BY SAM SMITH
Roy Hodgson hopes Crystal Palace can arrange more fixtures behind-closed-doors so that his players who do not always feature can maintain match fitness.
The Eagles played Arsenal’s first team last Monday, with a mixture of new signings, other first team players and U23s taking part.
In the past, Palace would include first team players seeking match fitness in U23 games, but the 71-year-old believes there are several flawed elements at that level and says first team friendlies are far more beneficial.
Hodgson said: “The game came about because both Arsenal and ourselves had players who we felt needed a game. To get a game that is somewhat relevant to the players of that level, you need to be playing a similar opponent. Unfortunately the U23 games don’t give you that because you can only play three [over-age] players in them and it’s a different type of football.
“I hope it’s something we can do on a regular basis throughout the season because otherwise there are players who are not quite getting into the first team but they are still very good players who you might need and rely upon. You need those players to have some good quality 11-a-side games, which you don’t get at U23 level.
“It was a very good exercise for both parties. You have to be careful about judging players in these games. You don’t have any idea what kind of team the opposition are going to put out until you actually arrive. But what you get to see are their fitness levels and if they are new players at the club, you can see how they are beginning to fit in.
“We were certainly very happy with the exercise and I believe Unai Emery, when I spoke to him, was too.”