It’s The Same Story, But A Different Game
Time has passed since the agonising last gasp defeat on Monday evening but I still find myself with a similar bitter taste in my mouth that I have experienced quite frequently in recent times.
Where do you start on reflecting upon a game like that? Positives, firstly.
Overall, as Palace performances go, it was to a high standard. United managed to slip through our weakened defensive line a few times, but nothing to worry the crowd too much. Massive praise needs to go to one lad in particular, Aaron Wan-Bissaka. After becoming the first academy graduate to make a league debut in five years against Spurs last week, we all caught a glimpse of a potential prospect.
Luckily for us, it seems like that performance was not a one off. He repeated, in fact improved on, that performance against a another high quality team in world football. Given that both games were televised, it is very clear to see that a large number of non-Palace fans have also noticed the bright spark at right back, particularly his ability to keep Alexis Sanchez quiet, and deal with Marcus Rashford comfortably, making an excellently timed challenge short after his introduction.
He possesses all the qualities of my personal perfect modern day full back – bags of pace, an obvious confidence in his own defensive knowledge and a lad who has come through the academy will always play for the shirt. To have all these qualities at his age, the only way is up, hopefully Selhurst see many more years of him and his development.
Talking of full backs, Patrick van Aanholt has been outstanding at times this season, and yet again displayed what he is capable of. An attacking threat on the left, constantly looking for the overlap, it is exactly what we need when crucial attackers such as Wilfried Zaha are not available to push the ball up the field.
Jeffrey Schlupp, a player I have not been too keen on over the last few months, has spells of being a class player but can quickly forget how to play football. Thankfully, his return to the first team last night was more than positive for us, after that solid performance it is quite clearly evident that is a huge boost for us as a squad. Calm on the ball, making quick efficient decisions when pressed, it is good to have you back Jeffrey lad.
Now, a subject I am passionate about and that is this very unnecessary witch-hunt against Christian Benteke.
Okay, so I can understand two goals this season is beyond unacceptable for a striker of his capability, but he is so crucial in so many other ways.
I know we are all football fans and expect a £32million striker to put the ball in the net at crucial times, but when you have people such as the gentleman to my right in the Holmesdale Lower, who shares a similar opinion to some fans on social media by constantly shouting at the big Belgian with such lines as “£120k a week and you don’t even run!”, it really does grind my gears to put it politely.
His hold up play alone fuels attacks for us, he is a target man, not a Dwight Gayle or a Jamie Vardy. He is not going to burn past defenders. His strength is being the target, and we have not targeted him well enough this season, it is as simple as that.
A great example was during the match on Monday night, which, I would like to add, an investigation is needed into David De Gea because the bloke just is not human! I refuse to believe it with reflexes like that. That save sums up the season for Benteke, when he finally gets the chance and takes it, a world class performance by an opposing player prevents him.
To concluding the Benteke rant, if he does not run as much as Vardy, it is because… he is not Vardy. He is not “lazy”, it is evident that Roy Hodgson has instructed him not to sprint at the goalkeeper to rush his kick and rightly so. Run at the keeper, burn yourself out, then the one time his pressing works and the goalkeeper gives it to us, what happens? He is versed for being offside. He would be onside if he was not knackered chasing lost causes Play to his strengths, just like last season.
We are putting in great performances, but not when we need to, and that is the reason for these agonising losses. It goes hand in hand with the fact we do not make substitutions. You cannot go ninety minutes in this league without making tactical substitutions, especially with a squad currently as thin as ours. It is no coincidence that we are conceding late on in games. The prime example from Monday night being United’s substitute Juan Mata playing a part in both goals, fresh legs against tired legs in a league of this quality will never end well as we have seen on more than just this occasion.
Nine games to go, and performances like last night will keep us up. Anything different does not leave me with very high hopes. Regardless, I will be here next season, and the thirty plus seasons that follow.
Let us hope we do what we do best and bring it back.