Frank de Boer’s winless start to the season as manager of Crystal Palace continued on Saturday afternoon as his side fell to defeat against a much-improved Swansea City outfit at Selhurst Park.
Last season this fixture treated us to a thrilling 5-4 victory for the Swans, but this was never in danger of being replicated in a cagey and relatively dull affair between two favourites for relegation.
Tammy Abraham opened the scoring for the visitors just before the break with a smart finish from inside the area before Jordan Ayew capitalised on a defensive error to seal a first win of the season.
Abraham off the mark for the Swans
Much has been said about Tammy Abraham’s ability to adapt to the Premier League after his sensational breakthrough year in the Championship on-loan at Bristol City, and in the opening two matches of the season the 19-year-old found it a struggle to even get close to a clear sight on goal.
But after grabbing his first competitive Swansea City goal in midweek during the Carabao Cup he notched his first top-flight goal at Selhurst Park and put in an all-round solid and influential display.
With Fernando Llorente still side-lined a lot of the onus has been on Abraham to score the goals for the Welsh side, and after 223 minutes without one this season he finally broke Swansea’s duck when he met Leroy Fer’s cross with an improvised finish on the six-yard box to put his side into the lead.
In doing so, he became the second youngster Swansea player ever to score – at 19 years and 328 days old – and it will no doubt have given him a big confidence boost to push on and add to his tally.
But perhaps even more promising for boss Paul Clement is the link-up play that began to surface between Abraham and Jordan Ayew, starting to be a budding partnership worth keeping an eye on.
Zaha is more important for Palace than ever
To say that it hasn’t been the greatest start to the season for Crystal Palace and new manager Frank De Boer would be an understatement, with no points and no goals from the opening three matches.
They looked extremely toothless in attack and, whilst they conceded two sloppy goals that the Dutchman will not be happy with, it was their lack of creativity at the other end that is the concern.
With Wilfried Zaha still on the side-line after his opening day injury there simply hasn’t been an outlet that causes the opposition problems in the final third, with the likes of Andros Townsend and Jason Puncheon failing to provide any real attacking impetus or give Christian Benteke any service.
The fact that Swansea City goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianksi barely had any work to do says it all, and Palace need to quickly get out of a rut that has seen them score in just one of their last eight games.
The immediate solution is to quickly delve into the transfer market for an attacking player, and ideally a winger, but with just four days left until the window closes it might be tough to get anyone.
Palace the architects of their own downfall
With clashes against newly-promoted Huddersfield Town and Swansea City in their opening few matches, Crystal Palace would have been looking to get off the mark early and put down a marker.
But instead it’s been a woeful start to proceedings in 2017-18, and heading into the first international break of the new season the Eagles only really have themselves to blame for it.
Swansea didn’t have to work very hard at all to secure the win on Saturday, with Abraham’s first effort a relatively free waltz into the area before Martin Kelly’s moment of madness cost them for Ayew’s second, being caught out on the half-way line and giving the striker the freedom to score.
And for a manager like De Boer – who has just spent a season with a strong, rigid and disciplined Ajax side – the ease in which opposition seem to be scoring is a big issue that needs to be sorted out.
Fortunately for Palace their next trip is to Turf Moor to face Burnley, which can be deemed a winnable encounter, and De Boer will hope a two-week break is enough to rejuvenate his team.