What can I possibly say that I haven’t before? We came, we played, we lost, conceding far too many goals in the process. That’s about the sum of Crystal Palace at the moment.
The finger-pointing has been exhausted, individual player criticism has outlived its usefulness and now the best way forward is some incessant straw-clutching, so here goes.
Roy Hodgson has work to do before Crystal Palace host Chelsea
This was Manchester United…
There was such a time that we would make the journey from London to Manchester United with both tens of thousands of Manchester United fans alongside us and a glint of hope in our hearts. For all of our struggles during our spell in the Premier League, there’s always been an air of plucky underdogs about Crystal Palace, a team capable of beating any one of the top sides – a point we have proved so many times. That time is over for now.
When you have endured the kind of results that Crystal Palace have this season, cold hard realism is rightly the de-facto approach. United will go far this season, already they and City have laid down a marker and if they’re not there or thereabouts in May I’d be surprised. I’ll grant, there’s a time and a place to demand results and be very aware of the situation we’re in, but I don’t think following the two Manchester clubs is that time.
Benteke’s absence opens the door for others
Let’s set to one side the recriminations and finger-pointing that was always inevitable after Christian Benteke was ruled out for an extended period and focus on the alternatives. Bakary Sako was employed to lead the line on Saturday, and didn’t do too bad a job in the circumstances. There was effort, but he was isolated and ultimately out of position – there’s only so much you can expect in that situation.
Another alternative is Freddie Ladapo and he was thrust into the limelight towards the end of the game. He put himself around well, won a few headers and in the limited time he had on the pitch did his chances no harm at all. I’d like to see him start against Chelsea if the alternative is Sako, he’s done well for the reserve sides and is actually a striker. He’ll give it everything, he’s proud to step onto the pitch in a Palace shirt and in our situation it can surely do us no harm.
Andros Townsend has worked tirelessly without much success so far this season
Two-week break gives key players a chance to return
The international break has come at a good time for a number of reasons. Not only does it give Roy and his staff the chance to spend two largely uninterrupted weeks with their flailing new charges, but it also allows some key players to work their way back into contention.
With the absence of Christian Benteke stretching off into the distance, we need very quickly to restore some quality to our forward line. If anyone has stood out this season it’s been Andros Townsend, his relentless chasing and harrying has been admirable but ultimately fruitless. He needs help, he needs a partner or two in crime.
Wilfried Zaha and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are those two partners. We all know the quality of Wilfried and Loftus-Cheek has looked a class above this season, even in the difficult situation he’s found himself in. Becoming defensively sound is hugely important but a part of that is being dangerous going forward – we have to test the opposition in a way we haven’t really done since the Burnley game. Returning players means there will be few excuses left to draw on…