The fight to avoid the bottom three in the Premier League is heating up, with the bottom four separated by a mere three points. It’s fair to say the expectation is that the bottom four will stay the same. One will survive however, and the transfer window could well be pivotal in deciding which team retains their Premier League status come the 2017/18 season.
Sunderland are rock bottom going into the final round of matches before the window slams shut. It is fair to say it hasn’t been the most thrilling month for The Black Cats in terms of additions. David Moyes has brought in Joleon Lescott as a free agent, in an attempt to bolster his defensive capabilities. This very much an example of a manager bringing in a player he has worked with before, who he feels he can rely on. Sunderland have been struck with a couple of blows in the injury department.
Jordan Pickford, who was performing so well when fit, has been on the sidelines since the end of December with a knee injury. Victor Anichebe, another one of Moyes’ ex-players has been ruled out for ten weeks with knee ligament damage, shifting even more pressure on to Jermain Defoe.
Patrick Van Aanholt has today become a Crystal Palace player – a big loss for Sunderland. Aanholt had established himself as a key player in the side.
On paper I have to say it isn’t looking good for them, with it looking increasingly likely Tyneside will trade places with Wearside next season. That said, Sunderland always seem to survive when all the odds are against them, and that should be the inspiration for the squad going into the end of the season.
Hull City were the favourites prior to the start of the season to go back down to The Championship. With January coming to a close they are down there as expected, but since the appointment of Marco Silva there has been nothing but positive signs in Hull’s play. On paper January has been a tough month for The Tigers, losing two of their main players in Jake Livermore and Robert Snodgrass, to fellow Premier League rivals West Brom and West Ham.
That said, Silva hasn’t shied away from bringing players in. The Portuguese manager has brought in Evandro from Porto, in what would seem a replacement for Livermore. He, similar to Moyes, has brought in a familiar face in Omar Elabdellaoui, the right back joins on loan from Silva’s last club, Olympiakos. Markus Henriksen put pen to paper on a permanent deal from AZ Alkmaar, after his six month loan expired. The out of favour Oumar Niasse has also signed on loan from Everton, as well as fellow Merseyside winger Lazar Markovic, from Liverpool.
Since he has taken over, things are looking up for Hull, with victory over Bournemouth in the Premier League and a 2-1 victory over Manchester United in the second leg of the Semi Final in the EFL Cup. Despite crashing out of the tournament, Hull made an excellent account of themselves. Niasse got on the score sheet and looks a handful up top, with determination and power the key components to his game. Lazar Markovic provided a pinpoint pass to set up the winning goal, a player who has a lot of promise, but yet to hit the heights in the Premier League.
The football Hull have been playing is much improved, with Harry Maguire establishing his place at centre half and performing well. If Silva can get the team playing how he wants them to and to effect, Hull, against the odds, could well mind the gap.
It has been a season of disappointment to say the least at Swansea, with Francesco Guidolin and Bob Bradley coming and going as managers. Swansea turned to Paul Clement, their third manager of the season, and maybe this could be a case of third time lucky for the South Wales outfit.
With respect to Guidolin and Bradley, perhaps Clement understands the Premier League a little more, and the relentlessness of it. Clement has been quick to add to the squad, bringing in some shrewd additions. Luciano Narsingh, Tom Carroll and Martin Olsson have all been brought in this window.
Narsingh has yet to feature, but is an international player who has pace and trickery about him, with a striker like Fernando Llorente in the box you need quality out wide. Obviously Clement feels Narsingh was worth a punt. Dutch footballers certainly have divided opinion in the Premier League. “Hit and miss” seems to be the appropriate phrase to use.
Tom Carroll is certainly a player with a lot of promise: a neat midfielder who unfortunately fell out of the picture at Tottenham with the breakthrough made my fellow young players.
Martin Olsson is a good addition, a solid, nippy left back who likes to get forward, and was probably playing below his level with Norwich in The Championship.
Swansea recently won 2-3 at Liverpool, Llorente and Sigurdsson on the score sheet. Those are the sort of results they must build on if they are to stay in the League, wins where you don’t expect them, at title hopefuls. If that isn’t enough to pump some belief into the squad then I’m not sure what is.
Llorente will be full of confidence after his two brilliantly taken goals, and Gylfi Sigurdsson is their real quality player in the middle of the park.
Since their promotion in 2011 Swansea have been a good team to have in the league. They play with a good brand of football and to see them fall out would be a shame. They, without a doubt, have the players in the squad to produce, and if they can string wins together against other teams down there – like the recent win at Selhurst Park – they stand themselves in good stead.
One club really punching below their weight is Crystal Palace. In the relegation mix is not where Palace fans would’ve expected, nor wanted their team to be at this stage.
Patrick Van Aanholt teams up with former manager, to solve Palace’s left back troubles. The versatile Jeffrey Schlupp also joins The Eagles from holding Champions Leicester City.
The situation with Palace is a tricky one to put a finger on where it’s all going wrong. The appointment of Sam Allardyce was one that I’m sure Steve Parish would’ve hoped to hae a quicker and almost immediate impact on results. That has been far from the case however, Allardyce without a point on the board yet and Palace with a run stretching to eight successive losses in the league.
The loss at home to Swansea was a tough one to take, a result that sort of amplifies the severity of the situation Palace are in, losing to a fellow relegation battler.
The summer transfer window on paper looked a strong one for Crystal Palace. Christian Benteke and Loic Remy is a strike force you would far from associate with relegation, but the duo need to start hitting the back of the net when it matters.
Hunger, tenacity and desire are all things that served Palace so well since their return to the top flight.
The loss of Yannick Bolasie and now Wilfried Zaha to the Africa Cup of Nations haven’t helped Palace’s cause, two players who complemented each other so well and were instrumental in many of the goals their team scored. It is time for big name players to start stepping up to the plate for them, and if there’s one manager who knows what it takes to survive, it’s Sam Allardyce.
Crystal Palace’s Premier League run-in could see them beat the drop
The Eagles are in the relegation zone with eight matches to play.
On the surface, Crystal Palace has little to cheer at the moment. Their last win came exactly two months ago, and although Roy Hodgson brought an initial uptick in results to Selhurst Park, the Eagles currently occupy 18th position.
Furthermore, Palace are coming off a brutal stretch of three straight losses to top-five clubs, all of which they excruciatingly lost by the solitary goal. Injuries have destroyed their first-team squad to the extent that an entire starting 11 can be compiled with players on the treatment table.
Yet, although this picture may appear bleak, a favourable run-in combined with the anticipated return of crucial players means Crystal Palace will be confident of retaining their Premier League status for a fifth straight season.
After a grueling stretch of matches versus Tottenham, Manchester United, and Chelsea, the remaining eight matches present a plethora of winnable fixtures against teams in the bottom half of the table. Palace will play Huddersfield, Bournemouth, Brighton, Watford, Leicester, Stoke, and West Brom; a run-in of dreams.
The only match where the Eagles would not be expected to pick up all three points is the March 31st encounter with Liverpool. But Palace have shown remarkable fighting spirit and drive in their matches against the top sides in the division.
Crystal Palace near toppled Manchester City back in December, they raced out to a 2-0 lead against Manchester United, came within minutes of a draw against Spurs, and deserved a draw against Chelsea but were denied by a questionable disallowed goal.
The vital return of integral players in the coming weeks is also a massive boost for Palace’s survival hopes. On Monday, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Wilfried Zaha, Yohan Cabaye, and Mamadou Sakho all returned to training.
Welcoming these experienced professionals back into the first team set-up will be priceless, as all four returning players played enormous roles in the early revival under Hodgson.
Add in a run-in brimming with winnable fixtures, and the Eagles should just about have enough to avoid relegation come May.
Crystal Palace 2-3 Manchester United: Three talking points from Selhurst Park
The Red Devils mounted an incredible comeback at Selhurst Park.
Nemanja Matic scored a dramatic stoppage-time winner as Manchester United overturned a two-goal deficit to inflict more pain on struggling Crystal Palace. Matic fired home from 25 yards to complete a memorable comeback from United, whose victory helped them regain second spot in the Premier League. Palace, meanwhile, remain in the relegation zone after slipping to their third successive defeat.
Selhurst Park was rocking when Andros Townsend put the hosts ahead via a huge deflection, before Patrick van Aanholt doubled their lead shortly after the break. However, Chris Smalling gave United hope 10 minutes later and the visitors then restored parity through Romelu Lukaku. With time ebbing away the draw looked inevitable, only for Matic to break Palace’s hearts with his first goal for the club. Here are three talking points…
Palace’s survival hopes suffer a hammer blow
A week earlier, the Eagles thought they had earned a vital point against Spurs in their battle to avoid the drop. That was until Harry Kane popped up to snatch victory with practically the last touch of the game. A sense of deja-vu was palpable when, after another encouraging performance against one of the top-flight’s heavyweights, Matic ensured Palace went home empty-handed. It was a monumental body blow.
Roy Hodgson’s side had belied their lowly league position and taken the attack to United, deservedly assuming complete control. Had the score remained at 2-0, Palace would have been as high as 13th in the table. But United’s comeback, which left Hodgon and his players visibly deflated, means they are 18th, one point adrift of safety with an inferior goal difference. Although the performance was a positive one, the result leaves the South London club deep in the mire.
Mourinho buoyed as United show resilience
For all the talk about how this has been a disappointing campaign for United, they leapfrogged Liverpool into second place as a result of this stunning victory. Jose Mourinho’s men exhibited substantial amounts of steel in doing so. They faced a real test of character, having fallen behind against a team fighting for their lives. It looked like a mountainous task, but United fought their way back into the game before snatching all three points at the death.
This was the first time since 2013 that the Red Devils had clawed back a two-goal deficit to win a Premier League match. Of all their victories this season, perhaps this one will please Mourinho the most. Any divisions are quickly exposed when teams find themselves in trouble. But the way United stuck to their task was a big statement at a key stage of the season. It should give Mourinho belief that his side can see off the likes of Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur in the battle to finish runners-up.
Hodgson desperate for Wilfried Zaha’s return
Hodgson has previously tried to dismiss its significance, but Palace’s inability to win without Wilfried Zaha cannot be passed off as an anomaly. The Eagles have lost every single one of the nine Premier League games in which the 25-year-old has not featured this season, scoring only one goal in the process. For a while it looked as though that alarming record would be consigned to the history books, until United mounted an inspired comeback.
Zaha is clearly a talented individual whose absence would affect any team’s potency, but Palace’s over-reliance on him must be very concerning. The Ivory Coast international is currently sidelined through a knee injury and although he is back in light training, Hodgson has put no timeframe on his return to the fold. It’s no exaggeration to argue the Eagles’ survival aspirations depend on him.
Crystal Palace 0-1 Tottenham: Harry Kane proves his class with late winner
Tottenham managed to get a late winner against Crystal Palace to move into the Champions League places. They were the dominant force and had the better chances, but their final product wasn’t as reliable as usual. It looked as if an injury-hit Palace would earn a valuable point, but Harry Kane scored late on to win the game.
Mauricio Pochettino’s men are hitting form at the right time and look a good bet to finish in the top four for the third successive season. Meanwhile, Roy Hodgson was visibly frustrated at the end of the game and he will be aware of his team’s position.
They are only outside of the relegation zone on goal difference and have a number of key players unavailable with matches against Manchester United and Chelsea on the horizon. Here are three talking points to come out of the game at Selhurst Park:
Harry Kane proved why he is world class
The England international will be the first to admit it wasn’t his best performance. He had six shots during the match and missed a couple of really good chances before he finally did find the back of the net.
However, he remained confident and continued to take attempts on goal. It was a good header and earned the side a crucial two points.
Although Kane can miss a lot of chances and he did during this match, he doesn’t allow himself to get affected by his misses. Alvaro Morata is a high-profile striker that appears to lose confidence in himself after a big miss and that is a worrying trait to have as a goal-scorer.
The Tottenham number ten doesn’t have that and a miss only motivates him more. That was evident on Sunday. That shows an elite level mentality and one of the reasons why Harry Kane is one of the best strikers in the world. Despite playing poorly against Crystal Palace, he worked hard and got the crucial goal. That is all that matters.
Crystal Palace’s injury crisis could cost them their Premier League status
With ten matches to go, Crystal Palace will be confident that they can stay up as they have a more talented squad than the majority of clubs down there.
However, a lot of their best players are out injured right now and they were hindered by that on Sunday. They had only 24% possession and offered little attacking threat.
They were missing Wilfried Zaha, Scott Dann, Yohan Cabaye, Jason Puncheon, Joel Ward, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and a number of other first-team players. Their woes were compounded on Sunday as James Tomkins was forced off with an injury.
Palace’s next two matches are against Manchester United and Chelsea, two teams competing for a Champions League place. On one hand, these are tough matches that they would be outsiders in with a fit squad, therefore it is beneficial these are being played now.
That said, they are slipping closer to the relegation zone and building negative momentum at a bad time. Supporters will be more worried than they were at the beginning of the month.
Eric Dier impressed at centre-back
The 24-year-old is a great squad player to have and he showed his versatility on Sunday as he filled in at centre-back in the absence of Jan Vertonghen.
Toby Alderweireld suffered a setback and it was important that Tottenham fielded a player with experience there. Dier has benefitted from focusing on the midfield role in terms of development, but he remains able of filling in at the back.
During the match, he won four aerial duels and completed four ball recoveries. The time spent playing midfield has helped him develop on the ball and his distribution was very good on Sunday, as he completed 90% of his passes.
Tottenham will be hopeful of getting both Alderweireld and Vertonghen back together at the heart of their defence for the run-in, but the fact that they kept a clean sheet without both is encouraging. They have built a strong squad under Pochettino with plenty of options in every posiion and Dier’s centre-back display underlines that.
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