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Roy Hodgson faces a difficult task to save Crystal Palace but does offer a glimmer of hope

Martyn Cooke

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Roy Hodgson

On Saturday afternoon Roy Hodgson stood in the dugout at Selhurst Park with his arms crossed and a forlorn expression etched on his face. The 70-year-old has always been regarded as one of the deep-thinkers of football management and he was certainly left with plenty to ponder over by the time that the final whistle had been sounded to confirm a fifth straight defeat for Crystal Palace.

Hodgson was probably wondering why his side had conspired to concede the only goal of the game within six minutes or, perhaps, how Christian Benteke had fired his shot directly at the goalkeeper from six yards out when it looked easier to score on the half hour mark. One of the most experienced managers remaining in football may well have wondered why he was in South London at all rather than enjoying a well-deserved retirement on a beach in Barbados.

It is over two years since he last occupied a dugout, on a fateful evening that ended in his England side being knocked out of the European Championships by Iceland, and few had expected him to make a return to top flight football. Hodgson has reached the ripe old age of 70 and after 41 years of management it is testament to his passion for the game that he has launched himself into the deep end by taking charge of a Crystal Palace side that appears to be destined for relegation. Saving The Eagles from the drop will be one of the biggest challenges in his career.

The statistics, results and forthcoming fixtures do not make for positive reading. Palace have lost all five of their opening Premier League fixtures and have yet to even score a goal – something that has never occurred before in the top flight of English football. Up next are Manchester United and Manchester City, both away fixtures, before they host reigning Champions Chelsea at Selhurst Park in early October. It is not inconceivable that The Eagles will find themselves without a point or a goal to their name after eight games of the season.

Problems, solutions and a slim glimmer of hope

The problems that Roy Hodgson faces at Crystal Palace will come as little surprise to those that have observed the club over the last five years.

Since securing promotion to the Premier League in 2013 under Ian Holloway the team have been consistently dipping in and around the relegation zone. There is a definitive lack of identity and there is little doubt that the squad needs to be galvanised and remoulded into an effective cohort. The current crop of players appear to have adopted an inability to defend and an impotency in front of goal whilst key figures in the team seem incapable of producing substantial performances on any sort of consistent basis.

Frank de Boer attempted to change the culture and philosophy at the club but the contrast in the total-football that he wanted to implement and the route-one style of play utilised by his predecessor, Sam Allardyce, was too great for a limited group of players to be able to adapt to. The end result was that the Dutchman lost his job after just four games in charge and Palace have rooted themselves to the foot of the Premier League table.

However, Hodgson will provide a slim glimmer of hope for Crystal Palace supporters. The 70-year-old has previous experience of saving a club from relegation having successfully overseeing Fulham’s last-day great escape in 2008. He is renowned for developing teams that get the basics right, that are hard to beat but effective in the final third, with training consisting of constant work on the shape and structure. Although his style of management and play may not have suited the so-called ‘big’ jobs in which he has undoubted failed, such as with England and Liverpool, it could well be just what the doctor ordered for a sinking Palace side.

But not all of the pressure or blame should be placed solely on the shoulders of Hodgson as the campaign progresses. The current Crystal Palace squad consists of experienced and talented individuals such as Andros Townsend, Scott Dann, Christian Benteke and Yahan Cabaye – where has their contribution been over the opening month of the season? It is time for the players to stand up and be counted, whilst it is Hodgson’s job to facilitate a system that maximises their ability.

It will certainly not be as easy at is sounds. Maybe Roy Hodgson should have stayed on that beach in Barbados …

Martyn is currently a PTA and Research Assistant in the Department of Exercise Science at the Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). In addition to his teaching role he is also undertaking a PhD in Sports History that is exploring the origins and development of football in Staffordshire. Prior to working at MMU, Martyn spent a decade operating in the sport and leisure industry in a variety of roles including as a Sports Development Officers, PE Teacher, Football Coach and Operation Manager.

Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha should resist move away from Selhurst Park

The Ivorian winger has been key for the Eagles this season.

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Wilfried Zaha
Photo: Getty Images

Crystal Palace star Wilfried Zaha delivered yet another superb performance this weekend, scoring a crucial brace in Palace’s 3-2 win against Brighton.

In typical fashion, following his impressive showing, many have speculated that Zaha is far too good for this Palace team and should depart Selhurst Park in the summer.

However, Zaha should resist such urges and remain at Palace, where he will shine in the spotlight as their main man and bring top-half success to the Eagles.

The most recent rumours in the Times have linked the Ivorian with a switch to Tottenham Hotspur, but his 2013 transfer to Manchester United should prove a convincing deterrent against the move to north London.

Five years ago, Zaha swapped Palace for the allure of United, eager to become a star for the Red Devils. He signed a five-and-a-half-year deal at Old Trafford, but his time in Manchester was an abject failure.

The winger only made two league appearances for United, registering zero goals, before falling out of favour with David Moyes and being loaned out to Cardiff City. Just a season later, he was back at Crystal Palace.

(Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)

This big money debacle reveals that Zaha struggles when inserted into a situation where he is not a guaranteed starter. His game thrives off of confidence, trickery, and flair; it is no coincidence his best years have come at Palace, a club that genuinely loves and appreciates him.

And, it seems the feeling is mutual.

Zaha prominently spoke this week about his intense desire to beat Brighton and silence their supporters, illustrating the winger’s cult status and loyalty to the Eagles.

For the 25-year-old, the perfect decision would be to remain at Selhurst Park this summer. Roy Hodgson will be given funds to shape the team in his image, and could easily reproduce his success at Fulham, where he inspired the Whites to a seventh-placed finish and a Europa League final.

With Zaha leading the way as the star man, the ceiling could be the limit next season for the Eagles.

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Could Juventus’ Mario Mandzukic be the perfect man for Crystal Palace?

The Croatian striker scored twice in Juventus’ Champions League win over Real Madrid.

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Mario Mandzukic
Photo: Getty Images

31-year-old Juventus striker Mario Mandzukic turned back the clock on Wednesday night with a remarkable two-goal display against defending European champions Real Madrid.

If Crystal Palace maintain their Premier League status, then Mandzukic could prove the perfect man to solve their striker problems.

In the days leading up to the match, reports in Italian outlet Tuttosport, as referenced by Football Italia and Goal in Germanyhad linked the Croatian striker with a transfer to the Chinese Super League, claiming that Juventus were prepared to let him leave in the summer.

Yet the experienced striker has shown he still possesses the quality to perform at the highest level, evidenced by his dominating quarterfinal display. Two first-half towering headers revealed the forward’s predatory instincts, ability to latch on to crosses, and knack for powerful finishes.

A move to China, in essence still a glorified amateur league, would represent a dramatic step down for Mandzukic far too soon in his career. Only in his early 30s, the striker still has a number of productive seasons left in the tank and can adapt his game to accommodate his age.

Mario Mandzukic

His arrival at Selhurst Park would fill the gap that the Eagles have had at centre-forward for a number of years. The misfiring Christian Benteke has failed to impress this term, passing up many a golden opportunity.

Mandzukic would add a lethal touch to the multitude of crosses Roy Hodgson’s side tend to swing in, benefiting from Andros Townsend and Wilfried Zaha’s wicked deliveries.

Although the transfer may appear ridiculous, to begin with, Palace have a proud recent history of signing players from Europe’s top clubs. Yohan Cabaye joined from Paris Saint Germain, Mamadou Sakho and Benteke joined from Liverpool, and Jairo Riedewald was brought in from Ajax.

The acquisition of Mandzukic would be a brilliant coup for the Eagles and propel them to the upper half of the table next season.

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£28 million difference, but Crystal Palace would much prefer Glenn Murray

Christian Benteke has flopped at Crystal Palace this season, with just two goals compared to Murray’s 13 with Brighton.

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Crystal Palace suffered defeat at the hands of Liverpool in the Premier League yesterday, in what was a tight affair. A late goal from Mohamed Salah proved the difference, as Liverpool claimed a 2-1 victory. If only a former Liverpool player could have had a better day at the office, Palace might have taken all three points.

Christian Benteke’s poor form continued for the Eagles. He missed two golden opportunities to score in a game where the margins were considerably fine. The exasperation in team-mate Wilfried Zaha’s face made it clear what he felt of the Belgian’s wastefulness.

Palace fans are probably wishing they had a much less heralded and much cheaper former striker up front instead of Benteke.

BRIGHTON, ENGLAND – MARCH 04: Glenn Murray of Brighton and Hove Albion during the Premier League match between Brighton and Hove Albion and Arsenal at Amex Stadium on March 4, 2018 in Brighton, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Whilst yesterday was not his best day, Glenn Murray has been outstanding for rivals Brighton and Hove Albion this season. The 34-year-old has scored 13 goals in 34 games for the Seagulls this season. Benteke meanwhile has just two in 26 – an abysmal record for a striker with his price-tag.

Palace paid a fee in the region of £32 million to bring the Belgian to Selhurst Park back in 2016, as reported by Sky Sports. A year previously Palace had sold Murray to Bournemouth in a £4 million deal, according to BBC Sport. A difference of £28 million which, quite frankly, is laughable considering the comparable seasons of the pair.

Looking back with hindsight it is easy to see that Palace should have kept hold of Murray that summer. Now back with Brighton he has been a phenomenon this season whilst Benteke, at times, has been a phantom.

during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Liverpool at Selhurst Park on March 31, 2018 in London, England.

If Palace had the chance to trade them right now for the relegation run-in, make no mistake, the £32 million striker would be sent packing his bags down the M23 to Sussex.

Palace need the Belgian to start firing if they are going to survive an extremely tight looking relegation battle in the Premier League. He does not need to look far for inspiration. If Benteke can find anything near the form Murray has exhibited this campaign, then Palace will have no trouble staying up whatsoever.

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