FYP Contributor Naveed Khan makes the case for Roy Hodgson to be relieved of his duties, following seven defeats in a row.
When Roy Hodgson was appointed as Crystal Palace’s manager, it came without any fanfare. Quietly appointed without a press unveiling, with a typically dignified message to the fans on the club website, it seemed that Palace were appointing the only manager capable of reversing Frank de Boer’s damage – we knew he would be stable; we maybe didn’t realise just how stable he would be.
There is a growing divide among the fanbase about Hodgson’s position as a manager and the status he holds in the ranking of Palace managers. The crux really is what to judge him on – is it league finishes? Style of football? Progressing the team? Developing players? Results in the context of resources at his disposal?
The divide exists essentially because for some fans, as is their right, judge him on his league finishes, that he is responsible for three of the seven Premier League survivals in this top flight spell and he has not been backed in the transfer market. Others will point to the manager’s reluctance to use certain players in the squad and issues with the tactics to counter that.
As ever, the truth is probably somewhere between the two. Hodgson has done a very good job at times; survival in first season was not just achieved, it was done in some style and with the backdrop of an injury crisis and an innovative strategy playing often without a recognized striker. The following season, he probably achieved par with his squad by the end and some of the football post 40 points was open and entertaining.
At that point, following the sale of Aron Wan-Bissaka was a chance for the club to invest in the squad, bring the average age down and give the manager some more attacking options. For whatever reason, the squad was not significantly strengthened and Hodgson has to an extent had to make do with a relatively small squad. On the face of it, even this season is seen as a job well done.
But for fans who watch the team each week, it is not so straightforward. Even with the small squad, there has been a negligent lack of rotation – with a double negative which cannot be made positive. Players used each game have succumbed to injury or lost form. Players who need game time to develop have not been given much despite doing well when playing, such as Jairo Riedewald. Others, such as Max Meyer, have not been used in either of the roles he played for at Schalke and is often only given a few minutes out of position at the end of a game which the team is inevitably losing in.
The question really in terms of the small squad is whether Hodgson has made the best use of it or has the use of the squad made it seem worse than it is?
The next big question mark is player development – how many players at Roy’s disposal have improved in the time he has been here? It is much easier to point out players who have gone the other way. Luka Milivojević, Mamadou Sakho, Patrick van Aanholt just three examples of players who seem to a shadow of the players they were at the end of Hodgson’s first season here. The major worry is further forward.
Christian Benteke scored 66 goals in 132 Premier League starts before the manager’s arrival. Andros Townend has regressed from being an effective attacking threat to being a functional wide midfielder.
The jewel in the crown, Wilfried Zaha, who excelled in the freedom given to him in Roy’s first two seasons, is now stifled. Playing wide on the left, rarely allowed the freedom to swap flanks and working back as much as he is going forward. The push for the team to keep the ball has also seen him not take players on, instead of looking for a pass inside. The regression of Wilf, the suppression of his game and negation of his threat is all down to the team’s set up. When the one man the fans and players turn to for a bit of magic has his wand taken away, Palace are relying on a set of 0-0s to see them through.
And that is the biggest point for why a change now is needed in the small break between seasons. Not because Hodgson has not done a good job -- because he has. But because he is no longer doing the job as well as he was. he is not improving the players he has and as we evolve to a younger squad, there are questions as to whether he is the right man to be the lead in that. His reluctance to give time to younger members of the squad and to embrace creativity suggests he is not.
But he does not deserve a quick press release sacking. He deserves to go with his head held high for what he achieved at his boyhood club, while recognising it is the end of the road for him here. He deserves to go in the same quiet, dignified manner in which he arrived.