Crystal Palace 2-1 Chelsea - Palace Storm to Win - Five Things We Learned

Written by Naveed Khan

Wilf hands out

1 – Speroni Shows He is Palace’s Number 1  

There can be a lot of debate around the club’s failure to secure a goalkeeper in the summer, but there can be little debate going forward about who should be starting as Palace’s ‘keeper until at least January. Julian Speroni had to wait for Wayne Hennessey to pick up an injury to get his deserved chance in goal; but when it came, he grasped it with both hands.

From his name being announced lifting the crowd, to the very visible confidence his presence gave the defence, Jules looked like he had never been out of the team. Assured when called upon, always communicating with his defenders, he proved that while he is not the long term answer, he is certainly the best immediate term solution. The gesture to the fans at the end showed he gets us as much as we get him.

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2 – Wilf the Talisman is Every Academy’s Dream   

Wilfried Zaha’s importance to Palace is nothing new to Palace fans; that is why we were desperate for him to regain fitness. What Saturday showed was a many new layers to Wilf which is the culmination of the improvement he has shown for the last 12 months.

The raw skill, the ability to beat any player with an improvised trick, the pace and the directness are all still there. What has been added is maturity, responsibility and leadership; he knows he is our talisman and he wants to lead and deliver on that level. His interview with the BBC showed him to be a thoughtful, insightful, self-analytical with the desire to lead the club to success.

He now shows these traits on the pitch as well. That he is a product of the Palace Academy is the icing on the cake; he is the ‘Academy Dream’.

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3 – Functioning Central Midfield is Critical

Mile Jedinak and Kagisho Dikgacoi. Jedinak and Joe Ledley. Luka Milivojević and Yohan Cabaye; all of Palace’s success in recent years has come from central midfield partnerships with complimentary skills. Where Alan Pardew and Frank De Boer failed was to find this balance. Between them came Sam Allardyce whose use of Luka and Cabaye allowed the team around them to fulfil their roles effectively.

Saturday was the return to this; Luka’s tenacious ball-winning, non-stop running and shielding of the back-line. Cabaye with his interceptions, possession winning, ball rotation and being available to teammates who had the ball. It was the first time this season that Palace had a functioning central midfield partnership; with Ruben Loftus-Cheek to come back into the mix as a third option in there, this must be the basis of the team’s success.  

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4 – Team Factor  

We were told by Fulham and West Brom fans to expect Roy Hodgson’s teams to be well drilled and effective units with each player knowing their roles. The win over Chelsea was the first demonstration of this. Joel Ward and Scott Dann had their best games in a while; neither were being asked to perform aspects of the role that did not suit their ability.Jeffrey Schlupp has arguably his most significant game in a Palace shirt offering support in defence, within the midfield and attack. Andros Townsend was full of endeavour and no shortage of skill and James McArthur’s energy was focussed. Along with Speroni and Zaha putting in excellent performances and midfield base mentioned above, Roy and his coaching staff had the team performing as a unit. There are 30 more rounds ahead, the ‘Team Factor’ will have a part to play to achieve our goals.

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5 – We Have Our Palace Back    

An academy product leading our threat, a club legend back in goal, the team playing as one, a manager who gets Palace and the fans creating an atmosphere which boosts the team – Saturday was the first time in a while it felt like the Palace we all love. The days of 11 individuals having to work out what the tune is of a coach with a fanciful idea of how the team should play seemed long gone on Saturday. We have our Palace back; long may it continue.