Crystal Palace: Tom Ince Could Be Our Michu vs. Swansea
1. BLACK SWANS
Back in September Palace met Swansea at Selhurst and we were so comprehensively outplayed that the 0-2 score line flattered us. So dominant were The Swans that I remember the sizeable groan of disappointment amongst the Palace fans when four added minutes was displayed on the board as the only thing that could have happened was another Swansea goal or two. The gulf in class was unbridgeable and if someone had said that firstly we would be anywhere near Swansea in the Premier League table and secondly that Laudrup would no longer be manager the men in white coats would have been summoned immediately. But bizarrely there are only two points separating the teams and Michael, like Holloway, ended up hurtling down the Premier League Laundry chute.
2. MISSING MICHU - THE DIFFERENCE
Perhaps the biggest difference for Swansea over this period has been Michu’s absence from the starting line-up. He is the conductor of the orchestra and when he is on song the team hums, but without him they appear to not be able to strike the right note. Although Bony is a muscular front man who weighs in with a fair few goals, he is not the type of player who links play so skilfully and silkily as Michu. When we met first time Swansea had just returned from a Europa League game against Valencia but they were much the more energetic team. Again on Sunday they will be playing just a few days after the match in Naples and hopefully they will be drained rather than energised by their trip to Southern Italy.
3. THE MIDDLE INCE
Tom Ince could be our quasi-Michu as he can operate in behind a striker and on the evidence of just two games he seems far more effective in a central role rather than being played out wide. As away wins have been as common as hen’s teeth this season, we must give young Tom the licence to roam and inflict damage from the middle. This probably means that Murray will return to the bench and keep his powder dry for the last 20 minutes.
4. MASSIVE WING SPAN
One aspect still missing from this new, improved Palace has been the lack of threatening wing play. In the Championship last year we carried a dual threat with both Bolasie and Zaha (whatever happened to him?) tearing down the flanks and causing mayhem. This season Bolasie and Puncheon have been inconsistent, only sporadically dangerous and if we are to come through these last dozen games successfully the wide men need to deliver.
5. PURPLE PULIS
Sunday’s meeting at the Liberty Stadium is a litmus test of how far each club have travelled over the last six months and may well prove to be a watershed moment. If we can glean anything out of this game then we can point to the Pulis-inspired progress. The game against Man United last weekend was disappointing as they were there for the taking (just look at how they lost so feebly against Olympiakos) but we allowed them to rebuild their fragile confidence and the more the game wore on the more inevitable the result. So up against a Swansea team rejuvenated under Gary Monk a more positive approach could reap dividends and rather than being passive we must try to dictate the play otherwise we will get well and truly swamped by the Swans again.
Follow Richard on Twitter @rcfoster