Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Palace win in stereotypical Pulis fashion

Tony Pulis picked up his first home win as Crystal Palace eked out a 1-0 win over West Ham in a match lacking quality from both sides. West Ham were wasteful in front of goal and need to find goals quickly if they're to avoid a relegation battle. The goalless defeat means they've now failed to score in 8 of 14 league games.

The win pulled Palace out of the bottom spot in the table but was hardly a performance that should assure fans better days are forthcoming. They lacked composure and technical ability on the ball and created too few chances.

Sam Allardyce opted for a 4-3-3 shape with Mark Noble sitting in front of the back four and Ravel Morrison and Kevin Nolan in more advanced areas. Mohamed Diame was used wide on the left and Carlton Cole was given the start as the lone striker.

Pulis set Palace out in a 4-4-2. Cameron Jerome and Marouane Chamakh were partnered up front with Chamakh playing slightly withdrawn.

From the opening whistle West Ham used their man advantage in midfield to control possession. Palace sat in deep and looked to play outlet passes to Chamakh on the break. There were a few occasions when the counter was on for the home side but their first half passing was woeful.

Palace were arguably playing too deep. Carlton Cole is a striker that is most dangerous when he's able to play in and around the penalty box, winning headers and knocking the ball down for Nolan. His mediocre pace means he's not much of a threat running in behind the center backs. The deep defensive line meant he was allowed to position himself around the box where West Ham were able to hit in crosses. With Nolan and Diame both playing in advanced positions for the Hammers as well, Allardyce's side were a real threat on crosses. Diame should have hit the target with a first half header and twice Nolan got on the end of dangerous crosses at the back post only to be flagged for offside.

By defending higher up the pitch, Palace would have pushed Nolan and Cole further from goal where they are far less of a threat. With Cole, Diame and Downing playing the three forward positions, the only real threat in behind would have been Morrison bursting forward from the midfield.

In the end Palace got the 3 points so it's probably unfair to be too critical of the system. Still, aside from the first half goal that came entirely against the run of play from a rare Palace corner and a second half missed breakaway from Jerome, they created almost nothing and were dreadfully poor in possession. They benefited from West Ham's wastefulness and lack of a goal scorer but it's hard to see how they'll avoid relegation if they don't find a way to be more threatening in the attack. West Ham are 13th in the Premier League in average possession with 46.4% yet had 62% of the ball as the away side at Selhurst Park this evening. Possession of course doesn't guarantee wins but with Palace second from bottom Pulis's knack for collecting draws may not be enough to ensure survival. One would think they'll eventually need to be more proactive in looking to win games.

Then again Pulis has never been relegated despite his sides consistently clawing their way to ugly points in the manner Palace did today. If they manage to stay up playing like they did today it will be the most Tony Pulis-like campaign Tony Pulis has ever led.

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