I think it's safe to say a result like Sunday afternoon was coming. But for it to unfold in the way it did may have upset a few fans. I'll take a dive into the starting eleven, the substitutions made and the reasons for our downfall, as well as what we can change to prevent that in the future.
Firstly the starting team, which lined up like this in a 4-4-1-1 formation: Howard, Stones, Jagielka, Distin, Baines, Atsu, Barry, McCarthy, Osman, Eto'o and Lukaku. Now looking at it from were I am, I was shocked and a little baffled as to why Roberto Martinez felt we would would have width and pace on both sides with Kevin Mirallas, Aiden McGeady and Steven Naismith all sat on the bench. On that note it was strange how Mirallas and Naismith only got onto the pitch with 15 minutes to go, they had an impact within minutes and made their defenders think twice.
I felt we carried Leon Osman for the full match and he should have been the first to be subbed off and certainly should have made way before the end of the game. Leon had one of his worst games I've seen him have, he looked off all game long and couldn't get the pace of the game, everything took him 3 or 4 touches and it was that last point that caused the goal for their third. Losing the ball on the edge of the box instead of finding a pass is basic football and on this occasion Ossie failed to complete that requirement.
On to the subs Martinez made. Whilst at the time I didn't think to deeply about them, but on reflection they were pretty odd. To take John Stones off and replace him with Mirallas is fine but to then put James McCarthy at right back to cope with Yanick Bolasie who ran riot all game was not the greatest move and such McCarthy couldn't prevent Crystal Palace's 2nd goal. The next sub was that of Naismith who I felt should have replaced Osman, Samuel Eto'o or even Romelu Lukaku. But Christian Atsu made way; Atsu had given us our only source of pace and width through the game and consistently caused their defence issues, breezing past players and finding crosses. Naismith isn't a wide man after watching him now since David Moyes attempted to play him there game after game. The final sub was a desperate change being 3-2 down at the time. Darron Gibson replaced Sylvain Distin, but instead of going 3 at the back Gareth Barry dropped into the middle of the defence, I'm still not quite sure how that works when you're chasing the game. I thought Barry was our most consistent player and to change his position certainly didn't aid him or the team. Gibson looked good however, when he came on.
I think the overall downfall of the team was a combination of all the things above. Alarm bells sounded slightly for me after Thursday night's game, winning 4-1 with our goalkeeper the Man of the Match is never a good sign. I'm not saying that wasn't deserved, however, it suggested that no player played consistently over the 90 minutes and that was the story against Palace. The tactics the team were set up with against a Palace side that were always going to sit deep, really weren't the correct ones. A 4-3-3 formation with a stronger side, including Mirallas and Naismith would have been the way to beat them.
I was disappointed Roberto chose to rest players in a Premier League game and not this Tuesday's game against Swansea. Club legend Graeme Sharp later said "It has the feel of second season syndrome" when presenting the Radio City phone-in on Sunday evening. Sharp continued "It could be the case that teams have worked out how Roberto sets his team up and how we play, we need to find something that combats that. Roberto made a few changes today, maybe one to many. But, the players didn't want it enough and failed to get behind a deep-lying Crystal Palace defence".
A way to win the game against the likes of Palace, Stoke City, Burnley and Queens Park Rangers, who will all set out to defend deep, would be to play a high attacking formation. A 4-2-1-2-1 with a team like Howard, Coleman (when fit), Jagielka, Stones, Baines in defence. The two sat in midfield Gibson and Barry, and McCarthy in front of them, with Naismith and Mirallas playing as wide forwards and Lukaku up top. This would be a deeper formation than the standard 4-3-3. We do need a formula to overcome the defensive teams in the league, or else we could see more disappointing results like these.