By Tony Attwood
Crystal Palace have been in the Premier League for the past seven years – this being their eighth consecutive season in the competition. Which is quite an amazing improvement because for each of the previous three times they have been promoted into the top league, Palace have immediately gone straight back down.
So this run of seven seasons in which they have finished between 10th and 15th in the top division is the absolute best it has ever been for Palace. And they could be on the up with goals too. Normally their top scorer gets between seven and 15 goals in a season. At the moment the top man is Zaha with eight.
Thus overall Palace being 14th at the moment is just slightly below their normal point in a Premier League season in recent years. As we all know, Arsenal being one point and two places above them is not the norm for us.
But that is where we are and what is extraordinary is how similar the clubs are when we compare Arsenal and home and Palace away
Home and Away
|13||Crystal Palace away||8||3||1||4||11||14||-3||10|
Arsenal’s performance at home is identical with Palace away in terms of results and in terms of goal difference is separated by just one.
Of course the prime difference is that I suspect Palace are rather pleased with their own away form, while Arsenal has not had overall form like this since the dark days of Bertie Mee.
But the difference between the end of Mee’s reign, when we finished 17th and now, is that in the mid-70s our home form stood up with Arsenal winning many more games at home than we lost, and having a very positive goal difference. In fact in 1975/6 we we won just two away games all season.
So this home form is a real anomaly, caused to a large degree by the lack of crowds as we have seen.
But of course we have just won four in a row, including two at home, and just conceded one goal, so things are looking up, and we do need our home form to continue to improve if we do want to make that final push into the European places (which are not a trophy).
The other factor to consider as we approach the game against Palace is the normal comparison of tackles, fouls, yellow cards and penalties
|Club||Tackles||Fouls||Tackles per foul||Yellow cards||Fouls per yellow||Penalties for||Penalties against||Lge pos|
Arsenal have committed 79 fewer tackles and 30 fewer fouls than Crystal Palace but have got more yellow cards than Crystal Palace. That seems quite ludicrous – and this sense of craziness is enhanced when we see that Arsenal are very close to the lowest in the league in terms of number of tackles and number of fouls.
There really is no escaping it: in terms of being penalised, Arsenal are the referees’ favourite.
The reason, as we explored recently, has to be because Arsenal have become associated in the referees’ minds with being a dirty team, so there is a propensity for the referees to penalise Arsenal at the first sign of a tackle.
We have seen in an earlier article How the top clubs foul with impunity and really, to stand a chance in this league with these referees, Arsenal need to adopt these tactics, but so far show no sign of doing so. I suspect the huge change around of staff over the last few years has meant that we are left with men at the top who simply have not taken PGMO into account when considering our results.
And without this change we are going to have to rely on tactics to be not just Crystal Palace but also the constant referee bias that we see revealed in the table above.
The overall league position as shown below reflects our inability so far to handle referee bias, although recent results have suggested we can get to grips with this by going out and scoring first. This is an ideal occasion to show once more that progress is being made.
|10||West Ham United||17||7||5||5||24||21||3||26|
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