WEST HAM 3
Snodgrass 48 Hernandez 62 Anderson 65
CRYSTAL PALACE 2
McArthur 6 Schlupp 76
BY MATT WOOSNAM AT LONDON STADIUM
Crystal Palace’s season is in danger of spiralling out of control following a 10th Premier League game without a win.
The campaign has been a calamity and defeat at London Stadium piled further pressure on a beleaguered Roy Hodgson.
In complete contrast to the midweek defeat by Brighton, it was Palace who took the lead and subsequently sat back to keep bodies behind the ball and try to pick their opponents off on the break.
James McArthur was the grateful recipient of some poor defending as James Tomkins nodded on Patrick van Aanholt’s free-kick and the midfielder poked past Lukas Fabianski.
The tactic has served the Eagles well until late into matches this season, after which they have capitulated either to only draw or fall to a despairing defeat. It was not too much different here.
Had the Hammers been capable of finesse in the final third at London Stadium, the margin of defeat would most likely have been a lot heavier.
For as much as Palace’s defending was adequate, West Ham’s attacking was perfect up until the point that it actually mattered most – the final ball. That all changed in the second half when two superb strikes and a tap-in turned the game on its head.
If a manager required a result, then it was certainly Hodgson here. The Eagles have been poor for some time – a 2-0 win over Burnley aside – and it showed again in east London.
The problem for Palace this season is that they don’t have the quality to either take the lead and sit on it for the remainder of the game, or to push forward in search of a second.
If they commit too many players forward, they will be far too easily picked off on the break themselves, but if they invite pressure then it is usually inevitable that they will crumble and concede.
Hodgson has clearly been hampered by his options, that much is undeniable, but the squad still has quality. He has failed to find a formula to arrest an alarming slide.
Confidence is totally absent from this side. Wilfried Zaha cut an isolated, dejected figure throughout and was scarcely involved as the match passed him by.
Without a goal since September, he has struggled. Part of that is his manager’s insistence on playing him out of position, but his talent ought to show in spite of that. This campaign it hasn’t.
Zaha earned a booking for a late challenge, which was the most notable part of his afternoon. Woefully out of form, he has still to curb his temper which often gets the best of him.
It is a further sign of Hodgson’s failings this season that the Ivorian is still so petulant and easily riled. It works in the favour of opponents who target him. But he must take some responsibility himself and his undoubted talent ought to show through regardless.
It is curious that even some of the country’s most experienced managers have failed to address this problem.
Recruitment has been poor, and it was the £30million defender Mamadou Sakho who once again was culpable for conceding in failing to adequately clear before Robert Snodgrass equalised.
Tomkins was shown a yellow card after the final whistle for arguing with referee Anthony Taylor over the award of the free-kick which led to West Ham’s second goal, and he along with Zaha is now suspended for next week’s clash with Leicester City.
There are too many players on high wages who were the subject of sizeable transfer fees not performing anywhere near the standard required. As much as Hodgson has failed to bring the best out of limited resources, his players ought to share the criticism and responsibility for a dire run of results.
Defensively the Eagles have been poor for some time. When Snodgrass put his side level early in the second half it was not undeserved after they had opened up the Eagles backline multiple times in the first half with no reward.
The Scot belted a beautiful strike into the top corner, but Palace should have cleared their lines properly.
Felipe Anderson took the opportunity to grasp the game by the scruff of the neck when his excellent free-kick was parried by Hennessey into the path of Javier Hernandez, who blasted into the top of the net.
But the Mexican was unmarked. Jeffrey Schlupp’s late header was nothing more than damage limitation.
There is no long-term planning at the club, an ageing squad with little ingenuity with an old manager bereft of new ideas who simply firefights every season post-Christmas.
They cannot afford – either figuratively or literally – to continue in the same vein.
Relegation would be disastrous, but in mitigation it could allow the club to rebuild if decision-making at the top improved.
Remarkably, Palace are not yet in the bottom three, but with Manchester City and Chelsea still to play this month, it may not be long before they slip further down the table.
Crystal Palace (4-4-2): Hennessey 5; Wan-Bissaka 4, Tomkins 4, Sakho 3, Van Aanholt 6 (Schlupp 55, 6), McArthur 5 (Ayew 66, 4), Kouyate 3, Milivojevic 5, Meyer 5 (Puncheon 84), Zaha 3, Townsend 6. Not used: Guaita, Ward, Kelly, Sorloth.
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