Crystal Palace host Southampton in Matchweek 5 of the Premier League season. The early kick off on Saturday sees Roy Hodgson take charge of his first game at Palace after the sacking of Frank de Boer. With no points and no goals, Hodgson will be desperate for a result against a Southampton side who have had a mixed start to the season under new manager Mauricio Pellegrino.
Crystal Palace vs Southampton: Match Preview
de Boer v Hodgson
After de Boer’s disastrous reign at the helm, Palace sit bottom. Hodgson will look to instil confidence back into the players and improve the team at both ends.
De Boer’s tenure in charge will go down in Premier League history as the shortest ever in terms of matches played. Croydon-born Hodgson is the oldest man to ever be appointed as manager by a Premier League team, so Palace have been breaking records of sorts this week. This will be Hodgson’s first match in charge of a team after the debacle of Euro 2016, when he saw his England side crash out to minnows Iceland.
De Boer tried to herald Total Football to Selhurst Park but Palace fans will be happy to merely see a goal this weekend and still need to improve the creative aspect of their game. Hodgson will focus on structure and organisation in training so that every player knows their job. He will make sure the collective is set up appropriately rather than trying to play expansively for the sake of it.
The graft will be similar to the type that Tony Pulis displayed at Palace. Hodgson will ensure everyone knows their roles in and out of possession, and will get the fundamentals in place first. He has also traditionally played with wingers, which suits Palace’s creativity and squad. This is more in line with the ethos that Palace have displayed over the years, and which they struggle to move away from when de Boer tried to bring in his own style. With this in mind, Hodgson seems better-suited to the club.
He will be hoping to resurrect his career, but has done so once before, at West Brom after a poor stint at Liverpool. This should bode well and shows that he isn’t afraid of adversity. His successful stints at Fulham and West Brom indicate that a job nearer the size of Palace, as opposed to Liverpool or England, could be a perfect fit for both parties.
The performance against Burnley last weekend was much improved, with the Eagles unlucky not to break their goal drought and leave Turf Moor with at least a point. They had 23 shots compared to Burnley’s four and the Clarets’ early goal came after an individual error from Chung-yong Lee. With Wilfried Zaha injured, they often looked lost for ideas going forward, but there was a clear improvement on which Hodgson can build.
Christian Benteke still isn’t really showing his worth this season and was largely dominated by the Burnley defence. If anyone is going to break the lean spell which the team is going through, it will be up to him. Palace need to commit more men into the penalty area in open play to give the front man more space to attack any crosses which come in
Ruben Loftus-Cheek is expected to return and will add much needed vigour into the midfield. Loftus-Cheek can push forward with the ball and be the midfield runner that Palace need. He offers a viable alternative to Jason Puncheon, who at the very least needs a rest and a spell out of the team. Despite being captain, his time at the top level looks limited.
Lee’s error last week may see him consigned to the bench, with Jeffrey Schlupp pushed further forward and Patrick van Aanholt drafted in at left-back. Lee is tidy enough on the ball, but for the majority of games he has been a passenger. That is something Palace can’t afford to have right now.
Then there is Mamadou Sakho, who played 45 minutes for the development side during the week and is still building up match fitness. With three tough games coming up for Palace, Hodgson would be wise to throw caution to the wind and include Sakho in this winnable fixture. Even if he isn’t 100%, he offers a level of quality that is desperately needed.
Despite the obvious priority being goals, Palace need to keep clean sheets as well. After conceding three to Huddersfield and two to Swansea at home, this is still an area of concern. Sakho has the power to change that and build the foundation to allow Palace to try and nick a goal at the other end.
The pressure is on. After Southampton, Palace face Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea in consecutive gameweeks. They really need a win or risk hitting the eight-game mark with zero points. Sadly, this would only point to relegation unless there was a miraculous turnaround.
The manager at the helm is one that Palace themselves were supposedly interested in before appointing de Boer. Mauricio Pellegrino has struggled so far and faces a similar problem to Hodgson; lack of goals. The Saints have failed to score in four of their five games in all competitions so far this season.
Manolo Gabbiadini was ineffective in the 2-0 loss against Watford last Saturday, but lacked service. With Charlie Austin and Shane Long on the bench, there should be enough firepower within the squad, and the problem seems to lie in the midfield, with the delivery from the likes of Nathan Redmond not being up to scratch.
It is hard to see Palace not scoring again, so Southampton will need to figure out how to create more in front of goal. The players are lacking confidence after a similarly drab campaign under Claude Puel last season.
With players such as Dusan Tadic, James Ward-Prowse and Sofiane Boufal, it feels as though the formula is there but Pellegrino can’t quite unlock it yet. Mario Lemina, the summer signing from Juventus, has had some time to bed in by now. He can act as the effective anchor alongside Oriol Romeu to allow these players to flourish.
Manchester United are up next, followed by a trip to Stoke. Pellegrino will be looking at this fixture as a valuable three points before a difficult run of games. If they put in another lacklustre performance, the confidence will dwindle even more. Southampton could be peering over their shoulder at the relegation zone before long.
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