Crystal Palace Wolves Premier League Preview Tactical Analysis

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Crystal Palace (a). A game that we should be winning and we will win providing we keep Zaha quiet. Palace are a funny club to play against as they’re one of those where they really blow hot & cold. On the whole, this season has been cold for Roy Hodgson’s side as they are yet to win at home, in fact, they are yet to score at Selhurst Park. So far, they’ve faced Liverpool, Southampton and Newcastle in South London and you’d be expecting a result against the latter two if you’re a Palace fan. In their defence, they did get a point against Newcastle, but they’re not exactly brilliant at the moment. It’s away wins at Huddersfield and Fulham which are keeping them afloat at the moment and they will be looking to improve on that today.

Due to Zaha not featuring in the Southampton game, I’m going to focus on the Newcastle game to see what they did well and what they could’ve done better.  

Before we get onto that, let’s talk about Wolves. It’s seemed an eternity since we played Southampton despite it only being a week ago. Costa has received his first senior call-up to the Portuguese national team and Jonny has earnt the same with Spain, not too bad for a newly-promoted side, eh? Ruben Vinagre has been selected for the Portuguese U21 side alongside Jota and there are roughly a gazillion more that I can go through. Massive club ay we. I still don’t think Costa has quite reached the heights he can, so the signs are certainly promising. Back to the hosts…

A Dangerous Game

Against Newcastle, much like any other game, Palace did their utmost to play out from the back. Nonetheless, there’s a time and a place and perhaps two minutes into the game isn’t it. If they try that against us, the chances are they will be punished. They very much like to play with their full-backs slightly higher up the pitch, almost in line with Milojevic when they’re in position so it sort makes their shape a 2-3-2-3. This picture should hopefully explain it a bit better…

Crystal Palace Wolves Premier League Preview Tactical Analysis
Palace’s full-backs have the tendency to play higher up the pitch, while Milojevic acts as a shield in front of the two centre-backs.

Milojevic sits as a shield in front of the two centre-backs while (in this case) Kouyate and McArthur play further forward. That is then complemented by the front three of Zaha, Ayew and Townsend. One of the biggest problems with Milojevic playing as a single shield is that Palace are left open to quick counter attacks which just happen to be our specialities. Take this next picture as an example.

Crystal Palace Wolves Premier League Preview Tactical Analysis
Milojevic acting alone as the shield means there’s always room for a swift counter.

Due to Van Aanholt (the left back) already being occupied with a man and Milojevic being too far central, it gives the Newcastle man bags of space to run into. Fortunately for Palace, the Newcastle player’s next touch is too big and they’re restricted from a shot from outside the area which doesn’t trouble Wayne Hennessey. If that’s Moutinho on the ball, we are going to make something happen from that position. Fact.

Attacking Shape

Whereas Jota and sometimes Costa have the tendency to cut inside, Palace’s wide men, Zaha and Townsend, don’t. They like hitting the byline and then putting the ball into the box. Unfortunately, it hasn’t quite clicked for Palace this season, but if we take a look at Zaha’s and Townsend’s respective heat maps from the Newcastle game, you can see what their game plan is.

Crystal Palace Wolves Premier League Preview Tactical Analysis
Zaha (left) & Townsend (right) tend to hug the touchline.

As you can see, they seldom track back which will go one of two ways. Either they’ll catch us on the counter or we will overload them. Let’s hope for the latter. One thing is for sure (famous last words incoming), it definitely won’t finish 0-0 with Zaha and Traore in the sides. Doherty against Zaha will be an interesting battle, however, we’ve successfully managed to keep the likes of Aguero & Co quiet, so we should be ok. Time will tell.

Same Side?

It’s hard to envisage Nuno changing the team that has got us this far this season. Dendoncker is still knocking on the door, as are Traore and Cavaleiro. There’s no room at the in, though. Eventually, I do think Dendoncker will replace Bennett as he is much better with the ball at his feet. If you watch Coady and Boly, they’ve got the ability and confidence to drive out of defence with the ball. On the other hand, Bennett is, nine times out of ten, looking for the simple pass. That’s not meant as a dig against Bennett as I do think he has been one of our best players this season, it’s just the reality of the direction we’re going.

Nuno has been nominated for the manager of the month award and he should really win it. We’ve won every game bar a draw at Old Trafford and so with a manner of arrogance about us. Top notch. Everything is going quite well at the moment and the pessimist in me is waiting for something to go wrong. I’m not sure what it is or if it will even happen. Nevertheless, being a Wolves fan does that you. Onwards and upwards.

One More Thing

We are going to stick with what has been serving us so well in this part of the article. If I was a betting man and luckily I am, I’d be backing Wolves to win to nil. Get the house on it!

Until the next time.

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I've got an unhealthy obsession with Wolves, Wolverhampton Wanderers, WWFC, whatever you fancy calling us today. When we win I'm on top of the world, when we lose I'm a nightmare to be around. It's been that way for as long as I can remember and people tell me that you're meant to grow out of it, however, I don't envisage that happening anytime soon. Anyway, I'm the lead analyst on here and while I try and keep my opinion out of my writing, sometimes it's too difficult to do that. I also use the terms 'we' and 'us' when talking about Wolves and I do try and remain impartial although it's debatable whether or not I do. In hindsight, I'm probably over critical of Wolves in the same manner that I'm over complimentary, so I guess it all balances itself out in the end. Grab yourself a cuppa and have a look around.