Allardyce tells Palace to wake up as rout raises relegation fears
Man City 5 Crystal Palace 0
It was not an entirely forgettable weekend for Sam Allardyce. Hull City also lost, unexpectedly so to Sunderland, which means a draw at home to Marco Silva's side on Sunday will be enough to guarantee Crystal Palace's survival - but Allardyce was in the sort of sombre mood not easily alleviated.
Since beating Liverpool 2-1 at Anfield to reach the 38-point mark, the Palace manager fears too many players have switched off in the misguided belief that their job was as good as done. Three successive defeats, culminating in this humbling at the hands of a Manchester City side showcasing the ruthlessness too often missing during an underwhelming first season under Pep Guardiola, increased the pressure and Allardyce has called for an urgent refocusing against Hull.
So did the players think they were safe? "It's a possibility that we've been talking about and certainly warning them about," Allardyce said. "That 38-point mark seems to have had a negative effect on our results, certainly against Burnley and Manchester City.
"You can tell the players as much as you want and warn them as often as you can, but when they walk over that white line, they've got to have the spot-on desire, determination and ability to achieve.
"You can see teams dip away and I think we have. It's certainly something I've thought about. This performance was full of so many errors, which surprised me so much. I didn't expect that."
Jose Mourinho, the Manchester United manager, has raised the possibility of fielding a weakened side when they play Palace on the final day of the season, with one eye on a possible Europa League final three days later.
That could provide an unexpected safety net for Allardyce. But the Palace manager cannot look beyond Hull. "I don't want to even think about going to Old Trafford and needing points to stay in the Premier League," Allardyce said. "I want to get it against Hull City."
Palace were largely unrecognisable from the team that had beaten Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea in the previous five weeks.
If Willy Caballero had not made an outstanding save - the kind of which Claudio Bravo does not make - to deny Christian Benteke in the 37th minute with Palace trailing 1-0, the visitors might have made a better fist of things.
Martin Kelly suggested Palace had not worked on their three-man defensive system enough before they reverted to a back four but that was not enough to explain some of the basic individual mistakes, of which Kelly was particularly culpable. The Palace centre-half's abysmal attempt to head clear Raheem Sterling's cross allowed the sublime David Silva to put City in front after just 114 seconds.
Kelly was also guilty of leaving Vincent Kompany unmarked when the City captain lashed home Kevin de Bruyne's pass and should have been punished when he conceded possession cheaply to the omnipresent De Bruyne before Leroy Sane's shot was saved.
City only had to wait another minute for a third goal, though, when De Bruyne beat Wayne Hennessey at his near post.
Sterling finished smartly for the fourth and Nicolas Otamendi added a fifth with a diving header.
Kompany has started six of the past seven matches, but despite Guardiola admitting the Belgium defender is in the best shape physically and mentally that he has seen, the manager will still try to sign another centre-half this summer. Leonardo Bonucci, of Juventus, is his leading target.
"We have to cover our backs," Guardiola said. "We have to have back-ups if something happens."
Kompany talked about a vibrant young attack "capable of taking teams apart".
He also said that, while he had been part of trophy-winning teams before, he had "never had a team that has been able to control and dominate a game like we do now", even if Guardiola's claim that City had been the league's best box-to-box side this season was far-fetched.
Allardyce, though, was in no mood to bend the truth. It is all about Hull now for Palace. (© Daily Telegraph, London)