Crystal Palace’s summer failure to sign a striker, to partner or rival Christian Benteke, was a bigger flaw than sacking Frank de Boer.
Palace have lost their first six league games without scoring, in an historic start of increasingly nightmarish proportions.
The first four games cost de Boer his short-lived role as manager, but the summer failure to bring in a quality second striker is proving to be Palace’s crucial mistake.
Benteke started the campaign as their only recognised forward, with Loic Remy and Fraizer Campbell having left in the summer and Connor Wickham out with a knee injury.
Palace tried to sign Everton’s Oumar Niasse on transfer deadline day but could not agree personal terms. Benteke has struggled without a partner and Palace have risked falling into even deeper trouble, if he were to get injured.
Lo and behold, Benteke damaged knee ligaments in the 5-0 weekend battering at City and will now be out until around mid-November. If Palace couldn’t score with Benteke playing, how much worse can it get without him?
When you are already losing every game without scoring a goal, it’s hard to sink much lower. An extra striker might have knicked Palace some wins by now, or at least a few draws. De Boer might still be in his job. Instead, new boss Roy Hodgson has been unable to halt the losing streak.
Old Trafford looms this Saturday, with Chelsea next to visit Selhurst and then Newcastle away after that. It is painfully feasible that Palace will lose at least their first nine matches. Would they have it in them to beat West Ham at home, in game ten? When you’re losing every match, any game looks daunting.
Benteke’s absence might yet force Hodgson to rethink Palace’s tactics and devise a cunning plan in attack. For now, to add salt to the wound, Niasse scored twice for Everton at the weekend.