“We are no Ajax” – CPFC Blog

Well this summer’s been eventful. I was gutted to lose ‘big Sam’ if I’m honest after what he’d achieved with us. It was more than just survival. He turned us into a powerful side who could compete with the top sides as was proven when we dismantled Arsenal at Selhurst Park.

We were unfairly labeled as a direct side under Allardyce. I’m not having that. We played with flair from Zaha and Townsend, had a powerful centre forward in Benteke and got the ball into him so he could bully both Arsenal and Chelsea. Cabaye is no long ball merchant and neither was Sakho so all this talk of FDB changing to a passing game from a long ball one is nonsense.

As I write this there is an article in the Guardian this morning intimating that FDB could be sacked. Surely not. I would be embarrassed as a football club if that were the case after just three games. Arsene Wenger gets longer and his side gave up yesterday.

Anyway back to FDB’s appointment. I was delighted to be honest. Dutch international, won the Dutch title 4 times as a manager and has the type of reputation that will attract players.

I also accept it’s a risk. I don’t want us getting delusions of grandeur. Let’s accept who we are. We’re Palace not Chelsea, Arsenal or Tottenham. We’re not a top four side, as much as I might dream. We have to accept that a good season would be to finish top of the West Brom’s and Stoke’s and an outstanding one would be top 8. I do wonder based on that theory whether someone like Sean Dyche would have been a better fit, but they went for FDB and I’m not disappointed.

Three games in, no points, no goals scored and all of a bit of a shambles really. Nevertheless to even consider removing the manager at this stage would be a bloody joke!

I’ve got nothing against us playing 3-4-3 and I’m not one who says we should change already, but we need the players at the back and in midfield to make it work effectively.

Against Huddersfield I was concerned before the game that we were playing a newly promoted side who basically had nothing to lose and would have taken a draw. Two defensive errors by Riedawald cost us and Huddersfield’s brutal approach to dealing with Zaha has left us without him for 4 weeks.

The huge positives were our two loan signings Loftus-Cheek and Fosu-Mensah. Both are absolutely outstanding. Seriously top drawer.

The disappointments were Puncheon, Luka Milivojevic and Benteke. Luka has been a bitter disappointment in all games so far and cost us the game at Liverpool and was taken off at half time against Huddersfield. He was substituted again on Saturday and Cabaye made a massive difference when he came on.

I thought we played well at Anfield. Tomkins came in for Riedewald and gave us a solid look at the back. FDB went for 5 in midfield and two up top and it worked well. Loftus-Cheek and Fosu-Mensah again the two stand out performers. Benteke should have scored a relatively simple chance which would have put us one up and we would not have lost from that position, but Luka’s mistake cost us around the 75th minute and there was no coming back from that.

This Saturday was the biggest shambles. We should beat Swansea, they’re not particularly good but we were really, really poor, especially in the first half.

We have a real issue at the moment because FDB wants to play football from the back but we have a goalkeeper who doesn’t really know whether to pass it out or kick it long. We have a centre back in Scott Dann who doesn’t really want to play football from the back and we’ve got midfield players who don’t really show for the ball.

Add to this that the crowd are getting nervous every time the ball is played to the centre backs, which then panics them into doing something stupid. It’s not a good feeling at Selhurst at the moment.

We have no width either without Zaha and no real flair to open teams up. Townsend was excellent on Saturday and Fosu-Mensah again absolutely outstanding, but you can’t win games in the Prem with two players.

Cabaye and Loftus-Cheek have to form the central midfield two. I’d play Townsend as the right wing back and Jeffrey Schlupp as the left as he’s far better than Patrick Van Aanholt.

Wilf plays on the wing (obviously) and I’d rival Bournemouth for the signing of Demarai Gray to play on the other, with Benteke down the middle.

We have to sign two centre forwards as Benteke has no competition. If Dwight Gayle is seriously for sale at Newcastle I’d buy him back and add one more.

Finally, if we seriously want to play football from the back we have to sign Sakho. No mucking about if Liverpool want 30 million pay the money!!! He’s a revelation. I said it last season but he’s the best Centre Back I’ve ever seen play for Palace. If you play Fosu-Mensah and either Riedawld or Tomkins on the other side we’ve got a good back three.

I’d sign a new keeper and then give FDB until Christmas to sort us out. When you consider it took Allardyce ten games to get his message across and he knows the Prem, you can’t judge Frank after just 3!

Give the bloke time, the fans have to be patient with the system and let’s see how we go. He could be everything I’m hoping he will be. But at the moment “we’re no Ajax”.

Mark Storey

@sofasportsnews_

Premier League Review Show: Match Week 3

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Premier League Review Show: Match Week 3

CPFC – The Great Escape Is Still On…

The Great Escape is Still On….

4th February at 1545 I thought we were relegated.   With fixtures against Chelsea, Arsenal, Leicester, Liverpool still to come and our final two away games in Manchester no sound minded Palace fan could have thought any different. How wrong was I….

After pulling off the miracle at the Bridge and quite frankly destroying Arsenal (I thought we would), the game against Leicester was the most pleasing and showed the real character of our side.

Two months ago at two nil down with half hour to go the ground would be half empty and we’d get beaten by four, so the fact that we came back and drew 2-2 demonstrated that we’d turned a massive corner and I felt after that game we might just be alright.

To then go to Liverpool and win up there was quite incredible and moved us from bottom three to 12th in about 6 weeks.

I’ll come onto Spurs and Burnley because for me the reason we’re now back in some danger are due to two factors Mamadou Sakho injury and the disgraceful tackle of Grujic on Tomkins a week ago. I can’t leave that, so more of that in a bit.

Credit Allardyce…

What Big Sam has achieved with us is incredible. Palace fans all over social media are glowing in their praise and quite rightly so. How he has organised our back four into a unit that looks incredibly solid, plays football from the back instead of ‘hoofing’ it to Benteke and quite frankly can stand up to the best attacking players in the Premier league – Hazard, Costa, Sanchez, Coutinho, Kane, Ali and only Coutinho scored (from a quite outstanding free kick), speaks volumes.

What he also deserves praise for is the attacking intent he’s kept in our play to go with that defensive solidness. Many say he’s a one trick pony and only defends to get results and maybe I would still be one of those if he hadn’t have come to Palace. But look at the facts..

Scored two at Chelsea, two at Liverpool, two against Leicester, three against Arsenal. Seriously it could have been five against Arsenal.

We’re good to watch. Zaha, Townsend and Benteke are flying but they can attack with freedom knowing that defensively we’re solid, there’s no panic and every player on the pitch is working at absolute capacity.

I’ve talked endlessly about Zaha so I won’t even bring him into this write up as there’s a new Palace hero alongside him…..

Mamadou Sakho….

If we stay up and he’s available for 40 million he will be the best signing we ever make! The bloke is off the scale when it comes to defending. I honestly think he’s the best central defender I’ve ever seen play for Palace. He has everything. His reading of the game is phenomenal and he doesn’t need pace because he’s always in the right place. His calmness under pressure is incredible  and he never hits a long pass…never.

He gets us playing from the back, but his most important contribution is the fact that he makes every single player in the back four plus Wayne Hennessey play better. He gives them assurance that he’s there and our improvement is down to what he has brought to our side.

If we only sign one player, he has to be the one. I mentioned the Spurs game and I’m not going to dwell on it, but we lost that game from the minute he went off injured. It affected the players and we were a different side without him. We need him back…quickly!

Yohan Cabaye has also been outstanding lately and I thought Luka had made a massive difference to our midfield (which he has), but I actually think Cabaye makes him look better and it was noticeable against Burnley how much Luka missed Cabaye in that midfield and Palace as a side missed both him and Sakho massively. So much so I think it cost us that game.

Martin Kelly….

I’ve always rated Kelly but he got slaughtered by Palace fans when Pardew was playing him at left back. I felt sorry for him as he was trying to do a job and was basically hung out to dry, but since Allardyce has moved him to centre back he has been sensational. He’s played that well that he could easily be the first choice partner to Sakho, which is some compliment given that he’s in competition with Scott Dann and James Tomkins. Which leads me onto…..

That disgraceful Grujic tackle….

If that tackle had been made by Fellaini, Costa, Joey Barton, Suarez it would be over every back page of every paper! It was a disgrace. A real leg breaker and looks to have finished Tomkins season and by doing so has really affected our chances of surviving. I’m serious when I say that.

We went to Liverpool (where Sakho was not allowed to play against his parent club) with Kelly and Tomkins as our centre backs and looked really solid as was proven with the result. My point being that because of that tackle we’re now having to play Kelly and Delaney and our back four against Burnley were quite frankly “all over the shop”, yet Kelly had another storming performance.

I’m really raging about it and can’t let it go. There should be retrospective action taken and how programmes like match of the day didn’t highlight it is beyond belief to me. They’d have been all over it if it had been one of those others I mentioned.

Thank god we had that magnificent run because those two defeats this week have dragged us back in. Six points clear, three to play and a far better goal difference so really 7 clear. The Hull game at home in two weeks time is absolutely huge, because I do not want to be going to Old Trafford on the final day needing something, regardless of what side Mourinho puts out.

Our run has been phenomenal and I just wish that Steve Parrish had appointed Allardyce in October as I honestly believe we’d be safe now.

However, if you’d have said to me on Feb 4th at 1545 that we’d be 6 points clear of relegation with three to play…I’d have snatched your hand off!

If we survive….

Get Sakho immediately, pay Wilf what he wants, keep Townsend, Benteke and Cabaye along with Kelly Dann and Tomkins. Buy two new strikers to back up Benteke and replace Delaney, Fraizer Campbell and Jordan Mutch with Premier league players and we’ll be battling for top 8….you heard it here first!

Mark Storey

sofasportsnews.com

Everything’s gonna be alright – Crystal Palace

“Don’t worry about a thing, cos everything’s going be alright” and so sang the fanatics for the last ten minutes at Selhurst over a week ago and on the back of a further win at West Brom, you know what? For the first time in months they might just be right.

“This is a must win game, if we lose we’re down” is basically the conversation I had with my son as we walked to the ground prior to our game with Middlesbrough. But I’d heard it all before, I’d felt the same for Swansea and we’d obviously beat Sunderland…everyone beats Sunderland! You know the rest.

But that week was different. The crowd were different, the atmosphere was confident and supportive and it just felt right and believe me it hasn’t felt right or like Palace for at least 6 months.

I liked the side Allardyce picked, I loved the fact he’d chosen Puncheon to captain the side and I admired the fact he went with Tomkins and Sakho in the centre of defence and left Dann on the bench. I also then loved the fact he named an unchanged side at West Brom.

That’s a big call that (leaving Dann on the bench, regardless of whether he’s injured) because for anybody who read these blogs a year ago I was banging on about how disgraceful it is that Dann isn’t in the England squad. Well to be fair he wouldn’t be in my Palace starting eleven at the moment, so forget everything I ever said about England.

It’s interesting with Dann because he went downhill as soon as he was made captain so even if he comes back into the starting eleven I’d leave the captaincy with Puncheon.

I know Allardyce for whatever reason stopped Palace travelling to Dubai and spent two weeks on the training ground (with a break in the middle), but it was worth every second. We look a completely different side to the one that had been dismantled by Sunderland.

The three new players Van Aarnholt, Sakho and Luka (can’t keep spelling his surname) were outstanding. All three made such a difference to the way we played against Boro and West Brom and could be the difference as to whether we stay up or not.

Sakho was absolute quality in the centre of defence. He might not be the right fit for Liverpool but for Palace he’s the best centre back I’ve seen there in years.

There is nothing flash about what he does. But everything he does is simple, effective and looks effortless, which is the real key because it makes you feel like everything is under control. He doesn’t just launch balls forward, he doesn’t just think about putting the ball into touch (he did when he really had to as a last resort), he takes a touch, looks up and passes it.

Now I know I’m talking as if he’s just discovered….well I don’t know what. But my point being is that we now have a defender who knows how and when to defend, but also gives us the ability to start attacks from defence. So instead of heading a ball clear, he would take a step back and chest the ball down and pass it into midfield.

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I probably sound ridiculous with what I’m writing, but for fans of Arsenal, Tottenham, Man City and Chelsea you see this every week. But this is Palace, we don’t do that type of thing in South London so forgive my enthusiasm.

Van Aarnholt is another class signing. He’s given us balance on the left hand side, links nicely with the midfield, is a good crosser of the ball and nicked a tidy finish with his right foot to win us the game at Selhurst.

With Tomkins alongside Sakho in the centre of defence I’d happily go anywhere now and think we can do a job.

Luka in the centre of midfield is top drawer. I love him already. He sits just in front of the back four and pings passes left or right foot and never gives the ball away. More importantly he wins it back. He’s the closest thing we’ve got to a Mile Jedinak but he’s a better passer of the ball, so that signing is off the scale as far as I’m concerned.

Wilf is Wilf. That is the biggest compliment I can pay him. I love him, always have and always will and forget the “he’s just too good for you” song, to be honest Wilf’s ” just too good for us”. But I’ll take what we can get until the end of the season when I’m sure he’ll move onto bigger and better clubs…and good luck to him.

What’s interesting about Wilf is that all of the pundits are saying he’s changed for the better. He’s better at this, he’s better at that. Well in all honesty, he’s Wilfried Zaha and nothing’s changed in the way he plays his football. Ask any Palace fan and they would say he’s the same player that left for Man United and we’ve now got that player back.

That period at United ruined him and I really don’t believe that it would have happened if Sir Alex had still been in charge. He knows a quality footballer when he see’s one and Wilf was let down by Moyes and Van Gaal who never got the best out of him.

It also makes me wonder about some of these pundits. Did they ever really watch him or did they just jump on the bandwagon. He can’t be that bad, Spurs want to sign him and they’ve got one hell of a good side.

His goal at West Brom on Saturday epitomises all that’s good about Wilf.

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Townsend has worked his socks off the last three games and I believe it’s been noticed by the Palace fans and rightly so. He deserves credit for turning his game around. Like Wilf his goal on Saturday epitomised the change in his work-rate for us and he has to play each week, which isn’t something I was saying a month ago.

I loved Puncheons leadership as a captain – got the players into a huddle before ko, shouted, cajoled and instructed during the game and waited to shake every players hand at half time. A proper leader of men and should stay as captain for the rest of the season.

Good times are returning to Palace. Team and fans together, noise levels through the roof and players playing for the shirt. Can’t really ask for more.

To beat Boro and West Brom in consecutive weeks is a monumental shift from what had gone before and Allardyce deserves great praise for that. He’s taken us back to basics and the players confidence levels have visibly risen.

Watford, Leicester, Burnley and Hull will make or break us. We have to win every one. On Saturday’s performance it’s possible. Big Sam seems to have finally got his message across. I hope so.

If he has then…

“Don’t worry because everything really will be alright”

“You’re not fit to wear the shirt” – Crystal Palace

“You’re not fit to wear the shirt” – Crystal Palace

Yes they were the words ringing round Selhurst Park around the 46th minute on Saturday. Those seven words could not be more apt for a bunch of players who should be embarrassed to call themselves professional.

We weren’t playing Chelsea or Barcelona or Real Madrid, we were playing bloody Sunderland! Sunderland…the team bottom of the league and we’re four down at half time. You’re winding me up.

I’d gone to Selhurst full of optimism after our two nil win at Bournemouth and I believe most of The 25,000 had done likewise thinking we’d turned a corner and another win would really see us start to pull away from the relegation zone. The crowd seemed bigger for some reason, the noise was back and the excitement prior to kick off mounted.

How could I misjudge it so badly. I was happy with the unchanged line up, thought that ‘Big Sam’ was getting it right with the three at the back and was happy that he’d purchased players in nearly every position I felt we needed it.

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We started ok. Only ok, but we were relatively comfortable, but to be fair so were Sunderland. My nervousness started to kick in when Defoe ran in-between two of our centre backs and got a shot off that Hennessey done well to keep out at the near post around the 20 minute mark.

From that moment on Sunderland seemed to take control of the game and Palace retreated, lacked energy, certainly lacked any purpose and just hit aimless long balls to Benteke.

When Hennessey flapped at a header (I don’t know if he was impeded or not) and Sunderland scored we collapsed. We literally cannot win a game if we go a goal behind and that’s a pretty disgraceful indictment on our current crop of players.

Palace had never spent so much money on players as they have done in the last three transfer windows and what have we really got to show for it.

On paper we look an amazing squad, probably the best I’ve ever seen in my time as a Palace supporter. But who cares what they look like on paper, I’m now not convinced these players are anywhere near as good as I thought they were.

As the clocked ticked towards half time my nervousness got worse. We’ve been appalling at letting in goals in the last five minutes of a half. Apparently, in 24 Premier League games we’ve conceded 14 goals in the final 5 minutes of halves, which has directly cost us 10 points.

I could never imagine though that things would be as bad as they were on Saturday from the 42nd minute at one nil to the 47th at four nil!

Four nil at home to the team bottom of the league!! It was at this point fans started to leave the ground….not for a cup of tea, but to get home for the rugby!!

Those who remained quite rightly starting singing “you’re not fit to wear the shirt” and the crescendo of booing at half time was the worst I’ve heard and was fully deserved.

I’ve got to mention James Tomkins because to be fair to the bloke, he hung his head in despair and it really seemed to affect him so to me at least he seemed to care, which is more than can be said for the rest.

Two things happened during and just post half time, both funny and both something I’d never seen before.

During half time the Crystal Girls (or the Crystals as they’re now known – Palace cheerleaders) walk around the pitch throwing out Palace t-shirts. For the first time ever the fans were throwing them back.

And when the players came out for the second half it’s the first time I’ve ever heard the home side be booed back onto the pitch!

I can’t even be bothered to talk about the second half…who cares how we played, Sunderland kept it tight and were never going to lose. They deserve a mention Sunderland to be fair to them. Oviedo had Zaha in his pocket and that hasn’t happened ever and Denayer was quality at centre back. Defoe was well, Defoe..simply brilliant.

We looked livelier second half, but so what. We couldn’t have done any worse. So it’s now time for ‘Big Sam’ to make some big decisions and for the players to really stand up and be counted. I’d be quite radical, because when you look at this stat – we’ve only won four times at Selhurst since 2015 – we have to change.

I’d bring in Speroni in goal. I feel for Hennessey because I rate him but he’s getting so much stick from fans I’d take him out of the firing line.

I’d drop both Joel Ward and Scott Dann (never thought I’d say that) along with Cabaye and Puncheon.

I’d play Speroni in goal. A back four of Kelly, Tomkins, Sakho and Van Arnholt and a midfield four of Zaha, MacArthur, Milivojevic and Schlupp. Remy has to play in the number 10 role with Benteke up top.

I’d even name my subs bench now: Ward Dann Puncheon Townsend Cabaye Sakho and Kai Kai.

Things cannot get worse…well they can but let’s hope the players start to show they are “fit to wear the shirt”.

Mark Storey

sofasportsnews.com

 

Is This One Challenge Too Far For ‘Big Sam’?

Big-sam

Is this one challenge too far for ‘Big Sam’

‘We’re too good to go down’. How many times have teams said that over the years. Well believe me the table doesn’t lie and at the moment Crystal Palace aren’t any where near good enough to stay up.

Coming onto Christmas I thought we needed a minimum of 4 points from three games, with the possibility of getting 6. We got one….one!

I never expected anything from Arsenal and just hoped we didn’t get slaughtered. Thought we might nick a win at Watford but would take a draw and my banker win was Tuesday nights home game with Swansea. Shows what I know.

Going back to a couple of days before Christmas and Pardew’s sacking, I’ve got to be honest it surprised me. Not that he was sacked, but the timing of it. I can only assume that Palace got wind that Sam Allardyce may be looking elsewhere and thought they best act otherwise they’d miss out. There can’t be any other reason to make the decision when they did, because Pardew should have gone weeks ago.

Now @Ddeluca7 asked that if I knew we were getting Allardyce would I have sacked Pardew? Absolutely without question. Pardew’s record was appalling and with the money he spent he had to go.

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Would I have taken Allardyce as my first choice, probably not. I think I would have gone Mancini, Coleman then Allardyce. However, I’m not disappointed by the appointment as I felt we would now definitely stay up. Believe me after Tuesday night I’m not so sure and I can’t blame Allardyce for that yet.

So I thought we performed particularly well in the first half at Watford. Zaha was simply outstanding and Cabaye and Townsend looked the players I thought they were when Pardew signed them. I honestly believe that if Benteke had scored that penalty we would gone on to win by 4. But Watford gained confidence from the penalty miss and I felt we retreated and lost confidence.

We needed a second goal and we can’t blame the referee for giving the penalty against us or for not giving a second one to us when Wilf appeared to be fouled.

It was a penalty with Delaney’s grappling in the box, but the only thing I would say is that there’s no consistent decision making around these issues across the Premier League. It happens in every game at every corner so either give them or don’t.

As for Wilf, I’m not certain it was a penalty but I also didn’t think he dived either so I thought the yellow card was particularly harsh.

So one point away from home and we moved onto the Emirates:

I never thought we’d win or draw but was mildly optimistic that we wouldn’t be destroyed when I saw the Arsenal starting line up.

We might not have been destroyed by score line but god we were poor. Arsenal slaughtered us for 90 minutes and the only saving grace for us was that Arsenal don’t shoot that much, which would really frustrate me as a supporter and I know it does my Dad who’s a season ticket holder.

To only be a goal down at half time to Giroud’s ‘wonder strike’ was beyond belief really and I started to think we could pinch a draw. That goal was something else though. It was one of those moments where it took a second to take in what had happened. The reaction from the crowd when it was shown about 4 times in slow motion on the big screen spoke volumes.

We were again poor in the second half and I have no idea what Joel Ward was doing with Arsenal’s 2nd goal. Just head it out!

Wilf was poor due to frustration, the back four looked nervous and the midfield won nothing and I mean nothing all afternoon. In fact we did not win one second ball from a knock down or a loose ball from a challenge, nothing.

So one point from two games, but it’s ok we’ve got our banker to come!

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Oh my good god!!! Tuesday night had to be the worst performance from a Palace side in the last 10 years and I honestly don’t think I’m exaggerating.

Swansea should have been four up at half time. Four up, Swansea! Do me favour they’re bottom of the league. Honestly, they looked like Barcelona and we looked like my ‘Vets’ (not the animal carers, but my overweight, slow Saturday side).

It was the most embarrassing performance I have seen and ‘Big Sam’ seemed to be standing there wondering what he’d signed up to.

There was no fight, no passion, no leaders and the players were serenaded off at half time to incessant booing and a rendition of ‘what the blanking hell was that!’

Midfield were non existent, Benteke seemed to be disinterested (although in his defence so would I be if all I had to deal with was all the old rubbish to either chase or do something with at about 50 feet off the ground), nobody made a challenge, players were walking and the defence looked as shaky as it has all season.

Fraizer Campbell came on for Benteke at half time and at least he ran around. That’s the best I can say, at least he ran around, which is more than I can say for the rest of our side.

Wilf scored a stunning goal to get us back into the game, which would have felt like a win if we’d have held on, but why do something sensible, this is Palace don’t forget so let’s gift a second goal and put ourselves in more danger.

I’m trying not to rant but it’s almost impossible not to. Allardyce has said he’d like to bring in two players, maybe three. I think we need 5. We are so short of leaders it really shows out. Delaney is one and so is Puncheon, Wilf has carried us for too long but we’ll lose him to the AFCON this week. I’ve said it before but I so wish we had Mile Jedinak and Glenn Murray. In fact I’d get them both back.

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Cabaye has a decent game only when he feels like it and Townsend has been a major disappointment. So much so he was booed off when substituted last night. Joel Ward has been poor and I’d pick Martin Kelly over him when we sign a new left back.

We can’t defend, we have no fight in Midfield, we massively miss James MacArthur and we have to find a way to get the best from Benteke.

I’d buy a left back, centre back, central midfield, winger (to replace Townsend) and a centre forward to back up Benteke and Loic Remy. I’d keep Sullay Kaikai as back up to Wilf and bring in Frank Lampard as player coach.

We are huge relegation candidates and with the players we’ve got that’s a disgrace. ‘Big Sam’ may just have taken on the biggest challenge of his career so far. After Tuesday night it honestly cannot get any worse.

I haven’t seen the Bolton game but the wait goes on for Sam’s first win. The one bit of good news is that Loic Remy is fit and Julian Speroni broke the club record of appearances for a goalkeeper for us.

Speroni is a true Palace legend. He’s adored by the fans and rightly so. I wish more of our players had his passion for the club and his desire to achieve.

Speroni will go down as one of Palace’s all time greats and he deserves every accolade he receives.

Mark Storey

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Pardew the stunt man, He’s obviously Bullet Proof!

Pardew the stunt man, He’s obviously Bullet Proof!

Well the wait goes on…not for our next win (I don’t even dream of that anymore), but the wait for Pardew to be relieved of his duties. Don’t get me wrong I’m all for loyalty in football and some of the sackings over the past couple of years have been disgraceful, but surely Steve Parish must see what every other Palace fan is seeing and take the tough decision to part company with Alan Pardew.

I’m not under any circumstances sitting here believing we should be beating Chelsea (in their current form) and we played ok yesterday, but it’s not about one game, it’s the culmination of everything in 2016. It’s the inability to beat teams like Swansea and Hull, it’s the fact that we let in 8 against those two (arguably the worst two teams in the division), it’s the fact we’ve had one clean sheet in the last 22 games and so on and so on.

Not only are we not getting results but some of Pardew’s tactical decisions are baffling and are now starting to either negate the affect of our own players or costing us precious points. There have been too many occasions this week that have left us in a position where we could either nick a point or go on and win a game and we’ve either lost or drawn.

At Hull, Pardew substituted James MacArthur mid-way through the second half and replaced him with a more attack minded Yohan Cabaye. Within ten minutes we’d lost the midfield and gone a goal behind. Thankfully Wilfried Zaha had the game of his life, scored one of the goals of the season and set up our equaliser in the final minute.

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Similarly, on Wednesday night against Man United Pardew’s tactics completely negated all of the threat Zaha poses to opposition full backs. Why play him up front alongside Benteke where he had no impact on the game, had to play with his back to goal and was basically used to chase down United defenders. That isn’t Wilf’s game. Wilfried Zaha is a winger, plain and simple and a bloody good one at that! Wilf has been sensational for us this season but under no circumstances is he an up top front two style of player.

To make matters worse James MacArthur who is an out and out central midfielder was asked to play on the right hand side of midfield to cut out the threat from United. What a waste. MacArthur has been one of our most consistent performers in the centre of midfield but he was half the player playing wide right.

To compound all of this and with the score at one all, Pardew made the most bizarre substitution, replacing MacArthur with Frazier Campbell. Now if he’d thrown Campbell on alongside Benteke and thrown everything at United I would have accepted it…but he didn’t. What actually happened was that Campbell did indeed join Benteke but Palace sat back. So we were now playing two up front but without a defensively minded midfield player and we paid the penalty in the 88th minute when Ibrahimovic scored the winner.

Don’t get me wrong we competed with both Man United and Chelsea and I applaud that, but let’s be honest we had one decent shot in 180 minutes that either keeper had to save, so we were hardly a threat.

So with one game left in 2016, I’ve got to say our year has been bloody terrible. 6 wins in 2016…6 wins!! I could manage Palace with the side we’ve got and get 6 wins in a year. We’re 4th from bottom in the Premier League, three points above the team at the bottom (Hull) and they don’t even have any resources. It’s a joke now. I tweeted the other day that if he’s not careful Steve Parish will end up as culpable as Pardew if this continues. I truly believe that if Pardew stays we will be in the Championship next season and that will be an absolute disgrace.

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We lack leaders. We miss Jedinak massively, we miss Glenn Murray and we miss Gayle and I’d give anything to have them three in our side alongside Wilf and Puncheon. I’d take Gayle’s goals and pace rather than selling him to Newcaste and I wish we could recall Sulley Kaikai, Hirrem Boateng and Johnny Williams from their loan spells. We need to play with pace and passion and those 8 players have all of that in abundance.

Thank god we have Wilf and Puncheon. Both love Palace and both are loved by Palace fans and long may that continue. As for Pardew, I hope he does the decent thing and walks before he completely loses the Palace fans but I don’t think he will. I don’t want someone to lose their job, but it can’t go on. Our record is terrible and Pardew has to take responsibility for that, alongside some players.

2017 cannot be as bad for Palace as this year surely. If it is I’m not sure these blogs will mean quite as much writing from League one!!

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Mark Storey

sofasportsnews.com

Pard’s safe for one more week…

Safe for one more week…

On Friday night I said to a mate it wouldn’t bother me if we lost because at least we’d get a new manager. Deep down I never really wanted us to lose because in our precarious position we desperately needed three points.  But such was my frustration with Alan Pardew…well, you get the point.

I have no idea what went on at training during the week and how much the players influenced how we played, but we seemed to go back to basics and for whatever reason I’m not so anti Pardew to not give him some credit. I can’t moan constantly when we lose and then still moan at him when we win, but let’s put it into a bit of perspective, it was one win and it was long overdue so let’s see what happens at Hull this weekend.

I was pleased to see Joel Ward at left back (should have happened weeks ago) and surprised to see James Tomkins at right back. Damian Delaney came back into the side alongside Scott Dann and for the first time in what feels like months we looked relatively solid.

Don’t get me wrong, for the first twenty odd minutes we looked nervous each time Southampton came forward but those nerves lifted slightly when Fraser Forster made a comedy of a back pass. As he allowed the ball to run across his body onto his left foot it inadvertently caught his right foot and left him swinging his left leg like a golfers air shot, leaving Christian Benteke the easiest goal he will ever score. Probably in his entire career.

When James Tomkins doubled the lead a few minutes later, the crowd were lifted and so was the nervousness that had engulfed the start of the game.

What was a noticeable change for me was how Palace went back to looking like a solid unit who’s only responsibility was to defend properly across the back four.

They didn’t try to play football across the back line, they didn’t try to look like Pique in a Barcelona shirt they simply got their heads to crosses, got challenges in around the box, threw their bodies in front of crosses when they needed to and just simply put the ball into touch when they had to.

Pretty basic stuff really, but the fundamental principles of defending, which has been lacking for weeks. We also moved the ball quicker from defender to midfielder and if that pass wasn’t on we went long and I don’t have a problem with that.

We looked solid as a back four and Hennessey was commanding when coming for crosses which also made a difference. Now I’ve always shown admiration for what Damian Delaney had done for Palace over the past few seasons, but I’ve also written that his time was up in this current Palace side. But I have to hold my hands up and say he was fantastic on Saturday. He was the Delaney of the last few seasons and was instrumental in keeping a clean sheet.

I honestly believe that Delaney played so well because we changed our defensive style back to a more Pulis type approach and this suits Damien because it’s all about defending not about looking like Messi on the ball.

What was different was that he wasn’t being asked to play neat football across the back line, which would eventually see him launch long balls forward because he became so uncomfortable, but to just ‘win it and give it’. When needed, he did go long and on every occasion he made the right decision to do so. I hope he plays at Hull if we stick to this system.

One other player who was inspirational on Saturday and my Man of the Match was Jason Puncheon. In the second half he was absolutely outstanding. From a personal point of view Puncheon would be my captain. He never shirks responsibility, he always steps up when we’re in desperate need and takes a game by the scruff of the neck and dictates how we play. He has confidence to receive a ball in any situation, regardless of how many players he has around him and he very rarely gives the ball away. I can’t talk highly enough about his performance on Saturday, it was a brilliant midfield display.

Finally, I’ve got to mention Alan Pardew. Like I said at the start I don’t know if he changed the style or the players demanded it. Either way he listened and we got a result, so credit to him. I just wish he would accept that humbly and move on. I say that because for me too much from Alan Pardew is about Alan Pardew.

The thumbs up to Parish when we scored our third made it all about him. Equally, when he walked towards the dressing room at the end of the game and on approaching the Holmesdale he shrugged his shoulders held his hands out open as if to ask the fans “am I alright?”. Just accept the win Alan, look at it as a job well done and move on.

When he mentioned that Parish had protected him as the investors didn’t really understand losing 6 games in a row….behave Alan neither do we! It’s not just the 6 games it’s the 6 wins in 36. So credit for Saturday but let’s not think everything’s alright. You’ve got a long way to go before the fans start singing “Alan Pardew’s red and blue army”.

Because it was noticeable that from the ‘fanatics’ point of view and for the first since he took over it was “South London’s red and blue army”.

Alan Pardew should walk and Zaha switches from Eagle to ‘Elephant’

I’ve been saying for a number of weeks that Alan Pardew’s time as Crystal Palace manager is up, but incredibly the wait goes on for him to leave and more importantly for Palace to look like a Premier League side again.

Alan Pardew talks about moving us through a transitional period and I’d be very interested if he ever meant the following:

In 83 games Palace have only kept 10 clean sheets. Tony Pulis had 11 in his first 24 games

6 straight defeats

No clean sheet in 17 games

Conceded 26 goals in 13 games – Only Hull have conceded more

Most Premier League goals conceded in 2016

Worst performing team in the Top 4 English Leagues in 2016, claiming just 22 points, or 0.71 per game

Of the 17 teams who’ve been in the Premier League all year, Palace have lost the most games in 2016 (20), won the fewest (5) and conceded the most (61).

13 goals conceded from set pieces this season

25/11/16 – “A clean sheet is top of our agenda against Swansea” – Alan Pardew

26/11/16 – Swansea (bottom of the league) 5 – Palace 4

In a recent poll 84% of Palace fans want Alan Pardew Out

So on the back of the above…do the maths Alan and do our football club a favour….please walk!

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‘From Eagle to Elephant…’

One shining light in this dismal season has been the quite inspirational performances of Wilfried Zaha.

Wilf has been outstanding for Palace this season and has on too many occasions been a one man team. He has outshone Andros Townsend on the other wing, has more take-ons than any other player in England and is one of the highest performers (statistically) in Europe.

Yet unbelievably he cannot get into an England squad that cannot beat Iceland and is behind players like Townsend and Lingard, which is just a travesty.

So it’s no surprise to me that Zaha had given up all hope of ever achieving his dreams with England and has elected to play for the Ivory Coast. This quite frankly is a joke and I hope one day he gets the opportunity to demonstrate to England what they might have had at a major tournament when we’re already on our way home.

I have no idea whether Wilf has an attitude and quite frankly I don’t care if he has or not. What interests me is the fact that he’s one of most exciting wingers in England, has more assists and goals than Townsend, Lingard and others and has the ability to dump any defender in World football on his backside.

For too long England have been pedestrian in their approach play and when teams put ten men behind the ball we do not have one single player able to run with the ball and open a defence. This was a proven fact in the Euros and Wilf would have been perfect to come off the bench and attempt to unlock that mentality.

So I say good luck to Wilfried Zaha. England’s loss is definitely the Ivory Coasts gain and for those who think Zaha isn’t very good, then 1) you’ve never seen him properly every week and 2) I hope England never meet the Ivory Coast in the World Cup because then you’ll find out what I’m talking about.

Check out Wilfied Zaha’s profile here…

Mark

sofasportsnews.com

EPL Round up – Week 13

Burnley 1-2 Man City

Another exciting weekend of EPL action kicked off with Burnley hosting title chasers Manchester City at Turf Moor.  Sean Dyche’s side took an early lead through the former Spurs midfielder Dean Marney, a lead the home side fully deserved having made an impressive start to the game.  It wasn’t long before the EPL’s hottest striker Sergio Aguero arrived at the party and with goals on 37 & 60 minutes his brace proved to be the difference.

Liverpool 2-0 Sunderland 

Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool faced a stubborn Sunderland side at Anfield this weekend and 75 minutes passed before they finally broke the deadlock.  Belgian striker and substitute Divock Origi broke the Sunderland resistance with around about 15 minutes to go and a late penalty sealed the victory as James Milner calmly dispatched.

Chelsea 2-1 Spurs

In the days late kick off, in-form Chelsea entertained a Spurs side fresh off the back of their Champions League exit midweek.  Many predicted Chelsea to cruise through this one but that certainly wasn’t the case.  An impressive first half performance from Spurs capped by a fine strike from Christian Eriksen had Antonio Conte’s men with their backs to the wall.  Pedro’s curling effort leveled it on the stroke of half time and from then on Chelsea’s superiority was clear for all to see.  Victor Moses’ goal just after the break proved to be the winner and propelled the West Londoners back to the top of the pile.  With Spurs having suffered defeat there are no longer any unbeaten teams in the division.

Arsenal 3-1 Bournemouth

The Gunners ended their run of three straight draws with a far from convincing win at the Emirates.  Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth side will feel hard done by and probably deserved at least a point from the game.  Some contentious refereeing decisions left the cherries feeling aggrieved, Alexis Sanchez’s brace and Theo Walcott’s header were enough to seal the points for the Gunners and ensure they kept in touch with the leaders.  This Bournemouth performance was further evidence that Eddie Howe is a fine manager and has a bright future in the game.

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Man Utd 1-1 West Ham

Jose Mourinho stole the headlines once again when he appeared to lose it on the touchline and was subsequently sent to the stands for the second time this season.  Man Utd got off to the worst possible start when Diafra Sakho gave the hammers the lead just 2 minutes in.  Summer signings Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic combined to draw the home side level around about 20 minutes later but neither side were able to take all three points.  Yet another frustrating result for Jose’s side who now find themselves 8 points behind the current top 4.

Game of the Week:

Swansea 5-4 Crystal Palace

Bob Bradley celebrated his first win as Swansea manager but oh boy did they leave it late!  Two goals in stoppage time from Spanish striker Fernando Llorente turned the game on its head and ultimately decided this 9 goal thriller.  It looked as though Palace were going to return to South London with all 3 points when Benteke netted on 84 minutes but sadly for Alan Pardew it just wasn’t to be.  Having invested heavily in the squad over the summer there is no doubt Alan Pardew will now be under immense pressure.  Both sides find themselves in the midst of a relegation dogfight and it’s no surprise with that sort of defending!

Elsewhere…

Watford suffered a home defeat at the hands of Stoke.  A Gomes own goal and Mazzari’s refusal to shake Mark Hughes hand post game were the major talking points.  Ronald Koeman’s return to St Mary’s was an unhappy one as his Everton side suffered a 1-0 defeat.  Debutant Josh Sims impressed for the Saints and he may be a player to keep your eye on for the future.  Hull City managed to salvage a draw versus an in-form West Brom side leaving both slightly frustrated.  Champions Leicester City  needed a couple of penalties to deny Middlesbrough a win at the King Power.  Leicester’s form may have completely changed this season but the dodgy penalty awards they were getting certainly haven’t, check that out on MOTD.

Click on the image below to listen to the latest episode of the sofasportsnews.com official podcast.

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Harry

sofasportsnews.com

Thanks for the players Pardew… but its time to go. – CPFC

Thanks for the players Pardew….but it’s time to go.

Previously I’d said that I’d give Pardew until the end of October to see if he could take us to the next level but I never meant a level that saw us sliding towards the relegation zone.

Two weeks ago I said that if we lost to Liverpool and Burnley then Pardew had to go and I’m standing by that now. It’s disgraceful the way we’re starting games, the naivety we’re showing in our defending and we’re having to chase a game every week because we haven’t kept a clean sheet for 16 games.

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Alan Pardew talks about us being in a transitional period and Wilfried Zaha said the same on the weekend stating that we can’t continue to win games by counter attacking. Why not? It’s the system that has established us as a premier league club and saw us finish 11th with 48 points under Pulis. Let’s be honest that side shouldn’t be able to touch this current one, but I know which one I’d take at the moment.

Can we really afford to be in a transition period and in all honesty, transition to what? We’re a poor side now. Yes I know we’re good going forward and we do score score goals but we can’t be scoring two each week and still losing games.

On Saturday the defending for the first Burnley goal was beyond belief. Any Sunday morning manager on Hackney Marshes would have been screaming if they’d seen that from one of their sides.

Five players going to the man with the ball, leaving a free runner in acres of space on the left hand side. Burnley duly found that runner and for Palace to then do it again and all five chase the ball, leaving Lowton completely unmarked at the back post was like watching a group of under 7’s play for the first time.

The second was both a goalkeeping error (Mandanda had to save it) and another example of us being so open through the middle. Talking about Mandanda I’d drop him and bring back Hennessey. Steeeeeve as he’s known to Palace fans is a tremendous shot stopper (well he was until Saturday), but he lacks a presence.

He doesn’t command his penalty area from free kicks and corners and his kicking is poor. Hennessey had done nothing wrong prior to being injured and I’d play him against Man City.

I’m sorry but Pardew cannot keep giving excuses. He can’t keep saying we played well, we deserved something from the game, we should have had a penalty, I’m not sure why they picked this particular referee….enough is enough. 5 wins in 34 premier league games is simply not good enough. No clean sheets in 16 games, the only team in the Premier League not to have kept a clean sheet. Brilliant transition this is!

I applaud the quality of players we’ve brought in. Cabaye, Mandanda, Tomkins, Townsend, Benteke. That’s my point really, we’ve spent a lot of money and we’re not very good. I’m not saying we should be in the top four but we should be safely in the top 10 and challenging for top 8, but we’re not. We’re one point above the relegation zone and Pardew has to take responsibility for that.

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It’s alright him giving it the ‘big un’ in the cup final with his stupid dance after Puncheon scored, but that made it all about him and not our side. Well this is all about him and he now has to go. He won’t resign, no chance and I don’t think Steve Parrish will sack him yet, but he’s lost an army of Palace fans this weekend looking on social media and the minute he loses the fanatics in the Lower Holmesdale he’s out.

There’s not many managers out there but I’d try to grab Chris Coleman from the Wales job. He’s ex palace and showed what an outstanding manager he is during the Euros. Imagine what he could achieve with some of the players we’ve got.

As I said, I thank Alan Pardew for the quality players he’s been able to attract to Palace but the table doesn’t lie and therefore in the words of Alan Sugar “You’re fired!”.

The clock is ticking for Alan Pardew.

Time is Running out for Pardew!

It’s not that we lost to Leicester. There’s no disgrace in being beaten by the Champions at their place, regardless of their current form. It’s more the manner in which we’re losing and the spin that Pardew puts on a defeat that angers me.

We started the game pretty well and for about 20 minutes we controlled possession and Benteke was very unlucky with a header that hit the bar and who knows how different that could have been if it had gone in. But to be honest I’m a bit tired of saying if this had happened or that had happened, it hasn’t and it’s not and it doesn’t look likely too!

After a real good performance at Everton, we’ve had the defeat at home to West Ham, a loss to Leicester and Liverpool at home next to come, which does not fill me with optimism. The biggest problem we have is that we cannot stop conceding goals.

14 games apparently since we last kept a clean sheet and I’m actually making my own arguments for Scott Dann to be in the England squad look flawed. To be fair Dann has missed the last two games so I’m excused a little.

I really don’t understand our style of play anymore or what Pardew is saying he’s changed for the better? The cold facts are that Pardew has had 5 wins in 31 Premier League games and three of those came in a row.

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With the players we’ve got, this simply is no longer good enough. Credit him for persuading the quality of players we’ve attracted to Selhurst but results don’t lie.

I’m presuming that his change of style involves us playing football from the back and the two full backs getting further forward to support both Zaha and Townsend. It doesn’t work. Yes we play across the back, but we’re no Barcelona!

It’s laboured and we’re too slow in getting the ball out to Zaha or Townsend, who by the time we do, have got two players on them. This isn’t new, I said this in one of my previous blogs and nothing’s changed.

At least Wilf can take on two players at a time, as he proved on Saturday when he set up several chances, one of which Cabaye should have scored from. Townsend on the other hand can be completely marked out of a game when teams double up on him and I think he’s been particularly poor in our last two games.

Defensively Joel Ward has had only one good game this season (Everton away) and is getting caught on the wrong side of players too many times. Martin Kelly at Left back is completely uncomfortable on that side.

It’s just not natural for him and it’s ruining a real good full back. There is nothing Pardew can do about that because you can’t legislate for Souare’s car crash, but I’d swap Kelly and Ward as I believe Ward will cope better on the left hand side.

Through the middle Dann and Tomkins just have to play together, on Dann’s return. Damien Delaney has been magnificent for us up to this season and I’m not going to slag him off, but his time is up as a first choice pick. Whoever the manager is needs to bring in another centre back in January as back up.

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I also blame Pardew for leaving us short of a proven goal scorer as back up to Benteke. I completely accept that he’s been unlucky with Loic Remy’s injury but to have to bring on Fraizer Campbell to change a game, like he did on Saturday is a joke.

Campbell is just not a premier league striker and if he were for sale I doubt a single side in the Prem would pay out for him and that sums it up. It’s galling to see Dwight Gayle scoring goals for fun for Newcastle. I love Dwight Gayle, as did the vast majority of Palace supporters and even Pardew said that he’s the best finisher at the club.

What I don’t understand, is that if he is, which I’m sure he is given he’s scored 12 for Newcastle already this season, then how can he let him go and keep Campbell. There is no way on this earth Campbell would have scored that amount for Newcastle if the roles were reversed. We desperately needed Dwight to play alongside Benteke on Saturday.

Big Money Signings have got us nowhere fast…

What I find totally unacceptable is given the money Steve Parish has paid out on quality signings over the past year, we’re no further forward than we were coming into December 2015. When you look at the side that started and drew 3-3 with Liverpool in 2014 to destroy their title challenge, it shouldn’t touch our current line up. Speroni, Ward, Dann, Delaney, Mariappa, KG, Jedinak, Puncheon, Ledley, Chamakh and Bolassie with Murray and Gayle from the Bench.

However, that side had a system, they defended properly, they counter attacked with pace and they had a proper identity.

Say what you like about Tony Pulis, but he got us an 11th place finish with 48 points. I cannot see Pardew achieving the same, which is a travesty given the players he’s signed.

With the money we’ve spent and the players we’ve brought in we should be looking for a minimum of a top 10 finish. If we lose to Liverpool on Saturday, which I think we will and then get beat by Burnley at Turf Moor a week later Pardew has to go.

Mark Storey

Sofa Sports News

Benteke’s Miss Leaves Palace ‘Hammered’

Benteke’s miss leaves Palace ‘Hammered’

Proper football returned this week after the International break and I’d missed it. I can’t be the only one who finds watching England a complete waste of time? Not only are we not very good, but how can we get carried away even if we do win, when the opposition (Malta) would be beaten by nearly every side in the Championship.

What difference does it make anyway, Roy Hodgson won ten games in a row didn’t he? Still couldn’t beat Iceland when it really mattered could we.

So excuse my utter boredom in watching Internationals, but at the end of a really rubbish week the excitement of watching Palace beat West Ham and continue our recent good form had me walk into Selhurst on Saturday evening predicting a 3-1 win.

Not often have I agreed with Alan Pardews starting 11, but I couldn’t even moan about that. He picked the exact side I would have done, except for Scott Dann obviously due to injury. Joe Ledley thoroughly deserved to stay in the central midfield three after our massively impressive performance at Everton, which was one of our best for nearly 18 months. It was also an absolute cracker of a game.

Unfortunately, Slaven Bilic set West Ham up perfectly and to be fair to them they looked a real quality side. I’m not even sure what formation they played and I say that as a compliment to them, such was the fluid nature in which they played. I think it was three at the back with the full backs pushed on, but whatever it was, it stopped us playing.

We started too slowly. Our movement of the ball forward was laboured and by the time either Zaha or Townsend received it they had two West Ham players surrounding them and this stopped the supply line to Benteke. West Ham also dominated our central midfield three and gave them a platform to play from. I can’t even moan really, they just bossed us and looked like the West Ham of last season.

The goal they scored was absolute quality! Not only was the finish fantastic (the way Lanzini opened his body), but the build up and passing to get the ball wide to Cresswell (who is a really good footballer) was just top draw. You almost had to applaude it or at least accept it.

The game could have been so different between the 44th and 46th minute. When we were awarded a penalty in the 44th there wasn’t a single doubt in my mind that Benteke would score and I thought we’d got out of jail. What happened next was not in my thinking. He must have slipped surely??? Didn’t he?? You can’t miss by that much. Even after missing we could have equalised when the only time we got a decent cross into the box Benteke, with a magnificent header to be fair to him, hit the post. So we go in at half time one down, but could have been two one up.

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In all honesty it would have been a travesty on West Ham if they’d gone in losing. Not that I’d of complained. Pardew made two changes and again I couldn’t argue with them either. Kelly replaced by Fryers and Cabaye for Ledley. In defence of Kelly, he’s a really good defender and I feel sorry for him because he’s completely right footed and therefore when Pardew wants his full backs to attack it’s difficult for Kelly to deliver an end product. He would still be in my starting 11 every week though.

Fryers (naturally left footed) didn’t make that much difference and still gets caught the wrong side of his man for me to think he’s our long term answer at left back while Pape Souare is out.

Our final throw of the dice was Wickham up front alongside Benteke, MacArthur off and Puncheon and Cabaye as the midfield two. We pressed a bit, had numerous corners and Benteke had a clear chance that he headed over and Adrian made a save from a Wickham header, but apart from that I can’t really think of another decent save he had to make and that sums it up really.

Even when West Ham went down to ten men we didn’t look like scoring and we never ever have when any side in the last two years have gone down to ten men. We almost don’t really know what to do, which is disappointing.

One bright light on a terrible evening (both weather and result) was the performance of James Tomkins who I thought was outstanding. He is a top signing for us and when Scott Dann returns and the two of them get game time together they could form the best defensive partnership in the Premier League.

That may seem a bit of a comical statement but Scott Dann should be in the England Squad because he’s better than both Cahill and Smalling and Tomkins looks as good as him as well, so why not.

We’ve got a tough couple of weeks coming up – Leicester away and Liverpool at home, so we’ll need performances like the one at Goodison to get something out of either of those games. I said I’d give Pardew till the end of October before I voice an opinion on whether he can take us to the next level…..we will see.

Mark Storey

SSN

Townsend’s on fire but its McArthur that makes Palace tick!

Townsend’s on fire but its McArthur that makes Palace tick!

A Good win last week at Boro without really playing brilliantly but as kick off approached on Sunday and Pardew picking Tomkins over Delaney for the first time this season my optimism was high.

You never really knew before the game which Stoke side would turn up. The one at the bottom of the table or the one that has been a powerhouse at set pieces, dominant in midfield and good going forward. I still can’t quite work out which one did actually turn up, but it certainly wasn’t the latter.

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This was undoubtedly Palace’s best performance of the season, which coincided with Pardew picking our best 11 (bar Cabaye).  We were utterly dominant in midfield (of which I’ll speak about more), a real threat going forward and sound at the back.  And I know that’s what you should expect from a side but we haven’t been like that since December 2015!

Tomkins made a huge difference defensively. He does things simply, never got caught with Stoke players running in behind, got back with pace if he needed to cover and got our all important first goal. I hope he’s not out for long as I believe him and Scott Dann will make one of the best defensive partnerships in the Premier League.

As for our midfield three of MacArthur, Ledley and Puncheon they were outstanding. MacArthur was quite frankly brilliant. His work rate was unbelievable, his reading of the game to intercept and break up play was exemplary and his passing is so good that no matter the situation he never gives the ball away.  He is currently one of the best central midfield players in the Premier League and is our equivalent of Kante (he’s that good).

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Joe Ledley deserves a mention too. He hasn’t really had huge game time since Pardew’s arrival, but he had a great Euros with Wales and he goes about his job in a really understated way. He covered so much ground in our midfield alongside MacArthur and again just done the simple things when he won the ball and never gave it away.

Andros Townsend will rightly get the plaudits but it was Ledley and especially MacArthur that gave our forwards/wingers the platform to play.

Credit to Townsend though, he looked absolute quality and had his best game in a Palace shirt. He was a threat from either wing, was direct, tricky and his set piece delivery was better than anything Cabaye ever serves up.

He gives us a different dimension. Where  Wilf is full of tricks and gets you on the edge of your seat, Andros just delivers. He’s powerful, strong and tricky but what I like is his directness. He whips balls in when others would go to beat a man again, but most importantly…he shoots.

This is a rarity for us because our end product in this area from both Bolassie and Zaha has been pretty poor. I think he’ll score double figures for us this season if his goal on Sunday was anything to go by.

This has been a good week for us and it feels like our season has really started. Barring injuries I’d start with the same eleven at Sunderland. After that performance they all deserve to play.

Mark Storey

SSN

Benteke and Zaha give Pardew some breathing space…

Well at long last (8 months to be precise) we eventually win a game away from home. It’s not just about winning away from home, it was winning full stop. We desperately needed those three points yesterday and I’m hoping that we’ll kick on a bit now and start to get our season going.

I’ve moaned or mentioned Pardew for weeks so I’m going to stay away from picking fault this week as a ‘win is a win’ as they say and although the game was far from a classic you can’t knock the performance too much. The side looked balanced, could soak up pressure and use Zaha and Townsend as the outlet to either counter attack or just take the game to Boro. My one complaint in the starting line up was the selection of Delaney over Tomkins at Centre Back. This makes no sense to me.

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I believe we paid nearly 13 million for Tomkins and I feel that if we have a core of Mandanda, Dann and Tomkins, Flamini and MacArthur with Benteke up front we’ll be a really difficult side to beat. I’ve said before this week that Delaney has to make way for Tomkins as his pace and passing ability leaves us vulnerable and unfortunately it was his fault for the Boro goal, when he left his marker and ducked as the ball was heading in his direction. Tomkins simply has start against Stoke next week.

One of the reasons we looked so compact (defensively) was the selection of Martin Kelly at left back. Kelly is a proper defender. He might not give us so much of an attacking threat but he’s a far better defender than Souare and more importantly he also makes Joel Ward look more comfortable on the other side, which sounds bizarre but it’s true. I’d pick an all English back four for the foreseeable future – Ward, Dann, Tomkins and Kelly.

As for our attacking intent, Zaha was simply outstanding and Benteke’s finish was something we’ve been missing for nearly a year – one chance, one goal. His header was absolute quality and you felt that as soon as Zaha put the ball into that danger area there was only ever going to be one winner and so it proved. He’ll prove a bargain for us Benteke, but we must keep feeding the ball into him to utilise all of his power.

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As for Zaha, what can I say. He turns us from an ok compact side into one with real attacking intent. He occupies two defenders every time he gets the ball, he’s unpredictable, exciting, plays with no fear and gets Palace supporters on the edge of their seats whenever he gets the ball.

His cross for Benteke’s goal was pinpoint and his winning finish (when he didn’t have time to think about it) demonstrates how confident he is at the moment. Now I’m biased (I accept that) when it comes to Wilf, but he really should be in that England squad.

When you look at how poor England were at breaking down Slovakia last weekend, it needed someone with pace and unpredictability, someone who plays with no fear, someone who has an ability to run at defenders with the ball and someone who will create chances for others. Every one of these traits Wilf has in abundance. I’m sensible enough to agree that Zaha wouldn’t start for England, but when you need someone in the last 20 minutes to break a side down and create a chance or win a penalty there is few better than Zaha.

What have England got to lose by picking him really. They’re in a group with the equivalent of The Championship for opposition and Wilf would destroy any of them. Hopefully if he keeps providing for Benteke and scoring a few himself he’ll get a chance.

One final point. I liked the way Flamini organised the defenders behind him when he came on and I’d pick him next week against Stoke. My starting line up next week would be – Mandanda, Ward Dann Tomkins Kelly, Flamini Cabaye MacArthur, Zaha Townsend and Benteke.

Mark Storey

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