“The definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”.

“The definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”.

Albert Einstein

“They say that to stay in the Premier League you need to reach the ‘magical 40 point mark’, but sitting here today I’m left hoping, 33 will be enough right?… It’s got me convinced that Crystal Palace will never win another game. “

My apologies at starting this piece in a rather self-indulgent way, given I’ve quoted myself, but that was the beginning of the last piece that I wrote on the site in the aftermath of the cruel last minute defeat to Liverpool. Two weeks ago I asked desperately, to any sort of divine presence that might be out there, as to whether 33 points would be enough to stay up, given it wasn’t readily apparent where another one might be coming from. Well, since then, there’s only been the one league game – another defeat of course- and to the league leaders no less, but the real worry is that Norwich City have clawed back what was a fairly healthy nine point gap into a far more worrying five point one. With Norwich still to visit Selhurst Park later this month, I’m now very worried.

The first stage of overcoming alcoholism, it’s said, is to admit you’re an alcoholic. In the same way, Palace now need to face up to the fact that they are very much in the relegation dogfight and need to start scrapping for points as if their lives depended on it. It’s far too easy to say that players haven’t been trying in looking to account for a bad run of form, and in this case, a simple lack of effort is not the reason for the dismal winless stretch, but there does seem to have been a somewhat laissez faire element of thinking “well, things will turn around soon”. The team, and the manager, need to snap out of that malaise, as right now they are sleepwalking off the edge of a relegation cliff.

As fans, that’s something most of us have now come around to. Gone are the European dreams, replaced by survival nightmares. Palace’s form from the first half of the season should have seen them looking to get 62 points by the end of May; the team is barely on half that with eight games to go. Saturday was the first time this season spent regularly checking another score, clinging to the hope of a last minute Victor Anichebe equaliser to provide some small crumb of comfort, when there were perhaps several million reasons why Tony Pulis may not have been pushing hard for a result. But it’s clear now, despite the result of the Tyne-Wear derby going in the clubs favour, that Palace can no longer cling to the hope that they can simply stay up on the back of others misfortune and ineptitude; they need to arrest this decline and fast.

Starting with the rather daunting prospect of a trip to an in-form West Ham, a run of four out of the next five fixtures being away from home does not look overwhelmingly positive on paper, however getting away from the nervous locals might be a blessing in disguise. Saturday’s defeat to Leicester was one of the first times this season in which there seemed to be an audible discord from the stands towards certain players, and in general, Palace are far more suited to playing away from home, where they are able to soak up pressure and hit teams quickly on the break through the pace of their wingers rather than being asked to take on the initiative.

There also needs to be serious consideration into rotating out some of the first teamers whose form has dropped off as alarmingly as the team’s as a whole; most notably the fullbacks. Pape Souaré had a personal nightmare against Leicester, taken off at half time following a harrowing 45 minutes in which he looked genuinely terrified every time Riyad Mahrez even so much as looked in his direction. Joel Ward has been a rock of consistency for the better part of three seasons now and earlier in the campaign was getting forward to great effect, but currently has looked hesitant and indecisive, being beaten too easily for goals against Leicester and Bournemouth. Both remain good players, but perhaps both they and the team would benefit from them being taken out of the firing line.

All season long Palace’s problem has been the lack of goals and the lack of a central focal point to the attack. Connor Wickham’s regular absence has been a significant blow, with his most recent injury coming at a time when it looked like he was slipping into a goal scoring grove. The sole January arrival, Emmanuel Adebayor had been bright in his appearances so far, despite only delivering the solitary goal, however against the Man Mountains of Huth and Morgan, his ineffectiveness was worryingly compounded by an apparent lack of effort. Frazier Campbell doesn’t seem like the answer while Dwight Gayle needs the confidence of a manager that believes in him, as well as a strike partner to play alongside if he is to be the solution to the goal scoring question. While it is encouraging to have the unpredictable Yannick Bolasie back in the team, the often tried experiment of him as a central striker this season has consistently yielded little.

Alan Pardew needs to be brave. In most of the games that the team has lost since the win at Stoke way back when the Christmas decorations were going up, Palace have honestly not played badly, and been on the end of a seemingly against the law of averages run of misfortune, in which Damien Delaney’s injury time effort striking the Leicester bar was merely the latest instalment. But clinging to that line of thinking is part of the issue; it’s no good to think about what if’s and regrets and time for some outside the penalty box thinking.

Playing two central strikers? Bringing back club legend Julian Speroni in goal? Going to three at back to utilise Souaré and Ward as attacking wingbacks? Push Yohan Cabaye into a No. 10 role behind the striker? Or bring in Marouane Chamakh as a link between midfield and attack? Give the likes of a Bakary Sako or a Lee Chung-Yong a more concerted run in the first team? Whether any of these options would make much of a difference is very much up open to debate. In fact, you could argue some have already been tried and haven’t worked out, but if the definition of madness is seen as doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results, then for Palace to finally win the games that would see them stay in the league, a different tactical approach is needed and badly.

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