When the Premier League announced its nominees for Manager of the Year last week, the list featured high-profile bosses such as Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp.
Nonetheless, the award deserves to go to Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson, who has engineered one of the greatest seasonal turnarounds in Premier League history at Selhurst Park.
When the former England manager took over from the sacked Frank de Boer in mid-September, the Eagles had lost each of their five Premier League matches without notching a single goal.
It took an additional month until Palace recorded their first league win and scored their first league goal.
Hodgson steered the Eagles to a simply superb 2-1 home victory over Chelsea in October, a result that would set the tone for his inspired management.
The 70-year-old has instilled a remarkable never-say-die attitude in the team that was previously bereft of confidence, making a matchup against Palace a feared fixture yet again.
The Eagles have given each of the Premier League big boys an almighty scare this season, beating the Blues, drawing champions Manchester City, and narrowly losing to Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, and Manchester United by just the lone goal.
And, when Crystal Palace secured safety with an away win over Stoke City last week, it marked one of the most tremendous achievements of the Premier League season.
Roy Hodgson has truly worked his magic at Selhurst Park, emulating his role in Fulham’s ‘Great Escape’ of 2008 a decade later on.
Perhaps most impressive of all, Hodgson has kept Palace up without shaping the squad in his image.
The Eagles only spent around £11 million in the January transfer window, with their manager largely making do with the team he inherited from de Boer.
In all, Roy Hodgson clearly deserves to be recognised for the magnificent turnaround he kickstarted at Selhurst Park.
The Premier League Manager of the Year award would be the perfect accolade for his work.
One winner, one loser as Crystal Palace suffer defeat to Liverpool
The Eagles gave the Reds a run for their money all night, yet James Milner’s penalty and Sadio Mane’s breakaway finish handed Liverpool all three points.
Here is one winner and one loser from the final match of the Premier League week, as the performance spelled good news for Palace’s season but will be a blow for Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
Winner: Crystal Palace’s top-half ambitions
Just a week earlier, Liverpool had dealt West Ham a harsh footballing lesson by thrashing the east Londoners 4-0 at Anfield. The Reds’ front three was unplayable and the new-look squad appeared to have genuine title ambitions.
But when the Merseyside club made the trip to SE25, they found a far more difficult opponent in Crystal Palace. Roy Hodgson’s side made life uncomfortable all match for Liverpool, playing an aggressive style that denied Liverpool time on the ball and resulted in numerous chances for Palace to take the lead.
In the end, Liverpool only made a breakthrough by way of a penalty, after Andros Townsend had rattled the bar earlier. And although Palace went down to ten men and let in a second goal, the Eagles nonetheless continued to attack and pile on pressure.
Although Crystal Palace took no points from the match, their encouraging performance against one of the league’s top sides is reason to believe they can crack the upper half of the table this campaign.
Loser: Aaron Wan-Bissaka
The 20-year-old right back continued right where he had left off against Fulham, turning in a brilliant display in the opening half against Liverpool. His superb pace held Mane in check and his adventurous attacking play was a lethal combination with Townsend on the right wing.
Yet unfortunately for the youngster, his night ended prematurely when he took down Mohamed Salah as the Egyptian was through on goal late in the match. A three-match ban will follow, cruelly denying Wan-Bissaka a run in the team just as he was hitting outstanding form.
Wilfried Zaha’s new Crystal Palace deal can keep Eagles soaring
The Ivory Coast international has signed a new deal until 2023.
A lengthy summer transfer window ended with a sigh of relief for Crystal Palace fans, as Wilfried Zaha remained in south London for the 2018-19 season.
Linked with Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea, the Ivory Coast international remained loyal to the Eagles and has since been rewarded with a lucrative new contract that runs until 2023 – with the club confirming the new deal on Wednesday.
Since *that* disappointing time with Manchester United, Zaha has found his home at Selhurst Park and securing the 25-year-old to a long-term deal is vital for the club’s plans for the coming years – as shown by a remarkable stat.
10 – Since the start of 2017-18, Crystal Palace haven't won a single point in the 10 Premier League matches that Wilfried Zaha hasn't started. Of the 29 games he has started, they've averaged 1.62 points per game. Crucial. pic.twitter.com/YakDklWFFO
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) August 15, 2018
Since the start of the 2017-18 season, Crystal Palace failed to win a single point in the 10 Premier League matches that Zaha has not started – compared to the average of 1.62 points a game that the Eagles have picked up with their maestro in the side.
His importance was shown last season when, after a woeful start to the season for the south London side, Zaha led the way in a miraculous revival under Roy Hodgson – scoring nine goals and contributing a further three assists.
Zaha hit the ground running against Fulham, opening his account for the campaign on the season’s first round of fixtures, and keeping his services at the club are more important than any of the summer business Hodgson completed in recent months.
Why Roy Hodgson’s Crystal Palace selection headache is a desirable one
The Eagles continued their fine Premier League form under Roy Hodgson against Fulham.
After Crystal Palace‘s astute summer transfer business, many expected Roy Hodgson’s side to quickly welcome the new signings into the first team fray.
However, in the Eagles’ Premier League opener against Fulham, none of the four summer arrivals started, and only Cheikhou Kouyate played a part in the match.
Although those decisions were in part due to fitness and lack of training, Roy Hodgson nevertheless faces a selection headache ahead of Palace’s match against Liverpool on Monday.
The desire to stick with last season’s winning formula versus the urge to incorporate summer signings is a tricky situation to navigate, yet it is a positive development for Crystal Palace as it creates competition for spaces and improves squad depth.
The starting XI that dispatched Fulham 2-0 at Craven Cottage was absent of any new signings, with goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey notably getting the nod ahead of Vicente Guaita.
The decision came as a particular surprise as the Standard reported in the build-up to the match that the Spaniard was set to start. Instead, the Welshman kept a clean sheet and turned in a man-of-the-match display.
In this instance, it appears the competition of adding another top-class goalkeeper further propelled Hennessey to perform at a higher level, just one example of why Roy Hodgson has a positive selection headache on his hands.
In central midfield, James McArthur and Luka Milivojevic thrived, with McArthur particularly bright in restricting the play-making qualities of Jean-Michael Seri.
Hodgson brought in Kouyate and Max Meyer to add further reinforcements in central midfield, yet on the evidence of the Fulham match these two new signings may have to wait in order to break into the starting lineup.
Jordan Ayew may also press for inclusion in the coming weeks as he gets to grips with the club, presenting another attacking option for the Eagles.
All four new signings will be raring to go and eager to impress, leaving Hodgson with many difficult calls to make as the season progresses.
Yet, overall, the dilemma is a desirable one, improving the quality of the Crystal Palace squad and creating strength in depth.
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