1 – The Task Ahead is Still Not Impossible
One win in 12 games. A sum of 5 points. And yet, somehow Palace are not cut adrift. There are just 5 points between Palace and the team directly above the drop zone. While the teams around us start to adjust their goals for the season, change their manager and look for a formula, through Frank De Boer’s early sacking, Palace are in some ways better prepared for the next 26 games than some of our relegation rivals. Performances are on the up; key players are back to fitness and a manager who has now had the time to lay down the blueprint for success. Staying up from this position will be a mighty ask – but it is by no means an impossible task.
2 – Dann Needs to Rediscover His Form
Scott Dann played a crucial role in Palace securing Premier League status under Tony Pulis and Alan Pardew. Forming a partnership with Damien Delaney, his prowess at attacking and defending set pieces was vital and while he was never quite up to an England call-up, the form was there. However, aside from the win over Chelsea, it is not form we have seen from him for at least a year; coinciding with him taking the captaincy and him losing Mile Jedinak from in front of him. Many of Palace’s best games since then have come without him the side as Mamadou Sakho, James Tomkins and Martin Kelly have formed partnerships in this time while Sam Allardyce took the captaincy and gave it to Jason Puncheon. These changes were a shot in the arm and sent Palace towards survival last season. Away from his part in Everton’s second goal on Saturday, Dann did not look comfortable throughout. Palace may need similar changes this season to increase the reliability of the back four.
3 – Roy Will Have a Selection Dilemma
In Christian Benteke’s absence, Roy Hodgson has developed a formula which has seen team pick up five points from as many games since the first break he has had with the squad; the performances, it can be argued, deserved a better yield. The working formula has been a narrow 4-4-2 with the two wide midfielders driving centrally at times allowing Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend to move into the channels. The team has looked good going forward in this way and therein is the dilemma – throughout this the it has still been obvious that the team has needed a central focal point. That focal point is back now and Roy has a decision to make – whether he sticks to this shape or not, one of James McArthur, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Townsend or Zaha will need to miss out while another will have to adapt to a different role in the side. Benteke will be central to Palace’s survival chances as he was last season – how Roy adapts to team to accommodate him will be crucial.
4 –Ward’s Return to Diligence
Joel Ward’s Premier League journey with Palace has been pretty up and down. Palace’s best player in the opening to Ian Holloway’s season, being a key component albeit in central midfield and left-back under Pulis and there was momentum to the calls for international recognition. Since then, he has been on rocky ground but a lack of competition meant he remained a starter. However, under Roy Hodgson’s structured approach, Ward seems to be a key beneficiary. More composed than before on a ball, more sure of his role and what is required of him and an increased confidence has seen him make key contributions at the back while the team goes forward. Having Timothy Fosu-Mensah fighting for his spot will have added to his motivation; but the Joel Ward we are seeing now is the one we should have been seeing kicking on from 2013/4. Better late than never; long may it continue.
5 – Positives of the Performance Should Not Be Ignored
Yes, there were frustrations with the penalty award and the mistakes which lead to Everton’s goals. And while we are in a desperate quest for points, possession is scant consolation. However, Saturday’s draw did throw up a number of positives and if this sort of performance is matched going forward, the points will follow. There is a definite structure to the approach to defence and midfield. While the team is not playing with wingers, more wide central midfielders, this has not come at the expense of attacking play. Indeed, the team has dominated possession and chance creation. Twice Palace squandered the lead twice and neither time did the players let their head drop or stop doing the things they were doing well. The base is there. The performance is there. The points will surely come.