Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson has revealed that staying in the Premier League is the “be all and end all” for Crystal Palace this season.
The former England boss has had an impressive start to the season with Palace following victories at Old Trafford and versus Aston Villa, with the club having the best defensive record in the league after four games (as per WhoScored).
However, despite that early success, Hodgson has told fans that it’s likely there will be “suffering” and “heartache” at Selhurst Park this campaign.
Speaking at a Palace for Life event, Hodgson said (via Evening Standard): “Fans would like to hear ‘yeah it’s going to be a great season, we’ve finished roughly in the middle of the table the last couple of seasons, we’re going to go on and do much better than that’.
“I would like to say that to you but if I’m realistic I’m not certain I can. I think staying in the Premier League is always going to be the be-all and end-all for us and always going to be a fight, a bit of suffering. There’s not going to be rainbows and blue skies and rose-coloured spectacles all the way through. There’s going to be plenty of fighting and heartache along the way.”
“I would like to think this club has a fanbase and a supporter base which isn’t totally dependent on us being in the Premier League and getting into Champions League places because to be quite honest that’s going to ask an awful lot of our owners to give the sort of money and financial backing that you need now.”
With Palace finishing 12th in the Premier League last season, it will be a tall ask to demand the same finish from them this year – even with their terrific start.
Put simply, Palace’s squad is not as talented as it was in the last campaign, and they have a key player who doesn’t really fancy being there.
In Palace’s last fixture of last season, they defeated Bournemouth 5-3 at Selhurst Park, in that team they have lost two key players who have simply not been replaced: Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Michy Batshuayi.
With the former, Wan-Bissaka was probably Palace’s best player last season, as the Player of the Year award and by far the highest average rating (7.27) on WhoScored would suggest. Even though his defensive stats are what stand-out – 3.7 tackles per game, 2.4 interceptions per game and 3.7 clearances per match – it is the ability to get down the flank which Palace will miss this year. He averaged 1.7 dribbles per match in the last campaign – the second most in the squad and more than winger Andros Townsend. For relevant context, Joel Ward averages 0.3 so far this season.
Batshuayi was Palace’s top-scoring striker last season with five goals despite only playing eleven matches – Jordan Ayew and Christian Benteke played 36 between them and could only amass two goals (WhoScored).
Bearing in mind Palace finished with their record points tally in a 38-game Premier League season last term, it would be criminally unfair to expect the same again from Hodgson with a worse squad, and a Wilfried Zaha who has made it clear he would rather be playing somewhere else (@SkyKaveh).
Palace should have enough about them to stay up this season; however, the lack of ambition in the transfer market has left Roy Hodgson with no other expectation than staying in the Premier League.
The Eagles, though, can take some comfort from the fact that they have signed Gary Cahill and that they have looked very solid defensively in the games so far.
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