Saturday’s 4-2 home defeat to Liverpool embodied an underwhelming 2016 thus far for Crystal Palace Manager Alan Pardew. Just how bad most of the year has been may have somehow gone unnoticed by some people.
In his post match interview on Saturday, Pardew alluded to the fact that Referee Andre Marriner should not have been the official for the game. Pardew felt Marriner would have extra pressure on him, as in the last season’s corresponding fixture he gave Liverpool a dubious last minute penalty. “Why was Mike Riley giving him the game today? I can’t understand it. It’s just a little bit frustrating”, said Pardew. To be honest he may have a point. Pardew thought that Palace should have had at least one penalty on Saturday, which further increased his frustration. Really the first thing he should have done was to lay blame upon himself for his team selection. A different team could have spelled a better result for his men.
Pardew got it all wrong on Saturday and he would have garnered more respect if he had admitted that in his interviews with BT Sport and the BBC, but he failed to do so.
Even more confusing was a clear understanding from his pre game interview with BT Sport before the televised game, that he recognised the Merseysiders’ vulnerability in the air and long standing inability to defend set pieces. He categorically spoke of the ‘Elephant in the Room’, during the live broadcast so the question remains why did his selection process not target these flaws.
He bizarrely leaves on the bench, Andros Townsend, a man he bought to supply width to replace winger Yannick Bolasie who was sold to Everton. To be fair, Townsend does like to cut in and have a shot rather than cross when he plays, but placing him on the bench was not expected by anyone considering Liverpool’s weaknesses. On top of that versatile midfielder Jason Puncheon was also on the bench. This is a man whom despite being deployed centrally since Pardew took charge of Palace can, when needed, whip a ball into dangerous areas and has shown the capacity to score directly from free kicks too.
Though beaten in the end, Palace had two attempts in the first half both headers…and scored twice. James McArthur scored both goals, and the second summed up how the game could have been different if Pardew got his selection right, Wilfried Zaha teased a ball into a dangerous area and McArthur calmly headed in past Liverpool Keeper Loris Karius. It seems Pardew overthought things and paid the ultimate price for it. His team sat too deep and with Liverpool’s excellent movement and interchanging of positions there were periods when Palace could not get out of their own half, especially in the first 45 minutes.
As said earlier the option of blaming the Referee for the game provided a similar cover story to the below average calendar year of 2016 for the Eagles’ Manager. There has been talk of Pardew getting the England job now that Sam Allardyce’s gluttony has come to the fore and he was axed after one game in charge. If you think I exaggerate when i state that Pardew should be more worried about keeping his club job than getting the national team role, let’s recap the year so far.
If we go back to last season, it was hardly voiced that Palace failed to win their first Premiership game of 2016 until April. They in fact only won 3 out of their last 20 league games in the 2015/16 campaign; a run that saw them drop to as low as 16th in the table at a stage. This included 14 fixtures without a win, before they beat Norwich at Selhurst Park on April 9th. This alarming drop in form was not overwhelmingly exposed because Palace had managed to get to the FA Cup Final. There they unfortunately lost to 10 man Manchester United. Things could have been different if it was not for a stunning volley from Jesse Lingard in extra time, one that he will never score again, not even in Training Mode on ‘FIFA’.
Saturday’s defeat also meant that they have not won in 4 league games, losing 3 in a row and indeed have not kept a clean sheet in the League since April. The summer acquisition of James Tomkins from West Ham for 10 million pounds was meant to help shore up at the back. A man who did not always impress for West Ham, the Hammers must have thought Christmas had come early when they received the bid. Manager Slaven Bilic probably drove Tomkins from East London to South London himself, while wrapping Tomkins in bubble wrap to make sure he did not injure himself.
The aforementioned Townsend was a good buy and Christian Benteke has already starting paying back the record fee of 32 million pounds that Palace paid, but Palace still need more depth, come January. Any form of knock to Benteke and though he has only just arrived you feel that they may struggle for goals up top.
Palace if they are complacent could be hovering just above the relegation places again if they are not careful. If they keep leaking goals, then points will continue to be dropped. Though Pardew’s arrogance may make him think himself untouchable, he is not irreplaceable. Last December, Palace acquired new joint American owners in Joshua Harris and David S. Blitzer, though they have been quiet so far, they may at a point want to see that their investment is showing signs of progression and may lead to the deadly vote of confidence from fellow owner Simon Parrish (and we all know what happens after that). If the current form gets anywhere near the diabolic winless run from last season then Pardew could be put on gardening leave where he’ll be able to fine tune his dance moves.
Palace’s next 6 league games include tough home matches against both Manchester outfits, as well as a tough trip on the weekend to Burnley. There are also tricky but winnable games away to Swansea, Stoke and Hull and a home game between those against Southampton. The task at hand is not easy by any means. A little further down the line they entertain Chelsea on December 17th and have the unenviable task of going away to Arsenal on New Year’s Day. Palace lie 13th in the table currently, due only to a superior goal difference to this weekend’s opponents Burnley, and Turf Moor is proving a hard place to travel to this season. Burnley will soak up the play and Palace will need to be clinical to get a result there.
England may wish to stay English in terms of finding a new Manager, which understandably minimises their options but currently Pardew surely is not who they should be looking at. In the extreme case that he was to lose his job it would ironically suit the Suits at Lancaster Gate, putting him in line to get the England job should the FA not wish to stay with Gareth Southgate.
Whether it is fighting opposing managers, head-butting opposing players or dancing on the touchline Pardew is great entertainment, but his time could be under threat if he fails to get his personnel correct for upcoming matches like we saw on Saturday against Liverpool.
Pardew is 16/1 with William Hill to be the next Premiership Manager to be out of a job. This could be worth a cheeky punt. If results continue to go badly then the odds will shorten, but Football is a funny old game and much stranger things have happened. If he does lose the Palace job then he will only have to look in the mirror to see who is to blame.