After a humbling at the hands of Tottenham Crystal Palace return home to face struggling Wolves.
Last week was a disastrous result for Palace as despite many fans likely expecting the end result a 4-0 deficit at half time was a stomping that few expected. After entering last week with one of the league’s best defensive records The Eagles have slipped back towards the middle of the pack. The Eagles enter this week in twelfth place but within a win’s reach of the top four. While last week wasn’t ideal it should not take all of the shine away from an start to the season that has been for the most part positive.
Palace may have gotten off to a good start to the season but the exact opposite is true for this weekend’s opponents. Wolverhampton have not won a game all season having lost their last two games after opening the season with three draws. This dreadful form has them above Watford only in the table, an abysmal 19th place. The curse of European Football certainly seems to be affecting them in the same way it affected Burnleylast year as the additional games put stress on the squad. While Wolves went undefeated in their Europa League Play-Off games they fell in mid-week to Braga.
Despite Roy Hodgson’s usual reluctance to make changes last week’s performance could prompt changes from the Manager. The first selection challenge will come at centre-back where Hodgson will have to choose two between the four or Martin Kelly, James Tomkins, Mamadou Sakho, and Gary Cahill. Sakho showed his rust in his return from injury last week, which could refrain from giving Tomkins his first start of the season this week. The situation in midfield is just as difficult with none of the players who started last week looking entirely deserving of retaining their place. This could open the door for the potential return of Max Meyer or perhaps a first start for this summer’s signings. Expect Jordan Ayew to retain his spot for now as his early season form should buy him at least one more week leading the line.
One of the biggest reasons for Wolves’ struggles has been a defence that has suddenly looked much less assured. This comes after a season in which Wolves were the stingiest team outside of the top six in terms of goals allowed, a stark difference from their near the bottom of the league ranking in goals allowed this season. The Wolves attack is still led by dangerous striker Raúl Jiménez who has resumed his goal scoring ways following his permeant purchase from Benfica this summer. The Palace midfield will also have to be careful when Wolves have the ball around their eighteen-yard box as any free kick gifted could be taken advantage of by dead-ball wizard Rúben Neves.
Another dilemma that Hodgson will face will if he wants to continue with a 4-3-3 formation or his traditional 4-4-2 formation. Don’t be surprised to see a 4-3-3 formation in order to take advantage of the space that Wolves’ three in the back formation allows on the wings. There are also questions rising about Nuno Espírito Santo’s continued loyalty to some of his centrebacks after the defensive struggles this season. This will place pressure on Wilfried Zaha and Jeffrey Schlupp to use their pace to exploit the cracks in the opposition defence.
This is a game that Palace simply should win. Wolverhampton have been borderline terrible this season and present a golden opportunity to boost the home atmosphere and secure a big three points. This also presents a chance for some of Palace’s star men that have suffered a slow start to the season to get their game on track before a big run of games. If Palace can overcome their struggles at home expect Selhurst to be rocking and rewarded with a victory.