Staring Down The Barrel
Trapdoor beckons for vulnerable Eagles
Big Sam might not have lasted long in the England manager’s hot-seat but if there was one area that the much-travelled Allardyce excelled in, it was his ability to ensure that his teams’ secured their Premier League status year in, year out.
Throughout the course of a season, he would set clean sheet targets for his players, knowing full well that if they achieved them, Premier League safety would all but be assured.
Therefore, with over a third of the season completed, Crystal Palace are haunted by the prospect of relegation and are seemingly staring down the barrel, having failed to secure a single clean sheet so far.
It’s worth pointing out that the side which finished the season with the fewest clean sheets in each of the last 3 seasons has ended up being relegated and Alan Pardew will not have been happy with the defensive vulnerabilities that were cruelly exposed in the 5-4 defeat at Swansea City, as the Eagles fully justified WhoScored’s diagnosis that individual errors and defending set-pieces are among their major weaknesses.
A knee injury to goalkeeper Steve Mandanda has not helped Palace’s cause but if they are to stave off the threat of relegation, much more defensive resolution will be needed, while Pardew may need to get results quickly, if he is to hang on to his job.
Clean sheets very much at a premium
However, it’s not just the Eagles who are struggling to secure shut-outs this season. Anyone who has played any form of fantasy football will appreciate the value of clean sheets but the number recorded on a weekly basis has been steadily in decline.
In 2013/14 each round of Premier League games averaged 6.1 clean sheets, while the 2 subsequent seasons produced 5.89 and 5.66 respectively. This figure has dropped even further to just 4.77 for all 10 matches played in the current campaign. Despite the arrival of some big name coaches who are renowned for their tactical acumen, the all-time Premier League goal record looks increasingly under threat.
Chelsea have recorded more clean sheets (7) than any other side and find themselves perched at the top of the table but pre-season favourites Manchester City have only secured 2 and that will need to be addressed if Pep Guardiola’s side are to have any chance of prevailing in the title race.
Southampton, with 5 clean sheets already, merit a special mention, having kept both Merseyside clubs out in successive games and the Saints may actually be a better side than their current league position suggests. Earlier in the season, the South Coast side were boasting some impressive stats, so a top 8 finish should be well within the capabilities for a club that boasts one of the best youth policies in world football.
With such a dearth of clean sheets on show, fantasy football managers need to decide whether focusing on shut-outs is their best option or if it may be more beneficial to spend more of that available budget on players occupying more advanced positions or even targeting defenders that offer more of a goal threat.
How many clean sheets will Crystal Palace record from now til the end of the season and will it be sufficient to ensure that the Eagles survive?