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Talking Tactics With Mark Bright: Sunderland

13 April 2015

Palace legend Mark Bright cast his expert eye over the club's emphatic 4-1 win against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.

I appear on a show called "Fanzone" every Sunday evening reviewing the weekend's Premier League matches, and this week we received a call from a Palace fan who said that even with 42 points he’s still looking over his shoulder. The rollercoaster ride that is being a Palace fan finds the carriage at the pinnacle of the ride, where the sky is blue, the air is clear and everyone is enjoying the ride. 

On Saturday we traveled to relegation-threatened Sunderland who came into the match on the back of a moral boosting victory over local rivals Newcastle United. Alan Pardew alluded to a tactical change on Thursday in his press conference, and I’m sure like most fans I was thinking that after three wins in a row, why would you change anything? However in came the skipper Mile Jedinak after his ban, and Pape Souare replaced Martin Kelly at left back. 

The first half was uneventful, but to be fair to both teams the wind was playing havoc, there were nerves on display and our attack didn't ask any questions of their defence, even though Glenn Murray was winning almost everything in the air. However Steve Coppell had a saying: 10 minutes of your best football can win us the game, which proved to be so true.

The start of the second half was as good as I've seen in my association with the club as our positive, aggressive attacking display worked to devastating effect because both Wilfried and Yannick came inside and played slightly narrower, closer to Glenn. Our wide men are a match for any defence on their day, but football has always been about the final ball at any level. Yala cut inside and delivered a left footed cross, it took a deflection but fell perfectly for Glenn who had a simple header at the far post. 

After that first goal, it became the Yala show as the smiling assassin scored a hat-trick in 11 minutes. The manager has kept on at him since he arrived that for someone with his ability he should be scoring more goals. Some players get as much enjoyment out of creating goals as scoring them, and I think Yala is one of those players. Let's hope that's not still the case because scoring a hat-trick in the Premier League against anyone is quite an achievement, especially for a guy who didn’t score once for us last season.

At the other end of the pitch, the Sunderland attack of Jermain Defoe, Steven Fletcher and Connor Wickham hardly got any service and once they did, close attention from Damien Delaney, Scott Dann and Joel Ward snuffed out any attack before it got going, and even when Kelly came on for the injured Souare it did not disrupt anything as everyone knows their job within the team.


I should also give a special mention for Jason Puncheon; I think he’s been exceptional in any position the manager has played him, be it in the number 10 role or in one of the wide areas. When Pards arrived Jason said to me straight away that he will get more out of everyone in the squad, and he was right, including himself. 

I was looking at some stats over the weekend of how well the manager has done since he took over and they are quite remarkable. Our shots to goals ratio is something like 49%, and given that the league average is around 30% it is either down to the Pardiola factor, or we have probably used up a huge slice of our luck. Either way, long may it continue. 

While we have won four league games on the bounce, we've conceded a solitary goal in each one of those victories. There’s always work to be done, but our away form is impressive with only Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool picking up more points on their travels than us, and who would have thought that at the start of the season? 

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