Football is a fickle beast. Things looked so bright for Crystal Palace approaching Christmas. Now though, fans are beginning to fear the drop. Some of the same players that brought about those great results early on have seen their form drop drastically too, plunging the Eagles ever closer to a relegation dog-fight that looked implausible in the first half of the campaign. One of those players is Welshman Wayne Hennessey. Having had to wait a while to establish himself as the club’s number one in the league; with his desires hampered by Julian Speroni’s heroics, he has finally taken his chance this season.
Hennessey started the 2015/16 campaign at the top of his game. Several key saves and performances in matches against Everton and Southampton earned Palace some crucial points. However, as the team’s form began to slide, as did Hennessey’s and poor performances against Villa, City, and Sunderland; to name a few, put the Welsh stopper firmly in the dog house.
The Welsh international’s lack of confidence and the subsequent lack of faith that his team-mates have in him have been particularly evident when there have been balls in the air to deal with. Instances such as Reading away where Hennessey was caught out in no-man’s land have to be alarming to Alan Pardew.
Since Boxing Day, Hennessey has conceded almost two goals per match and only made 1.52 saves per goal. On average, the Welshman has been conceding more goals than stopping, a record that tells you everything you need to know. Now the keeper’s confidence is severely lacking. That has had a knock-on effect with the defenders who have also been performing ever more shakily.
Moreover, one of the biggest criticisms towards the Welshman has been his inability to make saves down low. With a tall frame of 198 cm, the 29-year-old is vulnerable towards the bottom of the post. 83% of the goals he has conceded this season have either been low right, low left, or low center in the goal.
Those issues have also occurred for Hennessey on international duty. During Wales’ match against Ukraine, Wayne Hennessey let in a soft goal at his near post by failing to get down to his near post quick enough to parry the ball away stronger.
Such mistakes can be the difference between picking up all three points, having to settle for a draw, or indeed leaving the ground with nothing. Goalkeepers are meant to be flawed, but such weaknesses are aggravated when keepers are lacking in confidence. At this point in the season when points are so vital to Palace, the club needs a confident goalkeeper who can re-ascertain the back-line. The perfect man to reinstate confidence in the Palace team is Argentine club legend Julian Speroni.
What Palace need now to induce some confidence defensively is an experienced keeper who has performed consistently at the Premier League level for the past few seasons. Alex McCarthy never played regular football at Queens Park Rangers and has proved he is still in the works in terms of his development as a footballer after his shocking scuffed clearance against Liverpool. Speroni on the other hand brings poise, confidence, experience, and safe hands – traits that Wayne Hennessey has severely lacked in recent matches.
During such a poor run of form, a respected figurehead of the side is precisely what the team need especially when such a presence has been so distinctly absent recently. Beyond his footballing ability, Speroni’s presence in goal will re-inject the players with confidence. Having played for the club almost 12 years now, he was an icon during Palace’s dramatic survival campaign in 2013/2014, having won player of the year that season. The Argentine is now one of the most loved players among both fans and club, meaning that in my opinion, no one is better than Julian Speroni to resuscitate Palace’s season.
While it is true that Julian Speroni is now 36-years-old and will not be getting any younger any time soon, Hennessey can be alleviated of some of the pressure he is currently facing and regroup his confidence in training. The Welshman should not be phased out of the team altogether, but at least given a temporary breather to allow him to take stock and re-evaluate.
Hennessey still has a role to play in the squad in the future but for now, Pardew has to be less rigid in his team selection and put Speroni back in the squad.
Featured Image: All rights reserved by Ben Terrett