London football correspondent
What have you made of Palace’s recent form? They have completed some impressive wins against Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool…
Dominic: “It’s been quite something. The run-in for Palace has hung over them all season. It’s so daunting, the anxiety of being where Palace where after the Sunderland defeat (4-0 loss, February 4) – 19th in the table on 19 points – everyone felt there was very little chance of getting many points from the last 10 matches. That was the assumption anyway. We’ve played all the top six, away games at City, Old Trafford, Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs at home, so to pull out the results and play how they have…Arsenal, for instance, I’ve never seen Palace outplay an elite team like that (3-0 win, April 10). I went to games in the season we finished third in the old First Division, 1990-91 and we didn’t dominate elite teams like that. It’s been something to watch and it’s really down to Sam Allardyce getting his ideas across and, more important, the impact of the new signings we made in January. They have made a massive difference.”
Below: Sam Allardyce
Is this run all down to Sam Allardyce?
Dominic: “The thing is, if Sam had come in and done what Tony Pulis did (in 2013-14) and just made Palace unbelievably difficult to beat and nick games 1-0 - Pulis was amazing at that, another great achievement - I’d say yes, it’s old-school Sam Allardyce. However, the reality is that he’s looked at the players he’s got, realised they have certain skills and abilities like Zaha and Townsend, and found a system where they can get close to Benteke, Puncheon and Cabaye play in midfield, he’s added a centre-half he completely trusts and a defensive midfielder that Palace didn’t have before, and that’s the way he plays. They haven’t been stingy results though and Palace have proved they can take it to teams. It’s almost a happy medium between old-school defensive Sam and playing to Palace’s strengths.”
Below: Christian Benteke heads home against Leicester
Christian Benteke has been in fine form, five goals in five…
Dominic: “It’s amazing when you look at Benteke’s run-ins to seasons since he came to the Premier League. It’s only his season at Liverpool where he didn’t have a prolific run-in. He seems to wake up around March time and there is a flurry of goals, it’s incredible really. For the first two months of Allardyce’s reign he was leading the line on his own, completely isolated and that must have been getting to him, he wasn’t getting many opportunities and snatching at the ones he did get. Ever since they managed to get Townsend and Zaha into games, with support from Cabaye and Puncheon, he’s come alive and been a real handful.”
Below: Victor Wanyama heads home the winner against Palace in August
You see plenty of Spurs, Dominic, what do you think of us at the moment?
Dominic: “Spurs are an absolute thrill to watch, I must say. The dynamism of that team is something else. Liverpool and City have their moments but Spurs are the team that can dazzle. The energy throughout the team is something else. That’s what teams fear and what Palace will be worried about. Palace have had 24 hours less to prepare and that will be where Allardyce will have to make his changes. Mauricio Pochettino has done an incredible job and everything about that club is progressing.”
Below: Jan Vertonghen and Jason Puncheon in action at the Lane in August
Final question - how do you think it will go at Selhurst Park?
Dominic: “I think Palace will do well to replicate the energy they put into winning at Anfield on Sunday. I can see it being similar to the match last season (a 3-1 Spurs win) which was a great game decided by two worldies. I wouldn’t want to say either way. I think it will be the biggest test for a while for Spurs in the Premier League if Palace are energetic enough.”