Roy Hodgson says Palace’s work on the training ground on seeing defending as a team effort is behind their recent solidity at the back.
“It’s a question of understanding what they’re good at,” he said in his pre-match press conference. “Making certain that they really embrace the team ethos, and to realise that defending isn’t a question of how good your goalkeeper and centre-backs are, it’s really more a question of the two front players protecting the midfield, who then protect the back four, who then protect the goalkeeper.
“The training ground has been very useful, especially in the week before Brighton. We really hammered home then what we think we are good at, that we must absolutely key into.
“To lose it would have cost us dearly, especially in that period of time when some of the more attacking players that you could rely on to get you out of trouble by doing something particularly good were not available.”
Hodgson pointed out that the calibre of opposition often influences how the team can best approach a defensive effort.
“Against some of the teams you play against, you know that if you play high up the field wanting to pressurise them as soon as the goalkeeper rolls the ball out to the centre-back, there’s a good risk that they’re going to get in behind you some of the time,” he said.
“The alternative is to make certain that you cope with the spaces, and you deny the gaps and the opportunities they want to hurt you. But it will mean, of course, that they roll the ball around at the back, into the midfield and back again.
“So it does mean accepting that they will get more passes than us, they will have more possession than us, and I don’t want that to happen. Then you run the risk of playing in a way that opens yourself up.
“We’ve realised that, especially in this particular moment in time when one or two of the players who can help us to be more expansive in our play are not available.”