Yesterday evening saw Crystal Palace fall to a 3-1 defeat at the hands of bitter rivals Brighton & Hove Albion and despite the Eagles still sitting outside the bottom three, things really are starting to look bleak for Roy Hodgson and his players.
Whilst we’ve all seen the team put in some genuinely impressive performances this season, there are a selection of statistics which highlight the severity of the problems facing us as Christmas approaches. As things stand, having played 15 Premier League fixtures, we’ve managed just three victories, against sides current placed in 17th, 19th and 20th in the division.
Alongside that rather alarming realisation, it’s clear that this side has a distinct lack of attacking potency within its ranks; a view backed up by the fact that we’ve found the net a measly 11 times over the course of those 15 ties since August. Indeed, only struggling Huddersfield have scored fewer goals than us this term, with a squad nowhere near as blessed with individual attacking talent as ours.
At home, last Saturday’s 2-0 victory over a truly dismal Burnley team aside, we have failed to find the back of the net once from open play all season long and only managed to do so against Sean Dyche and co. courtesy of a cross and a long-rage thunderbolt from Andros Townsend, rather than any of the 25 plus other attempts we had at Joe Hart’s goal.
Some may talk about Christian Benteke’s long-term absence as a key reason for our feeble goal return but no club in their fifth consecutive Premier League season should lean so heavily on one man for goals, especially when the player in question struggled so badly for form throughout the entirety of the previous campaign.
With three of the 11 goals we have scored coming from the penalty spot, it leaves us having amassed a grand total of 8 open play strikes in in 1,350 minutes of Premier League football since August, which works out at a goal every 169 minutes. You don’t need me to tell you that these sorts of numbers are unacceptable, it’s obvious to each and every person who comes across them, the question now is, what can we do to bring about a change?
The biggest frustration with this current group of players is the obvious potential they have when everything clicks into place. This isn’t a squad who should be scraping around at the foot of the table, wondering tentatively where their next goal is coming from but with the campaign nearly half-way through, there is no point hiding away from the reality of our predicament. Would the addition of a proven goal-scorer help in January? Of course it would. Are we likely to find that man over the course of the transfer window? Previous experience would suggest not.
Whilst the statistical trend of “Expected Goals” may not be everyone’s cup of tea, the picture it paints for Palace is a hugely frustrating one. According to the table provided by www.understat.com, we should have scored 18 times this term, rather than the paltry 11 we find ourselves with; the biggest disparity of any team in the league at the time of writing. Alongside that, our “Expected Points” sees us all the way up in the heady heights of 11th, seven points better off than we currently find ourselves and second only to Wolves in terms of the biggest negative disparity with reality across all 20 top flight teams.
There is definitely a sense of Groundhog Day about this whole scenario from a Palace point of view, leaving me sat here at 6:14 on Wednesday morning none the wiser as to where we go from this point on despite having devoted a few hundred words to the subject.
Answers on a postcard anyone?