BY ADAM SELLS
ROY THE BOY JUST KEEPS ON DELIVERING
Take a look at social media, the BBS messageboard or listen to one or two fans on podcasts and you hear, words like, “it doesn’t feel good,” “it’s boring,” “it’s not exciting” and so on. But with the facts set out it is hard to understand any real dissent towards Roy Hodgson.
The expectancy and sense of entitlement is really quite hard to fathom.
Given the lack of firepower and players that can turn a game at his disposal, grinding out victories off the back of a solid defensive base is going to be the order of the day until at least January when I hope that Roy is backed properly by the owners and sporting director.
In the nine months of 2019 Crystal Palace have been the fourth best team in the Premier League.
I will say it again… in the nine months of 2019 Crystal Palace have been the FOURTH best team in the Premier League. Better than Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea and Manchester United.
Roy Hodgson has been nothing short of incredible since taking the reins at Selhurst Park two years ago.
When Hodgson took on a team that were in dire straits – having lost seven on the bounce without scoring a goal – few could have expected such a huge turnaround in the fortunes of a team that seemed destined for the Championship, taking the club the following season to its best ever Premier League points haul.
In this time he has to make do with the permanent signings of Alexander Sorloth, Jaroslaw Jach, Vicente Guaita, Stephen Henderson, Max Meyer, Cheikhou Kouyate, Jordan Ayew, Gary Cahill and James McCarthy. That’s a pretty modest outlay that would almost certainly be the lowest of any Premier League club in this period, circa around £20million.
Victor Camarasa, the recently acquired Spaniard, is the club’s only loan signing.
Now for the rest of those that have gone through the exit door in the last 48 months; Julian Speroni, Diego Cavalieri, Pape Souare, Damian Delaney, Jordon Mutch, Yohan Cabaye, Chung-Yong Lee, Jonny Williams, Jason Puncheon and the aforementioned Jach and Sorloth whom have been loaned out. That amounts to 11 players.
Added to these are those signed on a short-term basis – Bakary Sako, Michy Batshuayi, Erdal Rakip, Lucas Perri, Timothy Fosu-Mensah and the impressive Ruben Loftus-Cheek are also players that Hodgson can no longer call on.
Then of course there is Aaron Wan-Bissaka, sold to Manchester United for around £50m.
The transfer business during Roy’s tenure leaves the club somewhere around £30m in the black.
With a little support this summer Hodgson was left woefully short of options in both attack and the full-back positions, with the three strikers at his disposal amassing a total of two Premier League goals between them last season.
One might think that staying in the biggest league in the world may look a tall order given all of those factors, instead Hodgson’s team have 11 points from their opening seven fixtures, which has included trips to two of the ‘big six’ and facing big spending Everton. Should this points-to-game ratio be maintained over 38 games, Palace would be sat on 60 points in May comfortably their best ever Premier League total.
It’s about time Hodgson was given the respect his abilities deserve.
His detractors have pointed to the home form. I read last week that the last six home matches amount to Palace’s best points haul in the Premier League at the renamed ‘Fortress Selhurst!’
Any point, is a precious point at this level and no Palace follower should ever lose sight of that, at the same time given the issues with some of the big clubs currently, you wonder what Roy could really achieve with a little more stardust and a couple of other names added to the whiteboard in his Beckenham office.
When you look at the picture over the past two years and what Roy has done in the circumstances it is difficult to believe anybody could have achieved more.
‘STEADY EDDIES’ ARE UNDER APPRECIATED
Hard work beats talent when talent don’t work hard.
A phrase that has been reeled out time and time again for as long as I can remember.
It’s clear that Roy appreciates his ‘Steady Eddies’ within his squad. The value of these players within the group and their contribution is often overlooked by fans, with many who seem to think anybody who is not selected is somewhat superior to those in possession of the shirt. It always amazes me how much better players are when they are not in the team!
The likes of James McArthur, Jeffrey Schlupp and Joel Ward seem to divide opinion in the same way that Roy does.
McArthur is a technically excellent, intelligent, dependable midfielder and the £5m spent in the summer of 2014 must surely be up there with the best pieces of business by the club.
Likewise Ward. Wardy has started the season in excellent fashion with many having called time on his Palace career before.
Hugely underestimated, the fact that in eight seasons with the club he has gained promotion and played the next seven in the most difficult league in the world for the princely sum of £400,000 appears to have been missed by some.
The 29-year-old has plenty left in the tank. And will continue to defy the critics for some time to come.
Schlupp has flourished under Hodgson and has his ability to adapt to various roles across midfield and at full-back has clearly made a lasting impression on the manager and his coaching staff.
The Ghana international has demonstrated an eye for goal and can provide real thrust from midfield.
When utilised in a wide role of late he has been very effective. Premier League squads need players like Schlupp.
A common theme amongst some fans is a perceived lack of creativity in midfield. It seems whoever is not selected is the missing link with the names Meyer and Camarasa featuring heavily in debate.
Both are technically adroit, it is clear, but the burning question remains. Where do they fit into the team? Can they influence the game?
Neither has done enough to warrant a run in Roy’s team since they have arrived. Fans mustn’t lose sight of the fact that the staff work with these players day to day.
When you are classed as a master technician you must deliver when the moment dictates. Meyer’s chance in the season’s opener against Everton was one such case and his unconvincing finish was followed up by an anonymous display at Sheffield United.
He has offered little defensively and it really is up to the diminutive German to grab his chance when it comes, but those calling for his inclusion have had little to support that argument thus far.
Likewise Camarasa, – who made little impression in the League Cup tie against League Two opposition. Though excellent it seemed from a distance when at Cardiff City last season, this does not make him a shoo-in at Crystal Palace. Everybody loves to see artistic players of this type, but if a manager is to build around them, they must do the ‘dirty’ side for the team and make sure their performances are of a consistent nature.
You must get the ball first in order to do something with it.
4-4-2 OR 4-3-3? IT’S HORSES FOR COURSES
The shape of the team should be dictated by how the players available may best be utilised and the opposition.
The idea that a fixed way will work each and every time is a myth.
Hodgson adapts his shape and approach week to week, as a top coach should.
Those that tell you that there is only one way are often the ones who trot out the “there is no plan B” line when things are not going right.
When adopting a ‘lopsided’ 4-4-2, it seems that many fans see the lack of two out-and-out wide players as negative, but it has worked time and again.
To bring it full circle, it can be argued that Roy and Ray Lewington have proven their approach has been successful, time and time again.
A TOUGH RUN OF FIXTURES AWAITS
The next six fixtures are going to provide stern tests for Roy’s boys. Starting this weekend with a trip to West Ham United, the next five are Manchester City, Arsenal, Leicester City, Chelsea and Liverpool.
Each and every one will be in and around the top six this season. But Palace will be well organised and difficult to beat and with Hodgson’s tactical nous, a couple of Jordan Ayew goals and a fair sprinkling of luck anything is possible.
Roy has proven his quality with one arm tied behind his back.
If Palace are to upset the odds over the next couple of months it will be what is now par for the course.
Some will call it boring or functional…but keep doing what you do Roy!
PICTURES BY KEITH GILLARD