Crystal Palace are not a club that is enjoying a good festive period. The Eagles haven’t won in five Premier League games and have gone from looking like a side that might finish in the top half of the table to relegation candidates over the last month or so.
After beating West Bromwich Albion 5-1 on December 6, Roy Hodgson’s side drew 1-1 at home to Tottenham Hotspur and then away at West Ham United. Then things took a drastic turn for the worse.
The south London side proceeded to lose 7-0 at home to Liverpool, a game in which Palace managed just 35% of possession – an appalling stat for a home side, even if they were playing against the defending champions.
That debacle was followed up by a really poor performance at Aston Villa on Boxing Day. Palace lost 3-0, but conceded twice in the second half after Villa had been reduced to 10 men. Palace lacked intent in attack, and seemed a beaten team for much of the second half, like it became too much effort to try and break down a determined Villa side.
It was the manner of that defeat that worried many Palace fans. The team looked beaten from an early stage, with a kind of inept frustration overtaking the players’ display. Wilfried Zaha seemed more intent on winding up Villa defenders than in scoring goals. His tangling with Tyrone Mings led directly to the Villa man’s dismissal for a second yellow card in the 45th minute of the game. It was probably Zaha’s most significant contribution to the game.
Things improved on Monday evening with the team’s third 1-1 draw in five games, but it apparently took an almighty effort from Palace assistant coach Ray Lewington during the half-time team talk to rouse the team to further effort. The game was goalless at half time, before Zaha put Palace 1-0 up in the 58th minute. Harvey Barnes equalised for Leicester in the 83rd minute, however.
Palace boss Roy Hodgson felt that his team had put in a mixed performance, but things had been better in the second half. “It certainly was (positive) in the second half but it almost cost Lewington a heart attack to produce that energy," he told Amazon Prime.
"That's what Crystal Palace want to be and we pressurised the ball so much better. We looked dangerous going forward but unfortunately we don't get the three points because Barnes scored with a wonderful strike.That could have led to us conceding another one but luckily we didn't, because that would have been harsh. It's definitely a step forward."
If it’s taking that kind of effort to rouse a team to take pride in their performance then Palace have problems. There are also questions about whether a third 1-1 draw in five games is really a step forward, but at least Palace scored and didn’t concede more than once.
The team’s problems are encapsulated in the performances of striker Christian Benteke. Although the former Liverpool and Aston Villa forward scored twice in the team’s last win over WBA, he has looked a pale shadow of a Premier League striker. The forward managed to complete just seven out of 24 passes against Leicester and lost possession 24 times. With stats like that, Benteke’s fifth start of the 2020/21 season might well be his last.
Palace are now in 13th place in the Premier League with 19 points and host bottom side Sheffield United on Saturday. That could be a key game to shaping the seasons of both sides.
Betfred offers a decidedly mixed picture when it comes to the odds for where Palace are likely to finish this season. Hodgson's team are 12/1 with Betfred for a top 10 finish, and priced at 1/50 for a bottom half finish. They are priced at 5/1 to go down and 1/9 to stay up.
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