What Did We Learn From The Defeat To Spurs?
The dust has settled on another narrow loss to one of the big six, but what did we learn from the defeat?
1. The gap between the top six and those outside of it is getting bigger – this and the previous game against Chelsea have been testament to that. For the second week in a row Palace did a relatively decent job of restricting superior opposition to a limited number of chances, only to undo their own good work by gifting Spurs victory in the softest of fashions. The away side were by no means convincing but there was always a sense that they could find another gear if required; the fact they didn’t need to was emblematic of the gulf in quality between a star-studded team of internationals and one that was desperately missing its talisman.
2. The most troubling thing about watching Palace without Wilfried Zaha is just how difficult it looks for us to score. On the few occasions when the home side were afforded the opportunity to break Andros Townsend or Jordan Ayew were having to drop well into their own half to pick the ball up, and would then lift their heads to find that none of their teammates were within twenty yards of them. Much has been made of Palace’s truly atrocious record without Zaha, but this isn’t something that is going to change until he eventually leaves the club for better things and we are forced to implement a long-term way of playing without him. This isn’t something that has happened overnight, but is a result of spending the past two or three years embedding a system which is over-reliant on one man.
3. We still don’t know if Max Meyer is any good. The poor bloke has waited months to force his way into the team, and now that he has, he’s been shoehorned out on the left of a four-man midfield. The German has spent the past two games chasing shadows and carrying out defensive duties, ultimately rendering him useless on the few occasions he receives the ball with his back to goal. Despite not having seen him play much, it’s clear that Meyer is a luxury player who will be at his best when he picks up the ball driving forward in central pockets of space between the opposition’s midfield and defenders. If Roy Hodgson isn’t going to use Meyer properly, he may as well not use him at all.
4. It might be time to start Alexander Sørloth. The Norwegian’s performance against Spurs is likely to be remembered for his miss towards the end of the game, but his tame finish was that of a player who has struggled for minutes since arriving at the club. Up until then, Sørloth had at least shown himself capable of holding up the ball, winning headers and acting as a focal point for other players to feed off. The 22-year-old is by no means a long-term solution, but while Christian Benteke is out – and while Jordan Ayew’s impotence continues – he might just be the most effective option we have.
5. There is an air of inevitability about Palace at the moment. The last few performances against good opposition haven’t been awful, but a combination of momentary sloppiness and a lack of cutting edge means we’re losing games that we ought to be getting valuable points from. After the international break and the Manchester United game, Palace face a pivotal week when they play Burnley, Brighton and West Ham. Fail to win any of those three and Hodgson might just have to start looking over his shoulder.