Last weekend was far from the perfect start to the season for Crystal Palace, I think we can all agree on that. I pleaded for patience and disregarded the ‘pressure’ that Frank de Boer was supposedly under. The reason? Overreaction was rife – de Boer, the system and our transfer dealings were all under the microscope however this is far from the end of our experiment with our new system and philosophy. Rightly so.
That being said, there was a lot wrong with the performance on Saturday. We saw pre-season spilling over to competitive fixtures with Benteke’s isolation, but more worryingly our defensive frailties came to the fore. We looked vulnerable from set pieces again, we looked uncertain on the ball and the only person who tried to take the game by the scruff of the neck was a 21 year old loanee.
At this stage then, nothing less than blind faith is required because the Huddersfield showing didn’t give us an awful lot to cling on to and it’s been made worse by the injury Wilfried Zaha.
He struggled on the weekend, as did the rest of the team to be fair, but I think the responsibility to deliver weighed heavy on his shoulders. That, coupled with a slightly unfamiliar position led to him overplaying a little, trying to take just one touch too many and make something happen. He’s better than that though, in pre-season he looked as dangerous and inspired as ever and 4 weeks out is a tough one to swallow given the lack of protection from the referee on Saturday.
That though, is a story for another day. For now we’ll have to make do with the other options, be that with a young player like Lokilo or a reshuffle of the midfield with the potential return of Cabaye or McArthur.
This weekend’s game will provide no easy redemption though. We’ve enjoyed a lucrative recent history on Merseyside but it’s difficult to see that continuing after last weekend, the memories of the all-too-prevalent losing runs under Pardew are still too fresh. Liverpool’s defensive issues, much like ours, were obvious last weekend in their draw away at Watford which is one area we will have to exploit if we’re to get anything out of the game. We’re going to struggle to outplay Liverpool, particularly at Anfield, so we have to approach the game with a degree of pragmatism and pick on their weaknesses – that’s what we did so successfully under Allardyce.
Saturday could also tell us a lot about the character of this team. Nobody will have been more disappointed than the players and the management after the Huddersfield loss – the idea that they don’t care is preposterous. This is their chance to show that the fight that has carried us through to this point hasn’t gone, that we can still fulfil the plucky underdog tag.
The long term project is both clear and admirable. The short term project must be a compromise however, we must ensure we get points on the board and quickly. A point or more on Saturday would certainly be a good start..