IT WAS A HEFTY DEFEAT TO ARSENAL AFTER A TERRIBLE OPENING TWENTY-TWO MINUTES OF THE GAME BUT IT IS NO GOOD LOSING IF YOU DO NOT LEARN ANYTHING. SO, WHAT DID WE LEARN FROM THE LOSS? HERE ARE THE FIVE THINGS WE LEARNT
1 – Roy Hodgson and the players deserve a break. The first half performance felt pretty inexcusable at the time, but when you look at the bigger picture, the achievements of fourteen core players under Roy means they can be forgiven on this occasion. If Palace have not added to the squad by the time they face West Ham United, chairman, Steve Parish will have failed Hodgson, and indeed all the individuals that have worked so hard to get Palace to this point.
2 – That being said, yesterday was the first time that Hodgson got it wrong tactically. Palace should have packed the middle of the pitch, but instead were left horribly exposed by persisting with two up front. By the time the Eagles switched to a 4-5-1 formation, Mesut Ozil and Jack Wilshere had already been given the freedom of the pitch to run riot against us for the second time this season, and the game was over before it had even begun.
3 – If you want to get anything against the top teams, you have to keep your discipline. Two of Arsenal’s goals came from James McArthur losing Nacho Monreal at corners, the second was a result of Wilfried Zaha failing to track back, and the fourth – despite coming at the end of a lovely move – should have been saved by Wayne Hennessey. It might have been easier to take if Arsenal were picking Palace apart, but the nature of the goals we conceded was utterly submissive.
4 – Yohan Cabaye’s legs are going. There is no shame in getting old, but even before his injury, Cabaye was left chasing shadows in the midfield and could not keep up with Arsenal’s youthful exuberance. The Frenchman has been central to Palace’s recent revival, but starting every game in a congested festive period is catching up with him. Hopefully he will not be rushed back from injury on this occasion, and will be given time to recover some much needed fitness.
5 – Draw a line and move on. It is easy to dwell on heavy defeats like this one, but Palace are in a better position than last season in that we are not relying on beating the bigger teams to stay up. The next run of fixtures against West Ham, Newcastle United and Everton are far more important, and will give us an opportunity to put some real daylight between themselves and the bottom three. Lose them, though, and maybe Hodgson will all be allowed to worry again.