A Tony Pulis shaped Crystal Palace side come to White Hart Lane on Saturday as we approach that time of year where every 3 points seems ever so slightly more important than the last. This beast contains less Neanderthals and long throw merchants than its brother from the Potteries but no doubt is just as full of furrow-browed, organised commitment as any team with Huth and Shawcross in their line up.
Judging by results Pulis has already made a good job of tightening Palace up and making them play to their strengths, whatever they are. Their three wins in December were all over fellow strugglers and all achieved without conceding a goal. There were losses to form teams Chelsea, Newcastle and Citeh in there as well but the last of these was by only one goal, which is a very impressive scoreline at the Etihad these days. So Sherwood’s latest tactical challenge will be to try and overcome a side that’ll defend deep and try and hit us on the break, one that both Redknapp and Villas-Boas found beyond them on many an occasion so it’ll be interesting to see what Tim’s approach will be – as if we didn’t know already.
Sherwood’s spreading of the team’s wings added to the resulting joie de vivre with which we’ve approached games under the new regime has made the football much more watchable and the fact that we’re still hanging around in a queue outside the Moneybags League antechamber rather than in it more bearable. Despite a whole limousine of millionaires being hamstrung by hamstrings and ligaments and knees and ankles and any other part of the body that can be pulled, broken or strained Sherwood has still managed to eke out some unexpected results. The wins at Southampton and Old Trafford were outstanding ones given the number of players spending Christmas with their physios and he already deserves credit despite our unpleasant disappearances from both cups.
Some of the wounded appear to have returned to training. Sandro should fancy his chances of getting in to the side pretty quickly once he’s back to full health, he may have to start this one on the bench though if he’s ready to return. Vertonghen is the man we’d probably most like to see back, until then it’s the Chiriches and Dawson partnership once more. I would normally mention Kaboul here but I’ve almost given up on him ever being fit enough for a proper run in the team. The return of Townsend should bring a skip to the step of most people making their way to the game; Sherwood’s retro tactics may well bring the best out of him. Again though I suspect he’ll start on the bench. I’ve really enjoyed the quality that Eriksen has brought to the left hand side despite it not being his personally favoured position. Whether or not Sherwood will persist with him out there once there are more players to choose from I don’t know.
I wouldn’t suggest that Tim is making it up as he goes along, he had a clear idea that he wanted to get Bentaleb more involved for a start but at the moment his formations are mostly based around who’s available rather than who he’d like to play; he’ll be learning as he goes along. I still find it amazing that he said he didn’t know anything about Capoue though.
The imminent departure of Defoe and apparently Lamela, especially when allied to the loaning out of Coulthirst and Obika, means that it doesn’t take a genius to work out that we’re stretched up front if we’re sticking to 4-4-2. Relying on Badebayor, Soldado and Kane to remain fit and in form for the remainder of the season would be foolish indeed; it makes one think that if Lamela does go, there must be a replacement on his way in.
The referee is Michael Oliver. He gave us a dubious penalty against Hull a couple of months ago so fingers crossed. Three points needed to keep the top five honest if nothing else. COYS.
Have something to tell us about this article?