Well, that was refreshing! It wasn’t quite the goal-fest we’d hoped for, but Crystal Palace’s 0-0 draw against Brentford was hugely encouraging.
After some miserable football under Roy Hodgson, we saw a much more energetic display in Patrick Vieira’s first game at Selhurst Park.
The tempo was set by Conor Gallagher, who shone as he charged around the pitch in an all-action performance – his display epitomised just what Vieira wants from his midfielders.
However, Cheikhou Kouyate – Gallagher’s midfield partner against the Bees – wasn’t quite on his level.
Can Cheikhou Kouyate play in this system?
Firstly, let us just say that Kouyate is a superb player, albeit in a specific setting.
Against the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea, his ability to get stuck in, win his headers and break things up has been, and will continue to be, vital.
However, in a game such as today’s affair, he really shouldn’t be involved unless we need to see out a lead late on.
On numerous occasions against the Bees, Kouyate was robbed of the ball in dangerous areas, while his passing was generally sloppy.
As SofaScore shows, the 31-year-old lost possession on 14 occasions.
Patrick Vieira needs a special plan for Cheikhou Kouyate
Now, as aforesaid, we’re not suggesting Kouyate is frozen out after this display – not by any means.
He’s a loveable character, and always gives 100%.
In our view, we just feel as if Vieira should only start him in games where we expect to be up against it, and need some steel in midfield.
Against lesser teams like Brentford – with all due respect – an orchestrator of the game is needed, someone who can dictate the tempo and play forward.
For example, Brentford gave Kouyate so much space ahead of the back four at times, where someone like Yohan Cabaye would’ve thrived with his passing range and vision.
When the players get back to training in Beckenham on Monday, this is something Vieira must have in mind – in this style of play, a more technical presence is an absolute necessity.