Patrick Vieira insisted only fine margins were standing between his side and an upturn in fortunes after Joachim Andersen’s 27th minute own goal at Aston Villa made it nine Premier League games without a win.
The 1-0 defeat at Villa Park continued Palace’s slide towards the relegation battle, with only six points separating them from the bottom three as they still await their first three-point haul of 2023.
Things might have been very different had the returning Wilfried Zaha not been fractionally offside when he struck just five minutes in, but after that disappointment Palace failed to register a shot on target and finished with 10 men as Cheick Doucoure was booked twice in six second-half minutes.
With Manchester City, Brighton and Arsenal up next, life is unlikely to get easier for Palace any time soon.
“No win in nine, of course you think about it,” Vieira said. “You try to work to win football matches, to create chances to score goals. We had some really tough games and the next three are not going to be easy. We have to face it.
“It’s a really good challenge and myself and the players are looking forward to it.”
Palace’s winless run has included five draws, and Vieira feels there have been positives in the performances.
“It’s important to compete against the oppositions,” he said. “I felt we competed well against the teams in front of us.
“I think we were close to Villa. The difference between the two team was just the own goal. Outside of that we didn’t create very much and they didn’t create very much. That’s the story of the game. We are learning and it’s really important for us to keep working.
“It’s about us believing in what we are doing and being clear about the role and the responsibility of the players. There is always a belief and a confidence in the players.”
Doucoure collected his first yellow card for a 57th-minute challenge that ended Boubacar Kamara’s afternoon, and five minutes later he left Kamara’s replacement Calum Chambers in a heap to earn an early shower.
“He will learn from that incident,” Vieira said. “When you are a midfielder you sometimes go into the challenge a little bit late. He will learn from it but with 10 men I think we gave the right answer.”
Vieira’s argument about fine margins was backed up by the statistics – the only shot on target for either side came when John McGinn fired straight at Vicente Guaita in the 74th minute.
Only one place separates these sides in the table, but the mood is very different as Palace look over their shoulder and Villa eye the European battle above, and Unai Emery took heart from his first clean sheet at home.
“We were trying to add a clean sheet at home,” he said. “Our first idea was to win but a clean sheet was a real focus, and then it is how we can manage 90 minutes. I think we can be overall happy with how we did.
“With the victory and the clean sheet I think this result for the future can help us build. Of course we are trying to be more clinical in the style and the ideas. In the first half we did a lot of good things and in the second half a little bit good.
“But I am very satisfied with the result and the clean sheet.”
However, Emery fears bad news regarding the leg injury to Kamara, who had perhaps been Villa’s best player before Doucoure’s foul.
“I think maybe he is going to be some weeks away,” he said.