Richard Cawley of the South London Press gives us the lowdown on Tuesday evening’s opponents.
Overall assessment of the side’s campaign so far? Been a tough start…
It’s has been and a lot of people felt Frank de Boer’s appointment in the summer was a risky one – the club then moved quickly to change that. Roy Hodgson had some difficult fixtures at the start of his reign but in recent weeks his methods are beginning to start bearing some fruit and their second win of the season was at the weekend, but that could have come sooner.
They’ve got pretty much a full bill of health before Tuesday and they’re now coming into the game in good form.
That summer appointment represented an attempt to change a playing philosophy after Sam Allardyce – that didn’t work so is Hodgson’s arrival a revert to type?
I think whenever a club gets into trouble you tend to look for someone who has good experience. They’ve done that before when they first got to Premier League - when Ian Holloway left and they went for Tony Pulis who’d never been relegated and it worked very well.
Neil Warnock and Alan Pardew show that as well and whenever you go through tricky spell you have to reassess – there’s so much prestige in the top flight now that the aim has to be to stay there.
Turned a corner in recent weeks – how?
I think key players coming back to fitness have been very important. Wilfried Zaha is back and fully fit from a knee injury he suffered at the start of the season and Mamadou Sahko has now got his fitness sorted – the latter was a late deal in the last window and it took a while for him to hit the mark.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek has also been key, he’s been dynamic in midfield and he’s very physical and powerful. When he gets going he’s difficult to stop – Everton struggled to deal with him and slow him down and the spine of the team is looking a lot stronger now as well.
Hodgson has worked well at sides like Palace before too – he knows what he wants from his system and he also knows if the players adhere to it then they’ll do well and that’s started to happen in recent weeks.
Wilfried Zaha the one to watch?
He’d be the one to watch, sometimes there’s been an inaccurate viewpoint on him about his end product but I don’t think you can say that now. Ever since he’s come back to Crystal Palace from Manchester United he’s got better and better – he’s better defensively now and he likes the big occasions too.
He’s pivotal and without him the side at the moment don’t look like an attacking force. He knows the reception he’ll get and he likes the pressure and I think that will spur him on.
Would staying up now represent a successful season given the start to the campaign?
I think when you look at the situation they were in at the start of the season you have to say that staying up would be. It was a bad start, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they still did slightly better than that given it’s a tight table.
There’s no reason they can’t progress on a little bit more than that, Hodgson is highly capable and it was a shrewd and solid appointment and I think that they can kick on with him at the helm.