What Did We Learn From The Victory Over Leicester?
A second home win in a row after the trials and tribulations away from home but, what did we learn from the win over the Foxes?
1. Wilfried who? It turns out Palace can win without their star player after all. This was by no means a vintage performance, but it was at least nice to see the Eagles grind out three points when Wilfried Zaha isn’t playing. The home side did need to rely on a wonder strike from Luka Milivojevic as they struggled to create too many meaningful chances against a fairly abject Leicester City side, but it was an important psychological victory for players and fans who seemed to have lost all hope whenever arriving at a game without Zaha.
2. Martin Kelly is the hero that Palace don’t deserve. Once the subject of moans and groans when he was forced to fill in regularly at full-back, the 28-year-old is now a reliable figure to call upon when one of either James Tomkins or Mamadou Sakho get injured. A former Liverpool player, it would be easy for Kelly to complain about not getting enough playing time, but instead he has proved himself to be the model professional and was deservedly named Palace’s man of the match on Saturday.
3. With Zaha absent, someone had to step up and try to set the tone from an attacking perspective against Leicester. Andros Townsend constantly hassled the visitors’ defenders, winning the ball back high up the pitch and at least tried to make something happen in the final third. The 27-year-old was perhaps the only attacking threat for the home side, with Jordan Ayew’s struggles in front of goal showing no sign of abating. The Ghanaian looks completely lost and it might be best for all parties if he’s sent back to Swansea in January to free up a loan space.
4. Vicente Guaita is quite the shot-stopper. The Spaniard has been waiting patiently in the wings for his chance this season, largely owing to Wayne Hennessey’s upswing in form. With the Welshman injured, Guaita took his chance with both hands as he made a sensational match-winning save to deny Jamie Vardy. Whether Roy Hodgson sticks with the 31-year-old remains to be seen, but Palace can at least be safe in the knowledge that they now have two competent goalkeepers pushing each other for that number one spot.
5. The only problem with this victory is that it might temporarily mask the flaws of a system that still isn’t working. Hodgson’s narrow 4-4-2 completely strips Palace of any width – especially when two centre midfielders are being forced to fill in on the wing. The Eagles’ play still looks fairly turgid and Patrick van Aanholt appeared visibly frustrated on a couple of occasions on Saturday when there was virtually no movement in front of him. If Hodgson is to persist with this system, it will require severe reinforcements in January or else we might be forced to watch the team limp over the line rather than sprint past it like last season.