Zaha must set the tone again
It would be both naive and insulting to suggest that the return of Wilfried Zaha was the sole reason that Crystal Palace won last weekend, there were so many strong performances across the field that played a role in the ultimate result. That is not, however, to say that he didn’t have a huge role. There may come a time when we’re crying out for the return of Christian Benteke, but on last weekend’s performance by Townsend and Zaha, that time isn’t now.
I’ve already said my piece on Benteke’s ineffectiveness this season but it’s important to highlight the difference in approach between him and Zaha. From the first whistle last weekend Zaha got in the faces of the Chelsea back line both on and off the ball and you can’t underestimate the importance of that in the first 10 minutes of the game. Can you honestly see Benteke leading the charge like that?
Whatever the mood in the camp we’d come off the back of two drubbings just before the international break, but the uncertainty and fallibility that Zaha and Townsend exposed in Chelsea’s back line would have been an immediate source of confidence that the rest of the team duly kicked on from. With the dynamic Loftus-Cheek to return this weekend, that attacking trio should be looking to make a similar impact in the opening exchanges against Newcastle.
Newcastle pose a different threat to Chelsea
On the pitch, Newcastle appear to have made a reasonable start to the season. Sitting in 9th with 11 points on the board already will be extremely pleasing, especially considering the public issues Benitez had in the summer when it comes to recruitment. That being said, their position may not tell the full story.
Given their generally impressive start, there have been a couple of eye-raising results. They’ve lost to both Brighton and Huddersfield but have picked up results against ‘better’ sides, but the key appears to be that they were both away games. Crystal Palace haven’t won at St. James’ Park since 1998 and Newcastle have looked strong at home so far this season, they’ve lost just once in the last 9 games at home. I should imagine the reverse is true at Palace…
We must be more astute from set-pieces
If there was one negative aspect of last weekend’s performance it was our defending from set pieces. Say what you will about the positives to come from the game, we could quite easily have lost 2-1 or 3-2 against Chelsea, not because they were the better side but because we defended two or three moments terribly. As it was, the goal that we did concede came from some shoddy marking from a corner, which an unmarked Bakayoko nodded home.
It could very well be a bit of a stalemate on the weekend, two teams eager not to lose to one another. In that situation, the one goal that could swing the balance may come from a free kick or a corner. If any single side has learnt the pain resulting in losing to a momentary lapse in concentration over the last season or two it is Crystal Palace. We must make absolutely sure it is not a trait that makes a reappearance this weekend, ever.