Palace defeated hull city with a win of sheer professionalism. Here are five things Nav learned.
1 – Preparation is the Key
After Sam Allardyce’s initial 10 games at Palace, many were doubting whether he would have an impact on the club’s survival chances. That was ignoring, however, the lack of time between games for Allardyce to alter the tactics, organisation, fitness and mentality of the team.
Each time he has had more than just recovery time between games (Boro, WBA, Watford, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Burnley) the team has picked up maximum points. Previous criticism underestimated how far the team needed retuning away from ‘transition’ and back into an organised unit as comfortable without the ball as it is with it. With his own coaching staff and solid recruitment in the January window, with each signing having a hand in survival, the magnitude of Big Sam’s achievement cannot be underestimated.
2 – Key Win Was a Team Effort
Ian Wright in the 1990 FA Cup final, David Hopkin curling one (a football!), Dougie Freedman at Stockport, Darren Ambrose at Hillsborough and Wilf at the Amex – key games for Palace and all remembered for one or two iconic moments from a single player. Sunday’s thrashing of Hull is a significant differential from these other big games in that from Wilfried Zaha’s early goal to Patrick Van Aanholt’s late one, it was virtually a complete team performance. Joel Ward (as he did at Wembley) making a crucial clearance with a beaten ‘keeper, Martin Kelly and James Tomkins almost faultless as a pair, Jeffrey Schlupp’s pace and stamina lasting all afternoon and winning a crucial penalty which was converted by Luka Milivojević, Jason Puncheon leading by example and creating the second goal, Yohan Cabaye playing through injury, linking both ends of the pitch throughout, the potent threat and hard work of Andros Townsend and Wilf and of course Benteke leading the line. The subs too played a part – it was all there. Each Palace player played a big hand when it was most needed. In so many ways, it was beautifully un-Palace.
3 – Tomkins an Un-Sung Hero
Injuries and the existing partnership between Scott Dann and Damien Delaney made Tomkins’ early time at Palace very stop-start. He was used at right-back as well as centre-back as Alan Pardew looked for a way to fit him in. However, it was not until Allardyce took over and partnered Tomkins with Mamadou Sakho that the former West Ham player really began to grow and was integral to the run of form which saw the team to within touching distance of survival. Against Hull, he risked injury by playing sooner than he should have – in many ways he put himself on the line for the club and was back in the team to finish the job off. While the manager and some other high profile players get justified praise, Tomkins has been a key cog in the wheel.
4 – Benteke Has Justified His Transfer Fee
Time and again this season, despite his goals, Christian Benteke has been criticised for either a lack of effort, closing down and in some instances body language. The transfer fee perhaps led some to believe we were getting an all-action striker when what we were signing was one with very specific attributes. His prowess in the air is well documented – but he’s made a more telling contribution than just winning headers. He’s scored 15 goals, has two assists, averages just under 3 shots per game and a key pass. While defending, he averages just under one and a half clearances a game. Without his impact, it is highly likely this would have been a season of misery for Palace – his goal on Saturday being the one which effectively settled matters. The price may have been £27 million but it has been fully justified by Benteke’s influence on the team.
Christian Benteke: Is winning more aerial duels per game (9.2) than any other player in the Premier League this season pic.twitter.com/khlftZa02m— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) April 29, 2017
5 – Nothing Can Be Taken for Granted
While euphoria and relief were expressed by 90% of Selhurst Park at full-time, some was tempered as the Hull players slumped as their long battle, mostly against the odds, ended leaving a manger and some players with uncertain futures. As the Palace players received well deserved acclaim, a mixture of the two outcomes brought more reality to the situation. Was it the last time we’d see Zaha as a Palace player at Selhurst? Was Cabaye saying goodbye? Will the club be able to sign Sakho? As we enter a club record term in the top flight, Sam needs to be trusted to build the squad with a pragmatic rather than idealistic eye to enable the club to not be in this situation in the coming seasons. He has shown his eye for a player and attention to tactical detail – however, the starting XI still requires upgrades in areas and the squad’s padding needs to be refreshed. Allardyce is the man to do it to ensure nothing is taken for granted.