What Did We Learn From The Win At Leicester?
It was not a surprise win but not many had Palace down to win quite how they did, but what did we learn from the victory over Leicester?
1. Roy Hodgson knows best. When Palace tweeted out their starting eleven for the game against Leicester accompanied by Jeffrey Schlupp’s beaming smile, the post was greeted with a typical bombardment of #FreeMeyer replies, while there were also questions over James McArthur keeping his place in the team with Cheikhou Kouyate also on the bench. A couple of hours later, many of us had been made to look very foolish indeed. Palace’s midfield had a hand in three of the Eagles’ four goals, with McArthur setting up two and Schlupp winning the penalty that led to Luka Milivojevic’s eighth of the season. Hodgson might not nail it every week, but on the day that he became the oldest manager in Premier League history it seemed fitting that his team selection was justified with an emphatic result.
2. Can we play away from home every week? Despite not playing particularly well, Palace continued to trust their defensive shape in the knowledge that the game would start to open up for them as it wore on. Leicester might have had more possession and more attempts on goal, but Vicente Guaita was rarely exposed other than for the home side’s equaliser. Palace, on the other hand, were able to create more meaningful openings in the second half and on this occasion were clinical in a way that we haven’t seen this season.
3. With one hopeful poke of his right leg, Michy Batshuayi showed why Palace were so keen to take a punt on him until the end of the season. The Belgian might not be as skilled as his compatriot Christian Benteke at holding the ball up and bringing others into play, but his goal on Saturday showed that he has a knack for being in the right place at the right time, coupled with a goal-scoring instinct which has sadly seeped out of Benteke’s game over the past year or so. There remains a hope that we might get to see the two international teammates start together at some point, but as long as Hodgson continues to prefer playing a lone striker it seems Batshuayi has impressed enough to become first-choice. Score four more goals like the one against Leicester and the 25-year-old will have paid back the loan fee Palace spent on him.
4. Wilfried Zaha’s red card against Southampton might have been the best thing that’s happened to him – and by extension, us – this season. Since then, Palace’s talisman has put in two of his better performances against West Ham and Leicester, and seems to have rediscovered just how good he can be when he’s playing with a smile on his face. Perhaps intent on proving his doubters wrong, the 26-year-old has notably refrained from reacting to some of the rough treatment he gets from opposition players, and is channelling that instead into menacing runs and crucial goals. His brace against Leicester was extremely well taken, and the Ivorian now has four goals in his last three games – some would say he’s hitting form just in time for Brighton and Watford.
5. All of a sudden, there is a sense of stability at Palace. The manager has answered some early-season questions, the players look happy, and the squad appears to have some depth to it. Now it seems that only a couple more wins should be enough to stave off relegation for another season, and there is a real opportunity to have a go at finally lifting that elusive FA Cup. We certainly aren’t used to things being this way, so the hope now is that the players and manager can take advantage of that stable environment and put together a consistent run of performances that give them the best chance of getting the most out of this campaign.