Crystal Palace 1-0 Newcastle
Goals: Patrick van Aanholt (£5.5m)
Assists: Jordan Ayew (£5.0m)
Bonus Points: van Aanholt x3, Joel Ward x2 (£4.3m), Scott Dann x1 (£4.3m)
Newcastle’s budget defensive options stuttered at the first hurdle in their 1-0 defeat to Crystal Palace on Saturday afternoon.
There was plenty of interest in Jamaal Lascelles (£4.3m) and Fédérico Fernández (£4.4m) ahead of Gameweek 27, as the Magpies prepared to embark on a favourable run of fixtures.
That began with a trip to Crystal Palace, and Selhurst Park, the stadium that had seen the fewest goals this season.
However, just as they had done over the last few matches, Newcastle gave up a whole host of chances and probably should have conceded a lot more than they did.
The fact that even Palace (who have scored the joint-fewest goals this season) were able to shoot 18 times, more than double the tally recorded by Steve Bruce’s men, should be cause for concern for anyone invested in Newcastle’s defence.
In fact, such was the poor nature of Newcastle’s display, especially at the back, their manager is starting to question whether or not he will continue with the 5-4-1 formation, which has been an established system for some years now.
“Maybe it’s time for (a) change. Maybe it’s time to try something different, to have a look, but I couldn’t fault their effort and endeavour. They never stopped in that respect.” – Steve Bruce
Lascelles, Fernández and Fabian Schär (£5.0m) all came in for media criticism at Selhurst Park, the latter giving away the free-kick that led to the only goal of the game. It will be interesting to see which of these hold onto their places if Bruce does change the system, although Ciaran Clark (£4.3m) and Paul Dummett (£4.4m) are still out with injuries.
Furthermore, there was some objection from fans and the media to the performances of Nabil Bentaleb (£5.0m) and Sean Longstaff (£5.0m) in central midfield. They were guilty of some poor passing, which restricted the service to Miguel Almirón (£5.8m) and Joelinton (£5.5m) especially, and losing the ball in key areas put more pressure on the defence.
“Our big Achilles heel is blatantly obvious today. We gave the ball away in good areas so cheaply, especially in the final third. We get so far and, unfortunately, it breaks down too often, too cheaply.” – Steve Bruce
Perhaps the only silver lining for those already invested in Newcastle defence is the fact that they still have some favourable home fixtures on the horizon, against Burnley, Sheffield United and Aston Villa.
While the Magpies have spent much of their last two away matches obliging their opponents, they do have clean sheets in each of their last two at St. James’ Park.
Meanwhile, Martin Dúbravka (£5.0m) was one of just two Newcastle players who had a good game on Saturday.
He was the main reason that the scoreline stayed respectable. Without his eight saves, Crystal Palace could have racked up a big score. That large number of stops helped Dúbravka to a four-point FPL score of his own.
The other Magpie to show some redeeming qualities was Allan Saint-Maximin (£5.4m) who, as per usual, asked plenty of questions with his pace but failed to deliver much in the way of end-product.
Meanwhile, Palace’s attacking options may well be ruing their profligacy as they completely dominated Newcastle but only found the net once.
Christian Benteke (£5.7m) started a third match in a row at the apex of the Eagles’ 4-3-3 formation and had some chances, that he could not capitalise on.
Meanwhile, Wilfried Zaha (£6.8m) had a decent game up against Valentino Lazaro (£5.5m), the Newcastle man continuing to struggle in his attempts to adapt to life in the Premier League, picking up a red card in the process.
Zaha himself asked plenty of questions from his left-winger berth and would have picked up a collection of assists had Jordan Ayew (£5.0m) been more ruthless.
The Ghanaian international was afforded a host of chances but saw a few tame efforts saved, other more powerful ones denied by a strong Dúbravka performance, and he even managed to strike the post in the second half. Arguably it was enough to discourage much investment in Palace attackers, as well as Newcastle defenders.
There was admittedly plenty of threat from set-pieces, even though Luka Milivojevic (£6.7m) was absent through injury – but, then again, Newcastle always struggle in dead-ball situations. Gary Cahill (£4.4m) and Scott Dann (£4.3m) both went close and were only denied by the aforementioned heroics of Dúbravka.
However, the key takeaway has to be the performance of Patrick van Aanholt (£5.5m) as he emerged with a monster haul.
His role in set pieces continues to increase his points potential, leading to his scoring of a direct free-kick in the second half. A combination of the clean sheet and maximum bonus points made for a 15-point haul.
Crystal Palace XI (4-3-3): Guaita; van Aanholt, Cahill, Dann, J Ward; McArthur, McCarthy, Kouyaté (Riedewald 89′); Zaha, Benteke (Tosun 89′), Ayew.
Newcastle United XI (5-4-1): Dúbravka; Rose (Ritchie 71′), Schär, Lascelles, Fernández, Lazaro; Saint-Maximin, Bentaleb, S Longstaff, Almirón (Gayle 71′); Joelinton.
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