Talking Tactics

How Glasner's bold approach could trouble Spurs

By Adrian Clarke 27 Feb 2024

Adrian Clarke says new head coach's switch to two No 10s in a 3-4-2-1 is how Palace will approach Saturday's London derby

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Adrian Clarke looks at key tactical points and players who can be influential in Matchweek 27.

Team analysis: Crystal Palace

Oliver Glasner has hit the ground running by immediately stamping his own mark on Palace from a tactical perspective.

Since the start of the 2020/21 campaign, the Eagles had almost exclusively deployed a back four, using this formation in 133 of their 138 matches. 

The Austrian’s arrived has signalled an immediate shift. 

While on a watching brief in the 1-1 draw at Everton, and once again in a 3-0 triumph against Burnley in his first official match as Palace head coach, they lined up in a 3-4-2-1. See below right, Glasner's formation against Burnley, while left is the Palace formation in their last match under Roy Hodgson, the 3-1 defeat by Chelsea.  

Crystal Palace formations v2

The 3-4-2-1 was Glasner's preferred formation during a successful spell with Eintracht Frankfurt in which they won the UEFA Europa League in 2022. 

Palace starting formations since 2020/21
Formation Times started Formation Times started
4-3-3 68 5-4-1 3
4-2-3-1 32 3-4-2-1 2
4-4-2 (classic) 28 3-4-3 1
4-1-4-1 4 5-3-2 1
4-4-1-1 1 - -
A highly positive start

Josh Brownhill’s dismissal after 35 minutes understandably skewed a lot of the match stats from last weekend’s encounter, but Glasner will still be delighted with the impact his changes made. 

Palace were on the front foot and enjoyed more dominance inside the final third than usual, sustaining attacks to such an extent that they forced a season-high 12 corners. 

From those corners, there were clear signs of the influence Glasner and his coaching staff have already had on the players. 

Early on, two very similar short-corner routines fashioned attempts on goal that almost gave Palace the breakthrough while it was still 11v11. 

Jordan Ayew played a lovely one-two on both occasions, but his choice of final pass varied. 

First up he picked out Jefferson Lerma on the edge of the box for a shot on goal, and the next time he whipped a dangerous inswinging cross into the six-yard box.

Maximising wide spaces

Width certainly played a key role in Palace’s approach under their new head coach. 

Wing-backs Tyrick Mitchell and Daniel Munoz were pivotal performers, pushing on high and wide to stretch Burnley. 

Those two combined excellently with the players on their inside, with the Munoz/Ayew pairing especially effective down the right. 

In terms of putting crosses into the area, Palace were significantly up on their 2023/24 averages and this match also featured a number of season-highs.

Palace crosses comparison 2023/24
Formation v BUR MW rank Season ave.
Crosses (inc corners) 33 1st 16.77
Successful crosses (inc corners) 11 1st 4.12
Passes played into box 42 1st 24.38
Open-play crosses 20 1st 10.42
Touches in opp. box 42 2nd 21.81
Great starts for Lerma, Ayew, and Franca

It is always nice to make a positive first impression, and while most players did well, there were two who stood out most. 

Lerma was a physically dominant force of nature, winning 100 per cent of his duels and aerial duels at Selhurst Park on Saturday. 

Playing alongside January signing Adam Wharton Lerma is a midfield lynchpin who will be a central figure in Saturday’s encounter at Tottenham Hotspur.

Lerma duels v Burnley
  Duels % Success
Duels 15 100%
Aerial duels 11 100%

In the absence of Eberechi Eze, who Glasner has confirmed will be available to face Spurs, and Michael Olise, the Eagles needed Ayew to step up and deliver a fine performance. 

He was successful in that quest, starring in a new position as Palace’s right-sided No 10 with a goal, and five key passes. 

Ayew drifted wide regularly, delivering an impressive eight open-play crosses, but he also found nice pockets of space infield, and from those areas he was dangerous. 

Substitute Matheus Franca impressed as a left-sided No 10 in the latter stages, and it was the 19-year-old who laid on Ayew’s crucial goal to make it 2-0. 

Mirroring the half-space pockets Ayew had thrived in on the other side, the young Brazilian received a pass unmarked before driving forward at pace. 


Following a sharp one-two around the box Franca, flashed a perfect low cross along the face of goal for Ayew to convert at the far post.


This was a goal that vindicated Glasner’s use of a 3-4-2-1, with his twin attacking midfielders combining to devastating effect. 

Spurs will need to get a grip of these players, one of whom could possibly be fit-again Eze, if he comes straight back into the starting XI. 

Palace already look different under Glasner, and over the coming weeks they should improve as they get to grips with a fresh style of play. 

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