Crystal Palace’s problems in the final third have put them in a difficult position to start the Premier League campaign. The Eagles have found themselves on familiar ground, repeating their struggles of last season, though they’re a lot better off than they were under the tenure of Frank de Boer. After 12 matches of the 2017/18 term, the club were rock bottom of the table. However, the shoots of recovery were beginning under Roy Hodgson. This year, the former England manager has his team just outside of the relegation zone in and around the half-way mark of the campaign.
There is growing pressure on Hodgson to resolve the issues even though his hands have been tied by injury problems and a lack of talent outside of Wilfried Zaha in the forward line. As a result, Palace are backed in the latest Betway betting odds at 8/1 to be relegated to the Championship as of the 18th December. There should be concern for the Eagles, given the trend of seemingly established clubs to have experienced the drop in recent seasons, although Burnley and Southampton are also in the mix.
Premier League Trends
Newcastle had been established in the Premier League for six seasons, even reaching the heights of fifth place in the 2011/12 campaign under the tenure of Alan Pardew. The Magpies were a solid team under Pardew before his departure to join the Eagles in January 2015. Their decline followed with the disastrous appointments of John Carver that took the club to the brink of relegation in the same season. Steve McClaren finished the job in the following campaign, despite making significant signings in the transfer market worth up to £80m using an unusual extravagant license given to him by Sports Direct and club owner Mike Ashley. Rafa Benitez was unable to save them from the drop, although a return at the first time of asking was achieved. However, Newcastle still look like a club yo-yoing between the first and second tier.
Sunderland were in the Premier League for ten seasons before succumbing to the drop. Their heavy spending brought only high-priced failures that culminated in their relegation from the top flight under David Moyes in the 2016/17 season. The damage to their finances crippled the Black Cats in the Championship. Simon Grayson and Chris Coleman failed to achieve the ambition of an immediate return and made matters at the Stadium of Light worse, falling into the third tier for only the second time in their history. Sunderland appear to be trending in the right direction in League One, but their demise highlighted the dangers for any team dropping out of the Premier League.
What Can Palace Do?
Although the Eagles’ situation is not the most encouraging at the moment and there could be a temptation to remove Hodgson should it not improve in the near future, sacking the manager is not always the answer. It was last season when the wheels were off from the start under De Boer as his style failed to mesh with the players at his disposal – a large contingent of which were brought in by him. Hodgson’s arrival saved the club from the drop courtesy of eight and six-match unbeaten runs in the middle stretch and end of the campaign. Palace finished 11th – 11 points clear of the relegation zone.
Stoke City also changed their manager during the campaign, albeit at a slightly later stage. Their new manager, Paul Lambert, had a talented squad at his disposal not too dissimilar from the Eagles’. However, Lambert was unable to guide his team to safety, winning only two of his 15 games in charge. It highlights that the gamble does not always yield dividends. Hodgson has shown that he can get the best out Zaha in the final third, which has been Palace’s potentially fatal flaw this term. The 25-year-old has the ability to carry the club to safety almost single-handed – the issues have emerged when he has not been on the field.
Alexander Sorloth’s miss against Tottenham Hotspur cost the Eagles a point when he failed to fire his effort past Hugo Lloris. Christian Benteke’s injury issues have kept him out of action, while his form since his move from Liverpool has been underwhelming, to say the least. Jordan Ayew has not hit the ground running, while Connor Wickham continues to be sidelined. Palace face an important decision regarding their future, as something has to give. Luka Milivojevic’s goal against Leicester City did hand them their first win without Zaha in the team for two years. Hodgson has to hope that his side can use their triumph as a springboard to pull them clear of the mire.