Confidence and goals lacking from Crystal Palace – and Selhurst Park atmosphere has been lost

CRYSTAL PALACE 0
NEWCASTLE UNITED 0
BY MATT WOOSNAM AT SELHURST PARK

Confidence and goals – two fundamental requirements to gain victory in any division, let alone the Premier League. Yet that is exactly what Crystal Palace are lacking.
Take away the goals of Wilfried Zaha – the much-talked about attacker is so obviously Palace’s most important player – and it is notable that they have had just one other goalscorer in their priority competition, Jeffrey Schlupp on target against Fulham on the opening day.

It is now three games without a goal for the Eagles in SE25. Nobody, not even Zaha, has found the back of the net in front of the home crowd. A crowd which has lost its verve. The absence of the Holmesdale Fanatics is keenly felt, the familiar sound of the heartbeat of Selhurst Park. Without them, that heartbeat is slowly fading away, the atmosphere beginning to die.
Some supporters will chastise the focus on a group of 150 or so black-clad self-styled ‘ultras’, but it would be foolish to ignore that the mood inside the stadium was akin to that of the weather on Saturday. Dull, damp, draining. 
That is not to say their absence is the reason for Palace’s tribulations against a Newcastle side which failed to significantly test Wayne Hennessey.

Crystal Palace’s Luka Milivojevic (centre top) battles for the ball with Newcastle United’s Salomon Rondon during the Premier League match at Selhurst Park, London.
The muted atmosphere is perhaps more reflective of the football served up. It has not been entertaining, it has not been free-flowing or expansive. 
But there were some promising signs as Salomon Rondon and Ayoze Perez barely had a sniff at goal.

Defensively, Palace looked solid again. James Tomkins and Mamadou Sakho continue to provide an excellent partnership in the centre, while Aaron Wan-Bissaka goes from strength to strength at right-back. The youngster must be under the careful watch of England scouts – even if he is not ready for a senior berth just yet.

Ordinarily it is Sakho who is the more likely of the defensive pairing to provide at least one heart-stopping moment per game, so it was a surprise to see Tomkins dawdle on the ball just inside his own area and allow Perez to latch onto it and race towards goal. The former West Ham man was fortunate that the striker could only shoot tamely into the body of Wayne Hennessey in the first half.

Newcastle United’s Ayoze Perez (right) and Crystal Palace’s James Tomkins suffer a clash.
That was the Toon’s only moment of genuine threat. Jamaal Lascelles flashed two free headers across the face of goal when he ought to have at least tested Hennessey. That aside, there were no further scares.
The problem for Palace lies at the other end of the pitch. Hodgson must make a decision. The 4-4-2 formation he previously deployed does not get the best out of Zaha, but without a target man it seems to be more effective for that lone striker. Equally, the 4-3-3 formation utilised here saw Zaha and Townsend have plenty of the ball, but nobody in the area for either to aim crosses at. Jordan Ayew cannot play the Christian Benteke role. His performances are similar to those of Fraizer Campbell and Cameron Jerome before him – a lot of running around and effort, but little else.

Connor Wickham would be the perfect foil in this team; a mobile centre-forward who can hold the ball up and compete in the air. Unfortunately for the Eagles, he continues to break down in training and looks a long way off returning to competitive action.
The dilemma for Hodgson is that too many of his players are offering a lot of effort but not enough quality.

Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha during the Premier League match at Selhurst Park, London.
Patrick van Aanholt found himself with the ball on the edge of the area and with a clear sight on goal, but he hesitated, took a touch and then unleashed his shot, only to find that Newcastle had bodies in the way. It was a telling moment in a game with precious few chances that when one presented itself, there was hesitancy. 
It was left to Sakho to commit the most heinous of mistakes late on. With just eight minutes remaining, Townsend lobbed a cross to the back post which left Martin Dubravka scrambling, and the Frenchman contrived to skew his header wide of the gaping goal from two yards out. It summed up Palace’s day perfectly.

The introduction of Max Meyer needs to come sooner for the Eagles, and the German could prove to be the saviour of the 4-3-3 formation. His driving runs forward after his 63rd minute introduction and his clever passes showed glimpses of his talent, and brought the entire attack into play more.

Ultimately Palace’s problems are clear – a lack of chances created and therefore a lack of goals. The solution, well that is far less apparent.

Crystal Palace (4-3-3): Hennessey 6, Wan-Bissaka 7, Tomkins 7, Sakho 7, Van Aanholt 6, Kouyate 6 (Meyer 63, 6), Milivojevic 7, McArthur 6, Townsend 6, Ayew 6 (Sorloth 71), Zaha 7. Not used: Guaita, Kelly, Ward, Schlupp, Puncheon.

2 thoughts on “Confidence and goals lacking from Crystal Palace – and Selhurst Park atmosphere has been lost

  • 25th September 2018 at 10:59 pm
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    It’s a slight concern as the eagles need to pick up as many points as possible in the early part of the season so do need to find goals from somewhere and soon. That said Palace have some quality players and it’s only a matter of time before the goals come

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  • 26th September 2018 at 1:34 pm
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    Bring back the ultras, it’s not the same without them. They gave the vibe to a game. It’s really bad when the visitors are singing louder than we are. I was looking forward to the new season, but now it feels disjointed

    Reply

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