Wilf Zaha saved Palace again with a late, late equaliser against West Ham. Here are 5 things we learned from that game.
1. Crucial Cabaye
While Wilfried Zaha will attract the headlines for his late goal, the catalyst for Palace’s excellent second half performance was Yohan Cabaye who underlined his importance to team. Not only did he come close to equalising with a drive, he had more touches of the ball than any other Palace player (78) with three key passes and an overall accuracy of 86%. As well as his ground coverage, seven tackles and three interceptions demonstrate his all-round impact throughout the match. Injured at the start of the season, he is growing back into the team and with the excellent Luka Milivojević in partnership, Roy Hodgson has the engine room at his disposal to drive Palace up the league.
2. Lack of Striker Hurting the Team
An excellent second half performance by the team and last gasp leveller should not detract from the issue the draw against the Hammers intensified; Palace’s lack of a striker. The summer transfer window failed in this regard and with Christian Benteke injured much of the team’s excellent attacking play was let down by the lack of a spearhead. Hodgson is working with the tools at his disposal with Andros Townsend joining Zaha as a fluid front two and Bakery Sako adding a presence as well. Hindsight for the game on Saturday it may be, but definitely foresight at the time the window closed but the lack of striker probably cost the Eagles two points.
3. Loftus-Cheek Needs to Add Endeavour to Ability
Ruben Loftus-Cheek has many attributes that show him to have the potential to be an excellent Premier League central midfielder. He is remarkably strong for a player of his age, he has skill on the ball and an eye for a pass. While some players have a languid style that gives a perception of lack of effort, Loftus-Cheek seems to lack endeavour especially when the team is behind in a game. Numerous times Luka and Cabaye were calling him back and giving him instruction. Palace’s season will be determined by how closely the players follow Roy’s detail in organisation and shape. For Palace’s sake, he cannot afford to go missing. And for his own career, to make the most of his obvious talent, he needs to apply himself to the uglier sides of the game.
4. Fosu-Mensah’s Versatility Needs to Find a Home
Timothy Fosu-Mensah has in his short Palace career already featured in five different roles. From the right sided centre back in a back three to centre back in a two, then right-back and then substitute appearances in midfield to hold a lead and lastly left-back (moved then back to the right). In each of these roles, he’s shown pace, power and the ability to time a tackle and more importantly maturity beyond his experience. While other players may fit the mould of what Roy is looking for in defenders in terms of diligence and organisational discipline, Fosu-Mensah needs to find a home along that back-line; it will be a waste of his talent (and a loan spot) if he is to be used as a utility player from the bench.
5. Team Spirit is Growing
While there were faults with some of the players and deficiencies in the squad, what Hodgson has managed to instil in this squad sooner than many anticipated is team spirit. The sort of spirit which beats the champions at Selhurst. The sort of spirit which is not dampened by a late loss at Newcastle or by being 2-0 down against West Ham. The sort of spirit which draws the fans and players closer together. It is exactly the spirit the team will need to survive this season. If we were to get a point from West Ham, it was done in the best possible way. The talisman scoring in the closing seconds in front of the Holmesdale. The match done; the players and fans celebrate as one. 28 more rounds; the growing team spirit will be critical factor.
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