You would find few supporters who lay the majority of the blame for this Crystal Palace mess at the feet of Frank de Boer, but here was the final proof.
The game against Southampton was enough to persuade anyone who thought Palace’s problems would disappear with de Boer’s exit that there is no short-term fix. The rot has set in.
Palace were wretched, dominated in the first 30 minutes by a team with one goal from open play all season, and toothless when tasked with getting back into the game. The home crowd began the match in a mood of unease and ended it close to mutiny. Roy Hodgson’s homecoming began with fond applause, but his first substitution — removing the excellent Loftus-Cheek — was booed. The final whistle prompted the same reaction.
Unsurprisingly, Hodgson faces similar issues to those that faced de Boer, Sam Allardyce and Alan Pardew, a team drained of confidence that struggles to create chances without Wilfried Zaha and whose defensive organisation is too regularly absent without leave.
Fifty-four points from their last 64 league matches under four different managers suggests chickens are coming home to roost. The club’s
short-termism is hitting home, and the fight for Premier League survival is on.
Benefits of Newcastle’s threadbare squad
Nothing will change the staunch belief that Newcastle United missed out on a chance to improve their squad this summer, and winter and spring will surely bring
injuries and suspensions that hamper progress.
Yet there is a flipside. Benitez has a group of players who are fully motivated behind his management, rather than the transient recruits of seasons past.
There is an argument that that allows the manager to best demonstrate his own proficiency at creating a team greater than the sum of its own parts.
Newcastle’s current position of fourth in an embryonic Premier League table is clearly a little false, but there is plenty to admire in this
resilience in the face of adversity that Benitez’s team has demonstrated in each of its last three league games.
Those of us predicting relegation gloom (and my own hand is raised) in August suddenly look very silly.
Aguero remains master of Man City’s strikeforce
During Manchester City’s demolition of Watford, Sergio Aguero scored his sixth
Premier League hat-trick, bettered only by Alan Shearer, Robbie Fowler, Michael Owen and Thierry Henry.
Shearer played 441 games, Fowler 378, Owen 326 and Henry 254. Saturday was just Aguero’s 186th Premier League match. It is a truly exceptional record by a striker whose majesty we too easily take for granted. If Gabriel Jesus is the impressive
apprentice, Aguero remains the master.
Clement deserves credit for Swansea solidity
When Paul Clement was appointed as Swansea’s third manager of last season on January 3, they had conceded 44 goals in 19 Premier League games. It was comfortably the most in the Premier League.
Since then, and with Martin Olsson as the only defensive recruit, Swansea have conceded just 31 times in 24 league games. They have not conceded an away league goal since April 30, and on Saturday became the first team to stop Tottenham scoring at home in the league since January 2016.
Suddenly, their spirit and defensive cohesion is among the best in the Premier League’s bottom half. It could be the difference between relegation and survival, and it is all thanks to their pragmatic manager.
Ozil the fall guy of a new-look Arsenal
We have been burned too many times by Arsenal to believe that they have truly responded to their humiliating defeat at Anfield — and they are still to score an away goal this season — but against Chelsea they at least showed enough resolve to demonstrate that their top-four hopes are not yet forlorn.
If it was mere coincidence that big-game resilience came hand-in-hand with the absence of Mesut Ozil, Arsene Wenger will be tempted to repeat the strategy. With Danny Welbeck and Alex Iwobi, two hard-working runners, playing off Alexandre Lacazette, Arsenal were able to press high up the pitch and disrupt Chelsea’s rhythm like rarely before. Victor Moses, in particular, struggled with his passing under pressure, while Thibaut Courtois was forced to kick the ball long rather than passing out to feet.
Ozil has many attributes, but this pressing is not one. With the equally high-intensity Alexis Sanchez to presumably return to the starting XI in the near future, the German should be worried for his place.