Hodgson Values What Players Do Off The Ball As Much As On It

Whether you are a Palace fan that prefers to go with a glass half empty or a glass half full, there were positives to take from the draw with Wolves which felt more like a loss. Here are the five things that we took from the game.

1. The warning signs were there against Aston Villa, when Palace were let off the hook by a questionable refereeing decision from Kevin Friend to deny the visiting team a last-gasp equaliser. One would have thought that Palace might have learned their lesson from that particular escape, but there was a nagging sense of déjà vu when Diogo Jota lifted the ball into the roof of the net. The Eagles had once again had numerous chances to kill off the game, while there were also opportunities to run the clock down by taking the ball into the corner or even making a third and final substitution. Instead, the Eagles once again suffered a late lapse in concentration and afforded their opponents one last chance – the only difference on this occasion was that the referee didn’t come to their rescue.

2. This was perhaps the first time that Palace’s shortcomings in the summer transfer market were truly laid bare. Firstly, through Christian Benteke and Jeffrey Schlupp, both of whom spurned chances to seal the game that one would have expected a competent centre forward to finish. The equaliser was then a tale of two full backs, as Patrick van Aanholt stood off Adama Traore and – for the second time in the closing stages – allowed him to cross to the back post, where Joel Ward misjudged the flight of the ball to leave Jota with the simple task of firing home. Of course, Palace’s failure to win the game was not a direct result of their failure to sign a new striker and a pair of full-backs, but it was difficult not to look to those parts of the pitch when the Eagles let their lead slip.

3. One man who didn’t deserve to see a last-minute equaliser go in was Vicente Guaita, who was the primary reason Palace found themselves in a position where they could win the game in the first place. The Spaniard made a string of smart stops in the first half to keep Wolves at bay, including a stunning one-handed effort to deny Matt Doherty from point blank range. I’ve said similar before, but having Guaita means Palace will stay in games when they arguably have no right to.

4. Will players like Victor Camarasa or Max Meyer ever get a chance at Palace while Roy Hodgson is at the helm? The former’s omission from Sunday’s matchday squad would suggest not. If there’s anything we’ve learned from the two years under Hodgson’s stewardship, it’s that he values what players do off the ball as much as what they do on it. What’s more is that when a Hodgson team gets the ball they move it forward quickly; there is no time for the patient, possession-based football that might better suit the likes of Camarasa and Meyer. In other words, Hodgson’s system does not accommodate so-called luxury players, those that are afforded the freedom to drift in and out of games. The only question that raises is why we’ve signed two in as many summer transfer windows when it seems clear that Hodgson is reluctant to use them.

5. I try to always end these posts on a positive note, and perhaps the beacon of light flickering out of Sunday’s result is that Palace remain unbeaten at Selhurst Park this season, with five points from three games against decent opposition. Palace have so far looked fairly solid at home, and rectifying their form in SE25 coupled with something even close to resembling what they achieved on the road last season will be more than enough for Palace to meander through this season unscathed. That being said, there is an argument to be made that the Eagles have created enough chances in those home fixtures to have won each of them, and one can’t help but wonder what the reaction might be if the game against Norwich doesn’t breed three points. 

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  1. Excellent analysis! Thank you. A good read. I am nervous about the Norwich game. We could have been 7th if we had beaten Wolves and if we lose to Norwich we’ll be near the basement. Need the three points on this one.

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