Five Things We Learnt From The Defeat To Southampton
It was a disappointing afternoon at Selhurst Park on Saturday in more ways than one but what did we learn? Well, this was tougher than usual to pinpoint but here goes!
1. It might be a tiresome point to be making, but Palace still cannot find a plan without Wilfried Zaha. As soon as it emerged that the Eagles’ top scorer was injured, it felt like a huge dose of energy was simultaneously sapped from the home fans and players and injected into those of Southampton. Palace were crying out for another creative type in Zaha’s absence and looked rushed, panicked and flustered without having their talisman to relieve the pressure. That is now eleven games in a row Palace have lost without Zaha, scoring just three goals in the process. If anyone was wondering why Palace demanded so much for Wilf in the summer, Saturday provided the perfect answer.
2. This was Palace’s worst performance under Roy Hodgson, and highlighted a problem that is becoming worryingly prominent under his leadership. The game against Watford should have demonstrated that certain players simply do not fit into this system or – perhaps even more pertinently – that the system needs addressing, and it was alarming that he again waited until late in the game to change things. The 71-year-old was rightly praised last season for getting the best out of an injury-hit squad, but now that he has the likes of Cheikhou Kouyate and Max Meyer at his disposal, it is time to put loyalties to one side and use them.
3. Saturday’s game was the fourth in a row that Palace have been overrun in midfield. Since Yohan Cabaye’s departure, the Eagles have not been able to dictate the tempo of games in the way they were towards the back-end of last season, and the opposition’s central players have been given too much grass within which to operate. What’s worse is that Palace’s inability to control the middle of the park is having a negative effect on the performances of Luka Milivojevic. The Serbian and James McArthur simply don’t work as a midfield pair, and it’s an issue which Hodgson desperately needs to address over the international break.
4. What the hell do we do with Christian Benteke? The Belgian did everything right with his two best chances – he tried to shoot across Alex McCarthy after taking the ball away from his defender and then headed down towards goal after being teed up by Alexander Sorloth – but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to defend a striker who can’t score. Sorloth himself is not the immediate answer, but in Jordan Ayew Palace have a Premier League-quality replacement who can at least allow Benteke to have a spell out of the spotlight and hopefully play his way back into the team from the bench.
5. The international break has come at a good time. Palace are at risk of letting what has the potential to be a decent season spiral into another relegation battle, but if anything can be taken from the last three games, it’s that the areas which need fixing should now be immediately obvious to Hodgson. With two more weeks to integrate the new signings and exorcise the demons of Liverpool, Watford and Southampton, there can be no excuses for not hitting the ground running against Huddersfield.