Palace lost at home to Watford 2-1 after going a goal up, but what did we learn? Here are Jack Pierce and Jim Daly with some ponderings...
Goals are still a problem
Yet again, Palace out-created their hosts at Selhurst but failed to win the game. Add this one to the Cardiff goalless draw, Burnley and Leicester games that took wonder goals to settle it and Grimsby cup clash that took a late Ayew goal to avoid embarrassment.
Every game I hear the same thing: "We need to score early to settle the nerves" but we never score early and we never settle the nerves. Palace have a team of solid defenders (more on them later) and wingers that create chances in theory but still do not score enough goals. Only Cardiff, Huddersfield and Newcastle have scored fewer this season and that simply isn't good enough.
Ayew failed to score for the first time in 2019 but to be fair to him didn't have a clear chance and when Palace did find a route to goal Ben Foster was in decent form. But would Ayew get more chances if his positioning was better? There were a few times when Townsend and Zaha looked to play the ball across the box and Ayew was nowhere to be seen.
At least when Christian Benteke appeared off the bench for his first game since September Palace had a bit of presence up top but with Roy hodgson admitting after the game there "isn't a pot of gold" available for strikets this January and that the club will be mostly looking at loans we may continue to be frustrated up front.
Guaita vs Hennessey
Vicente Guaita most certainly took the opportunity presented to him courtesy of Wayne Hennessey’s back spasms last month. His first five league performances saw him indicate the club were right to maintain interest in him and push for a deal for over 12 months. An improved confidence in the back line and some very good saves has highlighted the improvement he is between the sticks compared to Hennessey and the Spaniard’s calf injury comes at a bad time for him and the team.
In a week when you’d actually think the reserve goalkeeper may have been more than happy to lay low in the dugout wrapped in his training coat, given previous media attention, the Welshman was called upon when Guaita fell to the floor having tried to persevere despite the injury he was obviously carrying. Of the two goals conceded, there’s little he could have done about the winner given the sea of bodies and sharpness of shot but the first is really a goal you’d not think a Premier League side should be conceding. A degree of blame should be left at James Tomkins’ door given the free movement for Craig Cathcart but questions must be asked of a goalkeeper letting the ball travel unchallenged across his six yard box.
Whichever the reason, the relationship between Palace fans and Hennessey has never really warmed beyond tepid. If he could worsen them, he did with his stupid act at the team meal. More errors along the lines of Saturday’s and the relationship will suffer further at a time when the club could do with the fans behind all of the players as much as possible.
Wan of the best already
Aaron Wan-Bissaka was brilliant again. That almost doesn't need saying anymore as we all just expect him to be the best player on the pitch and he was by some way yet again.
He does seem to have this incredible ability to extend his long legs and get to almost any tackle no mwtter where the opposing winger is and plays like an experienced30-something full-back not a 20-year-old in his first full seaon. On Saturday he put in lots of superbly timed tackles and one very important block on the line to deny a Watford goal, which due to his defensive team-mates turned out to be pointless as Watford scored two quickly after.
Hennessey has come in for some fair criticism for the criticism but as hinted above Tomkins deserves some questions over allowing Cathcart a run on him to jump and head home and it was the Palace no.5 who also was caught ball-following to allow space for Tom Cleverely to volley home for the winner.
That said, the Eagles back four are still their best quality and had the forward players been able to turn possession and chances into goals none of this would have mattered.