There was not a substantial amount of time between the end of one Premier League season and the start of another but, based on the early Crystal Palace results, that timeframe has seen a rather rapid change of fortunes within the Eagles’ ranks.
At the tail end of last season, Palace picked up just one point from the last twenty-four that were on offer. A last day 1-1 draw at home to Tottenham, finally ended a run of seven consecutive league defeats.
The run of Crystal Palace results could be explained by the fact that the Eagles had very little to play for during “Project Restart” and, although the South London outfit did look like they were on the beach at times, their poor run of results led to questions being asked.
Questions circulated about the managerial status of Roy Hodgson and with him being the league’s elder statesman at 73 years of age, a meek end to the season could have been the perfect grounds for an amicable divorce. It would have been an act that said “thanks for everything, but we are going in a new direction” and, although the South London outfit will be indebted for everything that Hodgson has done in the past, July could have been the time to write a new chapter.
It never happened though and, on the evidence of their first two games of the new campaign, the decision to stick with such seniority has seemingly paid an early dividend for Crystal Palace.
An opening day success over Southampton was one that certainly drew a line under such a poor end to last season. Wilfried Zaha looked sharp but it was goalkeeper Vicente Guaita who earned the most plaudits.
The Spanish shot stopper had his fingers stung on several occasions and was put to work after making a pair of incredible saves in the second half. However, his and Palace’s net withstood the attacking barrage from the Saints.
Their victory provided a huge boost boost before a trip to Old Trafford last Saturday which the Eagles were expected to lose. Even though Manchester United were afforded an extra week’s rest, the bookmakers had them as heavy favourites to win at home.
By the end of Saturday evening, it is fair to say that the Premier League had provided its first coupon buster for the 2020/21 season and, with Palace earning back to back wins, they could not have managed a better start.
Whether that mood is tempered by the fact it is only two wins in a row can be argued and of course, a sample this small of Crystal Palace results will make it difficult to work out just where they will finish next May. Then again, successive league wins and the way they were eart, cannot be diminished.
On the early available evidence, it seems as if manager Hodgson has rediscovered an element of dynamism to his team that was previously lacking and none more so than with both Palace’s pacey wideman Andros Townsend and Wilfried Zaha.
In the case of the former, the ex-Tottenham midfielder was on hand to supply the winning goal over Southampton and as far as the latter is concerned, the Ivorian international has already found the net on three separate occasions.
There has been a far greater sense of determination on show from Zaha so far. Although he may still be getting kicked up and down the field, there is not necessarily the obvious displeasure that used to follow. Cynics would argue that perhaps Zaha is playing for a move with speculation over his future still swirling.
Now the focus has been switched to hurting the opposition, even if hurt himself, and with him proving to be a thorn in both the sides of Southampton and Manchester United, he and everyone around him will hope this early season form continues.
Which begs the biggest question of all, can Crystal Palace’s early season form continue? The likely answer is probably not and although early dreams of earning European football may be misplaced, there is an air of certainty with their current manager at the helm.
It means that the club should have enough once again to steer clear of any real relegation issues and should they be able to coast towards the end of the season in similarly lacksadaisical fashion, that will at least be some form of reward for earlier efforts.
Whether this is Hodgson’s final season as Palace boss remains to be seen and, without meaning to be ageist, there will need to be some form of succession planning soon. With that said, based on the early Crystal Palace results, chairman Steve Parish has been vindicated in not undertaking such plans in the short off-season period.
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