Injuries Hindering Palace’s Chances Of Premier League Survival
Every Premier League club has had to deal with its fair share of injury woes this season but it would be fair to claim that Crystal Palace have suffered more than most. Roy Hodgson’s side have slipped back into the relegation dogfight after securing just two points in their previous five Premier League games. Now back in the bottom three, Palace need to turn things around quickly in order to give themselves the best chance of avoiding relegation. With just six points separating Palace and 12th-placed Bournemouth, the battle is far from over.
WHO'S GOING DOWN?
Let us know your thoughts on the relegation battle this season. pic.twitter.com/8jeRbZSHwH
— Sunday Supplement (@SundaySupp) March 4, 2018
Palace have seen a significant improvement since Roy Hodgson arrived at Selhurst Park so it would be harsh to blame the manager too much for their recent struggles. The Eagles had 12 first team players ruled out through injury for the recent visit of Tottenham Hotspur and some would argue that Palace could have nicked a draw with a full-strength squad. Luckily for Hodgson, Martin Kelly and Jeffrey Schlupp are both back and will play pivotal roles for Palace during the run-in. Hodgson himself admitted that he was banking on those two defenders returning ahead of the clashes with Manchester United and Chelsea.
Palace Much Improved Under Hodgson
Supporters cannot have any complaints about Palace’s form at Selhurst Park under Hodgson – the Eagles have lost just three home fixtures since the start of October. Holding Manchester City, 18 points clear at the top of the Premier League table, to a goalless draw was a great achievement but the Eagles could – and probably should – have won that fixture. Taking inspiration from that performance could help get Palace back on track. As of March 5th, Betway are going 9/4 for Hodgson’s men to drop into the second tier this campaign and Eagles fans know that picking up as many points as possible in their remaining home fixtures is crucial.
Wilfried Zaha is central to Palace’s chances of survival and Eagles fans will be hoping for a speedy recovery. At the time of writing, Zaha has missed eight Premier League matches so far this season – Hodgson’s side have lost all eight, scoring just once whilst conceding 18. He is edging closer to a return and Palace will be in a much stronger position to push on and avoid relegation with Zaha back on the wing. The Eagles aren’t a one-man team but Zaha’s impact and ability to create chances in the final third should give them an edge. Whether Palace stay up or not, one thing is for sure: England’s elite clubs will be hunting his signature this summer with plenty of papers stating that Spurs are already plotting a lucrative bid for the 25-year-old.
‘Defence Wins Championships’
But we cannot overlook the issue of defensive instability in Palace’s recent run. The key to success in sport is consistency, both in attack and defence. Hodgson has been forced to play a few of Palace’s fringe defenders in recent months – that’s how bad their current injury situation is. The former England boss handed a professional debut to 20-year-old Aaron Wan-Bissaka against Spurs and he is now all set to feature on a more regular basis. James Tomkins, recently named as one of the Premier League’s top 20 defenders, limped off against Tottenham but is now back to full fitness following Monday night’s defeat to Jose Mourinho’s Reds.
It may be a little far-fetched to label Hodgson a relegation escape artist but the Palace boss does have previous from his Fulham and West Bromwich Albion days. The former in particular will live long in the memory with modern football fans – Danny Murphy inspiring the Cottagers to a shock victory away at Manchester City. That experience and knowledge of how to prepare a team battling against the odds could prove useful come the end of the campaign, especially if Palace’s injury woes continue to hamper their bid to move clear of danger.
Can Palace Do It?
Momentum is not in Palace’s favour but the Eagles do still have time on their hands. Roy Hodgson isn’t a miracle worker but, with the right tools, Crystal Palace can climb out of their current predicament – they certainly have the talent to succeed in England’s top flight with a fully fit squad. A couple of key figures at the back and Wilfried Zaha should be enough to give Palace a much-needed boost and clashes with Huddersfield Town, Brighton & Hove Albion and Stoke City are of paramount importance. Hold onto your hats; it is going to be a nail-biting finish to the campaign.