The Insight: Crystal Palace – Is Roy Hodgson at risk of an early exit from stale Selhurst?

 | January 09 | 

7 mins read

crystal palace selhurst park scaled

The pressure is cranking up on Roy Hodgson at Crystal Palace after his side’s failure to beat 10-man Everton in the FA Cup third round last Thursday. The Eagles now have just two wins from their last 14 games and the dreadful draw against the Toffees, which necessitates a replay at Goodison Park next week, means a disrupted winter break for the South London club.

Even Premier League safety looks a long way off being assured following the improved recent displays of Luton Town, and Hodgson hasn’t been helped by a lengthy absentee list which currently includes the likes of Michael Olise, Cheick Doucoure and Sam Johnstone.

But the 76-year-old isn’t helping himself, either. An uninspiring style of play, characterised by a lack of goals, alongside spiky comments about young players in interviews, has invited a pile-on from Palace fans.

Is Hodgson currently the most under-pressure manager in the Premier League?

Crystal Palace 2023-24 Premier League Betting Odds:

  • Crystal Palace to be relegated @ 11/1
  • Crystal Palace top 10 finish @ 12/1
  • Crystal Palace to finish bottom @ 150/1

The sacking of Patrick Vieira as Palace manager last season sent shockwaves around the country. Fans and managers of other clubs were up in arms at what they deemed to be another trigger-happy Premier League club taking out their short-term frustration on an international footballing legend. The truth, however, was more complicated than that.

Although Vieira oversaw a transformation in the playing style of Palace in his first season, the Frenchman’s effect on the side had started to wane in the second, and they failed to win any of the last 12 games under his stewardship, scoring just five times in that period.

The reappointment of Hodgson, whose previous four-year spell in charge of the club ended in May 2021, further fuelled the fire around Selhurst Park.

The ex-England boss was seemingly in retirement, having failed to prevent Watford from relegation to the Championship in 2022, and going back to their former boss felt like an admission of defeat.

To the astonishment of Palace fans, Hodgson appeared to have returned to SE25 as a man reborn. A 2-1 stoppage-time win over Leicester City in his first game back in charge was followed by a 5-1 thrashing of Leeds United and a 2-0 win at Southampton to pretty much guarantee survival, and home victories over West Ham United (4-3) and Bournemouth (2-0) in their last five games saw the Eagles soar above Chelsea to an 11th-place finish.

After a period of uncertainty, Hodgson eventually agreed to stay on for another season, though talismanic figure Wilfried Zaha departed after the expiry of his contract. There was slow progress in the summer transfer window but the Eagles ended it with exciting Brazilian talent Matheus Franca and Premier League experience in Jefferson Lerma, Dean Henderson and Rob Holding.

Palace actually started the current campaign in impressive fashion, collecting 12 points from their first eight league games, but events have started to unravel in recent months.

Crystal Palace to be relegated from 2023-24 Premier League at 11-1 

Hodgson’s side currently sit 14th in the Premier League after 20 games, six points ahead of 18th-placed Luton, having won their last game in the competition against Brentford. Their run of two wins in 14 has also included creditable draws at Manchester City and West Ham, so it hasn’t been complete misery for Palace.

However, supporters’ ire with Hodgson goes back a long way, and there aren’t many - if any - managers with a bigger target on their back from their own following.

Hodgson has never really wowed fans with an expansive style of play, and results for smaller Premier League clubs can fluctuate. But the veteran manager’s public attempts at tough love with his young players have gone down like a lead balloon at Selhurst.

In November, the former Liverpool boss issued a public apology to Franca, 19, and Jesurun Rak-Sakyi and Naouirou Ahamada, both 21, after berating the trio’s lack of impact off the bench against Tottenham Hotspur.

Fast forward a couple of months and Hodgson was at it again last week, failing to offer praise for Franca’s first start (against Everton), which was regarded as positive by Palace supporters.

The fact it’s taken until January for the 19-year-old to start, with both Olise and Jordan Ayew absent, says a lot about Hodgson and his risk-averse nature.

But as well as issues in front of goal - only Sheffield United (20) and Burnley (20) have scored fewer Premier League goals this term - Palace are also starting to leak at the back, despite having two of the division’s finest central defenders in Joachim Andersen and Marc Guehi.

Two clean sheets in 14 doesn’t inspire confidence, and neither does drawing at home in the cup to a side down to 10 men for the final 20 minutes.

Crystal Palace top 10 finish in 2023-24 Premier League at 12-1

Supporters can forgive a sub-par Premier League campaign if there is a real fight for silverware in the cups, but the lack of intensity in Palace’s performance last Thursday was worrying, and it was the Toffees who actually looked more capable of scoring. It was an opportunity missed for the Eagles, and they now face a tough trip to Goodison Park. 

It’s fair to say Hodgson has been hamstrung by Palace’s movements - or lack of - in the market, with the club still relying on veterans Joel Ward (34) and Nathaniel Clyne (32) at right-back and failing to invest in a top-level striker to help replace Zaha. The reality is, though, that the Eagles are not a particularly attractive outfit at this present time.

Yes, they’re based in London, and have several exciting players in their ranks, but the club has sat still for a considerable period of time, and the uncertainty at managerial level - Hodgson’s contract runs out at the end of the season - doesn’t do much to entice players, who want to know who they are playing under and what the tactical set-up will be.

No one’s saying Palace should be targeting a European spot within the next year, or that they should be spending mega bucks on new arrivals, but a cursory glance around the Premier League highlights just what can be achieved with a coherent plan.

Their biggest rivals, Brighton, are seventh and through to the knockout rounds of the Europa League, despite losing a host of key stars in the last year. Their success is a hard one to swallow, with the Seagulls proving that an identity and smart recruitment can propel even the most ‘average’ club to great heights.

Crystal Palace to finish bottom of 2023-24 Premier League at 150-1

Since the start of the 2022-23 season, only Nottingham Forest have welcomed more arrivals to the club than Brighton, who have also witnessed the fourth-most departures, including Moises Caicedo and Alexis Mac Allister. Palace, on the other hand, are bottom in both fields.

These statistics highlight the central issue around the club - it’s become stale. A lack of identity off the pitch has been exacerbated by the bland tactics implemented on it, and recent results and performances only serve to highlight what has been obvious to fans for a long time.

The Eagles will probably exit the FA Cup at Everton before regrouping to string together a few results in the league to ensure safety, which should ensure Hodgson sees his contract out, but it’s concerning times at Selhurst, with fans fast losing patience.

Supporters need something to look forward to, and there appear to be very few positives for Palace moving forwards. Their next move in the managerial market could make or break a club which is simply treading water at this current time.

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