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From The Stands

2 November 2016

By Simon Mills

If there’s one thing that didn’t surprise anyone last week it was the fact that there were plenty of goals to be had. Sadly four of those were in the wrong net – from a Palace perspective.
We have yet to keep a clean sheet thus far and, given our defence has in the past been a considerable strength for us, that is all the more disappointing. 

First, it is worth noting, that this is the most unsettled we have been at the back in terms of disruptions that I can remember in a long time. Injuries to James Tomkins, Papa Souare and Scott Dann mean we have been forced to rejig our back line almost continuously in our first 10 games. Add in a new goalkeeper, who will inevitably need to form a better understanding with his new teammates, and issues will inevitably crop up.

So what do we need to shore things up?

Time; now that we have what is likely to be our first choice defence (at least until January, given Souare’s long term absence) they need the opportunity to get a run of games together to improve that understanding. At the start of the season, I talked about patience with our new players and we started to see the positives when they did start to gel together. This defence now needs that same opportunity to learn each other’s game and be able to develop their understanding of how to play with each other – no more so than for Steve Mandanda’s sake.

Confidence; something else I have bleated on about and something that we seem short of in this area of the pitch. This links directly into my first point about time as that’s what it will take, but that process will be helped no end by some confidence-boosting performances and the one thing we are all craving – a clean sheet!

Left Back? Martin Kelly has done a reasonable job covering a position that I doubt he would choose to normally fill, but is there a better option? Zeki Fryers is one name that will be under consideration, but it may be too big a job too soon for someone who will be steadily rebuilding his confidence. The other option is Joe Ledley; another player who would not naturally fill the space, but a solid defensive player with, importantly, a left foot.

Just a few thoughts to ponder as we head to Burnley, which -with respect to them - surely provides us with one of our best chances to keep it tight at the back.

It could be an interesting contest, Burnley seem to be doing well in that defensive area, Tom Heaton in particular was incredible against United at the weekend, but they don’t seem to be scoring as many goals. Whereas of course we are doing the opposite! This could be just the game to suit us – although those are the ones that can be just as dangerous too. 

More of the same from Saturday, in an attacking sense, would go down a treat. Even without scoring, Christian Benteke is the kind of player who enables you to score. Liverpool were so focused on him last week, it allowed James McArthur to steal in twice! More of the same kind of service and I am sure that he will be back on the score sheet soon enough.

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