Crystal Palace, Selhurst Park
Premiership, Saturday 21/1/23 @ 5.30pm
Live on SKYSPORTS
The Eagles’ Info sheet
Squad size: 23;
Average age: 27.1
National team players: 7
Stadium capacity: 26,047 Seats
This Saturday sees Eddie take his top 4 side to South London. Next up, it’s Selhurst Park, and Crystal Palace.
When you look at the strides similarly sized clubs, like Brentford, Brighton & Fulham, have made this season, it’s been a campaign of (possibly?) slight disappointment so far this time around. As I write, our hosts sit in 12th position, with 23 points from 19 games.
Patrick Vieira arrived at the beginning of the preceding season, and pulled together a club in a bit of mayhem. It was an appointment viewed dimly by many commentators. His managerial record at Nice was not exactly stellar, and his new charges were in a state of flux, having lost the services of many out-of-contract players. This mix meant that many had them down as strong relegation possibilities.
The Frenchman worked wonders in the transfer market that summer. He shored up the back with the impressive centre half pairing of Joachim Anderson and Marc Guéhi for a combined circa £40M. He then added the super talented winger Michael Olise from Reading for circa £8M.
Under £50M for this trio has turned out to be superb business, and with the excellent loan addition of Connor Gallagher, Palace turned over Champions Man City home & away and finished in a respectable 12th, just a point behind us. I must say, I loved watching him as a player and have been impressed with him in the dugout. As they’d probably say in this neck of the woods, “Respec’”
Whilst they are currently sat mid-table again, they have the talent to be punching a bit higher up the table IMO. Their manager recently opined a lack of luck & killer instinct in front of goal. I watched the highlights of the weekend’s visit to Chelsea, and, underlining Vieira’s view, it looked somewhat a travesty that they left SW6 with nowt. Without a number of excellent saves from Kepa, they could’ve even left with all three points.
Their most recent outing was a spirited 1-1 draw versus a very upwardly mobile looking Man United, a last minute ‘wonder goal’ free kick from the aforementioned Olise giving them a share of the points. The likes of him, Eze and twisty-faced Wilfried can be a handful for anyone on their day, and our boys will have to be ‘on it’ to return north victorious.
On to the mighty Mags….
These are rare and heady days on Barrack Road. I was with my cabal of match-going pals & TF writers after last Sunday’s late victory over Fulham, for post match peeve in Pacific. The buzz in the place was palpable, and everyone was beaming. I had a long conversation with my old pal, the enigmatic ‘Freeman Mag.’ He admitted that he feels ‘blasé’ for the first time since the mid 90s. The steadfast resolve of our back line means that we look like we’ll never concede. We have a defensive record to thoroughly back this up. Eleven goals shipped in half a season is simply unbelievable. Especially, when you consider five of those came in two games v City & Liverpool. This is NUFC, man. We don’t usually do defending!
Ok, we’re incredibly hard to break down, but should there be some slight concern at the other end?
Well, possibly. Our last three league outings v Leeds, Arsenal, and Fulham have yielded just Isak’s last-minute winner versus the last of these. Profligacy in front of goal has certainly been one issue. Another is that we generally look more comfortable (from an attacking sense) when the opposition has a go at us. This leaves gaps in midfield for us to exploit. A perfect example of this was away at the King Power. Three goals up after half an hour. Thank you & goodnight.
When teams come to Gallowgate to sit & press, we occasionally look a little lacking in the ‘guile’ department. I salivate at the thought of a Maddison in our midfield. He is someone who could unlock the door when needed most. He is also the ilk of player we may have to wait for, due to the dastardly FFP situation. We have endeavour, and no little talent in this area of the pitch. To be the very best, however, I do think it requires a little extra.
Whilst I’m on the subject of midfield, it seems there always has to be a terrace/social media scapegoat. In recent times, that dubious honour appears to have been given to Sean Longstaff. A day tripping ‘sage’ behind me in the Milburn on Sunday spent the whole game slagging him off. At one point, he stood up and loudly proclaimed that Sean was ‘fucking shite.’ If by some small chance you are reading this, sir: have a scan at Alan Shearer’s synopsis of the midfielder in MOTD2. I know whose opinion I value more.
We’ll head to Selhurst in great fettle, but It’s a tough one to call this Saturday. I reckon our back 5 will once again frustrate the opposition. I also reckon that Joachim Anderson missing will give Callum/Alexander some room for manoeuvre up top. Could a tough fixture v the Mancs 72 hours before we rock up have a bearing? Maybe. I still think that Palace will fly at us, but, as I mentioned earlier, more often than not, this has played into our hands this season. Therefore, I’m plumping for a cracking match, ending in a hard fought 1-0 victory for the Mags.
Nick Clark @Clark5Nick