Crystal Palace 1 West Ham 0: Three talking points
Crystal Palace 1 West Ham 0: Three talking points as the Eagles beat their London rivals at Selhurst Park
Massive win gives serious hope to Palace
Despite only being a third of the way into the season, Crystal Palace’s relegation was seen by the majority of football fans, pundits and punters as a foregone conclusion. A distinct lack of talent and Premier League experience all over the pitch meant that their sluggish start to the season spelled immediate doom. Tuesday’s result means they have got two wins from their last three games since Ian Holloway’s departure and has significantly brightened their survival chances. The term ‘lifted the spirits’ was deliberately not used because win, lose or draw, the Palace fans have been nothing short of astonishing in their support and they could yet have as big a say as any player. Having said that, the odds are still stacked against them. The result may have lifted them off the foot of the table but they are still trapped in the relegation zone, three points from safety and having played an extra game. For the first time in weeks though, they are within striking distance of four teams above them, including West Ham. With Gus Poyet so far failing to transform Sunderland and teams like Fulham, Norwich and the Hammers really looking out of form anything is possible if they can carry on their good form. If this game was their first real six-pointer of the season, they do not have long to prepare for the next one as Cardiff travel to Selhurst Park on Saturday.
West Ham’s lack of cutting edge continues
Whilst most of the country eagerly counts down the days until Christmas, Sam Allardyce will have his eyes set on the opening of the transfer window the following week when he can start to make his wish list for some new presents. They are desperately in need of new arrivals at Upton Park. After an encouraging 10th-place finish in their first season back in the top flight, some uncharacteristic naivety from their experienced manager has left them in a perilous position this time around. Spending £15m on Andy Carroll was always going to be a huge gamble with his injury record, and unfortunately it has backfired spectacularly. His failure to make an appearance this season has forced them to re-sign Carlton Cole to provide competition for Modibo Maiga and both look well short of the required quality. The Hammers are solid and the back and contain a talented midfield, with Mark Noble providing a stable anchor for the likes of Ravel Morrison to go and cause trouble. Carroll is expected to return just before the turn of the year but he cannot be considered reliable anymore. Allardyce must empty the coffers again to give them more strength in depth – and this time it must be someone who is not only capable of scoring the goals to keep them up but someone who has a good track record of staying fit. If he gets this right, West Ham will be too good to stay up. If he fails to do so it could well mean a third relegation in a decade.
‘Pulis football’ may take time
The fact that Crystal Palace’s first goal under Tony Pulis came via a floated cross into a crowded penalty area may bring the usual ‘long ball’ quips from sceptics. However, on the evidence of this game, it is not Pulis’ plan to play the direct style that was so successful in his time at Stoke. It may have been due to his opponents on the night as West Ham play similar tactics under Sam Allardyce. The Welshman though has seemed to realise that he has a squad of players that was assembled to play a different way under Holloway. On Tuesday night, Jason Puncheon and Cameron Jerome were picked as the wide men – two players more adept at running with the ball than delivering pinpoint crosses. Yannick Bolasie may well take the latter’s spot when he returns from suspension is the same. In Marouane Chamakh and Dwight Gayle, they have two strikers who are useful in the air but not great at holding the ball up. All these factors would suggest that Pulis is either going to have to continue to adapt or bring in some new faces in January to implement his usual style.