Palace lost their second game of the season to Brighton as they completed a derby double over the Eagles. What went wrong at Selhurst? Here's Nav Khan with some ponderings...
Roy Misjudged the Team
While there was a sense of relief when Vincente Guaita was confirmed as the starting goalkeeper, the midfield combination did raise a few eyebrows. Without detracting from Jeffrey Schlupp’s recent good form and James McArthur’s contribution to the club since 2014, it was right and fair to wonder if the midfield which was poor for the first half at Leicester and against Manchester United until Max Meyer was introduced was the right starting midfield.
Cheikhou Kouyaté put in an excellent performance against Burnley in the win the match prior and like Meyer, he found himself on the bench. The absence of those two told – Luka Milivojević had to cover ground where there were holes in midfield around him, Michy Batshuayi’s natural game does not involve holding the ball up for time and in areas where Schlupp and McArthur can benefit from their runs and the combination of this meant that Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend did not get the ball in the right areas.
While much of the criticism aimed at Roy Hodgson is unfair in extent, it is right to question this selection and wonder how we have got to March without our best XI starting a match.
PVA Needs a Break
A key player in our last two Premier League survival runs, Patrick van Aanholt has been an effective contributor at both ends of the pitch since signing in 2017. However, at points during his time here, he has had to be out of the side to regain his form and we are at that juncture with him now.
He is not timing his runs so as to “do bits” with Wilf; defensively he is missing the presence of Mamadou Sakho and the midfield ahead of him does not allow him to switch off (another reason Kouyate should be starting). It’s time to give him a break to allow him the space to regain his form – he can still be a vital member of this side, it just isn’t working right now.
Important to Separate Result from Elements of Performance
As fans, emotion plays an important part of the matchday experience. From getting worked up over the team selection, the scrutinising every mistake made by a player or referee and being one of 25,000 managers in the stand, the emotion of football grabs us all. However, players and coaches need to be able to separate themselves from that emotion and when the match is analysed, it should not be about losing to Brighton in a derby – the analysis, good or bad, should be about performance metrics and whether players were carrying out instructions.
Saturday’s performance data showed Palace to have created more than Brighton, had more of the ball (in crucial areas) and showed ultimately that the performance compared to the opponent did not merit defeat. On the flip side, it showed that the midfield was not well positioned in transition phases, Luka was exposed by those around him and Batshuayi did not play in a way which allowed the five players behind him effect the match.
That is not to say the result is not important, it is. We fans care about points. We care about rivalries and we want to beat Brighton. We just have to accept that professionals view it from a different perspective and to improve as players and a team, it is the performance data that will help rather than emotion.
A lot is spoken about the home form and used as a stick to beat the manager with; that cannot be fair without equally praising him for the away form. The home form needs to be addressed; the question is whether this can be done without sacrificing elements which make us so good away from home.
One fair criticism about Hodgson is his use of substitutes; Saturday’s were both delayed and predictable. The team needed proactive pragmatism probably as early as half-time. With the likes of Christian Benteke, Meyer and Kouyate to hand, the delay was inexplicable. Speaking of the bench, whatever the match, whatever the outcome, seeing Julian Speroni in the match day 18 is perfectly Palace.