Palace's good start doesn't feel that great, says Nav. Here he looks at why that might be the case.
Saturday’s win over Norwich saw Crystal Palace earn their 11th point of the season after just seven games and the reading of results over 2019 has been impressive. That is now six games unbeaten at home and only three teams have collected more than Roy Hodgson’s Palace this year.
Somehow, despite that record, there is some unrest among the fanbase and it has approached the stage where winning does not feel like winning anymore. While results are being achieved, are questions raised about the way Hodgson is managing this squad valid or without any merit?
It seems as though a comfortable 2-0 win over Norwich in 2019 feels like less of an achievement than a 2-0 win over Fulham last season or the 1-0 win over Burnley in 2017/18. Has the club become a victim of its success of staying in the Premier League for a seventh successive season or have expectations been raised? Either way, the sense is that despite the stellar record in 2019, the team is a defeat away from some fans questioning the manager’s position.
There is certainly frustration over the team selections, such as with functional players such as James McArthur and Jeffrey Schlupp being selected over the more creative midfielders in the squad. The results are therefore gained by the players all fulfilling their instructions and roles rather than by a moment of magic. The matches are won without genuinely memorable moments – there has not been a Mamadou Sakho injury time winner against Stoke, nor has there been a turnaround like Watford at home where late goals by Bakary Sako and McArthur saw Palace gain a vital three points.
We have also, with Hodgson’s steady stewardship following his first season with Palace, not had that desperate need for points; it is almost assumed that the manager will deliver what we need to stay up, so a slightly greater emphasis has been placed on how those points have been won. And it is not as if Hodgson has shown himself incapable of winning points while entertaining football has been played – it just happens that until we get to a position of relative safety, we will not see performances like the 5-0 win over Leicester or 5-3 over Bournemouth.
Luka’s penalties are a work of art. pic.twitter.com/H0VRLR3Jk1— Five Year Plan 🦅 (@FYPFanzine) September 29, 2019
This is not to say that when Palace have had a manager who wanted the ball “put at risk” more and wanted to “transition” to a front foot style that the fans were always content – while Alan Pardew had a first year points wise in line with the trajectory of 2019, the following year which saw 6 wins from 40 was enough for most fans to crave the mid-table mediocrity the club now seems to be on course for.
A managerial change is not on the cards and would largely be unjustified. Hodgson has achieved the results he has had to without any real additions in transfer windows. With current rumours around the ownership and future of Wilfried Zaha and others, maintaining Premier League status remains the manager’s remit and the club’s main priority. With results being achieved, the on pitch ambition fans want to see is unlikely and Hodgson is not for changing in approach. It’s where we find ourselves – the manager is doing more than enough to keep his job, yet the job he is doing is not satisfying a number of Palace fans.
Maybe with Hodgson managing a side of dependable players such as McAthur, Schlupp, Joel Ward, Martin Kelly and the like, survival in the Premier League through a series of professional but unremarkable results is what we should come to expect. With this set up, it is unlikely we will see more game changers in the side other than Zaha – Max Meyer and Victor Camarasa will both have to bide their time and wait for a chance no matter how much we think they may add to our side. Maybe, just maybe, this is the new “typical Palace”. A teacup and saucer ride rather than a roller-coaster.