Yes it's podcast time again so the FYP boys are in the studio (AKA The Waterfront in Streatham) to chat all things Palace.
JD, Streety & Enders reconvene to look back over the disappointing home defeat to Southampton and also forward to a big trip to Sunderland.
They also answer your tweets and Facebook messages.
So join Jim Daly, Andy Street and James Endeacott for 40 minutes of Palace chat!
And check out the podcast's lovely sponsors Vektor Printing!
Here's Mark Gardiner with his thoughts on the 1-0 defeat to Southampton
Palace’s limitations were show up this afternoon in a dismal home defeat that featured one shot on target in the whole game, and – Jedi’s risible free kick aside – not one effort on gaol at all in the second half, when Boruc could have taken a half-day holiday for all the work he had to do. The manner of the winning goal was wholly in nature with the rest of the performance, coming from our corner and featuring a nightmare contribution from Jason Puncheon. Southampton had some decent footballers but hardly set the match alight, Julian being almost as unemployed as his opposite number.
There were three changes to the Palace XI: Moxey replaced Parr at left back; Puncheon returned against his old team on the right wing, with Bolasie switching to the left and Ledley turned up in the hole in a 4-2-3-1 formation, which was the 4th different position he’d played in within 7 days; finally Murray started in the sole striker’s role.
The first half was played in unfamiliar sunshine and was a fairly level affair, with barely an effort on goal by either side in the first 30 minutes. Southampton played some pretty possession football and probably had the edge but seldom forced Julian into work apart from picking out a couple of crosses; there was one excellent save from a close-range header that turned out to be offside but that was it. Both Dann & Delaney made important interceptions with foot or head. Bolasie was again proving to be Palace’s main threat but Puncheon on the other flank was having a terrible game, once having a clear run down the wing only to automatically check inside and stop a move. Jedinak looked well off the pace while KG seldom looked likely to create anything. Murray was doing well off scraps of possession but Ledley’s best work was in defensive duties, leaving Glenn terribly isolated. Once again Palace conceded the ball too cheaply.
The goal came just when Palace had imposed a little pressure with a second corner. The ball was cleared to the halfway line where Puncheon appeared to have any danger covered. Somehow he managed to lay the ball back short for Rodriguez to pounce, perhaps thinking of the pass to Moxey. Julian nearly rescued the situation with a tackle 30 yards out but as both players went to ground Rodriguez found the ball at his feet and rolled the ball home. It was the sort of blunder schoolboys don’t get away with. Puncheon’s game, already in tatters, never recovered, and Palace were suddenly playing without any cohesion. Lambert’s cross-shot beat Julian but rebounded from the post as Southampton pressed for the kill. Stoppage time saw two rarities in one moment: a Palace shot on goal and from Bolasie at that, smothered by Boruc. Southampton’s reply saw Julian beat away a swerving effort with the last play of the half.
Surely changes needed to be made? Who would come on for the hapless Puncheon? There was a long list of potential candidates: Jerome, Thomas, Ince, Bannan, Gayle. Yet for unfathomable reasons Pulis, so quick to make interval changes last week, left the same team to dig themselves out of the hole, although KG did try to push forward more often. Bolasie almost forced an opening, suddenly breaking free to bear down on goal until being upended by Louvren. There was a defender roughly level with the pair so referee Webb was probably justified in not sending the defender off but it was a tight call; Jedinak took the free kick and nearly found the Whitehorse Lane executive boxes; we didn’t know it but that was to be our only effort on goal for the rest of the game.
Palace put in a lot of effort but Puncheon’s wretched game continued, while Ledley lacked the creative spark to help Murray, despite putting in hard work. Bolasie threatened and even managed some good crosses, but Louvren & Fonte dealt capably with these deliveries. Finally Ince came on the right for the hapless Puncheon, while Jerome replaced KG and pushed up alongside Murray, but it didn’t improve matters much, Jerome finding himself offside on a regular basis. Thomas came on late for Bolasie and managed some dangerous deliveries but none that found a Palace head. We huffed & puffed but the Saints’ brick house wasn’t blown down. A chance missed to pull away from the bottom three, and Pulis’s delay in changing the team around should be the subject of hearty debate. Do we need a more creative player like Bannan in a midfield three, or start with a second striker, at home?
Speroni – 6 – Two good saves in the first half from Speroni, although one was offside anyway, and so nearly bailed Puncheon out with a sliding challenge that knocked Rodriguez over but didn’t see the ball bounce kindly – mind you it was looking for a second like a possible red card for Julian! Twice rushed kicks from the ground when he had more time to trap the ball but got away with it.
Ward – 6 – Mixed performance from Joel who had some good moments with sharp tackles but whose passing was sometimes misdirected. His corners were equally variable in quality.
Moxey – 6 – Plenty of effort but his passing & positioning was suspect at times as ever. I don’t think he could do anything over the goal, expecting Puncheon to deal with the ball, but would be interested to see the replay.
Dann – 7 – Important defensive work often dealing with crosses into the box. I thought his lack of pace might be a weakness today but his positional play helped a great deal.
Delaney – 6 – Only marginally behind his central defensive colleague but defended well against a varied attacking force.
Jedinak – 4 – I thought he looked a yard off the pace today, perhaps a legacy of the week’s international, not winning as many balls as usual, while his passing was generally poor, although there was one exception that set Bolasie free. Summed up his & the team’s performance with a woeful apogee of a free kick.
Dikgacoi – 4 – Anonymous in the first half but at least pushed on in the second.
Ledley – 6 – Didn’t do much in his starting position behind Murray but worked hard in all other areas of the pitch, both defensively and later on out wider.
Puncheon – 3 – Started poorly then made the unforced error that set up the goal. After that it just got worse... It would have been a mercy to take him off – he was walking long before the board came up for him – but for reasons unknown Pulis kept him on long after there was any chance of redemption.
Bolasie – 7 – Again Palace’s most potent threat, although that is comparatively speaking. Like most wingers promises more than he delivers, but there has been a gradual improvement in the last few games. He even managed to keep a shot low & on target! Some magic movement set up his run on goal ended by Louvren.
Murray – 6 – Worked hard but often far too isolated until Jerome arrived. Was caught offside a few times early on and never really saw a sight of goal.
Ince – 5 – Came on but had absolutely no influence on the game, barely seeing the ball apart from a couple of decent free kicks.
Jerome – 5 – Tried hard but caught offside far too often.
Thomas – 6 – Managed far more in terms of crosses in his limited time on the pitch than Puncheon managed in over an hour.
Saturday March 8th, 2014. Kick-off 3:00pm. Selhurst Park, South London .
Danny Higginbotham played the final match of his career, for Gibralter on Wednesday; but the damage he did to Palace will never be forgotten after his late goal effectively condemned Palace to relegation last time they were in the Permier League. That match was at home to Southampton, but things have changed dramatically since then; and the Saints are looking to push for a European place. Meanwhile, Palace are still stuck in a relegation scrap, but Glenn Murray's penalty last week rescued a point in South Wales as the Eagles earned a hard fought draw at Swansea. Saints had four players in the most recent England squad, whilst Palace had a number of players on international duty, so it will be interesting to see who has the most stamina, and indeed, the better tactics. Southampton have lost their previous three matches in all competitions, with Palace picking up four points from a possible nine.
There are a few injury concerns for Palace this weekend, as Marouane Chamakh went for a scan on a hamstring injury picked up at Swansea in the first half last week, while Joe Ledley and KG both missed out on their international friendlies in midweek with unspecified injuries.
Glenn Murray, Sunday's hero, could return to the starting line-up despite not being 100% fit yet after his long injury lay-off, or boss Tony Pulis may decide to give Cameron Jerome the lone striker role. Jerome Thomas returned to the squad last week, and should find himself with a spot on the bench again.
By Jack Pierce
Remember the geeky lad at school who did not have much going for him but returned after one school holiday with a new found confidence, without the braces and a host of girls interested in him?
Southampton FC are that boy!
Four years ago this Saturday, they beat Yeovil 3-0 and moved up to 5th in League One in doing so. Fast forward to this week and four of their first team are England internationals with the club secure in the top half of the Premier League and being lauded left, right and centre for both their playing style and continued excellence in youth development.
Their stock could not be higher.
While it is fair enough to say that their form has dipped since the turn of the year, they continue to be praised for their quick, highly technical style they have become known for under the management of Mauricio Pochettino. Even in defeats, such as last weekend’s against Liverpool, they still receive plaudits and often justifiably so.
The owners of one of the English game’s most promising players in Luke Shaw, the young left back is the current poster boy for an incredibly successful production line. Notable graduates through the Saints’ academy include Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and the world’s most expensive footballer (and now Galactico), Gareth Bale and the club are not letting up on the home grown player front.
Shaw is just one of many academy graduates plying their trade in the Premier League on a weekly basis. On Saturday, he can expect to be joined by Callum Chambers, James Ward-Prowse and skipper, Adam Lallana. Young English talent being trusted to play in the Premier League is a great sight for fans of any club and Pochettino’s trust in his players has been replicated by Roy Hodgson. Other than the four Saints players who were with the English senior squad in the week; an array of their youth players have also been away with the different junior England sides.
If all the talk prior to Wednesday’s friendly’s kick off was about Shaw’s potential debut and the threat he poses to Ashley Cole’s World Cup place, post-match discussion was about how any question mark next to Adam Lallana’s name regarding his place on the plane to Brazil will most certainly have been crossed off the England manager’s notepad. His half hour cameo cemented his status as one of the most creative players available to Hodgson. The combination of his tricks, flicks and his clever vision has been a highlight of this Premier League season and appears ideal for international football. For supporters of ‘smaller’ clubs, it makes a difference to see such praise heaped upon a player who has stayed true to the club that gave him his first break in football.
It is testament to the quality of the players who have been with Southampton since their time in the Football League that last summer’s expensive signings have failed to secure themselves starting positions in Pochettino’s starting eleven. Only Dejan Lovren appears to have found a first team berth for himself while Victor Wanyama and Daniel Osvaldo failed to achieve what most expected them to do. While Wanyama could blame the injuries that have blighted his season, Osvaldo never seemed to settle and it was not much of a surprise when Southampton agreed to let him return to Italy with Juventus for the rest of the season. During the summer, it will be interesting to see whether Southampton again splash the cash in the foreign market or whether they will entrust the next set of academy graduates with regular first team places.
Bids for Luke Shaw in the summer are a certainty given his age, ability and the fact both Manchester United and Chelsea will be in the market for a left back. It would be no surprise to see clubs sniffing around Lallana either, particularly if his fine form continues. Southampton may find out that the problem with success and attention is that the notoriety you gain from it can often lead to the purge of your finest assets.
As I’ve praised the productivity of the Southampton youth setup, it is only fair to give a nod to Palace’s prowess in the production of their own players too. However, under Tony Pulis, youth has not had as much of a chance to flourish as much as Palace fans would like. It is no criticism of Pulis as he obviously deems the relegation battle no place to introduce youngsters not used to the pace of Premier League football. However, there is an element of frustration about the case of Jonny Williams. Highly rated by Palace fans and Pulis (apparently), he has been sent out on loan as opportunities are at such a premium. He is not too dissimilar to Adam Lallana in style and Palace fans hope that it will not be too much longer before fans are the heaping the sort of praise put upon Lallana on one of our own.
Saturday’s match is not just about the showcasing of younger talent. Rickie Lambert and Glenn Murray – closer to the end of their careers than the start of it – are more than likely to have a significant say as to how the match will turn out. For all the guile and technique of their younger teammates, it seems both teams require an older head at the top end of the park.
It is a case of experience and knowhow versus youthfulness and exuberance on Saturday.
Perhaps it is time to remind the new cool kid that they have not always been so ‘hip’ or ‘dope’ – or whatever these young folk say today.
We get the thoughts of Southampton fan Chris Rann here
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Crystal Palace have scored 21% of their goals in the opening 15 minutes of matches; the highest proportion in the Barclays Premier League.
Rickie Lambert has scored three goals in his last two league appearances against Palace.
Southampton are lacking in form, but the quality in their squad when the players work well together is incredible. Four England call ups serves only to highlight the progress that the club has made in recent years. Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana, Jay Rodriguez and Rickie Lambert all have that star quality which can turn a game on its head. Palace were shocking in the first half last week, but much improved in the second. The introductions of Glenn Murray and Cameron Jerome were instrumental in earning Palace a point, and if Tom Ince can find his feet then a tight contest is sure to follow, provided Palace's defence are on the top of their game. At home, the Eagles are very tough to beat, so I might just call this one a draw. 1-1
Pod time! The FYP podcast team sit down for pod 97 to mull over the latest CPFC happenings, as they creep closer towards the big 100.
They look back at a crucial point won at Swansea and forward to a big home clash with Southampton.
They also answer your tweets and Facebook messages.
So join Jim Daly, Andy Street, Kevin Day, Rob Sutherland and Paul Richards for 40 minutes of Palace chat!
And check out the podcast's lovely sponsors Vektor Printing!
Jonny Parr has revealed that contract talks have started over a new deal at Crystal Palace.
And the Norwegian left-back is also confident he will be part of an Eagles team that are in the Premier League next season!
“There have been some talks but not too much,” he told the South London Press. “I’m just focused on my football and we’ll see what happens.
“It is up to the club to do what they think is best. At the moment I’m not thinking too much about that. I’m sure we will stay up - we have enough quality to do that and we’re working hard every day.
“What happens next season [for me] is not quite sure.”
With Palace three points outside the relegation zone with 12 games to go, Parr isn't too bothered about whether he gets picked or not, above the Eagles staying up.
“With the position we are in you can’t be angry or disappointed if you don’t get picked,” he added.
“If you play then you play. If not then you push on and be ready for when you are called upon in the 12 games we have left to go.”
A valuable point earned in South Wales, so here's our man Mark Gardiner with his thoughts...
The definitive game of two halves yesterday as a fighting second half performance from Palace dragged a point from what seemed an inevitable Swansea win in wet South Wales, and for the first time we viewed the template of Pulis’s Stoke tactics overlaid on a Palace team: high tempo, pressing hard on the halfway line, and early direct delivery to the strikers or wingers. I doubt the Palace team would be able to play this type of game for a whole 90 minutes at this stage in Pulis’s reign, but would love to see the same pace and attacking intent deployed at home some time.
Palace lined up in a strict 4-5-1 formation: Jedinak, KG & Ledley formed a flat middle three flanked by Bolasie on the left & Ince on the right; there was no-one in the hole which left Chamakh isolated up front. Actually he would have been lonely anyway as the first half was the perfect example of the importance in maintaining possession. It was almost a masochist’s dream as Swansea’s football was both beautiful & foreboding to withhold, their short passing & movement off the ball repeated from their display at Selhurst earlier this season, without a doubt the best footballing team I’ve seen this year. After Palace lost 9-0 at Anfield the old Eagle Eye ran a story about Steve Coppell replacing the entire outfield 10 with dustbins as they possessed far greater mobility. Here Swansea just passed the ball around our static midfield & defence, the De Guzman goal being the zenith when an unusually long pass sparked a move that saw Palace’s centre completely scythed apart, the scorer finding himself clear in front of Speroni for a simple finish. We were particularly vulnerable down both flanks, with Routledge keeping Ward honest on the right while the left side was sliced & diced by the excellent Dyer with Ben Davies in support.
In contrast Palace’s football was lumpen and matched the leaden skies. There were a couple of neat flicks from Ince but little else, while Bolasie appeared to be the only Palace player with the ability to make things happen on his own, but wasted an early chance set up by Parr with a cross that was over hit by about 20 yards. Yannick aside everyone else was moving in treacle, with a soft Chamakh header being the only minor threat posed to Vorm’s goal. Too often the ball was given back cheaply to Swansea and the pass & move cycle renewed afresh, while we conceded plenty of free kicks in dangerous areas. The only question seemed to be how many they would score, but through a combination of good luck and desperate defending Palace somehow limited it to one; it would have been two if another fine move that unhinged our left side had been finished from 6 yards out by Bony, instead Julian produced one of his reaction close-range saves to keep us in the game. Palace’s woes increased when Chamakh limped off to be replaced by Cameron Jerome and Pulis, sensing we needed a little more threat up front, pushed Ince into the hole, moved Ledley to the left side of midfield & switched Bolasie to the right wing, but it made little difference. With the exception of the fore-mentioned Bolasie & the ever-dependable Speroni the rest of the team were immobile obstacles before the Swans’ play. How does one threaten an equaliser without the ball?
The skies at half time turned a most threatening greyish brown with a hint of maroon; given the already torrential rain we wondered what storm was going to strike. It was obvious that Palace had to make a change before the match was irrevocably lost, and Murray appeared at the start for Ince whose involvement had been marginal, except for providing a non-Cardiff opportunity for the locals to abuse. Switching to a 4-4-2 with two holding midfielders, two wide men & a couple of reasonable hefty strikers, this was old school Pulis: the ball was going to be sent long and the forecast matched the skies - it was not going to be pretty. The midfield line, which had been deep as usual, was pushed up to the halfway line, and the tempo of the game increased notable. It was a gamble – we would either batter our way back into the match or get cut to ribbons on the counter as Swansea exploited the space behind the midfield, but a change was definitely needed before we subsided to a limp defeat. How often Jerome & Murray have played together in practice is questionable and it took them some time to strike up any sort of partnership, but given that Palace’s midfield – with the notable exception of Bolasie – was still incapable of making a difference that didn’t seem to matter. Swansea appeared content to sit on their laurels, time wasting from a long way out (pot & kettle here!), withdrawing the dangerous Bony – perhaps Pulis was looking to capitalise on tiredness following their Neapolitan sojourn on Thursday spiced by a wet pitch? While Murray was proving adept at winning & holding up the ball the real threat came down the right with Bolasie, who did to Swansea what they had inflicted upon Jonny Parr, ripping apart Angel Rangel on several occasions, but too often his crossing was poor or luck continued to desert us. There were few chances, a half-hit clever volley from Murray and a looping header from Jerome that both dropped easily into Vorm’s hands.
Pulis had one final card to play, Withdrawing Parr for Jerome Thomas to push up on the left with Ledley dropping into the full back position. With Swansea withdrawing the quietly impressive central defender Williams after what looked a blow to the mouth but was later reported to be illness, Palace started to claw their way back. Jerome & Murray started to look like they had not just been introduced while KG broke out of the midfield torpor with some strong challenges and runs. In the end it was Murray who fashioned the equaliser on his own, chasing a lost cause and inducing panic in Swansea’s defence, somehow robbing Vorm of the ball before being brought down by Chico Flores. With Mike Dean 40+ yards back I expected a non-decision or even a foul awarded against Murray (not because it was, but that’s the usual outcome) but the referee awarded a penalty; his linesman was no help whether the foul was inside the box or not, but we did have the delightful sight of the loathed Flores receiving a late comeuppance in a red card – Murray is now on Andy Carroll’s Christmas card list. The penalty was emphatically put away in the top right corner by Glenn, the first of hopefully many Premier League goals.
There was still around 10 minutes for Palace to strike down the 10 men. Murray has a shot blocked for a corner before Bolasie, working hard to recover a lost ball, again found himself reaching the goal line, and his cross fell perfectly for Thomas on the edge of the box with the Swansea defence wrong-footed. What induced the winger to throw himself in an obvious dive instead of taking the easier option of shooting? Lack of confidence? Lack of match practice? Whatever it was Pulis is right to stamp down on it, not only from a moral perspective but also for blowing a great chance to grab two more points; at least Dean got this decision perfectly right. There was just time for Bolasie to rampage in from the right and send a shot just over before Palace players & fans could celebrate a point gained that seemed impossible only an hour earlier. Kudos to the manager for changing the formation and style of play.
Speroni – 7 – There was one moment of panic when lack of communication with his defenders nearly served Bony up a chance on a plate, but that was Julian’s only error on what must have been a greasy pitch. Had little chance with the goal – although so brilliant has his form been in 2013 & 2014 you half expected the miracle – but possibly kept us in the game with a fine reaction save from close range, pawing Bony’s effort aside.
Ward – 5 – Had a tough time against Routledge in the first half but at least the right side didn’t fall apart. Didn’t get forward too often as a result.
Parr – 4 – Had one early run that set up Bolasie for a great crossing opportunity, but after that Jonny’s game went downhill fast. Dyer and the full back Davies just sliced our left side apart and too many times Parr found Dyer played in behind him.
Delaney - 6 – Very difficult to mark Bony when the forward drops off and the midfield runners pour through the middle. Completely taken out of the game for their goal by the Swansea interplay. Less pressured in the second half and his much-favoured long diagonal ball from left to right was for once an effective weapon, thanks to work from Murray and often finding Bolasie in space.
Dann – 5 – Defensively suffered as much as his partner against Swansea’s mobile attack. Nearly caught on the break in the second and took a yellow card for the team by bringing down the attacker wide right.
Jedinak – 5 – Rarely a factor in the match, like the rest of the midfield trio unable to stem the flow of Swansea’s attacks in the first half, or spark anything in retaliation. His passing was shocking, even in the second half when Swansea eased off. First half booking for a chest-high challenge that was destined to be nothing other than a caution, another cheap yellow card – how close is Mile to a second suspension?
Dikgacoi – 6 – Anonymous for about an hour then started to influence the game with his strong play, winning balls, hustling mistakes out of the opposition and making good runs to support the attack.
Ledley – 5 – Appeared in three different positions – central midfield, left midfield & left back – proving his versatility but was equally disappointing in all of them. Like the rest of our midfield sans Yannick was outplayed in the first half, overshadowed by Bolasie in the second, and not really asked to do much as left back except return the ball long towards the opposition’s goal.
Bolasie – 7 – Was the most latent threat Palace possessed and while his first cross of the match was so wildly over hit one wondered if this was to be another inconsistent display, he kept hammering away, first on the left and then on the right. Second half unhinged the whole left side of Swansea’s defence and it is no exaggeration to say it was almost like Zaha reborn. If only his quality of delivery could improve as Wilf’s did! At least the crosses were generally driven in low from the goal line and he provided us with the hope something could be snatched from the game. Did set up two late chances for Thomas & himself.
Ince – 4 – After a couple of early touches faded completely from the game, proving far too lightweight on both the right wing & later in the hole. Needs a touch of his old man’s grit – he would have been riled up by the abuse from the home crowd. As it was there was a tremendous cheer when his half-time withdrawal was announced. Not sure he would have got into Swansea’s team ahead of either Dyer or Routledge on this form.
Chamakh – 5 – Worked hard but saw little of the ball and took a couple of knocks before limping off.
Jerome – 6 – At first as isolated as Marouane had been, worked hard without a hint of quality, but pressed hard on Swansea’s defence & there were hints of a partnership developing with Murray.
Murray – 7 – Showed what Palace have missed all season with an exemplary display of hard work, holding the ball up and again allowing the defence no respite. Won the penalty through a combination of these qualities and despatched it perfectly.
Thomas – 4 – Was not much of a factor until that ridiculous, ill-judged dive. What is wrong with taking a shot from 18 yards?
Sunday March 2nd, 2014. Kick-off 4:30pm. Liberty Stadium, South Wales.
Swansea may have been knocked out of Europe on Thursday night (although I thought Wales was still in Europe by virtue of being part of the UK?) but that could be a blessing in disguise for the Swans as they look to bounce back with a victory over Palace. Under Michael Laudrup they started well but faded. Now Garry Monk has taken charge but despite winning just a single match, improved performances have given the South Wales team renewed hope of avoiding the drop. Palace fell to a 2-0 defeat at home to Manchester United last week but will look to put that behind them as they travel across the border in this clash at the lower end of the table.
Palace have no new injury concerns to worry them, and were boosted last week by the shock return of star striker Glenn Murray to the starting line-up. Murray may lead the line once again on Sunday, but could have to settle for a cameo appearance from the bench.
Jerome Thomas remains out with a back injury, and Adlene Guedioura has disappeared off the face of the earth. Meanwhile, Jonathan Williams has departed on loan to Ipswich Town, and is therefore unavailable, while Owen Garvan is also potentially joining former boss Ian Holloway at Millwall.
Marouane Chamakh will play behind Murray unless Tony Pulis decides two starts in a row is too much for the latter, which will dictate where Tom Ince plays, as Pulis looks to change things around a little.
After their travails in Europe on Thursday night, Garry Monk may decide to rest some of his star players for this Premier League clash. Jonjo Shelvey missed out on the trip to Napoli with a hamstring injury but is expected to return to the side this weekend. Meanwhile, star striker Michu remains a long term casualty, leaving Wilfred Bony to lead the line.
By Jack Pierce
Season after season, there is one constant that will never disappear: Premier League chairmen pushing the panic button following a spell of poor form.
Having already seen Steve Clarke ushered out of the door at The Hawthorns in similar circumstances; Michael Laudrup, still fresh from delivering Swansea’s first ever major trophy last season, was relieved of his duties at The Liberty Stadium at the beginning of February.
His replacement, at least until the end of the season, is Garry Monk, the club captain and veteran of Swansea’s meteoric rise up the Football League ladder. A coaching novice, it is thought Monk’s appointment was one that would re-energise a group of players clearly not inspired by Laudrup’s approaches to tactics or man management and reaffirm the team spirit that seemed so evident only last season. Only three league games into his reign, it is probably too soon to judge whether his appointment has brought about a renaissance in Swansea’s form but by beating bitter rivals, Cardiff 3-0 in his first match in charge was not a bad start.
A draw and a defeat at Stoke and Liverpool respectively have followed and Swansea remain in the relatively safe 12th position as we head into this weekend’s fixtures. However, a Palace away win and Swansea would be leapfrogged and all of a sudden pressure on Monk and his team would be ramped right up.
Since taking over, Monk has maintained the tika-taka style of football that Swansea have been praised for under Messrs Martinez, Sousa, Rodgers and Laudrup but has also reintroduced Leon Britton to add some composure to a midfield that has at times this season looked overrun. While the tag of the ‘English Xavi’ may have been a little farfetched, the midfielder’s passing statistics cannot be ignored. He also provides the connection with the club’s past, including the infamous final day victory against Hull City in 2003 that prevented the club being relegated to the Conference.
Swansea’s transfer dealings in January surprised a few. Whereas clubs that look at lower divisions generally look at players currently in form with obvious quality, Swansea went and signed two players that most football fans may well have forgotten about. Instead of targeting the likes of Burnley’s Danny Ings or Leicester’s Dave Nugent, Laudrup (still in charge at the time) added Marvin Emnes and David Ngog to his squad. The pair had barely set their previous sides, Middlesbrough and Bolton respectively, alight so for an opportunity in the Premier League to come their way may well have surprised them as much as it did viewers of Sky Sports News. It would also be rude to not mention the fact that Tom Ince decided to join Palace over Swansea in January at this point.
The form of Wilfried Bony may well mean that the signings of Emnes and Ngog will count for nothing this season. In the absence of Michu, the Ivorian signing seems to have found his feet in English football and has proved that he is certainly better than other players who have flourished in the Dutch league, only to disappoint in England. Acting as the focal point in the attack, he is supplied by wingers Nathan Dyer and Wayne Routledge, both of whom have returned to the sort of form they showed in their first two seasons in the Premier League with Swansea. Even Pablo Hernandez, who many onlookers deemed a waste of £5.5 million, has shown glimpses of the sort of form that has seen him earn international caps for Spain.
While they came away from Anfield without anything to show for their efforts last time out, they did impress and it seems the gamble of changing manager midway through the season by Huw Jenkins might pay off for them. A Palace side visiting Swansea a month ago might have had more of a chance of picking up all three points than they do this Sunday.
Neither side are particularly potent so it will be an interesting tussle between a Swansea side who play to cut through teams and a well drilled Tony Pulis outfit. If the Palace midfield pairing of Jedi and Joe Ledley can unsettle their opponents and Scott Dann and Damo keep Bony quiet, then Palace fans would hope that Tom Ince, Jason Puncheon and Glenn Murray would have enough of a threat about them to create chances.
September’s reverse fixture left Palace fans disheartened. Swansea played us off the park with their neat, possession based football and Palace looked void of ideas. Five months on and the gap between the two sides has certainly narrowed. The three points on offer will be deemed winnable by both sets of players which should provide a decent watch. However, despite the late Sunday kick off, the game is not on the box. Illegal streams or The Swan in West Wickham are the way forward for those not braving it to South Wales.
Swansea's season may be written off as one deeply affected by their European endeavours but provided they stave off the threat of relegation and Monk or another manager is given the funds to add to the squad, you would imagine that Swansea will not be in and around the bottom of the league again next season.
Then again, if you asked a true Swansea supporter what an acceptable season is in their eyes is; ending the season 17th and finishing above Cardiff would do them just fine.
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Swansea have scored the highest proportion of second half goals of any team in the Barclays Premier League this season (75%).
Crystal Palace have recovered just one point from losing positions in the Barclays Premier League this term, fewer than any other team.
Swansea may sit in 12th position in the Premier League but it is their performance at Selhurst Park earlier in the season which perhaps provides a greater idea of what Sunday's outcome will be. Both sides do, however, have new managers at the helm and under Tony Pulis Palace have become far more resilient, whilst Garry Monk is still getting to grips with his new charges. It will be a tight game but Swansea have performed well in their matches of late, and I expect them to be too strong for Palace. I'm going to plump for a 2-1 victory for the Swans.
Tom Ince is confident Palace will give Swansea a tough game on Sunday after losing to Manchester United at the weekend.
Goals from Robin van Persie (from the penalty spot) and Wayne Rooney secured a much needed 2-0 win for David Moyes at Selhurst but Palace were far from dominated.
Marouane Chamakh gave away a penalty in the second half and from there on in the Eagles failed to recover.
“The penalty was right on the edge of the box and the ref was close enough to see it," said Ince. "Unfortunately [Patrice] Evra takes a bad touch and Chams just doesn’t stay on his feet. Sometimes you get them and sometimes you don’t. The referee was probably spot on. From then on Manchester United started to control the game.
“When the second went in it was difficult for us. You can’t give Wayne Rooney that type of space inside the box. My dad said you`ve just got to go and enjoy these games – don’t get too worked up and focused on the fact it is Manchester United.
“My dad, me and Ryan Giggs are good friends. With the history that me and Ryan have it was fantastic to play against him – he’s twice my age! It was a nice moment. I had a chat with him afterwards and he said ‘you’ve just to keep working hard`. That`s what I’ll do."
But a trip to a out-of-sorts Swans give Palace a chance to bounce back from that defeat and Ince is in confident mood.
“You have to move on. These games against the big teams are bonus ones. When you’re playing against the likes of Swansea, they are the kind of ones we’ll be looking to win.
“Swansea play nice football and did ever so well against Napoli – but will they be able to handle the threat we give them with Glenn Murray, Marouane Chamakh, Cameron Jerome, Yannick Bolasie, Jason Puncheon and myself?
"They will want to play their fluid type of football and be expansive – but look at the amount of times we counter-attacked West Brom.
“It’s different when you play Manchester United because they keep the ball so well. Swansea play similar but are probably not as effective – they haven`t got the Wayne Rooneys and Robin van Persies who, when you do give them the space, will kill you off. We have to nullify what Swansea do and then play our own game. I`m sure Swansea won’t be able to handle what we do.
“We`ve got some games we feel we can pick up some points. It probably will go down to the wire. But we’re confident that on our patch we can cause other teams problems. Against Manchester United you take it on the chin. Swansea will be a totally different kettle of fish this weekend.
“You always know when the top teams come here they are more bonus games for you. We gave it a go. Up until the penalty it could’ve gone either way. We needed to hold on another 10-15 minutes and then it could`ve got exciting because the game would have opened up."