This article is part of Football FanCast’s Off the Bench series, which places in-game managerial decisions and squad selections under FFC’s microscope.
There wasn’t much Roy Hodgson could’ve done amidst a first-half Tottenham onslaught on Saturday.
Mauricio Pochettino’s men just kept coming, attacking the Crystal Palace backline at will and scoring at almost every given opportunity for the first 45 minutes, going into the dressing room 4-0 up at the break.
The former England manager isn’t known for his wise use of substitutions – the best way to back that up is by reading The Times‘ article from last year on Hodgson’s ill-advised use of his bench.
Given that nugget of information, you wouldn’t have expected the 72-year-old to make a shrewd first-half substitution to try and change things – as a result of that, he should have made a slight change to his starting XI instead in an attempt to help his side get up the pitch.
It would have been harsh to drop Jordan Ayew given his form of late – the Ghanaian had two goals in two before the trip to Spurs – so he deserved to start.
One man who perhaps should have dropped out of the eleven, however, was Andros Townsend. The England international had started the last two games prior to Saturday’s match on the bench, and only made his way into the XI after an injury to James McArthur.
Townsend didn’t have a single shot on goal, nor did he complete a key pass in his 84 minutes on the field, while he also had four unsuccessful touches.
In stark contrast, Belgium international Benteke played the last 20 minutes and made an impact, taking two shots, making two key passes and winning two aerial duels.
It is that last statistic that would’ve helped ease the pressure on the south Londoners. Benteke is no stranger to winning an aerial duel or two – he is currently 11th in the league for aerials won, per WhoScored – and with Palace struggling to find a way out of Spurs’ relentless attacking play, a target man to hit would’ve been helpful.
Ayew has been excellent of late, but he is no player of the sort and struggled to hold the ball up and get it to a teammate against Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld – he won six aerial duels in fairness, but there weren’t enough of his fellow Palace players around him.
Benteke’s aerial presence alongside the Ghanaian would have helped the likes of Gary Cahill and Mamadou Sakho play the ball out without inviting pressure onto the midfielders, and it would also have made life easier for Wilfried Zaha in terms of getting into the game via the forward’s knock-downs.
Ayew is much better suited to life under Hodgson in a system less focused on crossing the ball, but forgetting goalscoring for a second, Benteke should have started ahead of Townsend purely for pressure-relieving reasons.