Crystal Palace and Brentford lacked a real cutting edge in Patrick Vieira's home Premier League debut this weekend with an uneventful 0-0 draw at Selhurst Park. Both sides struggled to create clear-cut chances, and they were few and far between for the two London-based sides.
Despite the result, Crystal Palace's performance will give Vieira food for thought with a League Cup game against Watford in midweek fast-approaching.
Here are some of the key points Palace can take from the game:
Conor Gallagher's Crystal Palace Premier League debut:
A huge positive to take from this game was Conor Gallagher's performance. The Eagles' loanee was ineligible to play against his parent club, Chelsea, so the added bonus of having the 21-year-old available for the game against Brentford will have been pleasing for the Palace fans.
From the off, Gallagher was looking to get in behind Brentford's backline, almost breaking the deadlock six minutes in, after a quick one-two with Wilfried Zaha led to the English midfielder in their opponent's 18-yard box. A heavy touch forced him wide, leading to his effort smashing against the crossbar.
The midfielder was important in getting Palace up and down the pitch, putting in strong tackles at one end of the pitch to crossing the ball towards his teammates at the other end. His energy allowed him to pressure the Brentford players, giving them little time to pick out their teammates.
With Michael Olise and Eberechi Eze out injured, Palace may struggle to create huge chances, so the creativity and will to run forward that Gallagher possesses could be important to the side picking up points in the 2021-22 Premier League season.
With his positive runs into the box, and the ability to create space for his teammates, he will be a strong asset to Patrick Vieira's side.
Crystal Palace's defensive performance:
With Palace falling to a 3-0 loss to title-hopefuls, Chelsea, on the opening day of the season, Vieira will have been desperate to avoid a similar drubbing against Championship playoff winners Brentford. The away team will have been brimming with confidence after they beat Arsenal 2-0 at the Brentford Community Stadium in their first-ever league game in the top flight of English football.
Patrick Vieira fielded a centre-back partnership of Marc Guehi and Joachim Andersen for the first time this season. Both defenders were signed in the summer transfer window to strengthen Palace's defence, executing perfect performances at the back.
The front three of Sergi Canos, Ivan Toney and Bryan Mbuemo were vastly limited in the chances that they could create, which is a testament to how the summer signings played. Guehi was a bright spark in what was an overall forgettable game, with the former Swansea City defender showing his lack of fear to dive in and travel forward with the ball at his feet, whereas Andersen was strong in his tackles and looked like a proper no-nonsense defender.
The former Lyon defender started his first game for Palace against Brentford and the way he knocked the ball to his centre-back partner, and the fullbacks show the real composure the 6 foot 4 Dane has, and he really could prove to be an invaluable asset to the squad.
Although the centre-backs put in dominant performances, the fullbacks were important in keeping the wingers quiet and keeping crosses into the box to a minimum. Young left-back, Tyrick Mitchell, showed what he offers to the team with his pace and strength when it comes to winning the ball back, and right-back Joel Ward showed his class with long balls down the line towards the teammates.
The back four were ready to throw their bodies in front of the ball to prevent the ball from getting past them with huge blocks and this mentality looks to have been installed in these defenders by Vieira, a midfielder who never shied away from a tackle in his playing career at Arsenal.
Vicente Guaita dealt with Brentford's dangerous set-pieces expertly, and their ability to play the ball out from the back was an interesting change from Roy Hodgson's Palace team. The Spanish keeper punched the ball away from danger numerous times, limiting the chances they could create from their long throw-ins.
Palace's lack of creativity:
The attacking quality that Wilfried Zaha has must have really been a talking point in Thomas Frank's preparations, and how to successfully nullify him. His dribbling and shot accuracy make him a class act at Selhurst Park, and he is sometimes the only reliable source for goals at the club. Thomas Frank made sure his players gave no space to the attackers, resulting in The Eagles lacking in goal-scoring chances
The midfield three of Gallagher, James McArthur and Cheikhou Kouyate seemed really defensive, with McArthur and Kouyate hardly pushing forward for the club at all. As the game got into the second half, they pushed forward a bit more, allowing Gallagher more time to create chances, but overall, they sat back and tried to protect the defence as much as possible.
Without Eberechi Eze and Micheal Olise working alongside Zaha, it is hard to see where Palace's first goal of this season will come from. Wingers such as Jordan Ayew and Jeffrey Schlupp tried their hardest to cross the ball into huge Belgian striker Christian Benteke, but Brentford's defenders held strong to limit his chances.
A lot of Palace's chances came from long balls over the top from the defence and there have to be questions asked over this performance against newly-promoted Brentford at a full Selhurst Park. Without discrediting their opponents too much, the experience the starting front three has should have been enough to cause more issues for Thomas Frank's team.
With rumours online about the availability of Odsonne Eduoard from Celtic, Palace should be ready to splash £20million on the French striker if there are no signs of clear improvement.
Who does Palace play next?
Crystal Palace will travel to Vicarage Road to play Watford in midweek, who have just lost 2-0 to bitter rivals, Brighton.
With Palace's recent performances, this might be a good test for Vieira's squad to try something new and relieve some pressure off himself in his attempt to gain his first competitive win for Crystal Palace.