NEWCASTLE UNITED 0
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.
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.
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.
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.