Ian Holloway has come out and stated he plans to transform his current crop of Crystal Palace players into the electric, daring Blackpool force he so admirably guided to near-Premier League survival three seasons ago. He plans on doing so in a bid to propel Palace up the Premier League table as they currently operate second bottom position with a meager three points from seven outings. Something needs to be altered and Holloway knows it.
Their only win in the league to date is the 3-1 home triumph against Sunderland back in late August, with the other five matches all bringing defeats. If the team are to prove their doubters wrong and stay up this season then they must get a grip, and fast. Holloway has spent cash over the summer bringing in a plethora of fresh faces and all fingers will be pointed at him should relegation strike come the end of 38 games. His answer? Attack.
His philosophy as Blackpool coach was one that drew many plaudits but was impractical as games would be left wide open and there was no defensive backbone. They’d always look ominous on the break but simply conceded too many goals, which for the neutrals is thoroughly entertaining, but it ultimately ended in misery for the club’s fans. A right balance needs to be struck in order to give the supporters goals, but keeping them out is just as significant.
As things stand Palace have let in the third most in the division (10) and only managed to put the ball in the net four times. If Holloway is to take the Blackpool approach and go out all guns blazing, then it could either go fantastically well or spectacularly wrong. Attack, attack, attack is always going to be a risky philosophy.
The burgeoning question is do Palace have the players to do so? Is there enough flair and vision in the ranks to score three or four week in week out? With the summer investments you’d severely hope so but for me the signings are very hit and miss. Cameron Jerome is yet to do anything genuinely noticeable with a football, Marouane Chamakh failed to make an impact at Arsenal and appears more willing to dive infront of goal than convert while the relatively expensive Dwight Gayle has displayed flashes of promise but is too lightweight.
Yannick Bolasie has been injured but his imminent return will undoubtedly provide some invention and speed down the wings which is in desperate need. Wilfried Zaha was an exceptional player for them but in Bolasie they have an equally talented winger. It is when he and the likes of Jerome Thomas, Elliot Grandin (who was part of the Blackpool team three campaigns ago) and new boys Jason Puncheon and Jimmy Kebe collect the ball – they need the prolific, talismanic striker to hit. And is Chamakh – tied up on loan – going to seriously be that threat? It’s highly doubtful.
There is attacking potency in the squad but is there enough bottle and fear to reap the rewards of playing in such an attacking manner? Holloway’s Blackpool were renowned for playing without fear, with Charlie Adam the instigator of free-flowing counter-attacks. The diminutive Jonathan Williams is young but has the ability to emulate his effect. It is the strike-force that is the worrying factor in all of this. January will be important as Holloway will look to clear out any dead wood and bring in several newcomers, including what must be a striker who can fit around that sort of system. DJ Campbell thrived in it, so did Marlon Harewood when fit.
If Palace pull off the miraculous and stave off relegation this season – aided by this system that Holloway intends on bringing back – then they should be given all the credit they deserve. But it’s some challenge indeed.