So, courtesy of Cardiff's last minute loss today, safety looks like it is all about done(although I won't stop worrying until it's mathematically safe).
Yesterday, we managed to play our own part in this, avoiding a third gut wrenching loss with a 2-0 win over Huddersfield. It meant that for a team whose Premier League journey started at Selhurst Park last season, it officially ended at the same ground this season. Kind of poetic in a way. Their 3-0 victory over us last season was a devastating blow, a real kick in the globes to what was hoped to be a bright future under Frank De Boer(boy were we wrong). Since that god awful day, we have beaten them in four consecutive games(1 cup, 3 league), with the last of them being a devastating blow in return to the Terriers. You could say, however, that we actually did them a favour. Relegation has looked likely for most of the season, and nailed on for the past few months. We effectively ended their pain, made it official, and so they can begin to officially move on and prepare for next season. I only wish someone would do similar for me. This season, as I mentioned in my last article, has worn me down in so many ways, and I will be glad to see the back of it. Some of those ways, have been off the pitch, and yesterday was no different. This article is me sharing my thoughts and opinions on yesterday's boo boys(and girls).
When the half time whistle was blown, many people around me, and around the stadium, booed. When Jimmy came to warm up in preparation for coming on, there were groans. When it was announced he was replacing Meyer, there were loud groans and a few boos. When Michy was subbed off for Benteke, there were loud moans and boos. Now, I get there are frustrations. I get people feel disappointed, especially after our previous two results. I also get that people have some higher expectations, albeit too high in some cases. We all want to see us do better. We all want Selhurst to be a fortress. Hell, I would kill for a season that the likes of Watford and Bournemouth always seem to enjoy, where they are never really in the relegation scrap. So yes, things are frustrating, but are they as bad as so many are currently making it out to be? For me, no. I am really starting to think that six years in the Premier League has changed expectations, and suddenly nothing is acceptable. As I walked out of the ground remembering those boos, I contemplated writing this article. When I read a certain tweet this morning, my mind was made up. I saw a guy, a fan of 37 years apparently, say that Roy is 'undefendable', that he has taken us backwards, that every player needs to hang their head in shame and that we shouldn't even get on the MOTD schedule. I mean, seriously, is this what some attitudes have actually sunk too?
I saw that tweet, and I just wanted to reach through the screen and slap the dude! I instead opted for a Luke Skywalker gif from Last Jedi, with him stating that everything just said was wrong, It satisfied me! It hasn't stopped there though, as I am now writing this article, once again having to piece together my view point as to why I disagree. Maybe I am blind, maybe I am too bias for Roy, maybe I am just a fool. Personally, I feel I at least try to explain and back up my views, instead of just spout them with nothing to support it. So, here I go again.
Anyone who went into yesterday's game thinking
we would walk it, that we would play them off the park and destroy them, is
just nuts. I share in that to a degree, because part of me felt like we would
do just that. However, my experiences of years supporting the Eagles constantly
reminded me that Palace just don't work that way. Huddersfield were on a
terrible run, and could be relegated that day. That is a prime set up for us to
lose. We love ending bad runs of other teams. Anyone remember Burnley two years
ago? They came to Selhurst around March having not won away from home all
season. The result? They beat us 2-0! Typical! Given our recent failings, this
match was a blatant banana skin, with our red and blue boot just ready to step
on it! The first half was not a spectacle, I totally agree with that.
Huddersfield came, and like almost every other team, they sat in. We tried to
play, and like always, we struggled to break them down. Meanwhile because we
were open, Huddersfield were able to exploit it and have a couple of good
chances. Even so, it took a great block to stop Michy from most likely putting
us ahead. It was a dull, frustrating half. Was it worthy of booing though? No.
This happens to all teams in this league. Wolves went to Huddersfield the other
week, high flying cup semi finalists Wolves, and lost 1-0. Did they boo and
moan? Of course not, because it happens. Remember December, when we beat Man
City 3-2 and were 2-1 up at half time? I can't imagine City fans were thrilled.
These things happen, it is just how football goes. Sadly, even before the game
started, I felt it wouldn't take much for the crowd to turn, and it took just
eleven minutes for people to moan and complain.
The first half performance was poor, but Roy got the starting line up pretty much spot on. The only change for me, is that Kelly should start over Dann. Kelly is the better player now. I will always have fond memories of Dann and his part in our early years of survival. These days though, he is too slow, and he doesn't really do the passing game. Huddersfield targeted him yesterday, playing balls past him and exploiting his struggles. So, Kelly for me, but other than that, it was spot on. Roy couldn't have gone more attacking. Meyer starting, Wilf, Andros and Michy as our front line, they were all the right choice. Those who booed though, must think differently. I mean, they booed when the whistle blew, and then clapped off the players. So, either they didn't have the balls to follow up their own boos, or the boos were aimed elsewhere, and that would be Roy, who gets blamed for everything.
The substitution of Jimmy for Meyer, which was met with moans, proved to be spot on. It saw us switch to a 4-4-2, in which we were much more effective. It provided a bit more bite in midfield, as well as a bit more energy. The fact is, this was the perfect game for Meyer to impress and dominate, and he did neither. Jimmy's 45 minutes were by far and away better than Max's 45 minutes. So much so, that for me, he was in the running for MOTM behind AWB and Guaita. The second sub, Benteke on for Michy, was met with moans and boos, but just like the first, proved to be spot on. Michy, for all his energy and effort, had a poor game. Repeatedly caught offside, it kept breaking down our attacks in the second half especially. I love him, and hope he stays, but he also doesn't jump, which at times really hampers us too. Benteke came on, and helped change the game. His first touch, should have been an assist as he nodded it down to put Andros through, only for Andros to miss. Minutes later, we had a penalty and were 1-0 up. He created a different problem for their defence, and they did not handle it well. Near the end, he should have had an assist again, nodding down to set up Wilf, only for Wilf to fluff his lines. Oh, and as for offside's, we went from having several, to none.
The line up was right, the subs were right, yet
the boos rang out. Just what is satisfactory these days? The first half was a
bore, the second half we should have scored 6. Individual errors haunted us,
yet again, and prevented it from being a rout. So please, while we are all
frustrated, can this ridiculous intense negativity stop? It does not serve to
help us, it just makes an annoying season even harder to put up with.
Expectations need to be lowered a little. Should they be after six years? I
totally agree with the answer of no, they shouldn't have to be. After six
years, we should have kicked on, we should be like Watford and be having a safe
season. However, we haven't, not because of Roy, but because our squad just
isn't quite the finished article it is believed to be. While we have strengths,
and some real quality, we still lack that quality in depth. Sakho's absence is
huge, we miss him greatly. Not just his blocks and tackles, but his
distribution and drive. We have no replacement for Wilf or Andros, likewise for
Michy. We have no playmaker in midfield. Part of Huddersfield's success
yesterday, was because they had Aaron Mooy. He pulls the strings, everything
runs through him, and he is good at it. Meyer just does not do this for us at
all, especially when he starts. Luka tries, and his ball use can be quality,
but from the halfway line. Mooy gets deep into the half, and still pulls the
strings, creating openings. I have said for a while he is a player we should
look at in the summer. Then even with the quality we have, there can be flaws.
Andros is a workhorse, and can score the spectcular, but he rarely puts away
the simple chances. He should have had two yesterday, and put both wide. Also,
his crosses rarely find their target. Wilf, has phases where he looks lethal in
front of goal, and phases where he looks like he has no confidence. He too,
should have scored a brace, but failed, leaving PVA, our left back, showing
them both how to finish. He rarely crosses the ball off the ground, and his
cutbacks barely ever find anyone. A big part of that, is because we rarely get
bodies in the box(something Roy should be questioned about), but also because,
instead of thinking what to do with the ball, he just passes anyway. I am not
trying to gripe about our players, they are ours and I love them, but I am just
trying to highlight that we are not quite the force some have convinced
themselves that we are.
Finally, all the anger towards Roy, and the ludicrous comment that he has taken us backwards. Let me use some stats. I would use points totals, but can't yet as we still have 21 points available, which means we could still have our best finish ever(yes it's unlikely). So, here are our goal stats, as that has been a big issue this year.
18/19 - GF: 38 GA: 41 GD: -3
17/18 - GF: 45 GA: 55 GD: -10
16/17 - GF: 50 GA: 63 GD: -13
15/16 - GF: 39 GA: 51 GD: -12
14/15 - GF: 47 GF: 51 GD: -4
13/14 - GF: 33 GA: 48 GD -15
Currently, we are on course to have a similar
Goals For tally to other seasons. We currently have the best Goals Against
tally of any season, and the best Goal Difference of any season. Now of course,
with seven games left and the likes of Spurs and City still to play, these will
change. However, are we doing that much worse than previous seasons? No. These,
of course, are fluctuating stats that vary in any season. One thing that does
stand out this year, is that not once have we been in the relegation zone at
the end of a round of games. The lowest we have been this season is 16th. We
were there for two consecutive rounds of games, and then one more a while
later. Other than that, while the points have been close, not once have we been
below the dreaded line. Only one other season has seen that achievement, the
year we were fifth before Christmas, and reached the FA Cup final. Pardew
though tried his best to mess that up, as sixteen league games without a win
plunged us into relegation troubles, and we were not safe until after the Semi
The fact is, Roy has improved us, he has taken us forward.
Yes, he has his flaws, yes, at times we have been bloody frustrating and
downright ridiculous. When though, has Palace been any other way? In Roy's two
years, with decidedly less money to spend than his predecessors, and a heavily
unbalanced squad(that has been absent a striker for the majority of his
tenure), he has taken us from dead and buried, to not even dropping into the
bottom three and being all but safe with seven games to go. On top of that, we
reached the League Cup fourth Round, and the FA Cup Quarter Final. We should
have arguably advanced in both, but given we are so often poor in the cups,
this is actually better than most seasons. So please, can we take a moment,
take a step back, and think about things. Yes, this season has been
frustrating, but it hasn't been the nightmare many claim it to be. We can still
achieve our highest points tally, we can still achieve a decent finish, and
then come the summer, we hopefully rebuild, to finally kick on. So, stop the
boos, stop the constant moaning, stop the abuse hurling, and let us try and end
this season with a bang.