Roy Hodgson’s return to the Premier League didn’t exactly have the desired happy ending as Southampton condemned Crystal Palace to their fifth consecutive defeat of the new campaign.
It took just eight minutes for the visitors to get their noses in front, with midfielder Steven Davis capitalising on some more weak defending to pick up the ball on the penalty spot and slot home.
Christian Benteke came closest to getting an equaliser – and Crystal Palace’s first Premier League goal of the season – when he forced Fraser Forster into a smart reflex save from just a few yards out.
But it wasn’t to be for the hosts, and Hodgson’s side remain rock bottom of the league table after becoming the first top-flight team to ever lose five consecutive games at the start of a new season.
Read below for three things that The Boot Room learnt from Southampton’s routine victory.
Where will Palace’s goals come from?
Managerial changes at a club this early in the season so often end in a quick rejuvenation, but Roy Hodgson’s arrival flattered to deceive and did very little to break Crystal Palace’s goal-scoring duck.
Yet another match in which they failed to find the back of the net now makes it 450 minutes this season without a goal, surpassing the 438 minutes that Newcastle went back in the 2005-06 season.
Despite changing the Palace set-up from Frank de Boer’s favoured 3-5-2 to a much more traditional 4-4-1-1, utilising summer arrival Ruben Loftus-Cheek in a role just behind main striker Christian Benteke, there was still a severe lack of intent and cutting edge whenever they attacked.
Too often Palace were predictable, going direct with long balls pumped up to target-man Benteke and making it easy for Southampton to deal with it, and this needs to change for any chances of survival.
Record-signing Lemina shows signs of promise
Whilst Southampton barely had to get out of second gear in their victory on Saturday afternoon, manager Mauricio Pellegrino would have no doubt been pleased with Mario Lemina’s performance.
The club-record £18.1million signing from Juventus stood head and shoulders above anybody else throughout the match, dominating the midfield battle for his side and covering every blade of glass.
The 24-year-old had a 90% passing accuracy as he controlled the tempo of his side’s play, also winning 100% of his aerial duels, making three interceptions and three clearances as he constantly repelled Palace’s attempts to get the ball up to Benteke in the air as they looked for an equaliser.
After arriving at Southampton with a reputation as a budding box-to-box midfielder he showcased his ability driving forward, completing three take-ons and having two shots on goal as well.
Whilst it’s still early days in his Premier League career, and whilst Saturday was against a weak Palace side, the control that Lemina displayed in midfield was a promising sign of things to come.
Future looks bleak at Selhurst Park
With five consecutive losses now under their belt there’s certainly no let-up for Crystal Palace throughout the course of the next month as Roy Hodgson prepares for their toughest tests yet.
Consecutive away fixtures against Manchester City and Manchester United await Palace after Wednesday’s Carabao Cup tie with Huddersfield, two sides that have begun the Premier League season in rampant and destructive style, before they host Premier League champions Chelsea.
The fact that Hodgson himself has confessed that his Palace side could face an ‘even worse scenario’ after their next three matches won’t exactly fill supporters with hope ahead of the games.
Lose those three and it’ll see Palace pointless after eight matches of the season – a simply unprecedented feat – and it could give them a mountain to climb as they look to avoid relegation.
However, victories over Arsenal and Chelsea at the end of last season will give Hodgson some small hope of causing the most unlikeliest of shocks, and a result of any sort from these could kick-start their year.