Eight matches played, with the long awaited first goal(s) and first win coming at the weekend against reigning champions Chelsea.
Already, chairman Steve Parish has along with Palace’s American owners binned the summer’s brave new ideology of ‘Total Football’ offered by Sam Allardyce’s replacement Frank de Boer after just 450 minutes.
Roy Hodgson, last seen presiding over England’s disastrous and embarrassing Euro 2016 exit at the hands of minnows Iceland, was entrusted in the wake of de Boer’s shocking dismissal after just five matches with bringing a sense of pragmatic football back to Selhurst Park, the very thing Parish and his employers had been so keen to move away from following Allardyce’s unexpected resignation at the end of last season.
Three games into his tenure, Crystal Palace picked up their first 3 points of the season at the weekend. Palace now have something to build on but does Saturday’s win just paper over a massive crack?
Manager Number Three Incoming?
Before Saturday, some pundits were speculating that Palace may target a move for current Wales manager and former Eagles defender Chris Coleman should he choose to leave his role as national team manager after five pretty incredible years in charge. A third new manager before Christmas? Surely not. But then given the haste with which the club dispensed with former Ajax head coach de Boer and how modern football has developed an almost blood thirsty hunger for instant success, who knows what’s around the corner?
However, talk to any professional or so-called expert worth his salt and you’ll hear that a season isn’t decided in eight games. Palace have 30 matches to reach that much-vaunted annual target for most clubs of 40 points to avoid relegation. That’s an average of just 1.29 points per game. Optimistic in the extreme you may say. But Hodgson’s men have 16 home games remaining and will undoubtedly have to improve upon their dire record from last season, seven wins and two draws from their 19 games at Selhurst Park, if they are to harbour any hopes at all of retaining their Premier League status for a further year.
Eighth Time Lucky
Following the second international sojourn of the season, Palace returned to Premier League action on Saturday with a daunting looking match against champions Chelsea.
Back in April, the Eagles stunned the Blues at Stamford Bridge with a 2-1 victory as they limped towards 41 points to avoid relegation. Wilfred Zaha frightened the life out of the champions-in-waiting that day with a goal and an assist and the Ivory Coast international has prompted renewed optimism amongst the Palace ranks after a repeat performance on Saturday, scoring a goal and helping the South Londoner’s secure their first 3 points of the season.
Having been sidelined by a knee injury since the opening day defeat at the hands of Huddersfield, the return of Zaha should encourage Palace fans who will now be hoping that star striker Christian Benteke, who banged home 15 league goals last season, can also make a swift recovery to aid Palace’s recovery mission as soon as possible. In his continued absence, Hodgson will look to senior players such as Scott Dann, Mamadou Sakho, Jason Puncheon and Andros Townsend to take the burden of expectation off Zaha and get the Eagles pushing further up the table.
History Against Eagles
Despite Saturday’s great victory, in the Premier League era, no club has suffered a poorer start to the season than Palace have this season. Only four clubs have previously recorded just one point from their opening eight fixtures with two of them, Manchester City in 1996/97 and Sheffield Wednesday in 1999/00 falling through the dreaded trap door. Only Southampton back in 1998/99 and Sunderland two seasons ago have avoided the drop after gaining just a solitary point from the first 24 available.
It’s a tall order for Hodgson and his men unquestionably, but with a raucous home support behind them in their home games, the (possible) backing of the board and an upturn in results surely inevitable who knows where Palace could place come the final league table in May. Right now, anywhere but in the bottom three would do very nicely indeed. Not that the bookies share such optimism, take a look at the odds and you’ll see Palace are now 11/10 for relegation. A lot of hard work and a long seven months await!
Chris graduated from the University of Brighton in 2007 with a degree in Sports Journalism and is a sports fanatic, spending pretty much all of his money following the Welsh national football team all over Europe (and yes spending five weeks on tour with Wales in France at Euro 2016). He has written for numerous websites and has two fully published football biographies to his name. Chris also enjoys rugby union, cycling and politics and enjoys a regular (okay daily!) punt on football.
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