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Crystal Palace

How Glenn Murray has become crucial to Pardew’s Palace

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Everyone’s dream as a professional footballer is to make it to the big-time and in England that means the Premier League. But just because you’re a pro a few divisions down the pyramid, it doesn’t mean that you no longer strive to play against the best.

There are only a few examples of players who have begun in the lowly depths of English football that have had success in the Premier League later on in their careers.

Everyone’s favourite Jimmy Bullard started off at Ebbsfleet United, Rickie Lambert has scored in all four tiers of professional English football and – blast from the recent past – Steve Finnan started out at Welling United before making a Champions League final appearance for Liverpool.

So when a player, whose name is common with the 200 blokes who scream at their local team’s barely professional side, makes it to the big-time – it’s considered pretty surprising.

If we look at Glenn Murray, it wasn’t just starting out at someone unheard of in the States, but it was also being shunned when he thought he had finally made it.

He has enjoyed a run in the first-team of late, and it’s difficult to think of anyone who is more deserving.

Under new-ish gaffer Alan Pardew, Crystal Palace have won eight out of their last 13 games. And despite being out on loan for the first half of the season at Reading, Murray has been central to their jump up the table.

His career, like aforementioned, began in the unknown. Starting out at Workington Reds, who are currently play-off contenders in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League – the seventh tier of English football – Murray decided to chance his arm and move across the pond.

It seemed to work; after scoring a few goals for Wilmington Hammerheads, a third-tier side, he moved back to blighty – to Barrow. Seven in seven meant another transfer. This time Carlisle, and he helped them gain play-off promotion from the Conference, and the League Two title a year later.

Next came two loan spells at Stockport County and then more importantly Rochdale, where he made a name for himself; one goal every two league games. Brighton came calling.

Four successful seasons in League One, scoring almost 60 goals meant Championship side Palace were interested. It didn’t click in his first season at Selhurst Park, but in his second he scored 31 in 45 games, and Palace were promoted.

At most of his teams down the years, it’s obvious that if the 31-year-old plays well, then so does his team. He’s integral to anything his club does.

He finally made it to the summit. The Premier League. However one successful season in the Championship didn’t mean he’d smash it in the Premier League. Nine years ago he was in the Conference, surely it would be too far to climb?

In his first season it showed. Injured for the first half of the season, Murray was shown faith. But a solitary goal in 14 games didn’t show much promise. Shunned – sent on loan to Reading at the start of this season. But it was a blessing in disguise and reignited his goalscoring touch, grabbing eight in 18.

So why am I saying all this? Well now Murray has been shown faith, once again, by a rejuvenated Palace. Under Pardew, Murray has featured in nine of the silver fox’s 13 games. Of those nine, seven have been wins, and in his last four games, Murray has scored four times.

A good return for someone who never thought he’d be playing and scoring against Arsenal.

He’s vital to The Eagles. Playing as the spearhead of a front three, he uses his old-fashioned centre-forward aerial ability to knock the ball down; a trait becoming rarer and rarer in the top flight, and therefore perhaps more valuable, and so it seems.

Having the pace of Wilfried Zaha and Yannick Bolasie on either side of Murray means that as soon as he has won his header, he knows that they’re going to take on the full-back, and he needs to be in the box. As well as scoring goals, Murray has become a target man, the biggest and most influential cog in the Palace counter-attack.

He’s crucial to the Premier League side. He’s achieved what so many others down the English football pyramid dream of; finally reaping the benefits of more than a decade of hard-work, willingness and unquestionable desire, despite a few hiccups along the way.

Will is from Gloucestershire, England and is currently studying Sports Journalism at Staffordshire University. Will also has a WordPress blog called The Fallen Giants.

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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