After the relative riches of seven points from the last four matches it feels like Santa has come early and is sprinkling his generosity liberally over Selhurst Park. This rich vein of form has been based around a rock solid defence, which has conceded just a single goal, compared to shipping 21 goals in the first ten fixtures. For a side that is not exactly free scoring (current average 0.571 goals per game) it is essential that we are tight at the back. To borrow a refrain made popular by Arsenal in the George Graham era, “1-0 to the Palace”.
Now mighty Marouane does divide opinion, mainly into two camps – those that ridicule and those that scoff. Of course he was fated to score against West Ham’ the immutable law of the ex determining that this was bound to happen. That was Chamakh’s second goal of the season and immediately shot him up the Palace scoring charts to equal first with Gayle. He is an enigma wrapped up in a mystery, he clearly can play otherwise he would not have been a success at Bordeaux or been picked up by Arsene Wenger. But after a good spell when he replaced the injured Van Persie and scored freely, he was ousted as soon as the Dutchman returned and his Arsenal days were restricted to bit parts as subs or in Cup matches. He is clearly a ‘confidence player’ and whilst he will never rip up any trees, the arrival of Pulis has seemed to give him a boost and he has been working hard during the recent uplift in fortunes. Just like anyone in any walk of life if you show some love and faith then they will perform better.
There are so many matches that can be described as ‘pivotal’ especially when you are at the foot of the table, that it is almost more noteworthy when they are not pivotal. The forthcoming match against Cardiff is definitely in the pivotal category. As Cardiff are one of the half dozen or so teams that are expected to be in the dog fight to avoid returning from whence they came, it is important, nay essential, to pick up points against those in and around the bottom six. Whilst Cardiff have had some impressive results especially in getting four points from two home matches with Manchester clubs, they have won only three games, the same coincidentally as Palace. So the feathers will be flying on Saturday as the pride of South London take on second best team in South Wales.
BATTLE OF THE BIRDS
The Bluebirds (or should that now be The Redbirds after Mr. Tan’s insistence on changing the club’s colours?) were promoted last season but their passage to the Premier League was a great deal smoother than the Eagles as they won the Championship with relative ease eventually being ten points clear of third placed Watford. Malky Mackay has assembled a solid squad and had the added advantage of having been able to plan their Premiership campaign several months before Palace who came through the roller coaster that is the Play-Offs. However, Cardiff’s relatively serene progress has been derailed somewhat by the growing dissension amongst supporters over the owners’ dictatorial and slightly quirky decisions. The replacement of Iain Moody, their sporting director, by a 23-year-old from Kazakhstan, the alliterative Alisher Apsalyamov was one of the more surreal moves by Vincent Tan. Moody described his departure as “extraordinary” which is putting it mildly as Apsalyamov has no football experience and has now had to stand down because of visa problems. Mackay has clearly been unsettled by these shenanigans but has kept the team going. Jettisoned by Tan, Moody has now landed at Selhurst Park and so Saturday will see him renew acquaintances with his former team, which adds more spice to an already spicy encounter.
One of football’s oldest, most used but probably most accurate adages is that to avoid the drop you have to make the most of your home games. The atmosphere being generated at Selhurst Park has been commented on by all who have experienced it and as someone who is into my fifth decade of following Palace, I cannot remember more sustained or vociferous support. Even when things were not going so well earlier in the season the fans, led by The Holmesdale Fanatics, have been superb in their unfailing loyalty to the cause. Match days are now eagerly anticipated and there is a strong sense of togetherness, which spreads throughout the club and the players clearly draw strength from the supporters. A target of seven more home wins mixed with a few draws and even the odd point away should see the magic 40 point survival mark reached. So we need to man the barricades, pull up the drawbridge and use a siege mentality to repel the Welsh. Bring it on.