Morning to one and all. We’ve been dealt the ‘international weekend’ card and I am not amused. For that reason, I thought I’d delay my piece from the weekend’s game ever so slightly just to drag the week out for as long as we can. I’ve not a clue what I’m going to do next week, we shall have to wait and see. Chances are, I’ll probably just be rocking in the corner singing Nuno has a dream until we arrive at Watford at home next weekend. The game against Palace was most bizarre. We had 33% of the ball, yet always seemed in control of the proceedings, bar the odd spell here and there. Let’s see how it all panned out.
Roy Read The Preview
Yep, you read that right. Roy Hodgson must’ve read the preview for the game as Milojevic didn’t act alone as a pivot in this game. McArthur lined up alongside him as Schlupp came in on the wing as Palace deployed a sort of 4-4-2 if you will. Their shape is apparent in the below image.
This is just as the game kicks off and if we reflect back on the Newcastle game that Palace played, Milojevic sat in front of the two centre-backs on his own with Kouyate and McArthur in front of him. That was not the case here, as you can see. Their plan to stifle Neves and Moutinho almost worked. This is particularly noticeable by their passing accuracies of 76% and 80%, normally they’re both 10% better than that. High standards indeed.
There wasn’t a great deal of action in the first half to write home about. Patricio lost a ball in the air and Schlupp blazed over and that was about as good as it got for Palace, with the exception of a couple of balls fired across the face of goal. For us, it was much the same. Not a great deal of chances, well, that is apart from Jimenez’ attempt. See below.
Composure Is Key
For sure, I am being over-critical here. Jota, who is getting back to his feet just inside the area, played in Jimenez who shot straight at Hennessey (see the red line). Could he have played it back to Jota? I think so. Wan-Bissaka’s (28) momentum is taking him towards the goal which leaves Jota a tap-in if the ball is played back. Failing that, Jonny (19) is in acres of room at the back post, although that would be a tougher pass to play. It’s easy to look at things like this and hindsight and say that Jimenez should have done this and that, nonetheless, it could’ve ended up costing us. Thankfully, it didn’t. Plus, Jimenez more than made up for that miss with his contribution to the actual goal which will be coming shortly.
Never Give Neves Space
As mentioned, Neves and Moutinho were kept quiet for large parts of the game. Don’t get me wrong, they were still getting on the ball, however, they weren’t able to play the balls out wide and switch the play as they normally do. That was until the start of the second half…
Ruben Neves is afforded a little bit of space here and tries to play the ball out to Doherty who has bags of room. Unfortunately, on this occasion, the pass is overhit and Doherty doesn’t quite make it. Moments later, Palace were not as lucky…
Doherty is found this time and it all ends up happening rather quickly.
After cutting inside, Doherty plays the ball (red line) into Jimenez before continuing his run towards goal. This is aided by the fact that Patrick van Aanholt (black line) opts to follow the ball as opposed to staying with his man which leaves us with this situation…
Look at the room Doherty has got! Despite the Palace bodies surrounding him, Jimenez takes a touch and plays it back to Doherty who beats Hennessey at his near post. It was a great finish from Doc, but any keeper worth anything shouldn’t be letting it in. Then again, Hennessey bailed on us in League One so perhaps he got just what he deserved. All in all, from Neves’ pass to the ball hitting the back of the net, it took the grand total of nine seconds. As I said earlier, don’t give Neves room and that doesn’t happen. Too late now.
From the moment we took the lead, we weren’t in any real danger. Rui made a blinding double save, that was about it. Our defensive shape and consistency in our starting XI has helped no end. I do and will keep banging on the Dendoncker drum, nevertheless, it’s tough to fathom dropping Bennett when the back line is playing as well as it is.
It’s not as clear here as it is in the average player positions, but it doesn’t take perfect vision to see that Coady is playing slightly deeper than Boly and Bennett. Even though Townsend (10) is goal-side of Bennett, Coady is there to cover him which is one of the reasons why Nuno plays the system that he does.
If Coady wasn’t there, Townsend would have a free run on goal and that would be the equaliser. Neves and Moutinho (the two black markers) remain in tight quarters, could Neves (8) be closer to Max Meyer (7), though? I’m hoping that Neves has given Coady a shout to let him know rather than just lost him. It wouldn’t be the first time Neves has lost his man this season, case in point Richarlison’s second on the opening day.
Control The Game From Deep
Regardless of whether or not he did or didn’t give him a shout, we got the win and yet another clean sheet which is all that matters. To give you some idea of how deep we played in comparison to previous weeks, have a little look at the average positions from both sides.
Normally, Jonny (19) & Doherty (2) are in the opposing half alongside the three that are + Moutinho (28) with Neves (8) usually on the cusp. Part of me really wants to give credit to Palace, but I’m not too sure what for. We always play the same way and have done since August 2017, yet teams still can’t stop us. Sakho (12) is quite far from his centre-back partner, Tomkins (5) and that’s almost how Jimenez scored in the first-half and also why playing with three at the back works so well.
All in all, another superb day at the office. Five points off top spot now. You’ve got to dream, haven’t you? Europa League will do me nicely. It’d be unadulterated carnage from start to finish, even if we went out in the first round. Come on!
Until the next time.