A frustrating Monday night defeat gives Palace, and Ben Mountain, plenty to think about.
Well, that was a miserable affair. Sadly, failing to clinch a point from games such as Monday’s away to Bournemouth spells troubled times ahead for the Palace.
However, as always, there are things to take from the game that were both encouraging and, of course, discouraging. Emphasis on the latter. Everyone will have their own view on the match but we’ve tried to reflect calmly and weigh up the five things that we learnt.
Here goes nothing…
1) James McCarthur and Max Meyer need time
With Jimmy Mac seemingly being simultaneously slated and lionised from all corners by the red and blue faithful, it’s tough to say whether his more attacking role worked or not on Monday. However, with Palace’s midfield so abundant for choice, one thing’s clear: we need a steady, established core that works well together consistently.
With Meyer looking very sharp, perhaps the best solution would be to rotate their positions so that Jimmy plays deeper with Meyer roaming forward in his place. Hopefully, this way, they will prove to be a solid duo.
2) Our defence needs greater cover
One thing that was overly clear for anyone watching MNF was how shaky the Palace defence is. While individually the back-four are all competent enough and seemingly work well together, it was all too apparent that they’re not going to be making life too comfortable for us fans this year.
Knowing that, then, and fielding three centrally based midfielders, Hodgson has to ensure that we don’t over-commit going forward. With Wilfried Zaha playing effectively as a forward for large swathes of the game and Andros Townsend far from an ideal cover defensively, we left our backline exposed to the Cherries and sent far too many players forward. It’s understandable given our recent woe in front of goal but perhaps seeing point No.1 could be the solution to this issue.
3) Mamadou Sakho must calm down
As an experienced player in a crucial, commanding position such as centre-back, Mamadou Sakho has the cool of a Saharan sun. On the ball he looks flustered and unnatural - fine, that’s always been the case - but worryingly he now looks to play the ball out from defence when in reality he isn’t able to do so fluidly. As for the penalty? It’s playground stuff and completely, without reserve, lost us the game. We have to see a repentant Sakho on Saturday against Wolves.
4) Zaha is still the lynchpin going forward
Everyone in English football knows that Crystal Palace become a thing of impotence without the electric Wilfried Zaha on the pitch. However, despite playing yesterday, we still looked weak going forward when he wasn’t directly involved.
Had Wilf fallen out of position or squandered his chance during the attack, the rest of the team looked lost and crestfallen, having really only had Jordan Ayew to pick out. It’s tedious to watch because if the Ivorian isn’t on his game - as every footballer is entitled to be once in a while - the whole team seems dishevelled and uninspired. In the long-term, we have to learn to deal with this.
5) Ayew may prove better than he seemed
Yes, straws are being clutched at here but Jordan Ayew should be spared from excessive criticism. When you look at our attacking options, he’s probably the soundest man to start up top and was, at times, winning balls quite well yesterday. With Christian Benteke misfiring before his injury, it’s not like Palace are losing out by starting the loanee.
Further, with Wayne Hennessey seemingly extending the reach of his kick, having Ayew as a ball-winner but also someone for the ball to be knocked down to might come in handy.