Premier League preview 2018/19 - Crystal Palace: Hodgson's men again look to Zaha to inspire
Richard Jolly is analysing all 20 teams competing in the Premier League and giving his verdict on how they will fare. Here he looks if Palace can build on the momentum of a strong end to 2017/18
State of play: Palace made history last season, beginning with seven straight defeats when they failed to score and almost ending in the top half. It pointed to a remarkable resurgence under Roy Hodgson after Frank de Boer’s reign was cruelly but correctly curtailed.
Yet rather than a springboard to success, it has proved the prelude to a slow start to the summer.
Yohan Cabaye and the loanee Ruben Loftus-Cheek are the most prominent of the departures, though Cheikhou Kouyate has bolstered the midfield while the first arrival was a necessary one: goalkeeper has been a problem position for years so Vicente Guaita could make a difference.
Key player: Wilfried Zaha – Surely the best player outside the top six. Zaha ran defences ragged last season after being liberated with his use as a roaming striker. He still should score more goals but nine represented a career-best tally last season. Palace’s record was awful in the games he missed.
Manager: Roy Hodgson – Helped restore his reputation near his native Croydon after his spell as England manager ended ignominiously in defeat to Iceland. Hodgson turns 71 in August and is surely in the last job of a career that began 42 years ago. Palace, lacking stability, are understandably keen to keep him until 2020.
Talking point: Can Hodgson’s unconventional tactics work again? Often deemed predictable and conservative, the Palace manager was actually innovative in devising a 4-4-2 formation with two wingers and no striker in attack and two central midfielders operating slightly wider.
Yet without Cabaye and Loftus-Cheek, he has lost half of that central quartet, though the former Schalke midfielder Max Meyer could offer an option, should he sign. And while Zaha and Andros Townsend could lead the line again, their deployment was enforced in part because of Christian Benteke’s goal drought.
Minus midfielders, Hodgson could need Benteke back in the team and in the goals. He certainly ranks as a particularly expensive substitute.
Updated: August 4, 2018 08:45 AM