given way to a stuttering second half. That's not to say the job Ronald Koeman and his team have done hasn't been fantastic.

Inheriting a squad lacking some of the previous season's best performers, the Dutch legend took on a challenge to rebuild a squad that could challenge in the Premier League while maintaining the quality of football that Saints fans witnessed under Mauricio Pochettino's stewardship.

Up until Christmas, Koeman's Southampton side were one of the stories of the season as they mounted an increasingly credible challenge for the top four. Unfortunately, for them at least, they seem to have run out of steam. Saturday's defeat to West Brom was probably the end of their challenge for a top four place, especially with the likes of Liverpool hitting form like they currently are.

One of, and perhaps the most important problems they currently have is that they're struggling to score goals. Graziano Pelle, the poster boy of Koeman's flying start, is now playing without any confidence and on current form, couldn't buy a goal. He looks tired and disinterested; a far cry from the striker who was giving defenders a torrid time when he first arrived in England. Another man whose spark seems to have gone missing is Dusan Tadic. His short, sharp passing and quick feet took the top flight by surprise and before Christmas, the Serbian looked a really good player. He now can't get in the starting 11 and is being used as an impact sub at best. Whether there are fitness concerns or Koeman has seen some complacency he hasn't liked in the winger, Southampton fans would love the Tadic of between August and November to return to the fold.

In retospect, it might be said that if Southampton were set on seriously challenging for a top four place, then they should've added to their squad in January. Pelle's form has highlighted the lack of cover in that area of the pitch, but would the Southampton board have sanctioned a deal for a striker having paid out a reported £12 million on Shane Long last summer? Not likely. Although a striker by trade, Koeman has often deployed the Irishman out wide in a bid to utilise Long's pace. With Pelle short of form and confidence, it might not be long until we see Long played centrally.

Southampton fans will hope that last summer's exodus will not be repeated again this year but the vultures are hovering already. Morgan Schneiderlin, Nathaniel Clyne and even Jay Rodriguez, injured for more than a year now, are said to have their admirers and are expected to be bid for during the next transfer window. Clyne, a man we know well, only has one year left on his deal so depending on how he and Southampton believe contract negotiations are progressing, a bid in a region of £20 million would certainly tempt the club to sell, regardless of what a consistent Premier League player he has become. Schneiderlin hasn't voiced his want to move on since last summer's stand off he had with his employers but having had another campaign of consistent performances, there are sides out there who will look to the Frenchman to solve their own midfield concerns.

*Cough* ARSENAL *Cough*

Whatever the summer holds, Saints supporters will hope their side will continue to perform beyond expectations until the end of the season and even if the dream of Champions League football is becoming far fetched as the fixtures run out, a challenge for Europa League football is still well within reach.

Follow Jack on Twitter


 

West Ham 1-3 Crystal Palace: Ratings and analysis from Upton Park

What a result! Here's Mark Gardiner's assessment of Palace's 3-1 win at the Hammers...

Last season’s game at Upton Park had concluded in a Palace landmark – assured survival in the Premier League with one of the most professional performances seen in our short spells in the top flight, perhaps the apotheosis of Tony Pulis’s managerial spell, and the scene of mutually appreciative appreciation by team & supporters. This time the display wasn’t quite as assured and the celebrations at the end didn’t equate to the Relief of Mafeking, but it may well be that the end result is the same. Three set-piece goals gained an equal measure of revenge for last August’s limp display at Selhurst and give Supa-Al a win over his old club.

Possibly with an eye to Tuesday night’s game, Pardew rotated his squad. Chamakh was out injured, while Souaré, Ledley & Gayle dropped to the bench where they were joined by the returning McArthur. In came Kelly at left back, Jedinak to partner Mutch, Zaha on the right and Murray up front in what initially lined up very much 4-3-3 with Puncheon playing on the right of the middle three. It was an attacking line up that at first didn’t produce much: the game was scrappy and not helped by Palace turning the ball over several times, Puncheon in particular being a serial offender.

West Ham held the upper hand but didn’t take advantage of it, the closest they came were two efforts from outside the area - a strange cross-cum-shot corkscrew from Cresswell (it wasn’t to be his day) nearly befuddling everyone and just missing the top corner (Julian wouldn’t have got there had it been on target) and then Puncheon conceded a free kick on the edge of the box and Noble’s effort struck the bar with Speroni again beaten. Palace just couldn’t get any real attacks going and were facing constant attacks down the left where Kelly was being given a hard time by Downing.

Puncheon in particular seemed out of sorts, but after 15-20 minutes he started to find his feet, perhaps pushing forward into the withdrawn striker’s role, and he started with a number of well-placed through balls to find Murray & Bolasie pushing beyond the Hammers’ cover. Murray put one good chance over and later in the half was twice denied by Adrian, as well as picking up a booking that would cause him problems later. One early reshuffle saw Mutch, still feeling his way into the set-up, suffer what looked like a hamstring injury; his replacement McArthur added some extra hard running to the midfield. The breakthrough was a strange one as seen from the other end of the pitch: Puncheon’s corner was headed down by Murray but didn’t seem that dangerous until we realised the ball had ended up in the net, apparently via Cresswell’s boot.

Having seized the advantage just before half-time it was essential that Palace didn’t allow West Ham an early route back. Actually Palace grabbed the game by the throat. Zaha, who had a relatively quiet first half, started to find space down the right and was well fed by Puncheon, and palace started to make chances. Dann was denied from one early corner but he soon met another from Puncheon at the far post and his header looked to take a deflection to beat Adrian a little too easily. Palace started to pour through the gaps, Ward up from the back winning a free kick that Jedinak just pushed wide. Big Sam’s team didn’t profit from that escape though – within a minute or so Bolasie was fouled in a similar position, and Puncheon’s delivery was again inch perfect for Murray’s diving header to stretch the lead to three goals.

To be honest at this stage you could see Palace winning by five or six so porous was the Irons’ defence. The Hammers were an utter shambles, and the crowd starting drifting away with half an hour left. Sadly this happy state of affairs didn’t last long when Murray in another attack was too late going for the ball and upended Reid; on a final warning Glenn had to walk leaving us with 20-25 minutes at a man disadvantage. Ameobi came on for Wilf but Palace dropped far too deep in my opinion, letting West Ham camp out around our box. There were some close shaves, especially down our left where Kelly was sometimes facing four opponents unaided and the flank was consistently turned. From such a move Valencia finally managed a shot on target for the home team; Speroni looked to have got a hand to it but couldn’t keep the effort out.

With 15 minutes plus stoppage time there was a sudden realisation we weren’t home & dry. Bolasie’s withdrawal for the defensive solidity down the left of Ledley made sense but also encouraged the team to sit deeper still, now lacking an option to break at pace. If he had been at fault for the goal, Julian then redeemed himself with a fine block from Jenkinson (again played in down our left), then excelled himself with a flying save from Valencia. West Ham laid siege but efforts were blocked or thumped into the rapidly emptying home stands, while Speroni dealt with crosses and anything that dropped inside our box. We ran down the clock (some nicely judged time taken by Julian) and then could celebrate.

Man of the Match: the rotund gentleman in a blue shirt in the East Stand who became the target for dog’s abuse with his antics, who threw a tantrum when 3-0 down, kicking his seat & discussing events with a steward before departing exceptionally early to a standing ovation from his new-found Palace “friends”. Some cat in Barking is in for one Hell of a kicking!

Ratings:

Speroni – 7 – I’ve only seen the replay of the big screen so not sure how much blame can be levied on Julian for their goal, as he did seem to get a fair hand on the ball. Made up for it with his sprint off the line to block Jenkinson’s effort then topped that with an acrobatic save of a swerving shot. Dealt well with crosses all game.

Ward – 7 – Quiet game for Ward as there weren’t many attacks down our right to deal with, and it did give him some license to push on, a good run in the second half winning a free kick in a dangerous area. Found live more difficult when down to 10 men and picked up a booking.

Kelly – 6 – Had a real battle with Downing, which in the first half looked like unhinging the left flank, but stuck at his job and even found time for a fine run that represented our best early chance. It did get worse in the second half when West ham overloaded their right and consistently found space behind Martin, which is more a comment on his colleagues than him.

Delaney – 7 – There is a certain beauty in the thumped clearance into the top tier, and no-one does it better that Damien. Helped keep the goal intact for a long period and led with example when Murray was sent off.

Dann – 8 – Cool & calm defending topped with a fine far post header.

Jedinak – 6 – Efficient return to duty where his battling tendencies were welcome and nearly added another fine free kick effort.

Mutch – 6 – Didn’t do anything wrong during his time on the pitch, and did spark one good move with excellent control & fine passes, but McArthur undeniably brought a sense of urgency when Jordon left injured.

Puncheon – 8 – Judged on the first 15 minutes would have been lucky to be awarded a 3 as he lost possession under little pressure on several occasions, setting up dangerous seeming counter-attacks, and conceded a dangerous free kick. After that looked to reposition himself more centrally and started to run the game for much of the next hour, setting free Murray & the wingers with beautifully weighted through passes. His set piece deliveries were ultimately the difference between the two teams, leading to all three goals.

Zaha – 7 – Didn’t really get into the game in the first half, and was more notable by his defensive duties, but started to rip West Ham’s left flank apart in the second when he started to run at defenders at pace again, along with some intelligent crosses.

Bolasie – 7 – Wasteful with the ball early on, one bad pass starting a dangerous counter-attack. Sparked some early Palace pressure down the left when Bolasie & McArthur found the range in midfield. Not quite as prolific in the second half but always a threat and a useful outlet.

Murray – 7 – Didn’t look too good at the start, off the pace & that frustration might have driven his first yellow card. Another who looked far better with Puncheon’s improvement, although didn’t take immediate advantage by missing three chances. Lucky with his first goal but his second was an excellent header. A little unlucky for the actual foul that brought the yellow card but they had totted up; it also looked like Pardew was trying to substitute him at that very moment.

Subs:

McArthur – 7 – Brought more energy to the midfield with some strong running and good passing, although he did have a few picked off. Also good role as part of defensive shield.

Ameobi – 6 – Brought on to hold up the ball & did a good unfashionable job.

Ledley – 6 – Brought on to stiffen up the defence on the left and while didn’t completely close down the threat did enough to help Kelly out.


 

Eye on the Opposition: West Ham (A) (28/2/2015)

Here's Jack Pierce with his weekly eye on the opposition; this week it's West Ham.

Good old West Ham. Having their best season in years and yet there appears to still be tension and a crisis behind the scenes brewing regarding Sam Allardyce's future.

Love him or loathe him (incidentally I loathe him), Allardyce has got his team playing some really good stuff this season but is still likely to lose his job in the summer, if not before. Never loved by the West Ham faithful, Fat Sam was under pressure last summer when it was thought the board would move him on and look for a fresh face to come in. The board (the porn brothers and Lady Peschisolido) announced their backing of the manager while publicly promising a more pleasing-on-the-eye style of football. With such a promise, most thought Allardyce would be gone by Christmas.

But no. The big headed one remains and has integrated new signings such as Enner Valencia, Diafra Sakho (one of the best valued signings in the Premier League this season) and Cheikhou Kouyate into the squad while reinvigorating current players like Stewart Downing, who when at Liverpool was nothing more than laughing stock. At times this season, West Ham have played football that the Boelyn hadn't seen for years and neutral onlookers scarcely believed was possible from an Allardyce side. More resolute defensively and quicker on the break, West Ham look set to finish in the top 10 at the end of the campaign.

Another one of the new faces at West Ham this season has been Alex Song, although only on a temporary basis. There haven't been many players who have directly made the trip from The Camp Nou to Upton Park (I dare say he is the first) but Song has showed glimpses of the form that earned him a move to Barcelona, while wearing an Arsenal shirt, this season. Known for his ball winning, Song has clearly worked hard on his ball retention. When at Arsenal, he seemed to always be giving the ball away in stupid places. I would have said he has cut out making stupid decisions out of his game but then he went and naively fouled Harry Kane in the penalty area in the 95th minute of last weekend's London derby against Spurs. 2-0 up and playing well, The Hammers gave away two goals in the last 10 minutes and three points became one.

Disappointing but certainly an improvement on the 4-0 trouncing at The Hawthorns in the FA Cup the week before. With some of the 'bigger' sides out of the competition, this season offered a chance for a club like West Ham a real chance of a good run, possibly all the way to Wembley, in this season’s competition but the baseball-capped one and his West Brom side dashed any such dream becoming reality.

During this season there have at times been the briefest mentions of West Ham challenging for the Champions League. That’s now almost certainly not going to happen and even a Europa League place looks out of the question too. Having seen the impact European football has had on Everton this season, West Ham supporters might be rather pleased about the latter. With 12 games to go before the end of the season, Hammers’ fans will want performances to remain at the level they have been at for most of this campaign. Finishing as high up the table should keep the mood buoyant among West Ham fans going into what will be an emotional season for the club.

Once this campaign finishes, West Ham will only have one season left at Upton Park. Their much publicised move to the Olympic Stadium has been hanging over the club for a while and it will be interesting to see how the club reacts to their new surroundings and what, if any, changes they will implement. There's a feeling that a move to such a stadium requires a more high profile manager in the dugout for some unknown reason. Whether that's true or not, it seems unlikely Allardyce's spat out gum will be adorning the turf at Stratford.

Whether it's a Slaven Bilic, Michael Laudrup, Roberto Mancini, Harry Redknapp (fresh from his bionic knee treatment) or even Danny Dyer, the same challenges will remain. The manager, the current incumbent or a new man, will be under more pressure than ever to maintain West Ham’s place in the Premier League in order to make the stadium move worthwhile to keep the boardroom happy while at the same time producing attractive, open football on the pitch to keep the fans on side. 

Good luck to whichever lucky bugger is tasked with that.

Follow Jack on Twitter.


 

FYP Podcast 131 - Frustrating defeat to Arsenal

Pod ahoy! The FYP panel (yep, we're going with that) are back in the studio (Kevin's house) to look back at the frustrating defeat to Arsenal.

Should Bolasie have come on sooner? Should Souare have belted it clear? Is Muzza the answer up front? All that answered...and lots more random Palace chat.

They also answer your questions and look forward to this weekend's trip to West Ham.

Click on one of the links below to download!

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Crystal Palace 1-2 Arsenal: Ratings and analysis from Selhurst

Palace unlucky against the Gunners. Here's Mark Gardiner's assessment...

Everyone has a bucket list. Among those [printable] listed on mine is to see Palace beat the Arsenal at Selhurst. That’s one that won’t be crossed off this year at least. Perhaps I should add a new one: watch a game where Blind Pugh isn’t appointed to run the line. Yet despite a home defeat I left feeling in an optimistic mood; for much of the game Palace matched Arsenal, if not in quality of passing, in attitude and attacking intent, and so nearly squeezed a point from a seemingly hopeless position. Two experienced Arsenal fans sitting next to me reckoned Arsenal carried no more threat than Palace and that the difference was apparently in the quality of the final ball; from the Whitehorse we couldn’t knowingly add: “The quality of the officiating!” 

It was a surprisingly attacking line up chosen by Pardew; usually Arsenal are confronted by massed ranks of defensive midfielders. Here Zaha started on the right, Gayle on the left, and Puncheon in an advanced midfield role behind Campbell. In the absence of Jedinak (only deemed fit enough for the bench) & McArthur, Jordon Mutch started alongside Ledley in the midfield. At the back Delaney replaced Hangeland while Souaré made his League debut. The approach of the team was different as well; no waiting to catch Arsenal off-balance and counter, instead Palace went at them from the off with Zaha starting an enthralling contest with Monreal by whipping in a cross. Despite this bright start Palace were soon behind thanks to some awful defensive work: Souaré was caught dozing in possession on the edge of our box and in attempting to retrieve a situation of his own making fouled Welbeck. Clattenburg, reputedly our best referee, awarded a penalty (on the say so of the linesman?) which Cazorla stroked home. Palace fans, incensed that barely a minute earlier Ward had been decked in front of the other linesman who’d completely missed it, would not have been mollified by news from our totally unbiased correspondent on a dodgy feed from Siberia that the challenge was just outside the box.

Palace’s response was to turn on the pressure and I would be interested in the possession stats, as for once against Arsenal we must have had at least our fair share instead of the normally 20%. Zaha was winning about 50% of his battles while Gayle was a threat down the left, while Puncheon was pulling the strings in midfield. Sadly it was too often the final cross or pass that lacked the quality to open up the Gunners’ defence, and I can’t remember Ospina having an actual save to make. Gayle’s free kick wide, shooting when a cross would have been the money ball, was one of very few efforts to be directed at goal. As half time approached Arsenal had a lengthy spell where they dominated the ball, strangely an unusual event in this match, and just as we thought making half time one down wasn’t too bad Palace were caught out by a quick move, Sanchez finding a through ball to Welbeck in the inside left channel; Speroni blocked the shot but Giroud swept the rebound home. Undeservedly trailing by a doubled deficit we nodded our heads in grim recognition that it would be a huge order to pull back from this. That mood wasn’t helped by comments from the Middle East that Welbeck was in an offside position.

If we were downhearted in the stands, purely on the turn of events as the team had actually played very well, then the spirit in this Palace team remained undimmed and they started strongly for the second time today, winning a series of corners. Sadly most seem to be targeted on Mertesacker’s head and were cleared – from one such clearance Sanchez (who I thought was generally quiet today) really should have made it three-nil on a lightening break but somehow slid the ball inches past the far post. Still though palace rarely made Ospina work except on crosses, one of which he collided spectacularly with a defender only for Bolasie to be unable to take immediate advantage.

Yannick had come on for the injured Campbell, with Dwight moving into the middle, and he formed a good partnership with Souaré down the left, giving Chambers a real roughing up. Ledley was finding some good deliveries over the heads of the defenders for our pacy front three to chase after, but still the crosses wouldn’t quite arrive at the right place, while the shots tended to be all wide or high. Then, almost magically, Palace started to find the range, starting with a tremendous run & cross from Souaré that Gayle, for once beating Mertesacker in the air, headed just over. With Arsenal always looking dangerous on the break, Bolasie was sparking some hope – did one of his crosses scrape the bar? - and Puncheon delivered a cute free kick that bent around the (badly placed?) wall and trimmed the outside of the side netting with the keeper nowhere to be seen. Both wingers found themselves in possession in their box on several occasions but tended to be crowded out, while Puncheon continued an annoying habit of delaying shooting for ever & a day.

The last throw of the dice was to withdraw Ledley & Gayle and replace them with the veteran Ameobi & near-veteran Murray: a very Warnock-like move? We expected the long ball but instead Palace still tried to work the ball down the flanks, and finally we managed a shot on target which was saved by Ospina; he had to be smarter to stop a Murray header with what looked like our last chance. As the game entered 5 minutes stoppage time it seemed too late, especially with Murray putting another header wide, until with barely a minute left a Palace corner saw Zaha’s effort blocked and Murray stab home from close range. Surely too late! Not quite as, much to our intense agony, Bolasie again worked space on the left and his cross was met by a glancing header that beat the keeper, only to strike the inside of the far post & bounce straight into the grounded Ospina’s hands. B*gger! Still, when the final whistle went, it was most unusual to hear the whole ground rise and sing Palace’s praises after a home defeat. That perhaps is the most eloquent comment on what the performance was worth.

Two things that did make me wince. First: the pitch – again a number of players from both sides slipped on several occasions, including in one bizarre moment in the second half when Giroud slipped, presenting the ball to Delaney, who in turn played Bambi on ice, but Giroud wasn’t quite quick enough to take advantage. Second: Arsenal fans’ chants which included several derogatory anti-Semitic terms – are they Chelsea in disguise?

Ratings:

Speroni – 6 – Would like to see the second goal again – don’t think he could do anything but block Welbeck’s shot and let the consequences sort themselves out, and it unluckily fell to Giroud. Made competent saves in both halves and one good sprint from the line and gather at the forward’s feet. Again not exactly overworked against one of the Premier League’s best.

Ward – 6 – Was occasionally exposed on the right, more so in the second half when Arsenal played on the break. Tried hard to support Zaha down the right.

Souaré – 6 – Started disastrously with the penalty incident, apparently not aware you have to be switched on all the time in England; showed that with a couple of early passes that were snapped up by yellow shirts. He could have gone under completely but he dug in and began to become accustomed to the pace, playing some good passes. Second half did well sweeping up on the left and linked well with Gayle & later Bolasie, the highlight being a long run and excellent cross from the goal line that produced our first realistic chance on goal. So a 5 for the first half and a 7 for the second.

Delaney – 6 – First half kept Sanchez & co. relatively quiet. Was worked harder in the second but did his job well, occasionally finding the pace of the attackers a problem on the break.

Dann – 7 – Outstanding, one slight heart-in-mouth moment in the first half aside. If he did let Welbeck get beyond him for the second he was apparently betrayed by the lack of a flag for offside.

Ledley – 7 – Strong performance in the middle with some exceptionally well-timed challenges, and some well aimed balls over the top for Campbell or the wingers to chase. Substitution looked to be tactical.

Mutch – 6 – Not outstanding but signs of why we’ve paid £5m for Jordon, with some good tackles and some neat passing, although some did go astray. Deserved yellow card for trying (& failing) to cynically bringing down a breaking opponent.

Zaha – 7 – Difficult to mark Wilf as the results of his battles with the full back were about even, sometimes he’d lose the ball, sometimes he’d beat two or three. Sadly there wasn’t a lot of end product for much of the game but this improved in the second half. Mustn’t forget he tracked back a lot and was tackling opponents all over the pitch.

Gayle – 6 – Posed a threat behind Arsenal’s right back but his delivery from open play & set pieces was underwhelming, a wasted free kick a fine example. Was less effective when moved into the striker’s role when Campbell was injured.

Puncheon – 7 – An excellent display in the advanced midfield role; most good moves came through Puncheon and he was also involved in a lot of the challenges for the ball in the centre of the pitch. His corners were more dangerous than Gayle’s while his well-placed free kick just shaved the post. Being pedantic Jason did pass up several opportunities to shoot when making regular runs across the penalty area. Of the players who started he would be my Man of the Match for the influence he had on the game but...

Campbell – 6 – Worked hard but never really threatened the goal; challenged the giant Mertesacker in the air & won a few. Injured in the second half.

Subs:

Bolasie – 8 – Was back to his best raiding down the left and his crosses were far more dangerous than any of his colleagues’. Showed up Chambers’s limitations as a full back and so nearly created an unlikely equaliser.

Murray – 7 – Initially made little impact when coming on, but in a short spell had three headers (one wide, one saved, one escaping the laws of geometry by hitting the post & staying out) and stabbed home a late goal.

Ameobi – 5 – Little chance to shine.


 

FYP Podcast 130 - A win, a draw and a defeat

Pod ahoy! After a two week break (just like the old days) due to Palace being rude enough to play a midweek game, the FYP team are back to pod their little hearts out.

They look back at THREE games for Palace, including a win, a draw and a defeat.

They also answer your questions and look forward to a clash with Arsenal.

Click on one of the links below to download!

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And check out the podcast's lovely sponsors Vektor Printing