Published author, Palace fan and all-round lovely bloke Richard Foster will be providing HLTCO with match previews throughout the 2015/16 campaign, bringing a degree of thoughtful perspective to the madness of the Premier League from week to week.
Both Villa and Palace head to this weekend’s fixture having secured a win against one of the promoted teams away from home on the opening day of the season but then losing to one of the ‘big clubs’ at home in their respective second matches. So a close contest is in the offing and both clubs will be keen to return to winning ways to get their season back on track. In his press conference Alan Pardew stressed the importance of getting the home form up and running as soon as possible.
The relatively weak performances at home last season were a slight conundrum, only winning half a dozen games all season whilst we picked up more points away from home. Only four clubs won fewer games at home last season and QPR won more points at home than we did, which is a sobering / alarming thought. Considering nearly everyone appreciates the noise and atmosphere generated at Selhurst is amongst the best in the country it seems somewhat perverse that we should find it difficult to turn that pressure to our advantage.
We lost to some pretty average teams last season at Selhurst and the Villa game sticks out as one that we should have won, but a costly Dann mistake allowed Benteke a chance, which he did not spurn. Then we struggled to break down a team that had little ambition to go forward. Villa have since been shorn of both Benteke and Delph, two of their best players, but they have bought reasonably well and they will undoubtedly be obdurate opposition.
One of the prime reasons for this Achilles heel is our inability to dominate games by retaining possession for long periods and drawing teams on to us. Indeed Pardew identified this as an area we need to improve upon and quoted Arsenal’s ability “to retain the ball in tight areas” as setting them aside from most other teams.
Irrespective of Lee Mason’s odd reluctance to punish Coquelin for a couple of challenges when he had already been booked, the truth of the matter is that Arsenal were the better team for long periods last Sunday. Poor decisions happen frequently and we were on the right side of one at Norwich on the opening day so we need to accept the rough with the smooth and move on, starting with three points against Villa.
Richard is a freelance football writer and author. His latest book The Agony & The Ecstasy – A Comprehensive History of the Play-Offs is available through www.ockleybooks.co.uk
He writes a regular column for The Croydon Advertiser and Sabotage Times as well as writing for The Guardian and other Palace fanzines and blogs.
Follow him on twitter @rcfoster