With Christmas fast approaching, we find ourselves at the 15-match milestone and inching ever closer to that mid-season point. After our 1-1 draw away at Everton we sit in the dizzy heights of sixth in the Premier League, just let that sink in for a moment... sixth!
Who would have thought we would have been here five and half years ago? I know CPFC2010 don’t like us to dwell too much on what we once were, but it’s hard not to, if anything just to actually offer ourselves a reality check on how amazing this ride has really been.
In my last blog, I discussed how we could use the Everton game as a benchmark to measure realistic expectations for the season. If anything, the Toffees were far more dangerous than I thought and so it is a testament to our determination that we came away with a point and just a few minutes shy of all three. This without the suspended Wilfried Zaha and injured Bakary Sako. I must admit, a little voice in my head couldn’t help wonder what would have happened had those two been available.
That said, it was great to see Mile Jedinak get his first start in the league this season – something I had to double check when the commentator mentioned this in the game (another sign of how far we have come when our international captain struggles to get into the team). Mile is perfect for a game like that, with powerful and tricky players coming through midfield, his mere presence seems to intimidate.
Jordon Mutch also made a promising cameo from the bench. It was good to see him influence the game and look a real threat bursting through the midfield. One hopes this is the start of a lot more to come.
Another substitute who perhaps came on at the wrong moment, was Dwight Gayle. Unfortunately, most will look at his part in the goal we conceded, but it’s great to see him back as he gives us another option in the more offensive areas of the pitch. He’s a little bit different to our other strikers, with a touch of pace and a clinical finish in the area, which will allow us to mix things up at times or even go with a second striker (aside from Yannick of course!).
That’s three players who can really offer something to the squad, without mentioning the likes of Chung-yong Lee, Joe Ledley, Marouane Chamakh and even Patrick Bamford, who I still believe could have a part to play. It really is a blessed time to be a Palace fan when you look at that list and remember these are the guys that are struggling to get into the team.
I mentioned that we are moving closer to Christmas and inevitably an incredibly busy time of year, especially so in football terms. As fans, the Christmas period is a feast of football, but with so much action in such a short period of time, there is inevitably a cost.
The way we play is high tempo, all action and defensively usually requires sheer concentration. All in all a draining experience – and that’s just supporting! We will need to use the depth in our squad to cope with such a demanding schedule and it’s at times like this that we'll be grateful for the number of options we have, especially in the high energy areas like midfield.
Our fitness levels will be tested and those fringe players will surely get some kind of opportunity over the next month. As supporters, I hope we will remember that walking into the team is not an easy task, these players need every ounce of encouragement and support we can muster, particularly if anyone makes a mistake.
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