After losing our opening two games in November the win against Liverpool was so important, as was the draw at Swansea last weekend.
It was essential to get something from our trip to Wales to keep our momentum going. I said after the Man Utd defeat that I felt we looked stronger and we showed against Liverpool that we were back to the form that won us so many admirers last season.
We know all about Swansea, their philosophy and style and they are one of few teams who can implement the 4-2-3-1 style of play effectively. Interestingly Dwight Gayle’s injury in the in the 21st minute was a massive turning point as the manager made a big call throwing on James McArthur when I thought it was going to be Frazier Campbell. One extra midfield player in the centre helped out Mile Jedinak and Joe Ledley and I don’t think we ever looked back.
Yes they dominated the opening 15-20 minutes, and you have to expect that from a team who hold on to the ball so well. Swansea’s two centre backs drop to get the ball while the rotating midfield players Ki, Shelvey and Sigurdsson all take turns to come and receive the ball making it hard for Chamakh to mark one holding midfield player. I thought James did really well, he added a bit more presence to our midfield, and we were able to close down and make tackles when we went from two to three midfielders.
The one thing Swansea do well is ball retention, they are patient, methodical and go backwards and square rather than play balls over the top into space. They were only in front for 10 minutes before Jonjo Shelvey tripped Chamakh for a penalty and Mile converted his 5th goal in 8 games.
Once that goal went in Swansea seemed to lose their dominance and we looked dangerous, especially at corners and free kicks and regardless of what Garry Monk felt, the 2nd half was Palace’s. I thought we played some awesome football - a long passing sequence saw Chamakh hit his shot against Fabianski who denied us a second goal. Being resolute is part of football and it’s a part of this team’s tactics. It’s also worth noting that at this stage last season we had scored eight goals whereas this season we have 18. We are clearly more potent in front of goal.
Villa will be difficult but the same principles that have seen us earn four points from our last two matches still apply. We need to be hard to break down and when we get our opportunities to push forward we must ask lots of questions of Villa’s defence. We need those three points.