Three defeats in a row give us plenty to ponder. Here's Naveed Khan with a few.
1 – Roy's Loyalty Needs a Dose of Pragmatism
There is little doubt that Roy Hodgson’s first year as Crystal Palace manager has been a success. A success built on continuity and loyalty to the players who have carried out his instructions. However, while last season that approach led to rich rewards, his continuity was based on his best available XI being picked. This season, to date, that has not been the case. Summer signings
Cheikhou Kouyaté and Max Meyer have not started a Premier League match to date despite the two games prior to Southampton showing a desperate need for players of their ilk. They were impactful when they came on against Southampton and Roy needs to fit them both into the starting line-up for the Huddersfield game. To not would be an indication of the loyalty being somewhat counterproductive.
2 – Benteke Is Not the Biggest Issue
Three goals in 36 games is not the return expected of a striker who cost upwards of £25 million; nor is it the record expected of Christian Benteke. In the 132 starts prior to the most recent 36, he has 66 goals, a stellar Premier League record. He has the pedigree at this level. However, his form is now a focus points for fans, to the extent that failing to find the back of the net now results in good defending and great saves are overlooked, it is all about him. He has also been the recipient of personal abuse which to any extent is unacceptable.
Against Southampton, he did the basics which a striker should; shoot across the goal and head down. A confident Benteke may have finished those chances. Some of the frustrations expressed towards him are understandable but as Hodgson himself has said, he is not judged solely on his goals, he remains our best option and will most likely start when fit. To see the best of him, he still needs the backing of the fans. His goal-scoring form is undeniably an issue. There are, however, more pressing issues within the team.
READ MORE: FYP Podcast 263 EXTRAAA - Saints 2 Sinners 0
3 – MCARTHUR AND MILIVOJEVIC PARTNERSHIP IS NOT WORKING
James McArthur has had a resurgence over the last year, a crucial part of Hodgson’s team and important in Palace’s survival. Luka Milivojević has been himself vital in the last two successful battles against relegation. Last season, they played as part of the same midfield to achieve that success. However, this season it is not working.
McAthur’s energy, desire to move the ball and take up positions in support of others is important in moving the team up the field. The flip side to this is that Milivojević is left exposed as the sole central midfielder – impacting his own form and ability to shield the backline. Roy has the tools available to fix this issue – one or both of Meyer and Kouyate can come in and the team shape can remain his favoured narrow 4-4-2 with Meyer and McArthur in the wide areas. Alternatively, both Jimmy and Luka can play centrally as part of a three. The midfield is in urgent need of revision – the hope is the international break allows the coaching staff the time to get the blend right.
4 – Full-backs Provide Hope
With the uncertainty in central defence, midfield and up front, the certainty the team gets from Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Patrick Patrick van Aanholt is the current ray of hope. Wan-Bissaka had the second highest number of touches by a Palace player (72) and his four key passes showing his impact going forward.
Defensively, he has the most tackles (5), most interceptions (3) and the second highest amount of clearances (7). While PvA’s statistics did not reflect a performance as impressive the right-back’s, his overall consistency the last third of season and so far this season mean that as far as his full backs go, the manager has no concerns.
5 – Something Needs to Fix the Atmosphere
Much has been said about the Holmesdale Fanatics this season; much of the discussion has been needlessly tribal. Yes, there was an atmosphere before the HF. But they’ve existed now and to be removed is clearly having an impact. It is having an impact in the stands and it is not beyond the realms of possibilities that is it having an impact on the team.
The club has released a statement to put forward its side but it is abundantly clear after a Monday night game and a game against a beatable opponent that something needs to be done. Whether the HF or club put out an olive branch to the other, or somehow the team on the pitch provides a constant lift to the fans, we are already at a place where we need fans and the club to come together. For the good of the fans and for the good of the team.