It’s not often that Palace v Leicester is a top of the table clash, but on Sunday, Palace start the weekend in sixth while Leicester have only City and Liverpool ahead of them in the table. But, as Jonny Woodgate knows, the table lies, and this time it’s chatting shit about Palace.
Palace should be chuffed with their 15 points from 10 games. They only had eight at this stage last season, but instead of using it as a springboard to compete at a higher level, it’ll act as a cushion when their poor performances catch up with them. Palace are averaging 10.2 shots per game, which is the fourth-fewest in the league, while they’re the ninth-worst (13.8) for shots allowed.
They’ve had fortunate results, and if you simulated every shot they had faced and every shot they’d taken this season 100,000 times, then you would expect them to have an average of 11.55 points. It’s not an encouraging experiment for Palace fans, as it implies they should be 14th or 15th in the table instead of 6th.
But Palace are not attacking as much as last season, preferring to set up in a 4-5-1 instead of a 4-3-3 or 4-4-2 as they did last year. This means more defensive responsibilities for Wilf Zaha, less game time for Andros Townsend and more shots for Jordan Ayew and Cheikhou Kouyaté.
Ayew is averaging one shot on target per game this season after only managing 0.2 per game last season. Kouyate, however, has had 11 shots so far this season (20 in total last season) and 8 of those shots have been in the box. None of them have hit the target yet, but it’s only a matter of time before he does. So I’m tipping up Ayew +1 shot on target 5/6 and Kouyaté 1+ shot on target at 3/1.
Palace’s biggest edge over the last three years has been the ability to win and score penalties. I’m sure that Roy drills his lads in how to leave a trailing leg and Zaha gives out tips on the best way to draw a foul.
As we saw against Arsenal, VAR is only going to work in their favour as even the slightest of touches is still a foul by the letter of the law, and VAR means that these actions can’t be waved off or misjudged as a dive.
Palace won 11 pens last season, 10 the season before and seven before that, when the average for a team has been 4.8 penalties. However, over those three seasons, they scored an average of 46.6 goals, almost six goals below the average of 52.56 goals per team per season. So they’re almost doubling the average number of pens while scoring less than the average number of goals. Palace must be doing something to increase their odds of winning a penalty.
On the other side, Vardy’s also a known foul magnet, and, along with Milivojević for Palace, he’s among the best at scoring from the spot in the league. 11/4 for a penalty to be scored looks massive.
*All odds correct at time of posting