Despite a lacklustre performance at home to Manchester City last time out, Crystal Palace look certain to have survived for a sixth season in the top flight, although it surely won’t be one which Eagles fans look back on too fondly.
With the bottom half of the table so tight, a bad run of results could mean that the Croydon outfit slip down a couple of places before the end of the campaign – this would be disastrous.
Aside from the reduction in prize money, finishing 16th or below would make the 2018/19 season Palace’s worst since they were promoted to the Premier League in 2013 – however unlikely that may seem, the fact remains that the Eagles should theoretically, given the talent they’ve got, be far further up the table than they are.
Who then, is to blame for what has been referred to as a wasted season by Daily Mail reporter Martin Samuel? Well, he has indicated that Roy Hodgson lacks ambition and that his caution heading into games is unjustifiable given the calibre of players he has to pick and choose from.
It would seem that Hodgson somewhat divides opinion not just amongst the Palace faithful but in sports punditry and commentary as well, with Match of the Day’s Steve Wilson taking a polarising view of the Eagles boss as he watched them roll over for Manchester City at the weekend, saying (Match of the Day 2, 14/4, 22:38):
“He’s done a super job at Selhurst Park, Roy Hodgson, he really has, given the absolute carnage he took over some 18 months ago.”
Indeed, when the former England boss was appointed as Palace’s new manager in September 2017 after the shock sacking of Frank de Boer, the Eagles were rooted to the bottom of the table with zero points and zero goals.
He performed miracles to get them out of that trouble and guide them to a respectable 11th place finish, although this season, when they are surely looking to kick on and improve, the Eagles have been hobbling and rarely get off the ground for too long.
On the balance of things, Hodgson has of course done a solid job at SE25 – they surely wouldn’t be in the Premier League now if it wasn’t for him – but they have taken some notable, backward steps since his appointment.
Prior to his arrival, it was crystal clear who Palace’s best 11 players were and now that is not the case. Of course, strength in depth is crucial to success in the top flight but the fact that they had summer signings Max Meyer, Cheikhou Kouyate and Jordan Ayew – the former of whom is paid an eye-watering £125,000-a-week – plus January loanee Michy Batshuayi, who rakes in £90,000-a-week, sitting on the bench against City shows that their recruitment has been poor.
How much blame for that sits with Hodgson is unclear, but Palace have to stop paying their players ridiculous amount of money if they aren’t the first name on the team sheet. Only Wilfried Zaha is worth his keep at the moment out of Palace’s top earners; the aforementioned Meyer and Batshuayi, plus Christian Benteke, are stealing a living.
Secondly, Palace’s reputation as a bogey team of the top-six has pretty much gone out the window in their recent games against such clubs, with performances against Liverpool (H), Spurs (A), Chelsea (H) and Manchester City (H) flat and lifeless.
In all of the aforementioned clashes, Palace have waited until the game is effectively lost to finally give it a go and put their opponents under some pressure. It seems that Hodgson would rather control damage until the 80th minute before trying to snatch a point in the final stages, however, at 2-0 down, it’s always far too late and they have paid the price for poor in-game management on far too many occasions this season.
There’s some exciting changes happening at Crystal Palace next summer. Find out what in the video below…
Finally, it is no secret that Palace are one of the worst teams in the league at home this campaign – only already-relegated Fulham and Huddersfield have lost to the Eagles at Selhurst Park this calendar year – and their record certainly isn’t one that befits the excellent atmosphere at SE25.
Widely regarded as one of the club’s greatest appeals, Selhurst Park’s atmosphere is one of the best in the league, but the performances have rarely matched it, with the Eagles winning most of their points on their travels.
There might be a big stadium development on the way but, at the moment, it seems unlikely that the players will be looking forward to it at all; they would much rather play 38 away games by the looks of it.