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.
Jurgen Klopp is still enjoying his honeymoon period after taking over Liverpool just over four weeks ago. Some doubters might claim that the Red Mens’ resurgence – three draws followed by three successive wins – is just typical ‘new manager syndrome’ whereby a club benefits from a short-term improvement because of the change at the top. But one gets the feeling that this may be slightly different as this is Klopp who is an immensely engaging and likeable character and quite a good manager.
Against Chelsea last week, as BBC5 Live pundit Pat Nevin pointed out, they were comfortable in possession and took control of the game even after conceding an early goal. Mind you who can’t win at Stamford Bridge these days? It’s like taking candy from a baby and Jose is proving to be the biggest baby of them all. But enough of petulant managers who have lost it let’s concentrate on two managers who are at the top of their game – Pardew and Klopp. Klopp combines tactical acumen with a childlike enthusiasm for the sport and he is a breath of fresh air. Pardew may not be quite his equal tactically or be as charming but he is not that far off.
Super Al may be feeling a bit of pressure for the first time in his 10-month Palace reign. We have had a tough run of games and been a little unfortunate not to gather more points but three losses and one draw in last four matches is not a great record and only Norwich and of course the wretched Villa have had a worse run in Premier League. Against an admittedly insipid and uninspiring Manchester United last week we could and should have won. The performance level was good apart from that slightly worrying trend of not scoring goals. The brutal fact is that in our last seven league games we have scored four goals, of which three have been penalties.
It does not take a genius to work out that we are missing a goal scoring centre forward, Gayle has tried his heart out but is devoid of confidence as he showed against United when he had three good chances but didn’t ever look like scoring any of them. Connor Wickham may return from injury against Liverpool but will lack match sharpness and is not that prolific, he cannot be expected to start banging them in from all angles immediately, if ever. So we will have to rely on others to get the goals and the likeliest source apart from spot kicks are actually our defenders who have notched four league goals between them. Maybe Souare’s return will be christened with a goal.
Richard Foster is a freelance football writer and author, who is a regular features contributor for The Guardian. He also writes for Sabotage Times and a variety of Palace blogs and fanzines.
The revised paperback edition of his latest book The Agony & The Ecstasy – A Comprehensive History of the Football League Play-Offs – is out now and available through usual bookshops and online.
Talking Balls! his sports quotes book, was published in September and is the perfect stocking filler for any sports fan this Christmas –http://amzn.to/1RjV7Lw
Follow him on twitter @rcfoster.