What Did We Learn From Defeat to City?
Not many of us really expected anything else but did we learn anything from the defeat at the hands of the defending champions at the weekend?
1. Manchester City are a bloody good side. There is a reason they are defending champions and chasing a quadruple this season. Palace should not be anywhere close to a side so rich in talent but football being what it is saw the Eagles take a memorable win at the Etihad earlier in the season. City were never going to allow that to happen again when the pressure was on them in their defense of the title which is under real threat by Liverpool. For the most part, they ran the game keeping Palace at arms length and the early goal settled them down. We rattled them after going two down and grabbing a deserved goal back but there was a reason such tactics were employed by Roy Hodgson. Had Palace opened up any earlier in the game, City would likely have picked us apart particularly with the way we gave them so much space and respect in the first 45. It was damage limitation for the most part in the hope that we would still be in with a chance in the final fifteen, which we were however surprising that may have been.
2. Whatever you think of Roy Hodgson, he has secured the club a record seventh successive season in the Premier League. Yes, the home record has been disappointing and yes, this is a squad of players that should perhaps be doing better but as we have seen so many times before, you have to be careful what you wish for. An interview on BBC Radio 5 Live proved just how much passion he has got back for the game from his tenure at Palace and that is unlikely to be ending any time soon. It is perhaps time the club had that bit of stability, enough to see us into next season and go from there. Nothing is ever permanent in football but Hodgson is a true gentleman and he deserves our respect. He of course has his moments like all managers and players in the game, nobody is perfect but he another that is a really good fit for this club. Every fan wants the club to be the best that they can but a period of stability really is not a bad thing at all, and Hodgson gives us just that.
3. Do not underestimate the depth of this squad. Too many times fans have questioned the lack of quality in the squad but we took on the reigning champions without first choice centre back pairing Mamadou Sakho and James Tomkins who have been a huge part of this Palace not leaking goals. Both Martin Kelly and Scott Dann stood up well in the face of such talent on Sunday and other than Dann being exposed by a real lack of pace for the opening goal, they performed pretty well considering. It is not every week that we are going to face a side like City, or even Liverpool come to that and whatever the summer may bring, we could do a lot worse than these two providing much needed support in that position.
4. It seems many want Christian Benteke out of the club but with one year left on his contract it is likely that he will be sticking around. Based on his performance against City, would that really be a bad thing? He led the line well and battled with the opposition throughout winning headers, flick-ons and laying the ball off well in one of his better games for the club. On two or three separate occasions he was riding the last man waiting to be put through by the Palace midfield who failed to spot his good positioning on each occasion. The Belgian fits the current formation than we play, better than Michy Batshuayi does in fact, and Sunday was the perfect example of that. While we could understand the club wanting to cut their losses on the goal shy striker, it would be a shame to see him go over the likes of Alexander Sorloth and dare we say it, Connor Wickham.
5. Patrick van Aanholt is having a terrible season. A few games back we thought he had turned a corner but that did not prove to be the case. Once again he was caught the wrong side of the attacker who went on to score, badly exposing Dann for pace in the centre who had no chance of coming across to cover. That added to allowing a certain Brighton winger to come inside a few weeks back score the winner are two massive examples of how his season has been in the left back slot. Perhaps the fantastic performances on the other side from Aaron Wan-Bissaka has really shown him up and we expect too much but without any real challenge for his position, particularly with Jeffrey Schlupp proving more beneficial in the midfield, he will continue to fee comfortable regardless of how he plays. One for the summer we think.