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Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace: The unrecognized fairytale

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To even the most ardent optimistic Eagle, it must be beyond all realms of fantasy to think that just over two years after a 39 year-old Kevin Phillips rolled back the years to send Crystal Palace to the Premier League by scoring the playoff final winner, that French international Yohan Cabaye would now ply his trade there.

In some ways, even in an era of hype and dramatization of even the smallest detail, Palace’s story has been underestimated to say the least. They may not have stayed up in League Two in 2003 on the final day like Swansea, nor rise back up with a vengeance from League One to the Europa League like Southampton, but their recent past has been as colourful as those.

In fact, the Saints return to the Premier League is in many ways down to Palace’s downfall. Were it not for the Eagles’ entry into administration woes in 2010, it would be unlikely to say the least that Southampton’s captain Jose Fonte would have not only moved down the country from London to the South Coast, but down a league to League One too.

Palace avoiding relegation by the skin of their teeth in 2010 by just a single point on the final day, relegating Sheffield Wednesday in the process by drawing 2-2 at Hillsborough, led to a consortium of fans taking over the Eagles.

Phillips’ winner just three years on would have been enough of a dream for many fans, but now the picture is completely different and a hell of a lot brighter from that tense day in Yorkshire. Darren Ambrose may have wrote himself into the history books with his 20th goal that season ensuring they stayed up, but the current heroes of Selhurst Park are of higher quality now.

Perhaps the reason Palace are forgotten about is because of the obsession with what many deem beautiful football. With Germany and Spain making possession football almost the only way to play in some eyes, the more direct and arguably more British style of Tony Pulis in their first season back in the Premier League goes against that.

But it worked. After being bottom with just five points after twelve games in November after Ian Holloway admitted he couldn’t keep them up, Pulis’ more back to basics methods worked and ensured his record of never being relegated was to last.

The club even recovered from seeing Pulis walk out on the opening day of last season, although that is far easier than coming back from the financial brink admittedly. The subsequent appointment of Neil Warnock didn’t work out, with a 3-1 defeat to Southampton on Boxing Day 2014 the final nail in the coffin of Warnock’s Selhurst Park return.

Warnock’s own replacement has so far been much more successful. The return of another, albeit far loftier, Palace legend Alan Pardew ensured their safety, but also that the aforementioned Cabaye who was a star pupil during his mostly unhappy managerial spell at Newcastle, would now be playing south of the River Thames.

Few would have predicted Yohan Cabaye would be plying his trade at Selhurst Park when the club was on the brink of financial collapse just five years ago.

Now, Palace have to ensure that their third season in the Premier League is more stable for a full campaign. The club could now be considered a solid mid-table team, but have been saved halfway through the past two seasons by key appointments at the right time. ‘Pards’ needs to be given a full season to implement his ideas.

He also needs to steady the Palace ship as it enters a transition, too. Modern day favourites Mile Jedinak and Julian Speroni have been for years loved by the Selhurst Park crowd, one of the most passionate in the Premier League, but now Speroni is getting past his best and captain Jedinak is starting to become far less important. Their replacements need to be the right ones.

Luckily, it seems Pardew has been given funds to do so. Alex McCarthy has been recruited from QPR for £3.5m and the young goalkeeper could end up usurping Speroni by the end of the season, and Patrick Bamford has joined on loan from Chelsea.

The goalscoring mantle cannot solely rest on Bamford’s young shoulders, though. Dwight Gayle and Glenn Murray are both capable of hitting double figures given game time but both seem closer to the exit door than the starting lineup.

Palace have been linked to plenty of strikers, with Dortmund striker Adrian Ramos and QPR top-goalscorer Charlie Austin both linked a lot in the past few weeks, but it seems likely that Sunderland misfit Connor Wickham will be brought in.

Perhaps the 22-year old Wickham isn’t the glamorous name many would have wanted, but after being billed as a wonderkid that has so far not reached his potential levels, it could be a shrewd move. The similarities between Wickham and Wilfried Zaha are obvious on that front, and Zaha has revelled back at Selhurst Park since his Man Utd move didn’t go to plan.

If Pardew can reinvigorate Wickham like he did with Zaha and Yannick Bolasie, who both were freed from Warnock’s shackles in the second half of the season, then Palace could get an achievable top ten finish; far more achievable than it seemed on that fateful day at Hillsborough, anyway.

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Arsenal

Arsenal 4-1 Crystal Palace: Three talking points from the Emirates

Rob Meech

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Arsenal
Photo: Reuters

A barnstorming first-half performance against Crystal Palace saw Arsenal record their first victory of 2018. Nacho Monreal, Alex Iwobi, Laurent Koscielny and Alexandre Lacazette all scored in the opening 22 minutes to stun Crystal Palace. Arsenal could not add to their tally as the visitors stemmed the bleeding and replied with a late consolation through Luka Milivojevic.

This was a much-needed victory for Arsenal, whose ambitions of qualifying for the Champions League have taken a blow in recent weeks. Palace meanwhile, have been in impressive form since Roy Hodgson took charge, but this defeat has checked their progress. Here are three talking points from the Emirates…

Mesut Ozil steps up in Alexis Sanchez’s absence

With Alexis Sanchez’s move to Manchester United rumoured to be nearing completion, this was a chance for Arsenal supporters to see how the team might shape up without him. Sanchez was excluded from the side that lost to Bournemouth last weekend, but his absence was hardly felt here.

That might have had something to do with the return of Mesut Ozil from injury. The Germany international was influential throughout, particularly in partnership with the rejuvenated Jack Wilshere. Ozil is sometimes accused of drifting in and out of games against top-quality opposition, but when he is given licence to express himself without defensive responsibility, there are few better players to watch in the Premier League.

Although he failed to get on the scoresheet, Ozil showed Gunners fans that there can be life after Sanchez. It should not be forgotten that Ozil is another Arsenal player in the final six months of his contract. Tying him down to a new deal must be a priority for the club.

A reality check for lacklustre Palace

After losing their first seven Premier League matches – without scoring a goal in the process – relegation seemed nailed on for Palace. The appointment of Hodgson was largely derided, but the former England boss has had a remarkable impact in a relatively short space of time at Selhurst Park.

Survival is by no means guaranteed, but such has been their upturn in form that it is hard to imagine the Eagles being sucked back into trouble. It says a lot about their progress that many thought an upset might have been on the cards. Palace, however, were left shell-shocked after Arsenal’s four-goal burst.

When the Gunners click, they can be irresistible. Palace fans need not be too alarmed, even if their defending was lax. In fact, they should be heartened that their players did not capitulate in the second period, with the game effectively over. Although Milivojevic’s goal was too, little too late, it was just reward for a much-improved second-half performance.

Lacazette issues a timely reminder 

With a 3-0 advantage after just 13 minutes, Arsenal were in cruise control. But it was Lacazette’s goal, rounding off a superb team move to make it 4-0, that would have provided the biggest cheer. After hitting the ground running following his big-money transfer from Lyon last summer, the 26-year-old had endured a goal drought that stretched all the way back to December 2.

With questions being asked about his form, amid speculation that Arsenal are set to launch a raid for Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, this was a timely reminder that Lacazette has plenty to offer. His overall record of nine Premier League goals from 24 appearances is more than respectable for a newcomer to the English game.

Lacazette will hope that his goal against Palace can be the catalyst for another scoring run. Without Sanchez, the burden rests more heavily on the France international and if a move for Aubameyang does not materialise, he will have a big part to play in Arsenal’s push for the top four.

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Brighton and Hove Albion

Brighton 2-1 Crystal Palace: Three talking points from the Amex Stadium

Jake Jackman

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Brighton

Brighton and Hove Albion reached the fourth round of the FA Cup after beating rivals Crystal Palace at the Amex Stadium on Monday night. This game was the first that used video assistant referee (VAR) technology, but it wasn’t used by Andre Marriner. It was a hard-fought contest, despite lacking the bite in the tackle that you would expect from a derby match. There was only one yellow card dished out in the game.

It was a great win for Brighton and they can take a lot of momentum from this match, as they enter a period of winnable league fixtures. Both sides made changes, but the home side were the better on the night, as they had 18 attempts to Palace’s five. The Seagulls will now face a difficult trip to Middlesbrough in the next round, but a cup run is a real possibility if they maintain this level of performance. Here are three talking points from the match:

Brighton need a new striker

They may have got the victory in the end, but the home side didn’t look very convincing in front of goal and that is a concern as they are in the midst of a relegation battle. Glenn Murray is a decent player and one that can contribute as he showed on Monday when he popped up with the winner. However, he can’t be relied on as the main source of goals.

Brighton have shown more goal threat during the last two matches and four goals from them is a good return. However, they had failed to score in five of their previous six matches. They were impressive against Palace and created chances for the frontmen, but the poor finishing remained a consistent theme.

Although Murray may be able to contribute in the Premier League, the other strikers in the squad have failed to impress. Sam Baldock looked like a player that was out of his depth, while Tomer Hemed is predictable to play against. If the Seagulls are to survive with comfort, they are going to need an injection of quality in their forward line.

Palace lacked a threat without Zaha

The FA Cup isn’t what it used to be and it was disappointing to see Roy Hodgson make as many changes as he did. The team may be in a relegation battle, but they have a talented squad and a cup run was well within their capabilities. Wilfried Zaha was one of those to miss out and it was obvious that Palace were not as threatening without him.

The winger has found consistency in the Palace team and regularly manages to influence matches, even when the rest of the side are playing poorly. His pace and trickery make him difficult to defend against, while his presence can open up space for other attackers in the team.

At the start of the season, Palace really struggled without Zaha and started the season in terrible form, losing their first seven matches without scoring a goal. It was talked about then how much the side missed their star winger and a reminder was given on Monday. Andros Townsend and Patrick van Aanholt both struggled to cause problems for the Brighton defence. If anything was to happen to Zaha, it could be a knockout blow for Roy Hodgson.

Beram Kayal played himself into Premier League contention

Beram Kayal used to be one of the key players for Brighton, but he may have played himself back into contention with a man-of-the-match performance against Crystal Palace. There had been doubts regarding the Israeli international’s ability to perform in the top-flight, but he delivered a complete display and stood out in both halves of the pitch.

Defensively, Kayal got stuck in and dominated the midfield areas. Brighton had a physical midfield picked as they paired the 29-year-old with Dale Stephens and it was a great selection from Chris Hughton and one that helped them win the tie. The midfielder completed all six of his tackles and made a further one interception. He was combative and willing to get in the faces of the Palace midfielders, which was important in a game such as this one.

Although it was his ball-winning ability that stood out, Kayal was very intelligent on the ball and rarely took needless risks when he had possession. He completed three dribbles and was vital in transition. His ability to carry the ball started several Brighton attacks and was an effective distributor, as shown by his pass success rate of 94%. Three key passes during the match show that he can be creative as well as combative. This performance should lead to him adding to his three Premier League appearances this season.

 

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Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace 0-0 Manchester City: Three talking points from Selhurst Park

Jake Jackman

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Photo: Reuters

Manchester City dropped points for the first time in the Premier League since August, as they were held to a goalless draw by Crystal Palace. The home side had a great opportunity to end the league leaders’ unbeaten run as they were awarded a penalty in the dying minutes, but Luka Milivojevic’s tame strike was saved by Ederson.

This is the second home match this season that Palace have missed a late penalty to win the game and it could come back to haunt them at the end of the season. Regardless of that, it was a great performance by the relegation-threatened team and they can take a great deal of confidence into their next run of fixtures. Here are three talking points from the match…

The injuries suffered by Manchester City

Despite dropping points against Crystal Palace, Pep Guardiola’s side remain clear at the top of the table by 14 points and it is looking increasingly likely that they will win their third Premier League title. However, one big blow to come from the draw was the injuries suffered by Gabriel Jesus and Kevin de Bruyne. The former has been ruled out for two months, while the latter was stretchered off in stoppage time. The extent of the Belgian international’s injury isn’t known, but it didn’t look good.

The Premier League looks to be a foregone conclusion for the league leaders, but they will have ambitions of winning the other competitions that they are in. The Champions League is a huge target for both Guardiola and the City board, with the bookmaker’s currently pricing them as favourites to lift the famous trophy. If both of these players are going to be missing for a sustained period, it could hurt their chances in Europe’s premier competition.

A look at Manchester City’s bench shows that there isn’t a huge amount of depth below the first-team and a few injuries could hurt them. Phil Foden, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Brahim Diaz are all highly rated young players, but it would be a huge ask for them to come into the first team in a big Champions League tie. The striker position will be a worry for Guardiola, as Aguero’s body can’t be relied upon to start every match in all competitions in Jesus’ absence. The City manager may be forced into the transfer market in January.

Crystal Palace are in a false position

Roy Hodgson took over a team that hadn’t won a match or scored a single goal in the Premier League. It was a perilous situation, but he has done a great job and led them outside of the relegation zone heading into the new year. They remain in the fight at the bottom of the table, but it would take a brave man to back them to stay there for much longer.

Newcastle United were unfairly criticised for their approach against Manchester City during the week. Rafa Benitez has a limited squad at his disposal and the tactics were correct for what he had available. Palace were a lot more aggressive in their pressing and played higher up the pitch. It worked well, but comparisons between the two shouldn’t be made. The Eagles have a much better squad then they team they are currently one place below in the table.

Although they didn’t take the three points at the end, this performance showed that Manchester City find themselves in a false position. They should be much higher in the league table and they should be aiming for a top-half finish in this campaign. That seemed impossible at one point, but they are now only six points behind Watford in 10th. It is a realistic aim for them heading into 2018.

David Silva has been missed

During the last two matches, Manchester City have only scored one goal away from home and a major reason for that has been the absence of David Silva. The diminutive Spaniard is excellent at unlocking an opposition defence and without him, teams can focus on shutting down Kevin de Bruyne. The league leaders are much more effective when they have both players operating in the same team.

The injury to De Bruyne has enhanced the need for a quick Silva return. Without one of them, City are not as good. Without both of them, they may need to change their style of play completely. Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan are great players, but neither have the vision or creativity to effectively replace either midfielder.

Silva’s status is unknown and he could also be missing for the start of January. If so, this is going to be the most intense test of Manchester City in months. It is time for others to step up to the plate and show the squad aren’t reliant on a few key players. Although it seems churlish to suggest that, the next few matches will show us how sustainable this form is without key individuals.

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