Tuesday, November 29, 2016

How to lose a game... and a job

Following the Crystal Palace - Swansea City game last Saturday was akin to riding the proverbial sports roller coaster. First Palace took the lead; then Swansea took what is usually a pretty comfortable lead in a soccer game, 3-1; then Palace battled back to make the score an improbable 4-3 with only six minutes (plus stoppage time) to go; and most improbably of all, Swansea City scored two goals in rapid succession to win the game 5-4. Good for American coach Bob Bradley, who won his first Premier League game, and the first ever by an American coach; really, really bad for James Pardew, who now finds his coaching job on the line.

The main reason for all the scoring was that neither Swansea City or Crystal Palace did a very good job of defending free kicks and corner kicks. One wonders how much of that is skill and how much of that is fortune, but likely the better teams don't allow as many goals on "set pieces" as poorer teams. Of course, the poorer teams don't have the highly-skilled and athletic players that are seen on better teams frequently scoring on set pieces.

Well, the articles indicate Pardew's job is on the line, and it should certainly be. Unfortunately, though, losing Wilfried Zaha for five weeks to the Cup of Africa in January won't help either. And even worse is the loss of forward Connor Wickham to a season-ending knee injury. So the team is going to have to figure out how to be more stingy on defense and find somebody that can score occasionally, or their three-year run in the Premier League will end this May.  And Pardew's run will have ended long before that.

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