It took a Carabao cup match at home to Ipswich to break the Eagles’ duck this season and Frank de Boer will be hoping it can provide Crystal Palace with a welcome kick start to our stuttering season. In truth it was a game that we should have won, an established Premier League side fielding a strong side should have the beating of an entirely rotated Ipswich side that finished in the bottom half of the table last season. Things are rarely so simple, however.
While they posed little threat going forward they looked resolute defensively and in truth we found it difficult to break them down. Both Lokilo and KaiKai started in what was an inexperienced attacking trio, but there was little inspiration going forward. It was all a bit static, a bit lethargic and we missed the dynamism of Ruben Loftus-Cheek who has quickly become a vital component of this team.
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A win is a win, but there will be few positives to take from the performance. Both Yohan Cabaye and James McArthur got 90 minutes under their belt, with the latter netting twice, while injury-wise we came through the game unscathed.
However, had we not had such a disappointing start to the season I think we would be looking very closely at this performance. If nothing else it demonstrated that we don’t so much have little depth in attack, but instead have none. In principle we would love to see academy graduates populating the first eleven but we have to be realistic. If Crystal Palace had to do without Benteke for more than a single game, or Zaha for longer than a couple of weeks, are the kids ready to step into Premier League football? Not yet.
We’re off the mark in competitive games then, but that will have to extend into the Premier League very soon. I said it was ridiculous to start calling for de Boer’s head after a single game in charge but it will be a lot harder to maintain that stance if things go pear shaped in our next couple of games.
The reason? Following swiftly on the heels of a home fixture against Swansea and a trip to Turf Moor is a horrific run of games. First is Southampton, who we always lose to, then there’s the small matter of successive away trips to both Manchester clubs followed by Chelsea at home. That month brings the next two games into sharp focus because we are hardly starting from a position of strength.
A loss at Anfield is nothing to be ashamed of and the Huddersfield result can be written off as a bad day at the office if, and only if, we win at least one of our next two. Failure to do so hardly bears thinking about because it is not inconceivable at that point that we could make it all the way into October with… well, no points.
Enough with the prophecies of doom.
There is always reason for optimism. It took me longer than most to believe it likely that we were destined to be relegated last season, but the epiphanic moment was when I was sat here with 10 games of the season left, comparing the fixture list and the table and desperately searching for the source of enough points to keep us in the league. Each one of the top six in the last 10 games with those around us enjoying a much clearer run-in? Tough.
Then what happened? A win at Stamford Bridge, a drubbing of Arsenal at home and a routine win away at Anfield. We were safe with games to spare: Sammy Lee was beaming, the Crystal Palace faithful were rejoicing and the top sides embarrassed by our spirited little club.
Here’s hoping for a repeat…