It was good to be back at Selhurst at the weekend but what did we learn from the draw with the newly promoted Bees? Here are a few of my takes from the game where Patrick Vieira took his first point as Palace boss.
Signs Of What Vieira Is Trying To Achieve
That was probably exactly what you would expect from a game between a newly promoted side and one still trying to find its feet under a new manager. Playing in front of a full Selhurst Park for the first time in 533 days made for a frantic, disjointed and ultimately unpolished game, where both teams snapped into challenges, tried to move the ball quickly but lacked the quality in the final third to win the game. From a Palace perspective, if it was difficult to judge Patrick Vieira from the opening game at Chelsea, this at least showed signs of what he is trying to achieve with the squad, but also exposed some of the missing parts he still needs to get there.
Increase In Possession Statistics Show Progress
It was pretty rare under Roy Hodgson that Palace would have the lion’s share of possession, even in games against opposition you would say they were better than on paper. The Eagles boasted 53 per cent possession against Brentford, which doesn’t speak of total dominance, but is still more than we’re used to seeing them having. However, much of that possession seemed to be kept between the back four as Palace looked happy to stay patient, build from the back and recycle the ball if a forward pass wasn’t on. At times, though, it became too predictable and allowed Brentford to put men behind the ball and occasionally win it back high up the pitch.
Joel Ward and Tyrick Mitchell, as well as Cheikhou Kouyate at times, didn’t always look comfortable receiving the ball in their own half. Teething problems are to be expected when trying to introduce a new style of play, but Palace will need to find a way to make better use of the additional time they are spending on the ball, rather than simply having possession for possession’s sake.
Problems Persist In Forward Areas
Where Palace were most obviously lacking was going forward. Conor Gallagher struck the woodwork in an electric start but after that the home side failed to muster up too many clear cut opportunities to threaten the Brentford goal, although David Raya did pull off a flying stop to deny James McArthur in the second half.
Part of that stemmed from the fact that Palace couldn’t find a way to get the ball to Wilfried Zaha, who started the game out wide on the right despite being more effective from the left in recent years. The fact that Zaha didn’t have his best game also exposed the lack of options Palace currently have on the right wing, with neither Jeffrey Schlupp or Jordan Ayew showing evidence that they can fill that void. The much anticipated returns of Michael Olise and Eberechi Eze will go a long way towards solving that, but until then Palace will have to find another way.
New Faces Impressed On Home Debuts
What Palace do have, though, is three extremely good players in Marc Guehi, Joachim Andersen and Gallagher. There will be sterner challenges ahead, but Palace’s new centre backs didn’t look flustered at any stage on Saturday, while both also looked incredibly comfortable carrying the ball out from the back. It’s easy to forget that Palace leaked a lot of goals last season, so to see them settling in so quickly is a big bonus.
Gallagher, meanwhile, was everywhere in the first half. He was involved in much of Palace’s good play going forward, while he also showed a willingness to track back and break up Brentford’s attacks. Thomas Frank said after the game that Brentford changed things at half time to stop Gallagher having so much influence, which speaks to how well he was playing.
Saturday Was Much More Than The Game Itself
While it was frustrating that Palace couldn’t pick up their first three points of the season, the result was always going to be secondary on Saturday. For most of us it was the first time we had been back at Selhurst Park since March 2020, the first time we’d drunk in the pubs we were used to, and the first time we’d passed the same familiar faces in the stands. The best part about it was just how normal it all felt again. The only thing missing was a goal, but after waiting more than 17 months to see another one live at Selhurst, I’m sure we can all hang on for a couple more weeks.