Perhaps an unpopular opinion, but I feel there was still a lot to like about last night – even if a defeat was a big setback and real opportunity missed to beat a poor Palace side.
Ultimately, two lapses in concentration at the back and a host of missed chances cost us. We played some really nice stuff in the first half, moved the ball quickly, created chances and could’ve been 3-1 up at the break on another day.
Bruce reminded us of his severe limitations and naivety in the second half (you can’t throw on every attacker and think that will = a goal!), but Almiron, Wilson and Fraser linked up brilliantly in first 45 and Hayden was much better in that CDM role before we hit a wall as Palace put 11 men behind the ball and looked to frustrate us as soon as they took the lead.
Ok, We need points now, not eye-catching stats or improved performances, but 60% possession last night, over 43 shots in our last two home games against Palace and Leeds, the Everton display and that first half performance last night tell me we’ll have enough to stay up if we can build on the above.
I suspect Arsenal loanee Joe Willock will soon replace Hendrick on the right side of that three-man midfield (presuming we stick to a 4-3-1-2) to give us some added drive, pace and energy – not to mention the fact he could offer an added goal threat.
Saint-Maximin will also be ready to start now, while our fragile looking back four could be boosted by the return of senior stars Federico Fernandez and Martin Dubravka before long, with the leadership offered by both them and Jamaal Lascelles sorely missed last night.
I must stress, Bruce is not the answer and remains entirely unconvincing, but Jones’ arrival has clearly helped the players in the short-term, giving some fresh ideas to a tired looking team. It’s a classic sticky plaster offered by Mike Ashley to cover up the deep-rooted cracks, however I’m more hopeful we’ll survive now.
It may feel like one step forward beating Everton and two back after losing to a poor Palace side last night, however I am hopeful things will change and wins will come if we keep playing like we did in the first half, believing we could’ve taken four points from our last two home games on another day.
Don’t get me wrong, this is the results business and we need them to avoid relegation, but last night told me that they’ll come if we iron out the simple errors and keep playing as we did for large parts of that first half.