Sunday, 16 September 2012

Palace Reflection

I think most of us were hoping to get something from Friday nights game, and whilst it was disappointing to see one of our neighbours ruin our night and steal all three points, it would be harsh to say it was an undeserved victory for Crystal Palace.

Freedman had his troops well drilled for the occasion and as much as I hate to admit it, on the night, Palace were faster to every ball, played some neat football, and had more desire than their opponents in the red shirts.  In Bolasie and Zaha they had players who not only frightened the hell out of our defence with their movement and quick feet, they also exploited our lack of natural width.

These two players picked up balls in wide areas time and again and put us under great pressure at the back, though their end product often left much to be desired.  One thing they clearly demonstrated however, was how much of an asset it is to have players that are comfortable playing on the flanks.  It was all too easy for them as our own lack of wide men left them bearing down on our full backs on countless occasions.

As has been the case for some time with this current side, Charlton were forced to play a very narrow game.  Jackson and Pritchard are not wingers, they are just some half decent midfielders doing their best to perform that role for their team.  I have no doubt that both players give everything they have in each and every game, but unfortunately they are always going to have the tendency to drift inside, leaving too much space to be exploited along the touchline.

Palace also left lots of space on the wings.  Zaha and Bolasie are not known for performing their defensive duties well, and it seemed obvious to me that if we could get more play down the flanks, we could put their full backs under more pressure.  Sadly, Powell didn't seem to notice this until very late on, and Danny Green's appearance was too little too late.

It is often the case that using the width of the pitch helps to create more space in the middle of the park.  Wide men can pull the opponents midfielders out of position and gives more options for attacking play.  With central players dragged out towards the flanks, we can then turn the ball inside for our own midfield players to create something.  Dale Stephens had a decent game, but I felt his range of passing was limited by the lack of passing options available to him when he was on the ball.

On the occasions we did manage to get crosses into the box, we caused them problems.  Most of our crosses however came from our full backs who made their own space, but often we relied on longer balls being pumped into the box rather than attempting to play to the goal line to get the more dangerous crosses in.

Danny Green may not be our most consistent player, but once he was introduced and started linking up with Wilson, it was no surprise that we had more joy going forward, to the point where we did actually have the opportunities to level the game.  I can't help thinking that had Green started or made an appearance sooner, we might have given ourselves more of a chance.

Of course it's very easy to make these assessments after the game is done and dusted, but our lack of width has been a weak point for some time.  It needs addressing.  If Powell is not comfortable enough with the wingers we do have in the squad, then he should have brought someone in that he does have some faith in.  I know our transfer activity has been limited, but a wide player had to be a priority if he didn't want to use what we had already.

Losing this game is not the end of the world, there is such a long way to go, and I do feel that we have the tools to ensure we survive this season, but lessons have to be learned, and Powell needs to now show us that he can see what many of us have noticed and to take some decisive action in future matches.

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