Crystal Palace’s sedate start to the season continued at Bramhall Lane on Sunday, as Chris Wilder’s newly-promoted Sheffield United came out 1-0 winners in the club’s first Premier League home game since 2007.
John Lundstram’s reactive rebound early in the second half was enough to topple an uncreative Palace side, spearheaded by wantaway forward Wilfried Zaha who simply seemed like he was already half-way out of the door.
The Eagles’ quiet summer may come back to bite them hard this term, with Max Meyer struggling out of position on the left-wing and Connor Wickham the common back-up forward at Roy Hodgson’s disposal.
Although it was always going to be tough travelling up to Yorkshire and squaring off against a famously hostile atmosphere, Palace’s lack of ambition against, arguably, the relegation favourites is something to worry about.
Nonetheless, I’ve selected the visitors’ two losers and, somehow, two winners from Sunday afternoon’s forgettable fixture.
Winner: James McCarthy
McCarthy came on into midfield for his Palace debut with 20 minutes to go and genuinely looked like one of the better players on the pitch. If Hodgson can play him regularly without any injury problems, he certainly improves this team.
Loser: Max Meyer
For the second week running, Meyer was used as a left-winger, swaying away from his natural position down the middle. He was yet again ineffective before going off after 65 minutes, so Schlupp’s return will be a welcome one.
Winner: Joel Ward
Ward was, once again, Palace’s star man at right-back, further cementing his place as a starter after regaining the spot from Aaron Wan-Bissaka. He made eight clearances, two blocks, four interceptions and wasn’t dribbled past once.
Loser: Wilfried Zaha
Although he was stranded for large chunks of the game, Zaha couldn’t have made less of an impact over 90 minutes if he tried. Many would argue his head is elsewhere, so he needs to start putting in the performances to prove otherwise.