Crystal Palace’s progress has been stopped in its tracks by the embarrassing defeat to Liverpool at Selhurst Park earlier this month.
Jurgen Klopp’s side utterly dominated proceedings from start to finish, leaving the Eagles trailing in their way as they surged to the top of the table.
With Leicester City on the horizon, Roy Hodgson faces some tough decisions to avoid a repeat of the 3-0 defeat at the King Power Stadium towards the latter stages of last season.
Hodgson’s side have rarely been so badly humiliated but they were put the sword as the Reds ran riot over their helpless defence.
Vicente Guaita was called into action almost immediately from the get-go but the veteran goalkeeper was largely forced to sit and watch as Liverpool took an astonishing 14 attempts on goal, including eight shots on target, as per SofaScore. The final score finished 7-0 with the 33-year-old failing to register a single save or punch a single shot on target.
However, he can’t be solely to blame for their problems at the back, as Gary Cahill, Nathaniel Clyne and Cheikhou Kouyate were mostly at fault for the poor defensive performance. Clyne particularly caught the eye for all the wrong reasons as he was caught out of possession time and time again by Sadio Mane and Mo Salah, losing 100% of his duels overall.
There’s no denying the fact that Palace need to stop the rot from spreading even further, at least until new summer recruit Nathan Ferguson has recovered from his latest injury setback.
Hopefully cooler heads prevail and Hodgson hands Joel Ward his second consecutive start to face the Foxes, as they arguably need all the experience they can get to shut up shop and plug the gap in their leaky defence. The Eagles have conceded more goals than Burnley, Brighton and Premier League strugglers Sheffield United so far this season which makes for pretty grim reading.
Although he started against Aston Villa, Ward, 31, is an experienced campaigner who knows what it takes to stop the Foxes in their tracks. After all, he has won four and drawn one out of nine games in the top flight against the one-time Premier League champions, via Transfermarkt.
Standing at 6 ft 1 in, he’s certainly a force to be reckoned with, but has made just six starts across all competitions this season so far, and was left as an unused substitute on the bench as Palace were dispatched by Liverpool.
WhoScored lists some of his strengths as his ability to intercept the ball, win individual battles in the air, and his strong tackling, which shows that he is armed with the tools to deal with the likes of Harvey Barnes and Jamie Vardy, and is more than can be said for Clyne, who has done very little to justify his valuation. Transfermarkt value him at £3.6m.
Granted, Hodgson doesn’t exactly have the best of options, but it’s now up to the Palace boss to put his faith in Ward and unleash him on the right flank as he will have a tough task trying to contain the attacking duo who have scored 14 goals between them in the Premier League at the time of writing.