Benteke a man with a point now proven
Christian Benteke’s history with Liverpool is well documented, perhaps never more so than in the last week or so. However, he is now a Crystal Palace player and though it wasn’t a dominant performance like we saw against Arsenal he was key, as I suggested he may be.
His inability to get into the game was nothing to do with his application and had more to do with us failing to win the ball back often enough. As a result he was generally muted, hardly seeing anything of the ball in the first half in particular but he popped up when it mattered.
Both goals were simple by his standards – a free header from six yards and a tap in after Cabaye had done the hard work – but he got himself in the right position to fire Palace to victory. Against Arsenal, though he failed to score, his contribution was central whereas against Liverpool his contribution was largely non-existent but he scored twice. We’ve needed him to come out firing in the last few games and he has delivered exactly what we needed, when we needed it.
Huge contribution from Cabaye after flying under the radar
I have been guilty of lavishing praise on the Crystal Palace new boys in the last few weeks, first it was van Aanholt, then the magnificent Sakho and stoic Milivojevic. Honestly, they deserved it. It’s no coincidence that Palace’s revival was kick started upon the introduction of the latter two players but it’s not their impact alone that’s seen the drive for survival really gain traction.
Yohan Cabaye has himself enjoyed a mini revival in recent weeks, finding a level of performance and influence we have rarely seen from him. After his return from injury earlier in the season he looked the sharpest he’d been in a while but in the last few matches he’s elevated those performances again.
A goal against Arsenal, a goal against Leicester and a fantastic run and delivery for Palace’s leveller against Liverpool. Look farther back than that and he notched assists in the games that started this run, against West Brom and Middlesbrough, on top of his recent purple patch in front of goal. He may not have drawn the plaudits in the same way others have but perhaps he deserves to.
Crystal Palace mathematically safe
Sunday’s win over Liverpool added a decisive three points to Palace’s tally for the season, taking us to 38 overall. 40 points is often touted as the ‘magical’ number, if I had a quid for every time it was mentioned by managers of teams in and around the bottom three I would be a rich man indeed. The truth is though, 38 points has been enough in each of the past 5 seasons.
This season will extend that to 6, I’m convinced of it. Swansea must beat either Manchester United or Everton and then follow that up by beating both Sunderland and West Brom. That’s as likely as Brighton staying up next season…
Amazingly, in one win we’ve gone from relegation candidates to a potential top ten finisher moving to just one win off 9th. When I wrote about our run in a month or so ago, while attempting to be positive, inside there was a degree of scepticism about our future. Allardyce’s appointment hadn’t quite given us the bounce I think we all expected and we’d edged ever closer to this appalling run of fixtures which, at the time, looked bereft of any real opportunity to string a run together.
Now we really have done it.
Sam Allardyce’s reputation enhanced
Take a look at our squad and any halfway rational football fan would have expressed their surprise at our position in the league. Benteke, Townsend, Zaha, Dann, Tomkins, Cabaye… with all due respect to Hull & Sunderland, they just don’t have the quality across the pitch that we possess. Perceived quality, sadly, counts for nothing and I’ll make no bones about it – we deserved to be where we were and would have deserved to go down if things hadn’t picked up.
It was almost taken as given that Crystal Palace would stay in the Premier League as soon as Sam Allardyce was appointed, which is testament to his reputation however ignoring the rather large elephant in the room – the extent of the hole we’d dug ourselves into.
Sam Allardyce turned things around. His process seems infallible, in a few short weeks he reversed the culture of losing that had festered under Pardew, bringing a spine and level of organisation we clearly needed. People will look at Palace staying up and argue that we really ought to have achieved that, ignoring the fact that we’ve had to beat three of the top six to accrue enough points to do jsut that.
Jason Puncheon: Captain, leader, warrior
When Jason Puncheon was made captain I wrote that he shouldn’t have been awarded the captaincy based on the fact he was born 10 minutes down the road and I stick by those comments. However, I also gave the likelihood of him making an impact fairly short shrift
On Sunday he fought and harried like a bulldog, he was in the faces of the Liverpool players at every opportunity he got. Towards the end of the game he knew frustration was growing so he made himself a nuisance, turning Liverpool’s attention towards him as opposed to focussing on winning the game.
Do you know who he reminded me of on Sunday? Mile Jedinak. I can pay him no higher compliment than that; passion, commitment, determination and intelligence.