Crystal Palace Pick Off Cherries with Premier League Win at AFC Bournemouth

Written by Robert Sutherland
Crystal Palace secured their fourth win and clean sheet in a row in an encounter that saw the visitors take all three points thanks to goals from Luka Milivojevic and Jordan Ayew. But what did we learn from the performance? Here’s Rob with some thoughts.
Luka celebrate

Drilled Palace are no pushover

Palace have learnt this season that being so well drilled and organised pays dividends. The Eagles don’t concede many goals, having allowed just 32 this campaign — with only five other Premier League sides conceding less. 

That defensive solidity is the result of every player doing their bit, from Jordan Ayew’s ceaseless harrying of defenders in attack to Wilfried Zaha tracking back and covering for Patrick van Aanholt, it’s a team effort and that was a team win. 

Being so well drilled meant that, judging by yesterday’s performance at least, the players were able to pick up where they’d let off — there was little doubt about what responsibilities players had, and that showed throughout. 
Benteke frown

Experienced Spine is Squad's Real Strength

A lot has been made about the age of Palace’s team, with much of that concern justifiably coming during the toughest spell of the season in December and January. But that age is also valuable, especially in terms of experience and character, which this side has in abundance.

Palace have leaders all over the pitch, from the front to the back. And each leads by example. Whether you look to Gary Cahill or Scott Dann in defence, James McArthur or Luka Milivojevic in midfield, or Zaha and Ayew in attack, Palace have developed a strong spine upon which everything else is reliant. At the core of that strength is the application we've seen in recent months. 
While the average age does need to be addressed, the club need to ensure that it's a progressive process rather than wholesale changes. 
McArthur crop
McArthur's 200 Appearances Highlight his True Value
When it comes to finding value in the transfer market, Palace don't always get credit for the signings they make. But in James McArthur, they've found exactly that. Having signed for a reported fee of £7m in September 2014, the Scotsman has played a crucial role in helping the club establish their Premier League status.
Transfers will very often be transitional. They sign, they serve their purpose and then they move on. While that isn't always the case at Palace (players haven't been sold at the right time in the past), the midfield is certainly subject to that, and while the likes of Joe Ledley, Yohan Cabaye and Jason Puncheon have departed, McArthur has not only become part of the furniture at the club, but is a key player in Roy Hodgson's midfield. 
Against Bournemouth, McArthur worked brilliantly alongside Cheikh Kouyate and Luka Milivojevic, with his energetic performance forcing Eddie Howe's side down the flanks, where their crosses were met with more defensive resistance. 
Wilf hands out
Zaha's Maturity Doesn't Get Plaudits but his Contribution was a Winning One
One of the many assumptions about Wilfried Zaha is that, because of his enigmatic brilliance, he can't fit into the tactical framework of a system that presses and frustrates opponents, but his performance against Bournemouth proved otherwise. 
BBC commentator Jermaine Jenas spoke of his surprise that Zaha was doing defensive duties, but anyone that has watched the Eagles this season will realise that this is not new. Zaha isn't just an attacking player who ignores his role in the team. This is a more mature player who understands the value of supporting his colleagues. 
In doing this work so diligently, it has meant that he isn't given the kind of attacking freedom that we've been used to. But the assertions that he's not as creative are still wrong. Zaha played a crucial role in both goals on Saturday -- first by winning the free-kick from which Milivojevic scored, and then by providing an over-lapping Patrick van Aanholt with the perfectly-weighted pass to allow him to cross the ball for Ayew's goal. 
The measurement of a player's contribution isn't just about whether they score goals or create them, but about how they work within a team. Zaha is a team player. He deserves credit for adapting.