By Simon Mills
Now that the latest round of internationals is over we go back to the business that really matters. It sounds like it’s been a successful break; no injuries (crosses fingers/touches wood) and goals/assists galore for the likes of Benteke, McArthur and Ledley. This, combined with some good performances from the likes of Andros Townsend (despite only getting half an hour), will hopefully give the lads an extra confidence boost.
I have mentioned confidence a lot recently and it’s a word that has a lot of significance going into this weekend’s clash with West Ham.
I think it is one of the most important factors in football. A player or a team’s performance can be dictated by the atmosphere and feeling around the dressing room or for an individual. I think a lot of players have been given a rough ride in the past when they were thrust into the team after a lengthy absence and the supporters immediately expect them to make an impact. A poor performance and, crucially, a negative reaction can drain their confidence, which leads to another, thus the cycle continues.
It is also noticeable that when a team is promoted they often experience an early season bump, usually producing more positive results than expected to start with – look at Hull’s opening games. Relegated teams, having suffered a poor previous season, rarely make a flying start to life at a lower level, just ask Aston Villa.
The great news is that Palace, the last we saw them, were on a real high and given West Ham’s awful start to the season there is definitely a big advantage for us as we head back to Selhurst on Saturday evening.
However, we face a squad packed with some real talent and some names that would make any club in the league fearful. International breaks can provide the opportunity to turn things around and it can only take one result (such as a draw beforehand) to help influence that. We should by no means take the Hammers for granted this weekend and I suspect it will take a big effort from us to continue our unbeaten run.
There will be an extra spice to this game, with it being one of our London derbies and as long as that big gap remains to our other ‘rivals’ then this is potentially as close as we are going to get to such a fixture. Both sets of fans should be up for this, the atmosphere of an evening fixture under the lights should provide this with all the buzz of a proper football game.
Aside from Loic Remy, Palace ‘SHOULD’ be back to full availability (every time I have said this we have picked up a last minute knock!) and with the return of Scott Dann to the defence it would be nice finally to earn that elusive clean sheet. With the firepower of Benteke and the likes of Wilf Zaha/Andros Townsend down the flanks the confidence of the fans at least should be high.
There’s another player who can provide us with a lot of confidence (I’ll try to avoid that word from now on, promise!), Jason Puncheon has been having a fantastic season. This is backed up by the fact that he leads the way for most chances created in the Premier League this season (24). His ball retention has been one of his biggest assets and something that he struggled with during his poor run last year, but he is back to his best right now.
The last time an international break interrupted our season it helped us turn our poor run around. Let’s hope that West Ham won’t do similar and that this time we maintain our run instead of allowing it to change our course once again.
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