Whilst there is a huge amount of soul searching taking place amongst Palace fans this afternoon, we need only look at the lack of goals being scored from open play as the pivotal factor in our recent run of poor form.
It would be easy to question whether or not the Alan Pardew bubble had finally burst, but in truth, the former Newcastle boss has been let down by his strikers so far this term, who have a collective total of 0 Premier League goals between them since August.
Thankfully, Yohan Cabaye’s penalties and strikes from the likes of Bakary Sako, Wilfried Zaha and Joel Ward have papered over the cracks to some extent, but without a talismanic figure at the head of the side, we will be swimming against an extremely dangerous tide between now and January.
Not helped in the slightest by Connor Wickham’s long-term absence through injury, Pardew has been forced to use Dwight Gayle, Fraizer Campbell or Yannick Bolasie in the role of the lone striker since our victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, with the results speaking for themselves.
Although Gayle is undoubtedly a great finisher, his game is one which requires decent service to feet; which unsurprisingly, has been in short supply in recent weeks. Fraizer Campbell, for all of his endeavour, isn’t a Premier League level striker and never has been, whilst the experiment which has seen Yannick shunted into the position of a centre forward should be consigned to the archives of history forever more.
All of these imaginative incarnations smack of nothing other than an attempt from Pardew to hammer square pegs into round holes, through tactical necessity rather than tactical choice. You could of course argue that he should have foreseen this problem in the summer when he allowed Glenn Murray to leave for Bournemouth, but in reality, moaning about past events will get us nowhere.
You need only to look at the incredible form of Jamie Vardy for Leicester City this season to see the difference a prolific goalscorer can have on a team’s fortunes over the course of three to four months, with his goals alone probably accounting for at least 10 of their Premier League points. In truth, it’s not just his ruthless streak in front of goal that has helped the Foxes, but the overall sense of confidence it brings to their players, knowing that, should they get him the ball in the final third, there is a very good chance of him finding the net. You simply can’t underestimate the difference that makes in a tight encounter, he’s a lightning rod for Claudio Ranieri and has led from the front since August.
When looked at in direct comparison to our own woes in front of goal, it should come as no surprise to see us struggling to grind out victories. The link above gives a glimpse of our problems in an easily viewable statistical breakdown and whilst it may not make for pleasant viewing, it does offer a huge amount of context to Alan Pardew’s selection headaches.
Take a look, if you can handle it.