Frank de Boer demonstrates pragmatic side
After our embarrassment at home to Huddersfield last weekend hysterical thoughts took over, it was the end for de Boer, his misguided system and why not chuck Steve Parish in for good measure. Crystal Palace were doomed.
Aside from two enforced changes it was the same team and same formation that stepped out at Anfield on Saturday afternoon, but a very different outcome.
There was a subtle difference to our approach today though and it was one which demonstrated that de Boer wasn’t going to arbitrarily stick to a one-size fits all approach and idealistic vision. We all saw the unease at the back last weekend when we tried to play out and we looked much more assured this time around against a talented attack.
Liverpool at Anfield were always going to press high up the pitch. The impetus was very much on them to break us down and Klopp’s Liverpool love to play on the front foot, pressing quickly and in groups. We were incapable of beating Huddersfield’s press, we were under the cosh all too often – if we’d tried doing the same then this could have been embarrassing.
Did we still lose? Absolutely, I’m not hiding from that. However that wasn’t the result of a naive approach to the game but instead was little more than an individual mistake. The system and vision remained intact but the approach was pragmatic, which was hugely reassuring to see.
New signings display promise once again
Ruben Loftus-Cheek was the best player on the pitch last weekend for either side, and Crystal Palace lost 3-0. He was that good. He followed on from that this weekend with a similarly impressive display, with the same qualities we saw last weekend: direct, powerful running and the bravery to get on the ball. It was his strength that held off Henderson to square for Benteke in what was our best chance of the match, it was him that won free kicks to relieve the pressure. In short, it was another impressive display from the young man.
I said when Fosu-Mensah signed that his speed could provide invaluable given the combination of system and aging centre-halves next to them. If there were others available last weekend I think in hindsight de Boer may not have thrown him in at the deep end within days of him training with the squad. That being said both he, and the rest of the defensive unit were more assured this weekend and aside from a miscontrolled ball could well have held onto our first clean sheet of the season.
Benteke costs Crystal Palace a point
At 0-0 the impressive Loftus-Cheek broke free of the attentions of Henderson, got to the by-line and pulled it back to Christian Benteke who was faced with a diving Liverpool player and an open goal.
He skied it.
In a game in which we were never likely to create an abundance of chances, glorious opportunities like the one presented to Benteke simply have to be taken. When we fail to put away chances like that the long odds of a win extend even further. It’s easy to say retrospectively but that moment, that miss cost us at least a point, and possibly all three – there’s no way of knowing how the game would have turned out had we taken the lead.
Perhaps most worryingly for Crystal Palace though, there is no alternative. If Benteke gets injured or continues to struggle in front of goal there are very few alternatives. Sulley Kaikai has proven himself a promising prospect but he is just that, a young player with hopefully a bright future. You saw that today a little, even a misfiring Benteke couldn’t be sacrificed as there wasn’t a game-changing alternative on the bench.
Read more: Stick or twist at Anfield?