Crystal Palace have a big decision to make despite Premier League survival
17 March, 2021

A 1-0 triumph over West Bromwich Albion on Saturday almost certainly secured another season of Premier League football for Crystal Palace. The Eagles moved up to 37 points with victory over West Bromwich Albion, giving them a healthy 11-point buffer above the bottom three. They could still break the club’s all-time Premier League points tally of 49.

It might seem strange, then, that many Palace fans do not want Roy Hodgson to continue as their manager next term. The former England, Fulham and West Brom boss has done an excellent job in his four seasons at Selhurst Park. He has kept Palace clear of the relegation zone in each of those campaigns, and his team also played some good football in his first two years at the helm.

Since then, though, the style of play on display has led to much grumbling among the fan base. Saturday’s victory was a fine example. Palace scored the only goal of the game from the penalty spot, but offered little else in attack. Their opponents, West Brom, have the worst defensive record in the division and are almost certainly going down. Yet Palace showed little in the way of ambition once they had gone ahead.

The novelty of being in the Premier League has worn off for Palace fans. They believe a club who has been in the top tier for eight consecutive seasons should now be looking to kick on. No one expects Palace to be competing for the European places season after season, but a more front-foot style of play would be welcome.

Hodgson is out of contract this summer. The Palace board may already have decided what they will do. They could thank the 73-year-old for his stellar service and wish him well for the future, before appointing a younger manager in his place. Or they could opt to stick with Hodgson for one more year, safe in the knowledge that he is as close to a guarantor of Premier League survival as is possible in the unpredictable world of Premier League football.

One factor that could influence their thinking is the fact that numerous players are also out of contract this summer. Jairo Riedewald and Vicente Guaita recently put pen to paper on extended deals, but Gary Cahill, Scott Dann, Nathaniel Clyne, James McArthur, Wayne Hennessey, Joel Ward, Martin Kelly, Jeff Schlupp, Andros Townsend, Patrick van Aanholt, Mamadou Sakho, Connor Wickham and Chelsea loanee Michy Batshuayi all face uncertain futures.

Some believe this offers Palace a golden opportunity to embark on a change of direction. A new manager would have the opportunity to build the squad to his liking. Palace are trying to move away from Hodgson’s preference for older, experienced professionals who command big wages. Attempting to complete that transition while Hodgson remains at the helm might prove difficult.

The reverse argument states that it would be a risk for Palace to change manager in a summer when the playing squad will also change drastically. Hodgson could provide continuity for another season, before Palace target a new boss in 2022. With finances likely to be restricted this summer, this argument could be the one that wins out in the end.


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