BY ANDREW MCSTEEN
Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson has emphasised the importance of a core group of five players who have started all 21 Premier League games this season.
The Eagles 2-0 win at Wolverhampton Wanderers on Wednesday night saw them consolidate 14th place in the Premier League.
Five Eagles have started all 21 games – Patrick Van Aanholt, Mamadou Sakho, Andros Townsend, James McArthur and captain Luka Milivojevic – with both Milivojevic and Sakho playing all 1,890 minutes.
Just behind this ‘Famous Five’ of SE25 lies Aaron Wan-Bissaka (1,785 minutes) who missed one game due to suspension.
“The answer is that they have all been important and will continue to be,” said Hodgson to the South London Press when asked about the importance of that core group.
“I don’t think we are unusual in that respect – especially if you look at the teams in the bottom half of the table from 11 downwards. I don’t know if you get that enormous rotation of players that you maybe get amongst the five or six top teams because they have bigger and stronger squads.
“They are able to bring in players in terms of quality, and expense in terms of what it costs the club – like [Paul] Pogba and [Alexis] Sanchez who have both been on the bench for Manchester United, yet who still won games despite the fact that these two were not even selected.
“As you come down the scale, the clubs don’t have that wealth of talent perhaps, but if you happen to have a good team you hope that the ones you have will stay fit and I am more than happy that we have been fortunate with injuries so far this season.
“We haven’t lost any of our core players for any length of time, other than Christian Benteke, in fact, Tomkins can’t be far off of that group of five either,” added Hodgson about the former West Ham defender, who has missed just three league games this season, racking up 1,590 minutes playing time.
Another valuable player is pre-season signing Max Meyer who has recently cemented his place in the first team squad, despite struggling to find fitness and form early on in his English career.
Starting in early November against Chelsea, the German international midfielder started the next nine games, but has seen the past two matches from the bench, coming on as a substitute late on against Chelsea at Selhurst on Sunday in a 1-0 loss, and could only watch the 2-0 away win against Wolves on Wednesday from the bench, after Hodgson brought in attacker Jordan Ayew.
Despite this, the 23-year-old has already played 978 minutes in the top-flight in 17 games, making a significant contribution to the Eagles squad according to the Palace gaffer.
“He’s definitely brought his straw to the water, there is no question of that,” said Hodgson to the South London Press about Meyer slotting into his side.
“We knew what we were getting when we signed Max – we knew what a quality player he is. We’ve been pleased that after having to bide his time, he’s got into the team and shown everybody the type of player that we know him to be.