If you weren’t gutted following today’s loss to Huddersfield, especially in the manner in which it happened, then you’re not a Crystal Palace fan. Watching that was painful. However, was that the end? Has our flirtation with a progressive style of play come to an abrupt and catastrophic end once again? Will Frank de Boer be packing his bags before the end of the month with the club destined for the Championship?
Don’t be ridiculous.
Where to start.
The focus will be on the defence, and rightly so, but they can only take so much of the blame. I thought Fosu-Mensah in general looked like he’ll prove to be a good acquisition, his pace proved valuable at times and in a back three, his pace covering for Ward will prove valuable again. That aside, we got caught too many times with sloppy passes and positional inexperience and that’s where the criticism will generally focus.
The midfield did little wrong on the face of it, but ultimately were the architects of our downfall, particularly in the first half. Both Luka and Pucheon failed to take control and didn’t show the bravery and desire to get on the ball and play. As a result Benteke looked isolated, Zaha was forced to overplay and the defence looked out of their depth. It wasn’t mistakes they made, but things they didn’t do.
Huddersfield did as expected, they were physical, pressed high and got in our faces. It was only when we began to play more directly that we finally beat the press and began to look more promising. We finally managed to get Loftus-Cheek and Zaha turned in space in their half – it only took us 40 minutes and two goals to realise and fair play to Hennessey for turning Huddersfield around and giving them something else to think about.
The exception was Ruben Loftus-Cheek in the second half.
Set piece fragility rears its ugly head once more
It was almost as if we’d rolled time back a year and we were watching a previously imperious defence made to look amateurish from set pieces on the opening day of the season. It was a trend that would be set to continue well into the season and came to epitomise the defensive fragility that was quintessential of Alan Pardew’s reign. It must not become that for de Boer’s Crystal Palace.
The first came from a corner we didn’t track runners from, the second from a lackadaisical reaction to a throw in before Riedewald was towered over for the goal. It was disappointing. It was preventable. It turned a mediocre performance into a catastrophic one in the eyes of many but without two preventable goals we could all be feeling very different this evening.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek was one of the single positive takeaways from a game bereft of much to cheer about. When he was moved deeper in the second half to accommodate the introduction of Townsend he succeeded in doing what Puncheon and Luka failed to do in the first half. He dropped deep, he got on the ball and was positive with it when he did so. He found half a yard, took the ball off the centre halves and drove at the Huddersfield midfield. There were clever touches, powerful running and an
Aside from that Andros Townsend looked sharp when introduced at half time, Wilf Zaha attempted to made inroads even if he was guilty of taking one touch too many on occasion, but his desire was unextinguished. Honestly though, I’m scraping the barrel.
As I said though, this isn’t it. Another week of work, another body over the line maybe and we’ll go again in a tough game against Liverpool next weekend. For the time being patience has to be the key. This is a project, a project that hasn’t got off to the best start I grant, but one that will go on. Keep the faith.