Midweek Lowlights All Round
After the high of last weekend, Palace were shunted back to reality at St Marys on Wednesday evening as a resurgent Southampton side cruised into the fourth round of the EFL Cup.
Having scored four at home against what was a distinctively average looking Stoke City side on Sunday, I was excited by our trip to the South Coast, thinking a spot in the next round was certainly achievable. By the end of the evening I couldn’t decide who had the better evening – me or the Eagles.
Usually my Wednesday evenings are pretty sound but I’m not going to fool TEB readers and make out that I’m some undercover spy that goes out catching criminal’s. Usually my midweek evenings are like any other person – either relaxing or watching something dull on television like the Great British Bake Off (topical!) or, if I’m lucky GP’s Behind Closed Doors or similar. When there is midweek football on and Palace are involved it certainly brightens up my world.
However, on this occasion my evening turned into a stargazing exercise on the M2 after the car I was in ran into problems. So in the end it was a Wednesday evening that certainly didn’t live up to expectations for either me, or Palace!
Enough with my attempt to make you laugh. Let’s move on to the more serious nature of our midweek cup defeat.
I did not catch any of the action for obvious reasons, so I’m unable to on the action. What I comment on is the post match fallout and compared to other games, it was quite severe in more ways than one.
After scoring four for the first time in how long, many were expecting Palace to up their game again on the South Coast and give a resurgent Southampton side a game. As we know, it didn’t turn out like that and in the we were left with more questions than answers. Is our squad depth good enough? How are we going to cope without the presence of Scott Dann? These were the most pressing issues to come from the Saints defeat.
Every Palace fan will tell you that missing Dann will be a hammer blow for us, and to make it worse we are really thin at the back at the moment. To me, all roads lead back to the summer transfer window. We addressed one area, but certainly failed in addressing another.
The extent of the injury is such that the captain will not be fit until after the international break so he will miss both trips to Sunderland and Everton. A hamstring certainly takes some time to recover but perhaps another break for internationals works perfectly. It also seems perfect timing that James Tomkins is fit for the trip this weekend while Pape Souare is a long term absentee but another injury will certainly make us stretched when it comes to the fine art of defending.
We saw Martin Kelly deputise at centre back when Dann went off, and although he gave away the penalty, I have always thought Kelly as a natural centre half. At full back he doesn’t give us that flair and flamboyance going forward, but he is well suited to deputise in the centre in the coming weeks, if that is what Alan Pardew deems fit.
It will be interesting to see what Pardew will opt for this weekend. The obvious choice would be a Damien Delaney and Tomkins partnership, assuming the former Hammer is fully fit. If not then that would mean we would be short of a left back with Kelly filling in the central role. After seeing some of the comments after the game this week, it looked like Zeki Fryers didn’t do much to stake a claim but we might just have to make do, and if Fryers is the only option, it will have to be a plug gap, until Dann or Tomkins are fit again.
The absence of Dann is certainly worrying. We are not exactly watertight when it comes to defending, and the past six months has been testament to that. We all know what the former Blackburn Rovers player brings to the table. That assured calmness and not to mention his goalscoring ability. Over the next few weeks whilst he is out, I could see us being in store for some topsy turvy games.
The example I look at is the Liverpool side that nearly won the league a couple of years ago. They went all season outscoring teams to win games. They barely ever kept a clean sheet and were nine times out of ten involved in free scoring games. I’m not saying Palace will be in games like that over the next month or so, because firstly we don’t have the players that Liverpool did that year, but we are capable of blitzing a team if we are in the mood as we showed against hapless Stoke.
Looking ahead to the next round of games, we might have to adopt that mentality of ‘we are going to score more than you’ to win games, as I just don’t think we have enough defensive stability to shut teams out. But, hey, I’m all for being proved wrong!