Areas of Interest: What to Look for as Crystal Palace take on Brentford

Written by Robert Sutherland

As Palace face the challenge of newly-promoted Brentford visiting Selhurst Park, Robert Sutherland takes look at what to expect from the game. 

McArthur Chelsea Shot

Defenders Must match Ivan Toney's Physicality 

Much of the focus on Brentford tends to be about the attractive football that they play, but beneath that pretty exterior, there is a toughness that shouldn't be underestimated. While Ivan Toney was an excellent goalscorer last season, it's the way he leads the line for Brentford that doesn't get the credit it deserves.

Toney had an excellent game against Arsenal last weekend, one in which he bullied his defensive counterparts, and it's that physical battle that Marc Guehi and Joachim Andersen will have to be wary of. A look at's assessment of Toney supports that assessment -- he likes to do layoffs, is physically strong, holds on to the ball well, gets fouled often and often fouls opponents -- which is indicative of a player who isn't afraid to get his body in the way of defenders and doing the dirty work.

It's fair to say that Arsenal have, through a series of managerial appointments, lost some of that physical and mental toughness they were known for -- there is hope that despite Palace's changes this summer, that toughness they honed under Roy Hodgson's direction can prevail. 


Palace's Centre Will Set Foundations for Match 

One of the disappointing aspects from Saturday's defeat to Chelsea was the way in which Chelsea's midfield just utterly dominated Palace's -- which is understandable given the quality Chelsea have -- but there was a lack of competitiveness from Jairo Riedewald and James McArthur. Palace were slow to get to their opponents, slow to challenge them and, on the rare occasion where they won the ball, were then slow to make use of possession. The intensity we had seen in pre-season wasn't visible as Chelsea worked their way through Palace's midfield. The one thing they should have tried to do was slow their opponents down by matching their cynicism and committing fouls in the centre of the pitch. 

Brentford are not Chelsea, but their game against Arsenal showed that they have a hard-working midfield that closes down opponents, will tackle them and will then transition that possession into attacking moves. Palace must match that to have a chance of winning the game. Christian Noorgard, who played as the linchpin in Brentford's midfield, is rated as being strong at concentration, tackling, interceptions and passing by He won't be an easy opponent. 

With Vieira adapting the side from a low-press defensive model to one that is focused on doing more defensive work in midfield, it's key that McArthur, Riedewald and perhaps Conor Gallagher (we assume he'll start in a midfield three) make that midfield area theirs. 

Zaha Riedewald Chelsea

Zaha as Part of Front Three Should Make a Greater Threat

The decision to start the Chelsea game in a 4-4-2 formation, which hadn't been used in pre-season at all, was clearly tactical in an attempt to match their opponents man-for-man, but in doing so Palace left Wilfried Zaha isolated and without the ball. Against a side where those few moments of possession can make all the difference, leaving Zaha with little room to influence proceedings was a disappointing side-effect of that tactical change.

It's clear that when Palace switched to the 4-3-3 formation which they had practised so often, it opened up the pitch for Zaha to roam around in that final third. One of Palace's rare chances in the second half came from the attacker cropping up in an unexpected area which allowed him to run and attempt a shot, only for Antonio Ruediger to block it well. 

It's likely that we'll see Christian Benteke take that central attacking role alongside Zaha, with Ayew likely to be on the other flank. We've learnt with Zaha that he's at his best when he's given the freedom to find space around the other attacking players. Doing so against Brentford should pose a much greater threat than it did against Chelsea.