Crystal Palace got their Premier League campaign off to a losing start as Arsenal ran out 2-0 winners at Selhurst Park this evening.
However there is a semblance of positivity head coach Patrick Vieira can take from this outing, notably the performance of centre-back Joachim Andersen. Even though he was part of a defence that shipped in two goals, neither can be pinned on him. The 26-year-old Danish international nevertheless exemplified what it means to be a modern central defender.
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“He’s playing like Ronald Koeman!” declared former defender-turned-analyst Jamie Carragher on commentary. His enthusiasm was backed up by the numbers. No one out there registered more completed passes (91), completed long passes (12) and final third entries (20) than Andersen, who put on a ball-playing clinic.
◉ Most passes completed
◉ Most long passes completed
◉ Most final third entries
Joachim Andersen is putting on a passing clinic. 🤤 pic.twitter.com/JuGGCofEfs
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) August 5, 2022
Andersen played 253 successful long-ball passes for Palace in the league last season, the most of any outfield player in the Premier League and 50 more than the next-most Trent Alexander-Arnold. “I thought I was getting a bit carried away when I called Andersen Ronald Koeman in the first half, but I don’t think I was,” Carragher added.
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Naturally his bread-and-butter is keeping clean sheets, something Palace modestly achieved last season. Only the big six clubs (minus Manchester United) produced more shutouts than Vieira’s men and when it came to goals conceded they averaged 1.2 per game. Even though Andersen made nine clearances, this loss was also only the second time in 2022 a Vieira-led Palace team conceded twice in a single Premier League game.
Andersen’s brilliance is something the Eagles can build on especially with their preference to get him on the ball — Andersen touched the ball 124 times against the Gunners — and play on the counter. “Absolutely ridiculous… [Carragher] mentioned Koeman, but Paul Scholes would play passes like that every single game. And this is a defender,” added Gary Neville during Sky Sports’ post-match analysis.
A miserable opening day will soon be put behind them — although that being said, next up is a league fixture at Liverpool, and their last Anfield trip saw them let in three goals without reply.