Ah, so the football season is well and truly under way and, as ever, the Palace are confounding expectations by doing what we normally do.
Kept our manager from last season – CHECK!
Kept our best player on a new extended contract – CHECK!
Made some astute signings for not much money – CHECK!
Had an excellent pre-season keeping up the excellent momentum from the end of last season – CHECK!
So why have we only got three points from our first four league matches and none from the last three, bearing in mind that when the fixtures came out we all thought it was a pretty gentle start to the season with the exception of Liverpool?
Well, if I really knew the reason, I would be straight on the blower to Roy and Ray to put them straight, but I do have some theories.
We miss Yohan Cabaye and Ruben Loftus-Cheek more than you will know.
Everyone knew that losing Cabaye and RLC were blows but as the season has gone on, their loss has been felt more and more keenly. Towards the end of last season the triangles that Wilfried Zaha, RLC and Andros Townsend created with Patrick van Aanholt and Aaron Wan-Bissaka coming to the party as well were quick, incisive and led to goals. With Cabaye snapping at the opposition heels (almost literally at times), he and Luka Milivojevic were an effective but at the same time creative shield. With hindsight, we flattered to deceive against Fulham, half of whom barely knew their teammates name let alone anything else. Against more organised and effective opposition we have struggled.
We have the solutions, we just need to use them.
In Max Meyer and Cheikhou Kouyate we do not have like for like replacements but we have clearly signed some high quality midfielders and we need to start using them regularly and effectively. We all know Roy well enough now to know that he will want to have multiple training sessions with the new additions getting them into the right patterns of play before they start matches. Hopefully the international break will help even if Kouyaté will be away on international duty for some of it. As much as we would love Roy to chuck the new boys in with an instruction to “do your stuff” – that is the Pardew way, not Hodgson and I know what I prefer.
To Benteke or not Benteke?
If I knew the answer to this one I really would be ringing Roy! We all feel for Christian and are as desperate for him to score just as much as he is. Unfortunately, until he starts regularly scoring he will be trapped in a vicious circle of the more pressure he feels to score a goal the less likely it will come. I am of the school that says if you do not give him the opportunities he will not score but I am beginning to think that a rest with either Alexander Sørloth or Jordan Ayew coming in is what is needed. Even a reprise of the Zaha and Townsend striker show may be the best bet, with Benteke coming on towards the end to hopefully get a goal once the opposition defenders have been bamboozled by Wilf and Andros for 75 minutes.
Keep the faith
We were all hoping that this season we were all set to come racing out of the traps and leave our annual flirtation with relegation behind us. As Palace supporters we should know better than that really, but we are also human. Of course a couple of wins after the international break may put us right back on track anyway but I was very pleased with Roy’s reaction after the Southampton match. None of this “we were unlucky and on another day those shots would not hit the bar or be saved by the keeper”. Nor was he in the Mourinho like depths of depression. Instead he said it like it is – we were not good enough on the day and Southampton deserved to win. Nobody wants to hear that but it was true and I am sure Roy will be rolling up his sleeves over the next weeks to fix the obvious problems we have at the moment. None of the repairs should be impossible and Roy’s success with the squad over the past year gives me confidence he is the man to do it.
How do you solve a problem like the Holmesdale Fanatics?
Okay, two home matches in (admittedly both 2-0 losses) and everyone’s dire predictions have already come true – a flat atmosphere, more negative/crude chanting, no displays etc and it is not even cold yet! The club has now put out a statement regarding the background to the dispute with the HF which is helpful but I am afraid does not seem to offer a solution. Although I have not heard the HF’s side of the story (at the time of writing), and much as I am keen to get them back, I can’t help thinking that going on strike (which is in effect what they are doing) is not the best way to help the club they have supported for many years.
My suggestion is that the club actually contact all potentially impacted Block E supporters (like me) and see who would be prepared to move. I certainly would if I could keep my family sitting together. The HF however need to show some willingness as well (to be fair, they may have done but none of us know about it). For example if enough supporters were willing to move the HF could agree to meet those supporters to thank them in person for agreeing to move. The current stalemate is in no one’s interest other than the visiting supporters, and no-one – the club, the HF or the rest of supporters are coming out of this looking good at the moment. How are we going to all feel if we are out sung when Brighton come to visit?
It could be worse
We could be West Ham supporters (although if I was a betting man, I would be putting money on them staying up, even with their start!).