Palace did it AGAIN, winning at Anfield for the third successive game. But what did we learn from yet anoth Eagles victory on Merseyside?
Palace’s Silent Assassin Is Integral to Palace’s Form
Jason Puncheon is Palace’s samurai. In a role where he now interchanges responsibilities with Yohan Cabaye, the Croydon boy has become a major part in Palace’s midfield resurgence. Empowered by Luka Milivojevic, Puncheon stealthily moves around the centre-ground. He pressures, harries, niggles and tackles opponents with such an intensity that when they get the ball, it’s typical that he is the first person to intercept them.
Puncheon might not be a creative force anymore, but his organisation and general work-rate has made him into a more effective, better component of a midfield that now works like a well-oiled machine. Since becoming the captain, he has also become a supreme organiser, directing teammates to make Palace’s midfield difficult to penetrate. Palace’s turn-around can be put down to many thing – Puncheon’s performances are worthy of being highlighted.
Roses are red????— Five Year Plan???? (@FYPFanzine) April 23, 2017
Violets are blue???? pic.twitter.com/PMkULku3Nj
It’s no longer a case of Calamitous Kelly
Martin Kelly is another player who, with a change of roles, has found some stability in his Palace career. Now featuring for Sam Allardyce’s side as a centre-back, Kelly has recovered from having to fill in as a full-back when, at his previous club Liverpool, he made a name for himself in a more central role.
Kelly was hung out to dry earlier in the season by a manager who had foolishly failed to reinforce the left-back position, and with repeated defeats came repeated knocks on a fragile confidence. While Kelly is unlikely to shift either James Tomkins or Mamadou Sakho, it’s fair to say that he has moved up the pecking order at a point where the club might look to sign another centre-back during the summer.
Many fans were of the opinion that he would be sold during the summer – the news that he had signed a new contract was met with some derision, too. But Allardyce has praised his performances in the last few weeks and deservedly so.
The disdain Sammy Lee has for this at the end is my favourite moment of the season. pic.twitter.com/8EeaBR5HRN— Jack Pierce (@Jackpierce88) April 23, 2017
Allardyce does what Pardew couldn't
Alan Pardew was a guest on Goals on Sunday at the weekend, an opportunity he used to speak of his regret at how the Palace job went awry. It was a fascinating insight into a manager who still wrestles with the difficulty of admitting fault. The problem, in his opinion, was a lack of further signings during the summer. It was the lack of a left-back. And ultimately a lack of support from the owners in the run-up to the January transfer window opening.
It highlighted an inability to admit that Palace’s tactics were flawed – that Palace were susceptible to conceding goals, that the confidence was at such a low point that even one goal was enough for the side to admit defeat.
His lack of contrition was such that he begrudgingly gave Allardyce credit while implying that the new signings were almost entirely responsible for the change in fortunes. But as Palace fans have witnessed, the work done under Allardyce goes deeper than just bringing in reinforcements.
Palace are a side with mental strength and aptitude – matches we previously would have written off are now seen as opportunities to get points. That’s entirely down to Allardyce and his management team.
Benteke is the striker we’ve always needed
When Palace shelled out £28m on Christian Benteke plenty of eyebrows were raised. And quite rightly, it’s a huge amount of money especially for a club like Palace who has traditionally polished cheap, rough diamonds from the lower leagues. But it was a signal that the club was intent on competing on the big stage.
However we didn’t quite get the striker we thought we were getting. The goals didn’t exactly flow and at times games passed him by; he looked uninterested and lazy. But it is becoming more and more apparent that he is the striker we’ve always needed, he just wasn’t being used properly.
Under Allardyce’s system Palace are getting the best out of the big Belgian every week, and the goals are flowing. That’s 16 from 34 games now, more than any Eagles striker has scored in one season since the club was promoted back to the Premier League.
And another two on Sunday brought with it yet another win at Anfield to all-but secure the club’s top flight survival for another year.
Palace are safe
It’s ok to say it; Palace are safe for another season. The Eagles may not mathematically be assured of another top flight season but at seven points clear of the drop with four games to go it would take some incredible scenes to throw that away.
Palace would have to lose all of their last five games of the season while Swansea need to win three of their last four and they have Manchester United and Everton to come.
And yes, yes Oldhma, 1993. We’re all aware of it, but in current form and with the confidence Allardyce has brought back to the squad it simply isn’t going to happen again. A record fifth consecutive season in the top flight awaits.