McArthur has Scot what it takes

By - Friday 13th March, 2015

James McArthur has been a shining light for Crystal Palace this season. Nadim Lilani argues that the Scottish midfielder will be key in the Eagles’ climb up the table, both this season and next

It was always going to be a difficult season for Crystal Palace. Expecting a smooth sailing campaign would be like expecting four inches of snow to leave the United Kingdom unmoved. Despite the club jolting between highs and lows at an almost unhealthy rate for the past six months, one thing has remained constant: the form of James McArthur. A midfielder to whom tackling appears second nature, he has also demonstrated a superb range of passing and a handy knack of executing goal-line clearances. But most impressive has been McArthur’s drive, his tenacity, his will to win at all costs. Add up all of these qualities, and it is easy to see why the Scot has become one of the club’s most important players. Wigan’s loss is very much Palace’s gain.

Alan Pardew’s team will not get relegated this season. There’s no denying that it will be a close-run thing. When it comes down to the crunch, Palace’s experiences from last year will stand them in good stead to avoid the drop. So what should be their next aim, the objective in the long haul? Well, breaking into the top ten of the Premier League would be fabulous. It is tempting to suggest that achieving this goal must be established via a solid defence, that a resolute backline needs to be the starting point for all things positive. And that thinking otherwise would be foolish. You can’t build a decent house without sturdy foundations, can you?

Without McArthur in the side, the Eagles have not looked cute enough

Yet in the midfield trio of McArthur, Jedinak and Ledley, they have the sturdiest of bases. Dependable and disciplined, rugged and relentless; if you asked them to construct an actual house from scratch, they’d do it well and with minimum fuss. McArthur would probably run fifty-odd laps around it upon completion for good measure, too. Such is his engine. The point being: should the south Londoners succeed in dumping their ‘relegation also-rans’ title, much of that will be down to a mixture of mettle and zest from midfield.

Of course McArthur is far more than just a high-octane bludgeon. There is a creativity to his game which also stands out. In his recent absence – losses versus Liverpool and Arsenal – Palace has looked a touch too direct. That is not to belittle the guile of players such as Bolasie, Zaha, Puncheon or Mutch. What McArthur offers is slightly different – a cuteness, a subtlety – and it enables the team to engineer opportunities from deep-lying positions. With a pass from defence, a click and a whir, Palace can find themselves in for the kill.

Palace fans cannot afford to think that the team will turn from limping lamb to rampaging ram overnight

Durability, patience, awareness: the gnarly Glaswegian has all of these qualities in swathes. He also shows the odd dash of maverick behaviour. Funnily enough, he’s got everything that the Pardew era promises to stand for. Palace fans cannot afford to think that the team will turn from limping lamb to rampaging ram overnight. If you’ve seen the film Mean Girls, you’ll know that pretending to be someone you’re not never ends well. So progression is the key, and that can only be achieved if Palace feel comfortable in their own skin. Nobody can claim to feel more settled into the new regime than McArthur. He plays as though he has been marshalling Palace’s midfield since the days of Geoff Thomas. His next mission? To drink from the Premier League’s elixir of life.

Words on the Wanderers

Much has gone on since the last Wanderers FC round-up. And for Wanderers – sometimes known as the Golden Lions – that means goals have been scored. A hatful of them. Last month began with a re-arranged Intermediate Shield first-round match against Great Brixton at Mayfield (pictured above) on 7th February. The original tie was meant to have happened on 3rd January. But Brixton stood Wanderers up – their squad and a referee waited for over an hour in Raines Park to no avail. There were worries of a repeat when 60 minutes passed without any sign of the opposition again. They turned up eventually – though it seemed that some players had missed the team bus: their party was only ten strong.

Wanderers plundered a goal for every man that the south London team had on the pitch plus one more

So the Lions were licking their lips – and soon after they were celebrating some more. Rob Godall and Hugues Lepin punished the depleted visitors by scoring a goal apiece in the first six minutes of the encounter. An 11th Brixton player rocked up at Mayfield shortly after – not that his presence made much of a difference. Wanderers plundered a goal for every man that the south London team had on the pitch, plus one more – the final scoreline reading an emphatic 12-1. There were hat-tricks for Lepin, Goodall and Charlie Tracey, and further goals for Jack Davidson, Jack Byrne and Daniel Flash. A place in the quarter-finals sealed with consummate ease. The win also represented a record margin of victory for the club since its 2009 reformation. The only negative was the lack of a clean sheet – the Lions are yet to register a shutout this season.

The victory meant that Wanderers had won three games in a row for the first time this season

The next match took place a week later – on Valentine’s day. But Wanderers weren’t in the mood to show much love to visitors Wilf Kroucher, as they won 7-1. Their red-hot display was inspired by forward-cum-coach-cum-fair-trade-ambassador Jack Badu. Badu has recently made several YouTube appearances for Football Beyond Borders, a charity which uses football to address inequality in the game.

Badu provided the pre-match team talk, and provided an assist for Daniel Flash in the second half. That neat piece of play came in the 80th minute – Wanderers had already hit Kroucher for six by that time. A Daniel Smithies treble, and strikes from Goodall, Byrne and Darren Tracey – son of Charlie – did the damage. Sure enough, a clean sheet evaded them once more, as Kroucher scored with a stunning half-volley. But the handsome triumph inspired by Badu’s words meant something big. The former FA Cup champions had won three in a row for the first time this season. Onwards and upwards.

Nadim Lilani

Nadim Lilani

Nadim Lilani is a recent Hispanic Studies graduate from the University of Birmingham. A keen football fan and writer, he enjoys expressing his love for Croydon by documenting all things sport in south London.

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