At the beginning of the season, Alan Pardew promised fans that his would see a side that retained the ball better and attacked. In doing so, he signed another attacking winger in Andros Townsend to compliment Wilfred Zaha on the other flank, and a center forward in Christian Benteke that thrives on crosses from wide positions.
After a slow start which mirrored some of the disastrous runs they had last season, Palace have slowly started to improve, and the goals have started to come. They are sitting in the mid-table having produced some good performances – and most notably after last season – have scored 11 in their last 6 games.
However, their play still has room for improvement and is so far it is quite one dimensional. They look to play the ball out wide to their two speedsters – Zaha & Townsend – and use the aerial presence of Benteke in the box.
This allows teams to pin Palace back by cutting off supply to their attacking trio, which has happened early on in quite a lot of their games this season. As a result they struggle to assert their authority and dominate with their passing.
So what are their options?
Play the ball to Benteke quicker
With Christian Benteke, they have somebody who has shown he is at his very best when the ball is played into him as early as possible. At Aston Villa where he announced his quality to the Premier League, they played the ball into his feet early and looked to build attacks quickly. Employing this tactic, they could get Zaha and Townsend to play more narrow and focus on feeding off Benteke and trying to score themselves rather than simply hugging the touchline.
Look to utilise their pace
At times against West Ham early in the game, Crystal Palace looked like they struggled to cope with West Ham’s 3-5-2 formation. This led to them being pinned back and struggling to pass their way out of trouble. But with Zaha and Townsend, they have two extremely fast outlets and playing directly to them in the channels will not only turn defence into attack in an instant, but it will relieve some pressure.
Capitalise on pressure
A complaint of many Palace supporters recently is that when they are on top, they have failed to finish teams off. Benteke has had a great start for Palace, scoring 3 goals in 5 Premier League games. The likes of Zaha and Townsend, whilst great providers, really aren’t well known for their finishing ability, and this needs to improve – so far this season they have 1 goal each. Loic Remy coming back from injury should help improve things here too.
Buy a number 10.
Because Palace are so reliant on Benteke and his service comes from out wide, the job of the opposition is simple – Stop the cross, stop Benteke.
The width that the wingers provide really stretches teams, and creates pockets of space between the opposition defence and midfield and would be ideal for a creative player to take advantage of. Currently, Palace don’t have anybody, but interest in Santos attacking midfielder Lucas Lima has been reported – so watch this space.