Five Things We Learnt From The Win At Stoke
With the Eagles mathematically securing another season in the Premier League, here is what we learnt from what was a valuable yet excellent win at Stoke.
1. Palace have timed their run to perfection. Since rejoining the Premier League, the Eagles have developed a knack for picking up results when it matters, and this year has been no different. After a stretch of four straight defeats against some of the league’s bigger teams, Palace found themselves eighteenth and were under pressure to pick up points from a more favourable run-in. However, the South Londoners have made light work of that pressure, and with victory at Stoke, secured their eleventh point from the last five games. Much of the season has been focused on finishing one place above the relegation zone, but amazingly, the Eagles could go into the last game with a chance of breaking into the top half.
2. Roy Hodgson is a history maker. It wasn’t long after the final whistle that we were made aware that the 70-year-old was the first manager to keep a team up after it had lost its opening seven league matches since 1900, and the measure of that statistic truly puts the scale of Hodgson’s achievement into perspective. Safety had effectively been secured one week ago against Leicester, but Palace’s performance against Stoke reflected the professionalism of the man at the helm. The Eagles were widely ridiculed for hiring a manager who had overseen one of England’s worst results at an international tournament, but it is Palace – and perhaps more importantly, Hodgson himself – who has had the last laugh.
3. It’s never nice to see another team relegated, but it was difficult to feel sorry for Stoke on Saturday. The Potters’ fans duly responded to Paul Lambert’s pre-game pleas to appeal for every decision, but that only created a toxic cacophony of boos as opposed to constructive support for their team. On the pitch, meanwhile, Stoke’s players were more cynical than ever. Erik Pieters’ tackling style ranged from rugby to WWE, while Xherdan Shaqiri was fortunate not to see red for raking down the back of Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s leg. One can only hope that when Stoke return to England’s top table they’ll be equipped with a more attractive brand than what we were subjected to on Saturday.
4. James McArthur is Palace’s unsung hero. The Scotsman was widely written off towards the end of last season, and sometimes goes unnoticed when playing alongside the more gifted Yohan Cabaye and Luka Milivjoevic – but what McArthur might lack in natural ability he more than makes up for in tenacity and endeavour. Nothing embodied those traits more than his goal against Stoke, where he charged forward from the edge of the Palace penalty area before running onto Loftus-Cheek’s through ball and precisely slotting past Jack Butland into the far corner. McArthur has an air of the underdog about him, and his performance on Saturday was demonstrative of why Hodgson has placed so much faith in him since taking over.
5. The future looks bright. Despite a disastrous start to the season – and despite being riddled with injuries for much of the campaign – Palace look like finishing comfortably in mid-table. The Eagles are playing with a swagger that we’ve seldom seen from them in the Premier League, and it’s difficult not to wonder what this squad might be capable of over a full season under Hodgson’s guidance. Much will depend on who stays, who goes and who comes in, but if Palace can find a way of carrying their form into next season, there’s no reason to suggest they can’t replicate Burnley’s achievement and push for a Europa League place.