Hopkin Looking To Curl One…

A regular blog dedicated to Crystal Palace Football Club through the eyes of a fanatical supporter, contemplating everything from results to the colour of Stuart O'Keefe's boot laces…

Bannan Could Be Central To Our Plans, Literally

Palace always seem to struggle against Newcastle, and with that in mind Jack Thurston has a suggestion for a change of tactics at St James’ Park tomorrow…

With the trip to St. James’ Park this weekend, eyes will be firmly fixed on a returning hero. Wilfried Zaha, a man who ‘single-handedly fired Palace to Wembley’, will no doubt be looking to rekindle the understanding he built up with Yannick Bolasie. So where does this leave Barry Bannan? Pessimists will argue Bannan will be restricted to substitute appearances once again, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

It is widely recognised that Palace seldom do well against Newcastle, and this sense of inevitability should prompt a more fearless approach on Saturday. It is almost guaranteed that barring injury, Bolasie and Zaha will both feature from the start, but after being the best Palace player on the pitch against West Ham, why not play Bannan too?

For all intents and purposes, Barry Bannan has spent most of his sporadic first team performances as a wide midfielder, getting chalk on his boots. The idea of Bannan plying his trade more centrally, ahead of Jedinak and Ledley, has its merits.

“A midfield triumvirate spearheaded by a winger?”

Palace fans will do well to remember that in his earlier days, he was deployed as a central midfielder. As a counter-attacking outfit in this division, it is reluctantly accepted that even against teams like Stoke, West Ham and Villa, we will not spend a great deal of time camped in the opposition’s half. As a wide player, Bannan is not blessed with searing pace that would befit such an approach – an approach that paid dividends in the dying minutes of last season’s comeback against Liverpool, where Bolasie showed just how defensively culpable Glen Johnson is.

The Scot does however pose a threat with his sixpence-turns, and ball retention under pressure. These traits plotted through the middle, would give Jedinak and Ledley a far simpler outlet when breaking play up in the middle of the park, and may stop the same old retort of:

“If Jedinak could pass a ball, he’d play at a higher level.”

All this will be irrelevant if Neil Warnock’s Crystal Palace is anything like Neil Warnock’s Leeds United – bereft of self-belief or inspiration. So here lies a ‘Plan B’ for you all to ponder. In the words of the ageing Yorkshireman, here’s to ‘giving it a real good go’ this weekend.

You may laugh, you may call it insane. But remember, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.

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Newcastle V Crystal Palace: A Statistical Preview

All statistics are provided by the EA Sports Player Performance Index and not by the writers of HLTCO

Newcastle have found themselves starting the season with a possible one point from six, and will hope that they don’t have their second home defeat in a row inflicted upon them. Failure to score a goal in either of their opening two fixtures will be a major concern, and something that they must look to resolve on the weekend.

One of the brightest notes in the Newcastle side in their opening fixtures has been the man who made the move across from arch-rivals Sunderland, Jack Colback. EA SPORTS Player Performance Index tells us that he has completed 23.47km over the duration of the first two games of the season; more than any other member of the Newcastle squad. Off the ball, he has made five interceptions, and on the ball he has attempted five dribbles, five crosses and completed 63 passes in the opposition half; again, more than any other Newcastle player. He will be essential to driving Newcastle forward and creating chances for their forwards.

Whilst Newcastle will be relieved to have picked up their first point of the season last weekend against Aston Villa, they will be upset to have lost centre back Michael Williamson, who had made a good start to the season prior to his red card. EA SPORTS Player Performance Index tells us that he will be a big loss, having won three of his four tackles so far this season and made 13 clearances and 6 interceptions; both of which are more than any other player in the Newcastle squad. It is important that Newcastle find a replacement to partner Fabricio Coloccini that can live up to the start made to the season by Williamson.

The two new attacking threats purchased by Newcastle in the summer, Remy Cabella and Antoine Riviere, are also simmering and EA SPORTS Player Performance Index show that they are impressing on the pitch. The statistics show us that Cabella has attempted nine dribbles and nine crosses whilst Riviere has attempted five dribbles and two crosses. Whist they have both made two interceptions, Riviere has won to tackles compared to Cabella’s nine. The statistics point to the pair to be a bit more selfish as neither has hit the target in the opening two games, but the talent is definitely there. Riviere is 19/10 to score anytime with 888sport.com.

Crystal Palace have endured a tough time of late after losing their first home game of the season to West Ham, losing their manager but thankfully not losing hope thanks to a Dwight Gayle hat-trick, which saw them progress to the next round of the League Cup. The Eagles will be looking to impress under Neil Warnock’s new regime and keen to get their season back on track by returning to London with 3 well earned points.

Whilst it was Gayle who netted a hat trick in the week, he has only been given 25 minutes of playing time across the two games he has featured in so far. According to EA SPORTS Player Performance Index, it is Marouane Chamakh who has impressed for the Selhurst Park outift. However, it would appear that Chamakh’s best work is at the wrong end of the pitch as he has won six tackles, completed seven clearances and had three interceptions. In contrast, going forward he has completed only one dribble and no crosses, has had no assists but has scored with his only shot on goal. If he works higher up the pitch and gets more shots off, he will be reaping the rewards. He is 17/4 to score anytime with 888sport.com.

Whilst Palace will naturally want to add to their goals scored for the season, it is of more importance they stop conceding as they have the joint worst defensive record so far, shipping five goals. EA SPORTS Player Performance Index tells us that Julian Speroni has made nine saves in those two games and will have to continue that shot stopping form if his Crystal Palace side are to come away with a result from Saturday’s game.

This game could well be won in the engine room, where Newcastle’s Jack Colback may in fine form, but will be met by Crystal Palace captain, Mile Jedinak. EA SPORTS Player Performance Index reveals that only Jedinak has covered 21.28km in his first two league games; the second most in the Eagles’ squad. His 15 tackles won, more than anyone else in the Premier League, also show the centre midfielder’s hard work, as do his five clearances and his nine interceptions made. On the ball, Jedinak has already created a goal and completed 35 passes in the opposition half, but will be eager to improve on his 65.05% pass completion rate so that he can continue to create more goals to inspire the team that he leads.

Data supplied by the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index. Select and manage your own team of stars with at http://fantasy.premierleague.com/ or with FIFA Ultimate team.

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