Crystal Palace Half-Term Report
What’s going right?
Crystal Palace have occupied an automatic promotion spot for knocking on two months with a starting line-up that cost £1.6 mil to assemble. When was the last time a team did that in the Championship? It possibly could have been Blackpool, which bodes well seeing as we now have Holloway at the helm. It's austerity football at its very best and we're loving it while it lasts. Notice a speck of humility in the attitude of your average Eagle though. It's a once in a decade cycle at Selhurst. Like an eclipse, you have to see it while it's there.
After a torrid start to the season losing our first three league games and a humiliating early league cup exit, Freedman's head was rumoured to be on the line. Since then we embarked on a ridiculous unbeaten run which continued despite Freedman's hasty exit. We've now found a realistic level where other teams have 'worked us out' and we're having to push to the finish line to achieve three points again. We're set up for a thrilling second half of the season, no doubt chewing our fingers to the bone, as is the Palace way.
As I've just alluded to, we've been 'found out' in some respects. Zaha's profile has rocketed, he's suffered a post -England call up lull, and now finds himself triple-marked which has reduced him to passing sideways upon entering the opposition half. We never knew he could do that. On the flipside, Yannick Bolasie has revelled in the extra space he's finding on the left wing and of late has stolen the limelight from Zaha. So it's swings and roundabouts with regard to our wing play.
We've started to see small errors at the back result in conceding silly goals, but this has coincided with midfield maestro Jedinak having the odd off day and being out of the team through suspension. When he's on form, we've been unstoppable so hopefully his recent enforced rest has left him in good shape for the impending cluster of Christmas games.
Our recent contest with Blackpool saw a new nullification tactic where their high line blunted our expansive attacking play. I've never seen so many offside calls just inside the opposition half. It's a worry that we don't have a plan B, highlighted by a recent 0-0 draw a Hull. It's the only game we haven't scored in, and the only game Murray hasn't played in, and no coincidence so it's clear where we need to strengthen in January.
Got the right manager?
Absolutely. Holloway has all the traits required to satisfy our needs. He's a more likeable and less hairy Keegan, attacking at all costs, with his heart on his sleeve whilst keeping his toys in the pram. His recent comments regarding the lack of goals from other players other than Glenn Murray rang true with fans’ concerns, he expects his wingers to get on the end of each other’s balls crosses, citing Tom Ince and his 13 goal haul as an example. So he knows where we can improve despite our lofty position and the great progress made so far.
Glenn Murray. God knows where we'd be in the table without him. It's bizarre that with all the Zaha-mania we were labelled a one man team, but Murray's name was mentioned nowhere. 20 league goals before Christmas is quite exceptional; to put it in context, only 4/5 goals short of what Wright or Bright managed to score in a season for us at this level. He's not far off securing legendary status in that respect. And it's not all headers and penalties- a recent powerful run against Derby saw him shrug off one player, turn another and fire into the roof of the net in true Alan Shearer style. We've got one hell of a ruthless front man in Murray.
Who would you like to sell in January?
We really shouldn't sell anyone. I would have said Garvan before he found a new lease of life this season, so he can stay. For now.
Who do you want to sign?
Alan Tate (on loan from Swansea) was fantastic at Leeds and really didn't give Murray a sniff. He's the type of centre back you need to get promoted. There's plenty of out of favour experienced Premiership players like him that must fancy a game in the Championship- surely? It baffles me why more deals like that aren't more de rigueur. In Paddy McCarthy's absence we are thin in replacements, although Danny Gabbidon has just reached match fitness so we'll wait and see in that area of the pitch.
Our priority can only be a striker to keep Murray looking over his shoulder. Jermaine Easter has never been up to the task and is welcome to join Freedman's exodus, harsh but true. We had David Goodwillie on loan but he was homesick, it's odd we didn't replace him with another loan while we could. Leroy Lita was touted pre-season and is the type of scurrying goal poacher we like at Palace, there's something very Wright-like about his style that's seems a good fit for us and where we are. Substitute strikers that can score are a distant memory at Selhurst.
Best chant so far?
There's a few contentious songs aimed at Brighton that are best not to mention but which always get the crowd going. I'd have to go with the calling card to get our random Brazilian super sub Andre Moritz off the bench. The puntastic (but admittedly ladtastic) “Get Moritz Out For The Lads”. Holloway always listens and gives him the nod once this is sung around the 60 minute mark. His parents are over from Brazil for the Christmas fixtures; how on earth does he explain that one to his Mum?
Best opposition player/team you’ve seen?
Gilks showed Premiership quality between the sticks for Blackpool. Alan Tate must get a mention again. In stopping the Murray steam train and our 14 game unbeaten, he was a notable contributor for Leeds. Will Hughes for Derby was a bright spark in the middle. Up front I'd go for Luciano Becchio who always scores against us and is such a nuisance. Amazed no-one has come in for him yet.
Biggest **** of the season so far?
You'd had to have been misbehaving on a Barton-esque level in order to upset the Palace faithful more than Dougie Freedman has this season. Freedman showed his unashamed two-faced qualities when writing that his job was 'half done' at Palace in the local paper then jumping ship three days later. We know that managers say what they need to say to keep the peace and hide their true intentions, but what was most upsetting was how his hypocrisy looked to our young players like Zaha. Dougie told him to stick around at Palace, then slipped off when his back was turned. We expected more from a club legend. Bolton were the first club to come knocking too; why the urgency? If he had stayed until January he would have been offered a Premiership job by now. A very strange decision and now he even wears a suit on the touchline. You've changed, Dougie.
End of season prediction?
It would be a massive shame to waste the platform we've given ourselves. I'm going for second place by the skin of our teeth. If we don't sort out our plan B and recruit in January, it will be play-offs. Any lower than sixth place would be a disappointment, which is a great sign of how far we've come. A quick congratulatory festive backslap goes out to all our CPFC2010 board members for their belief, support and commitment to the cause. Oh Dougie Freedman, what have you done.