During his days at Stoke City, Tony Pulis’ turned his Potters into the poster boys of so-called “anti-football.”
So when he took over at Crystal Palace last month, it was reasonable to assume that this less beautiful way was en route to South London.
But two things need saying here: First, it’s not exactly been hunker-and-bunker time around Selhurst Park, and; it seems to be working. Don’t look now, but Crystal Palace is bumping up against that red line in the relegation table. Even in a loss to Chelsea on Saturday, good things could be seen. Just ask Jose Mourinho, who has certainly had more comfortable evenings at Stamford Bridge.
The matches so far under Pulis
- A 1-0 loss at Norwich City in his debut
- A 1-0 London derby home win over West Ham
- A 2-0 win in South London over Cardiff City
- Saturday’s 2-1 loss across London to Chelsea
Those results don’t look to bad, eh? But it’s really the style employed by Pulis that has opened eyes. Or, said more accurately, it’s the style Pulis has eschewed, that bully boy, direct, set piece reliant approach that was so hard on the eyes when he was boss at the Britannia.
Rather than returning the bad old days, stylistically speaking, Pulis has focused on the nuts and bolts of the game upon his arrival. A return the comforts of a 4-4-2 has turned Palace into a team that’s hard to beat; witness the measures to which Chelsea had to work Saturday to earn that 2-1 win in West London.
No, Pulis’ squad is not lighting up scoreboards around England so far, but neither is the team leaking goals. Even after Saturday’s contest at one of the Premier League contenders, Palace has allowed just three goals in four matches under their new top man.
And they are doing so with a surprising amount of high pressure. Again, this isn’t sitting deep and defending with nine or 10. This is Palace pressing up high and disrupting attacks before they set up and settle in. That style has the bonus effect of adding support to Marouane Chamakh and Cameron Jerome, who had been stranded before in turns as an isolated striker.