Crystal Palace’s lacklustre 3-2 defeat to West Ham last night at Selhurst Park provided plenty of food for thought – there were many talking points.
Why is Eberechi Eze being wasted out wide? How are we to get the ball to Wilfried Zaha more often? Should Cheikhou Kouyate no longer be used at centre-back?
All of these provide the foundation for an interesting debate. However, none of them are on the agenda for today.
Instead, let’s talk about the Eagles’ lack of presence in midfield.
In James McArthur and Luka Milivojevic, we have a midfield duo that simply doesn’t click together.
In theory, they should work well together. McArthur ranks among the most prolific tacklers in the Premier League this season, while Milivojevic provides the height and physicality that his Scottish partner lacks.
Most tackles 2020/21:— Premier League (@premierleague) January 25, 2021
55 – Aaron Wan-Bissaka
53 – James McArthur & Oriol Romeu
52 – Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa
51 – Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg pic.twitter.com/v4NwpUX2Y1
However, we just seem to be overrun most weeks.
Funnily enough, the type of duo that Roy Hodgson needs was staring him right in the face in SE25 last night, as Tomas Soucek and Declan Rice ran riot.
The Hammers duo – both of whom are man mountains – provided a rock-solid base for the likes of Said Benrahma, Michail Antonio and Jarrod Bowen to attack at will.
Their work ahead of the back four saw David Moyes’ men record 17 shots, whereas Palace could only muster up a mere six efforts, as WhoScored shows.
What Rice and Soucek offer West Ham is insurance.
Antonio, Bowen and Benrahma know that they can afford to be expressive in their attacking play, as two giants lurk behind them to mop up the ball, should they give it away.
In stark contrast, there’s an anxiety to Palace’s attacking play, as a lost ball can lead to a counter attack straight through the middle in seconds.
The south Londoners are soft-centered, and until a Mile Jedinak type destroyer is signed, we will struggle in that respect.