Crystal Palace Must Win War Of Attrition Against Aston Villa
After another thrilling game of “Will he? Won’t he?” down Selhurst way over the last couple of days there is the not inconsiderable matter of a football match coming up.
Villa away is yet another of those fixtures which can define a season. If we look back to the loss at home to them a few months ago, it certainly put the skids under Neil Warnock, which ended with his dismissal a few days ago. Villa are a nuggety side who are most probably just too good to go down but not good enough to stop worrying about relegation.
It must be hoped that with the players now free of any misgivings or issues with the previous manager, they can now go and express themselves and start the New Year with a bang. It is not going to be easy without the rock that is Jedinak and the wayward wizardry of Bolasie.
This is where the strength of the squad will be severely tested and ultimately will determine our fate come May. It is clear that the squad needs some quality to be added over the next month as there is an imbalance, with no regular goalscorer or natural left-back but until then, the existing players have to make their mark, starting at Villa Park.
Zaha started the last match upfront against QPR and whilst he was lively, one wonders where his next goal is coming from. He will probably revert to the wing to allow Fraizer Campbell the chance to prove himself but he again looks short of the necessary confidence in front of goal.
The answer may lie in the midfield, so McArthur and Ledley need to be encouraged to don their shooting boots and of course there is Barry Bannan waiting to make a happy return to his former club. It has been a while since Bannan got a proper run out so this could be the perfect time to unleash the Scot.
With Damo back alongside Dann we should be able to repel most of what Villa throw at us, although Benteke took his one chance in the home game with aplomb after Dann’s mistake was compounded by Hangeland backing off.
Inevitably we will have to keep it tight at the back because of the lack of potency upfront. It could be attritional and not very attractive, but three points would be a boost to a club that is in limbo. If Pardew is in place for the match there is no more fitting place for him to start as manager than the ground where he etched himself into Palace folklore by sticking it in the Scousers’ net. Just don’t expect another 4-3.