Quotes from Hodgson and Eze suggest a more expansive style for Crystal Palace

Written by FYP Fanzine

Palace fans got their first glimpse of the Eagles since the end of July as Roy Hodgson's men kicked off their 20/21 pre-season witha a 3-0 win over Charlton.

Decked in their new red and blue arrow kit, which to be honest looks less and less offensive with each outing, Palace cruised to a comfortable win over Jonny Williams and co as the countdown to the new Premier League season ebbs away quickly.

It was also the first chance we had to see new signing Ebere Eze in action and the game and the 22-year-old subsequent quotes afterwards offered  a hint perhaps that Hodgson may be tempted to move away from his tried-and-tested pragmatic approach to something more expansive.

Large chunks of the Eagles faithful have been critical of Hodgson for a while for being too defensive with the likes of Wilfried Zaha, Andros Townsend, Max Meyer and the like at his disposal, while opposing voices have suggsted his attacking options are, in fact, few and far between.

The arrival of QPR playmaker Eze for a reported £12.5million signals a move towards a younger, more attack-minded squad for Hodgson to choose from and the starting formation against Charlton could be a sign of things to come.

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EZE DOES IT: Where does Eze fit in at Palace? A tactical analysis of Hodgson's options

Eze started on the left of a narrow four-man midfield alongside Jairo Riedewald, James McArthur and Townsend, with Zaha partering Jordan Ayew up top. Eze played the Ruben Loftus-Cheek role as Hodgson deployed a similar appraoch to when he had the Chelsea loanee available and the likes of Yohan Cabaye in midfield.

Wearing number 39, Eze shone against the Addicks and admitted afterwards Hodgson had given him the freedom to drift inside, exactly as he had with Loftus-Cheek three years ago. 

"I know that [roaming] is what the manager wants me to do, he wants me to link-up and feel free to go where I want to go and where I feel comfortable - which is obviously inside, Eze told Palace TV. "But it gives me a license to be free, which is good.

He added: "Linking with the attacking players was fun, it was good for me to get my fitness up and it’s just been a good performance.

"[Zaha is] an amazing player. It’s good to play with guys like him and guys of his quality, because they see things others don’t see and it makes life a lot easier for yourself."

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This hint at a more free-flowing approach, something Hodgson that isn't Hodgson's default setting but he isn't afriad to play when he has the options available to him, was also somthing the 73-year-old manager hinted at when Eze was confirmed as a Palace player on Friday. 

"We’re really pleased to be able to welcome Eberechi Eze to the club," Hodgson said. "He’s a player that we have followed and admired for a long time now, and a player who has enormous potential to build on the last two fine seasons he’s had at Queens Park Rangers which has also resulted in him breaking in to the England Under-21s squad.

"Alongside recent signing Nathan Ferguson, we are assembling the pieces of our jigsaw with regard to bringing in some fresh, young players to our squad who will provide the quality and energy we have highlighted as being necessary for us to take the next steps forward.

"He is an ambitious and dedicated young man whose future looks extremely bright. I am delighted that it will be with us."

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EB AND FLOW: What Palace can expect from Eze - from a QPR fan's perspective

Is that jigsaw that Hodgson mentions a new expansive approach, something the Palace fans have been crying out for? Potentially but as Roy has mentioned before, approach does tend to depend  on the opposition so don't expect to see free-flowing, expansive football against the Top 6 but if Palace start the season well that could well be the appraoch he takes against those teams below us in the table.

Against Charlton, where the Eagles played some superb one-touch football, topped off with a trademark mazy run and finish from Zaha, Hodgson was happy with that he saw: "I thought the first-half saw some really excellent football played and some really good goal chances created," he told Palace TV.

"All credit to Charlton - it wasn’t so much that we were guilty of really bad misses, it was more a question of the goalkeeper or defenders making an incredible save or block. We were actually getting the strikes away and asking a lot of questions.

And on Eze's performance, with those drifting RLC-style runs off the flank, Hodgson added: "He was excellent in the first-half. It was as if he’s been with us longer than one day and one day’s training. His understanding of the position was very good... It was a very promising debut for the team. I don’t think he did very much wrong at all and, like the other forwards, he got in for plenty of goal chances and shots at goal. We’re looking forward to working with him."

We might finally be getting what we have been asking for.