Five Things We Learnt From The Defeat To Chelsea
Another game, another loss but the difficult run against the top sides in the Premier League is almost over and we can get down to business.
So, what did we learn from the loss to Chelsea? Here are my thoughts.
1. Palace should have made it harder for the Blues. A game against Chelsea very much falls into the ‘free hit’ column, but the first half was alarmingly similar to those against Arsenal, when Palace let the Gunners dictate the pace of the game without offering much resistance. Palace were slow, passive, and far too respectful of their opposition in the opening forty-five, and by the time we realised we were capable of giving them a game, a two-goal lead was already established and the result more or less decided.
2. That being said, Palace looked like a side still reeling from a pair of last-minute defeats against Spurs and Manchester United. Although out of necessity, Hodgson’s decision to start the same eleven that had been left shell-shocked by Nemanja Matic’s wonder goal didn’t seem to have the desired effect. However, having taken two of the league’s best teams to the wire for no return, we can perhaps forgive the players for not being able to muster up the same level of performance at the home of the champions.
3. The second half performance – fuelled by Wilfried Zaha’s return – gave reason to be optimistic. It’s no secret that Wilf is the pulse of our attacking heart, and his introduction immediately struck a previously absent fear into the Chelsea defenders. With Zaha set to be joined by Mamadou Sakho, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Yohan Cabaye, we have to hope that they can all hit the ground running and give the squad the injection of freshness it needs to climb out of the bottom three.
4. Alexander Sørloth’s audition up front has been indicative of why Christian Benteke has struggled this season. Granted, the Norwegian had a good goal disallowed and struck the post against Chelsea, but the system we play isn’t geared towards his or Benteke’s strengths. Hodgson decided long ago that he wanted to play two up top, but both of our forwards look more suited to playing as a lone striker. It’s easy to forget that Benteke scored fifteen league goals last season, but this year he – and now Sørloth – has perhaps been a victim of being asked to play an unfamiliar role.
5. James Tomkins continues to lead by example. The former West Ham United man didn’t have his best game against United, but a string of last-ditch blocks against Chelsea almost single-handedly prevented the score from getting embarrassing. Palace have been leaking goals of late, but if Tomkins and Sakho can rediscover the partnership that was so solid at the end of last season, it’ll provide the platform for us to start winning games again after what has turned into a bit of a barren spell.