A new year, and another new manager has been appointed at Selhurst Park. The latest man tasked with keeping Crystal Palace in the Premier League is Alan Pardew. 2 games into Pardew’s reign, and things are looking much brighter at Palace.
What’s noticeably changed at Palace is their playing style; Pardew is much keener for the Eagles to play a possession based game. Speaking after the FA Cup victory away to Dover Athletic, Pardew stated that Palace would “take risks” with the ball, and this really showed in his first Premier League game in charge, a 2-1 victory against Tottenham.
However, this isn’t to say that the long-ball has been completely forgotten about, there were times against Spurs when the Palace defenders cleared their lines, but keeping the ball on the deck seems to be Pardew’s main prerogative.
Throughout the 90 minutes Palace looked to play their way out of defence rather than just hoofing the ball up-field, similar to Palace’s last 2 managers Neil Warnock and Tony Pulis. Credit must go to Palace here, as they didn’t look out of place against the star-studded Spurs midfield. James McArthur acted as an anchor in front of the back 4, which allowed Joe Ledley and Barry Bannan to express themselves on the ball.
Bannan is now seen as a key component to this Palace side. The Scottish international has started both of Pardew’s games in charge after being a peripheral figure under Pulis and Warnock. His role might change when club captain Mile Jedinak returns from international duty, but for the time being the former Aston Villa man is now seen as a big player under Pardew, and his ball playing abilities have really stood out.
As well as Bannan, Pardew has reintroduced other players from the fringes and back into the first-team picture. Stirker Glenn Murray is in Pardew’s plans following a loan spell at Championship side Reading and has partnered Dwight Gayle in attack for both of Pardew’s games so far. The duo look like they are building up a good relationship on the pitch.
The emphasis on a passing game has offered Palace much more versatility going forward. Time and time again under Warnock, Palace forced the ball wide and relied on Yannick Bolasie, Wilfried Zaha or Jason Puncheon to break down opposition defences with their pace. Against Spurs there were many occasions when Puncheon was playing ‘in the hole’ behind Gayle and Murray, a position he took up to score the match winning goal.
Zaha seems to have got his confidence back under Pardew. The winger came off the bench to produce the assist for Puncheon’s goal against Spurs, and with star wide-man Bolasie at the African Cup of Nations, Zaha might get an extended run in the side.
It doesn’t look as if Palace under Pardew will be a one trick pony. Elements of long-balls and wing play mixed with a main emphasis on crisp passing and possession football give Palace more of a cutting edge, which top teams (as proved against Spurs) will struggle to cope against.
Despite currently being 15th in the Premier League table they are only 1 point adrift of safety. But with Pardew already noticeably changing things at Palace, and the singing of Arsenal striker Yaya Sanogo on loan gives them more attacking options, maybe Palace fans will be feeling ‘glad all over’ once again.