Having walked into what many assumed was an impossible situation a few weeks ago, Roy Hodgson had every right to express his joy at the manner in which Crystal Palace beat Chelsea last weekend, telling the press that the team are now well ahead of schedule in his mind.
Although plenty of neutral fans are quick to hark back to the 70-year-old’s struggles whilst in charge of England, it is thanks to his work with the likes of West Brom and Fulham in the years leading up to his stint in charge of the national side that Eagles fans are now holding out genuine hopes of Premier League survival in May.
Known to be a manager who is utterly obsessed with his team’s shape in defence, transition and attack, the two-week gap he and his coaches have had to work with our players clearly paid dividends against Antonio Conte’s Blues, with all eleven starters putting in a near perfect display over the course of 90 minutes.
Playing Zaha in a striking role with Andros Townsend just behind him proved to be something of a masterstroke from Roy, whilst the midfield trio of Cabaye, Milivojevic and McArthur proved to be a dominant force throughout. Special mention should also go to the likes of Joel Ward, Mamadou Sakho and Scott Dann, who were all switched on from the first minute to the last.
Given our pointless start to the campaign, every game feels crucial from here on in but in Hodgson’s mind, the speed with which his players have grasped his tactical principles puts them ahead of other groups he’s worked with in terms of tactical progress. When you remember that he was eventually able to take the Cottagers all the way to a Europa League Final, his thoughts on the matter certainly make for exciting reading.
We’re nowhere close to being safe yet, indeed, we’re still rock bottom of the Premier League but our performance against the reigning champions has shown everyone, both in and outside of the club that we are far from a spent force just yet.
Let’s hope this is just the start.
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