How can Pep end the Crystal Palace hoodoo?
As Zaha ran through on goal and put Palace 1-0 up, Pep was looking high and deep into the sky. Hang on, this is not a prediction article of the next match against Palace. This is what has been happening since the last 4 years. Be it under Viera or even Hodgson, the script as well as the chief protagonist have been the same throughout. If someone looked only at the results of Palace vs City in isolation, they would never believe that we have won the Premier League in 4 of out of the last 5 seasons. For me, these bad results against Palace have been happening for far too much time. Pep will want to end this terrible run against Palace as soon as possible.
Lack of a clinical finisher
The problem against Palace has never been about creating chances. Yes, we might have been creating fewer chances due to the way Palace have been setup. But, the real issue has been that we have not been able to put them away. In fact, the open goal that Bernardo missed against Palace last season summed up all our frustration against Palace in a nutshell
The addition of Haaland and the blistering goal scoring form of Gundogan should provide us with much needed confidence in terms of putting away the chances. In Fact, it is in matches like this, Haaland will earn his worth. The spaces will be tight and almost non-existent tomorrow.
If you are Haaland, you will have to work on creating that yard for yourself by outpacing the defenders in the mind. The game for Haaland will be about creating space for others and that could be much more important than scoring goals. I was also thinking about playing Alvarez instead of Gundogan. The poaching abilities of Alvarez might be much more useful in a game that would be devoid of space.
Center Back Pairing
It will be interesting to see which defensive partnership Pep goes with. The Barcelona match might have been a friendly, but I thought that Walker playing as a center half was significant. Crystal Palace will look to adapt a similar plan like they did against Liverpool. This means that Zaha might be playing in a center forward role. So, We might see Pep pair Walker against Zaha.
Well, thinking about any of our other Center Backs against Zaha is already giving me nightmares. So, I don’t see a center back pairing without Kyle Walker in it tomorrow. Also, this could mean Cancelo starting on the right and offering us a greater amount of attacking options. I have never liked Cancelo on the left against Low block teams. Cancelo always cuts inside on the left and this makes him too much predictable when you are parking the bus.
Rodri being marked out of the game
We all know that Pep loves to conduct his play through the defensive midfielder. Viera has marked him out in the last 2 games with his striker. This has meant that Pep lacked a ball circulation outlet in the midfield. This has been tried by other managers in the past and Pep has always found solutions around this. It is only against Palace that he has sort of struggled to get over this problem.
I think one of the ways to get over this problem is to have the keeper jink it onto the flanks and let Cancelo and Sergio Gomez carry the ball. Our insistence to play through the midfield time and time again has been one of our downfalls against Palace. In fact, when a team congests the midfield, they must surely be leaving space elsewhere. The space tomorrow could be out wide and those diagonal switches will be so very important. I will be stunned if we stubbornly look to play through the midfield again.
Controlling the tempo
The greatest irony against counter attacking teams is that you are in a dangerous position when you are attacking. Pep referred to this time and again after the Newcastle match. So, I don’t expect us to go on lightning fast attacks. The attacking plan for tomorrow will be to paly those little one-twos, create space and move the defense around. It will be based on intricate game play rather than heavy duty attacking. I will not at all be surprised if Pep starts both Grealish and Mahrez tomorrow for greater control of the game.