Can Palace Players Provide More To England Than Spurs?
Though both teams are from London, derby matches against Tottenham Hotspur do not offer much in the way of local bragging rights WRITES TAMHAS WOODS.
However, a new type of argument could easily erupt between both sets of fans in the coming season, as the qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup get underway, specifically the argument as to whether or not Palace players would add more to the England squad than Spurs players in the same positions.
For England, the road to recovery from a world of hurt has yet to truly begin. Many would argue that the Three Lions shameful elimination to Iceland at Euro 2016 was the complete embodiment of everything rotten within the current English game, and in the glaring, merciless eye of the media, Tottenham carry a significant degree of responsibility.
The successful Palace squad that attained promotion to the Premier League. For the latest Crystal Palace odds, visit Matchbook.
While no English player from Crystal Palace was called up, five Englishmen from Tottenham were selected to represent the side at Euro 2016, all of whom under-performed during the finals against opposing teams that were seen as far from difficult to negotiate.
By contrast, the Welsh delegation of Eagles shocked the world, with a series of gutsy performances contributing much to the Dragons’ gallant run to the semi finals.
The common denominator to the respective successes of Iceland and Wales has been graft and determination over flair and hype. Over the past year, albeit at club level, such qualities have also seen relegation favourites Leicester City win the Premier League, and Palace themselves come within ten minutes of a first major trophy for the club.
There can be no denying that Tottenham players were exemplary en-route to an eventual finish of third, but it was an achievement that Palace could easily have emulated, had the Eagles’ pre-Christmas league form continued into 2016. So could the English Palace players, if they replaced Spurs players in the same positions for England, really do a better job on the international stage?
As a new acquisition for Palace, former Tottenham winger Andros Townsend is not included in the following analysis, and all comparisons have been conducted on an average per game basis, revealing some surprising results.
RIGHT BACK: Kyle Walker versus Joel Ward
- Forward passes – JW
- Completion rate – KW
- Tackles won – KW
- Aerial duels won – JW
- Blocks – JW
What use is an abundance of pace with no end product? Tottenham’s jet-heeled full-back was deemed by several ‘experts’ to be the strongest England player in the group stage. Wales surprised all by providing the sternest physical challenge, and Walker struggled badly, particularly against Spurs teammate Ben Davies in a poor first half for England.
The nature of the Premier League has changed to favour a greater degree of roaming from the full-back position, which should favour a player with pace, but it is a method that can quickly become farce without that player also possessing the ability to challenge effectively. In 2015/16, Joel Ward played three league games fewer than Walker, but still boasts a superior per-game rate of blocks and successful aerial challenges.
Ward’s pass completion rate from last season compares unfavourably with Walker, but he has made a greater number of forward passes, thereby establishing himself as the more balanced player when it comes to transitioning between defence and attack. At present, England lack an all-rounder in the full-back role, boasting great pace on both flanks, but little obvious substance.
TOTTENHAM 0 – 1 CRYSTAL PALACE
CENTRE BACK: Eric Dier versus Scott Dann
- Blocks – SD
- Completion Rate – ED
- Tackles won – ED
- Aerial duels won – SD
- Average pass length – SD
At centre back and defensive midfield, the priority shifts drastically from moving the ball forward, to simply ensuring that the ball is as far away from the penalty area as humanly possible. Although much can be owed to the different playing styles adopted by the players’ respective managers, the natural instinct as a defender, or defensive midfielder, to protect the goal must come before finesse.
It is in this department that Scott Dann wins hands down, after an impressive season which even saw a few appearances on the score sheet, further strengthening his case for inclusion in the England squad as a danger man from set pieces. Not only did he score more goals per game than the much further advanced Eric Dier, but also made a far greater number of blocks and successful headers, the very essence of a centre back or a defensive midfielder.
TOTTENHAM 0 – 2 CRYSTAL PALACE
CENTRE MIDFIELD: Dele Alli versus Jason Puncheon
- Completion rate – JP
- Forward passes – JP
- Tackles won – DA
- Goals per game – DA
- Interceptions – DA
As one of the breakout stars in 2015/16, Delle Alli’s club statistics are superlative, and it is often forgotten that the twenty year old is still very much in the process of learning an exceptionally demanding trade at international level. Though Alli badly underperformed at Euro 2016, there is enough evidence to suggest that a more ‘in-touch’ England manager could better play to his strengths.
Perhaps most incensed of all at Alli’s continued presence will be Palace fans who consider Jason Puncheon as a more experienced option for the new England manager to consider. Indeed, it is Puncheon who boasts a superior rate of successful forward passes, which would enable England to play more directly rather than attempt to emulate the a ‘tiki-taka’ style which has lost credence in recent years.
However, Delle Alli’s future in the England squad is secure, with 2015/16 club statistics revealing him as the better goalscorer and the better interceptor, thereby rendering him the better all-round option in midfield.
TOTTENHAM 1 – 2 CRYSTAL PALACE
STRIKER: Harry Kane versus Connor Wickham
- Goals per game – HK
- Goals from set pieces – HK
- Assists – CW
- Shot accuracy – HK
- Aerial duels won – CW
An entire country expostulated at Harry Kane’s deployment in a hugely isolated attacking role, as England struggled to break the rearguards of Russia and Slovakia, doing so unsuccessfully on the latter occasion.
Connor Wickham only played twenty-one league games last season, and ultimately did nothing to bolster his already dwindling credentials for international duty. In terms of goals per game, it is another ‘no contest’, with Kane set to be England’s go-to striker, along with Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge, for the foreseeable future.
TOTTENHAM 2 – 2 CRYSTAL PALACE
MANAGER: Mouricio Pochettino versus Alan Pardew
With no more players to compare, Roy Hodgson’s hypothetical replacement is the deciding factor in this conundrum. Although neither man has been linked with sincerity to the England job as yet, bookmakers consider them at least worthy of inclusion, even if they are both presently rank outsiders.
Pochettino’s achievements with a Tottenham side that was ailing and disillusioned under Tim Sherwood just two years ago are extremely impressive, and the Argentine mastermind will be a front runner if he can build further on the startling progress he oversaw at Tottenham in 2015/16. However, England requires an experienced, wise head with a consistently good track record in the top flight.
Enter Pardew for the decisive blow.
Both managers can take pride in having stabilised a number of clubs adapting to the top flight with top half finishes. For Pardew, that list includes West Ham United (9th in 2005/06) and Newcastle United (5th in 2011/12) as well as Palace’s class of 2014/15, which was only the Eagles’ second top flight season in the current run.
If England are to start from scratch, with a back-to-basics approach, then stability and unity in the dressing room is essential. Part of achieving such stability will rely much on the dressing room egos being managed properly, and with his greater experience of the English scene, Pardew is the obvious choice of the two.
FINAL SCORE: TOTTENHAM 2-3 CRYSTAL PALACE
In conclusion, there is nothing between the sides in terms of what their English players could add to the international side, but combining the best qualities of players from both clubs would provide an intriguing scenario and a good platform for progress.
Finding the right man to do this successfully, however, will be an exceptionally difficult task, and a disillusioned country can do little more than pray that the Football Association makes the right call.