The last three matches of football involving Pellegrini’s men have been fascinating, and illustrate where we are as a team. I do not want to touch on the disappointing loss to Oxford too much, what I gathered from that was players on the periphery who often sit on the bench in league matches are no closer to challenging what is now an established first team.
By all accounts he’s a top professional and has undoubtedly carved a great career for himself in English football but 34 year old Zabaleta cannot keep up with the pace of the game anymore. Equally, given he’s reportedly on quite high wages, one has to wonder why Carlos Sanchez is still at the club when he is not very good. It was an extremely poor performance and the only positive that I can identify is Nathan Holland getting minutes. I feel sorry for the very promising Holland that he had to feature in such a bad showing but, from reports, he was a bright spark while he was on the pitch.
Bournemouth became a really significant game following the embarrassing cup exit. Others have already spoken illuminatingly about the game so I’ll try to avoid going over well-trodden ground. It was my Dad’s birthday on Saturday, and we went for a walk as the 3pm kick offs rolled around. I was pretty nervous given our relatively poor record at the Vitality Stadium. Yarmolenko’s wonderful finish in the 10th minute settled my nerves but halfway through the walk my Mum informed me of King’s equalising goal. It sounded like a decent game as I read the match feed with both sides attacking well, a good advertisement for Premier League football. I was mightily impressed by our first goal, Yarmolenko’s left foot is brilliant and he took the goal very well but Haller’s touch from Anderson’s lofted pass was exquisite. The Frenchman plucked the ball brilliantly as he had to jump for it. The club’s record signing might not have scored since the Norwich game but he’s integral to our build up play, and I firmly believe more goals will come for him.
Looking ahead to the Crystal Palace fixture, I’m very excited as I’ll be going to the London Stadium with a few mates, one of which is a Palace fan. My Palace supporting friend is apprehensive given we have a good record against the South London side at home in recent times. Anderson’s goal last season against Hodgson’s side was superb, and hopefully he can open his account for the season on Saturday. Lanzini also enjoys playing against Palace having scored a few goals against the Eagles in the past. Palace have defended reasonably well thus far this season but have lacked creativity and any real impetus up front. Having said that, it will not be easy as we look to extend our unbeaten run. If we can limit their obvious danger man in Zaha, then I believe our talent in the forward areas should be too much for Palace. It’s safe to say my friend Dan certainly does not look forward to the match up of Joel Ward trying to defend against Felipe Anderson!
Both sides will be missing at least one key player this weekend, with our No. 1 sadly being ruled out for a couple of months, and Palace’s captain and midfield anchor, Milivojevic, is suspended. Palace like to play on the counter so we will need to ensure that, while we are likely to have the lion’s share of possession, we do not get caught out. Fabianski’s injury is a massive blow for us given the incredibly high standards he’s been playing at. The Pole was genuinely one of the best shot stoppers in the division last season and has continued that form into this season. Hopefully the 34 year old recovers quickly, but all fans have to support Roberto now. Roberto has flattered to deceive thus far but a run of consistent game time will hopefully boost his confidence and we’ll see good performances. Fans are clearly entitled to an opinion, and most fans are slightly concerned about Roberto, but to hear that some supporters booed him on Saturday is extremely poor. There is a substantial difference between thinking a player is not very good and not supporting them. We must get behind the Spaniard because booing him and abusing him on social media will not help his confidence.
I hope following the full time whistle on Saturday we will be on 15 points going into the international break, and I can repeatedly remind Dan that we just beat his side convincingly! Our defence has looked pretty solid in recent weeks with Cresswell playing well and scoring two in two games, Fredericks has looked good and Diop and Ogbonna have worked well as a duo. A clean sheet would do Roberto the world of good, and I look forward to seeing our talented attacking players in the flesh again.
By no means do I think Palace will be an easy game as Hodgson has done an admirable job with limited resources but, as I’ve previously stated, I think nullifying Zaha goes a long way to them creating very little and us getting a clean sheet. I believe we will win, the team has never lost a game when I’ve watched the game live so I hope that does not change. I’ll go with a prediction of 2-0 to us, goals from Haller and a rare goal for the brilliant Declan Rice!
Hope everyone is well, and has a good week.