By Simon Mills
So after a much needed deep breath over the international break, including a rather enjoyable English victory over the Germans (again), we return to Premier League action this weekend and with our final visit to the Boleyn ground to play the high flying West Ham United.
The good news is, we don’t seem to have picked up any major injury problems during the break – at least that we have heard of! So James McArthur and Connor Wickham (I assume) aside, we should have a pretty much full squad to choose from. It should certainly be interesting to see what the team looks like going into the next game.
Wayne Hennessey has still got his critics, although I am not among them, there is a certain belief among some sections of the support that Julian Speroni deserves an opportunity back in the team. Personally, I expect Hennessey will continue between the sticks and I am certainly not too unhappy at that prospect.
Martin Kelly put in a fine performance in the second half against Leicester and having been up against the likes of Riyad Mahrez, while still bombing forward to offer a threat, can’t help but feel he should be rewarded with a start in our next game. We have needed some competition for that left back position and while Kelly is not necessarily a natural left sided player, if his last outing is anything to go by, then there is no reason he can’t play there until the end of the season.
Supporters will also be asking a question about the forward position, while Emmanuel Adebayor didn’t seem to enjoy his last half in red and blue. I honestly feel that better service (like we saw in the second half) would be much more his cup of tea and could easily have a few people eating their words, assuming he does (as I fully expect him to) start up top on Saturday.
The midfield could certainly be an interesting proposition, with Bakary Sako demonstrating he can be a real live wire again as he whipped dangerous crosses and shots into the penalty and Jason Puncheon chomping at the bit after his layoff, I would imagine he would be back up to speed having featured on the bench before the international break.
Puncheon, I suspect, will find himself back in the starting 11 at the weekend, but the difficulty Sako has are the likes of Wilfried Zaha and Yannick Bolasie ahead of him in the pecking order. Dropping either of these would be a brave decision by the manager and while neither performed to their best last time out, both are equally capable of being the match winner.
Whatever team we put out will have to be at their absolute best as we take on a West Ham team tilting for a place in the Champions League for next season. Leicester will have stolen some of their thunder for being the surprise package of the season, but their achievements under Slaven Bilic should not be underestimated in any way. The chance of an FA Cup Semi Final (like us), Fifth in the league, occupying a Europa place and just a point off the Champions League positions, it has been a simply remarkable year for the Hammers.
To put themselves in such a position requires a strong squad with real depth and that is something they have put together well. Dimitri Payet will get the most attention and rightly so, he is certainly the one we will need to stop and avoid giving away any free kicks anywhere near our goal! Looking past the Frenchman, we will also come up against the likes of Adrian, Enner Valencia, Michail Antonio, Manuel Lanzini, Diafra Sakho, Emmanuel Emenike and Victor Moses – all we need to do is stop that lot and it should be easy… gulp!
We need to change our fortunes sooner rather than later, getting something from such a tough fixture has been in the past, the typical Palace way – so in that respect, let’s hope that doesn’t change.
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