Another pitiful display, with a 1-0 win flattering us as we handed Crystal Palace their first win since Boxing Day in another worrying display at both ends.
Bruce vowed to change things, feeling the three January signings would give us something different, yet he picked the same side that crumbled last Sunday and failed to change the system.
He can’t continue to keep doing things the same way and expect different results!
Palace came into this one in horrendous form, often struggle at home and were their to be got at – yet they could’ve quite easily won that 3-0 if it wasn’t for Martin Dubravka.
We’ve now won 1 or our last 9 league games and I genuinely can’t remember the last time we played well. We’ve gotten away with it for months – which has often been down to commendable resilience, hard work and good luck – but that was never sustainable, and it’s starting to show.
The first half was pretty tough to watch. The wind made conditions very difficult at Selhurst Park, but there was no excusing some of our football and basic errors at times.
Dubravka kept us in it early on, making great stops to deny Cahill and Dann from corners, then Christian Benteke missed an absolute sitter moments later, miscuing his header after ghosting into the 6-yard box completely unmarked.
Bentaleb started awfully and was regularly giving the ball away, with his yellow card for kicking the ball away being one of three first half cautions for those in black and white.
We had a period of decent possession and Palace were giving us space to get in behind their midfield if we wanted it – with Zaha also paying very little attention to Lazaro when he got into good positions – but we failed to make the most of that. We sat too deep, struggled to play a passing game out of the back and, on the rare occasion broke their press, a loose touch our poor final ball often let us down.
Sean Longstaff picked out some lovely passes and Lazaro looked lively down our right-hand side, but nothing was sticking to Joelinton, Bentaleb looked way off the pace and our two wide men were struggling to get anything going – with Almiron often being forced to drop deep and Saint-Maximin drifting into central areas to try and get into the game.
It looked like we were going to get into the break all square thanks to some superb Dubravka saves and some awful Benteke finishing, but a Fabian Schar foul gave Patrick Van Aanholt the chance to make it 1-0 from 25-yards just 1 minute before half-time – and he did just that. Dubravka gambled on him going one way but he went the other, with his free-kick finding the top corner and handing Palace a deserved 1-0 lead.
After the second half collapse at Arsenal and woeful first 45 here, a response was needed – but things almost got much worse.
Jordan Ayew hit the post just 2 minutes into the restart after we failed to deal with a cut back across the box, then Gary Cahill missed another big chance moments later, heading wide after a floated Van Aanholt free kick found him free at the back post.
We needed to wake up and get something going yet, aside from a dangerous Danny Rose cross and a long-range effort from Fabian Schar, it was Palace who generally looked the most likely, with Dubravka saving well yet again after a Zaha cut back found Ayew once again.
With 20 minutes to play, Bruce then changed it, taking off Almiron and Rose and bringing on Gayle and Ritchie. I’d hoped this switch would mean a formation change and potential switch to a 3-4-1-2, but Bruce simply moved Joelinton out wide and put Gayle through the middle. We needed a genuine plan B and change of approach, not a like for like switch and ‘hope for the best’.
We sleepwalked our way to the 90th minute, with the player looking lost and frustrated, and a roar went up at the away end when 5 minutes was signalled for stoppage time.
One last push was needed after a pitiful first half display, yet we didn’t get close to the opposition box. Gayle was brought on to increase our goal threat yet I can’t remember him getting a touch – which is more to do with the flawed tactics than his lack of conviction.
To make matters worse, Palace caught us on the counter as we flung bodies forward late on and Lazaro – who’d arguably been our brightest outfield player – took out Zaha as the last man, and received a straight red with 30 seconds to play as a result.
A calamitous end to another pathetic performance.
We may be 7 clear of the bottom 3 still, with Brighton only taking a point and Villa and Bournemouth both losing, but performances like today’s are a reminder that we’re very much still embroiled in a relegation scrap.
Burnley await next weekend. You’d think things can only get better, but Bruce’s lack of tactical nous and failure to change following several toothless displays make me fear it’ll only get worse.