Crystal Palace facing biggest decision in PL era as pressure piles on Hodgson

When it comes to Crystal Palace, few Premier League teams divide opinion more than the South Londoners.

Known for their attacking flair, with the likes of Wilfried Zaha and Yannick Bolasie lighting up Selhurst Park in years gone by, the Eagles are now an established top-flight team and should be looking forward to a bright future, with a new academy centre and stadium expansion on the horizon.

But, under the stewardship of experienced manager Roy Hodgson, their eighth successive season among the biggest clubs in English football is beginning to fizzle out already.

Knocked out of the FA Cup at Wolves this week and, coupled with their worryingly-inconsistent league form, Eagles supremo Steve Parish faces a huge decision as Hodgson enters the final six months of his contract.

So, where does the club go from here? Mirror Sport discusses the all important issues at the club…

Has the Hodgson era become that stale?

To put it bluntly, yes. When Hodgson was appointed in September 2017, he was tasked with saving the club from relegation after Frank De Boer oversaw their worst-ever start to a Premier League season.

Hodgson achieved that and more, but while rivals have continued to progress in recent years, Palace have failed to make huge strides. Ultimately, a negative mindset by Hodgson, despite the attacking threat at his disposal, has left fans scratching their heads.

They boast their strongest ever squad, packed with international stars (Zaha, Christian Benteke and Patrick van Aanholt) and experienced faces (Gary Cahill, Vicente Guaita and James McArthur) but under a defensive-minded manager, have become a snooze fest over the last season or so.

In the 1-0 loss at Wolves in the FA Cup, they failed to have a single shot on target despite having Benteke, Michy Batshuayi and Jordan Ayew in attack, while the 3-0 thrashing by 10-man Aston Villa on Boxing Day also stands out as a low moment.

The truth is, Hodgson has taken Palace as far as he can and for the club to move forward, a manager with an attacking intent and fresh ideas is needed.

But it hasn't been all bad under Hodgson?

The former England boss deserves huge credit for the job he has overseen at Selhurst Park.

It was no easy feat turning things around when he took over the reins and he ultimately guided the club to an 11th place finish in the Premier League.

He's made Palace a hard team to beat and his biggest achievement at the club is undoubtedly getting the best out of Zaha, who has become a menace under Hodgson's stewardship.

The boss has also led the club to some memorable victories, including last season's 1-0 win at fierce rivals Brighton and the stunning 3-1 win against Manchester United this campaign.

No-one is calling for Hodgson to be sacked, nor should it be taken for granted what he has achieved at the club.

But, while Palace have been able to continue their Premier League spell thanks to Hodgson, fans are craving more from their team.

Rival fans may point to the fact Palace are 11 points above the relegation zone, but much of that is largely down to the poor form of the bottom three. It's the inconsistency and lack of ambition on the pitch that has become apparent this season.

A huge rebuilding job ahead

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At 73 years old, Hodgson is now the oldest ever manager in Premier League history and, if recent performances are anything to go by, is seemingly running out of ideas when things get tough.

He builds his team around a solid defence and relies on the counter attack, and while that has worked for Palace, their ageing squad has come unstuck this season.

The Eagles' squad average age of 28.7 is the highest in the Premier League and, although they have attempted to lower that by bringing in Eze, 22, and Nathan Ferguson, 20, last summer, it's a squad which needs a huge overhaul.

Hodgson is out of contract at the end of the season and it remains to be seen whether he'll be handed another extension, but the next appointment by Parish needs to be the right one.

Get it right and Palace can potentially make that next step; challenging for the European spots. But get it wrong, and they could spiral downwards towards an unwanted return to the Championship.

One step forward, two back

This season is perhaps the perfect example of the frustrations under Hodgson. A decent start saw them win four of their opening eight games, but Hodgson's flaws soon became apparent.

A shocking 1-0 result at Burnley, followed by a 2-0 loss at Newcastle, raised concerns that the players have lost their way under the boss.

Then they go and thump West Brom 5-1, suggesting it was just a blip. That didn't prove the case.

A disastrous five-game winless run last month, which included the 7-0 thrashing by Liverpool and that humiliation by Villa, has once again piled the pressure on Hodgson.

The FA Cup exit has only heightened that pressure. Hodgson has struggled to get the consistency under his belt for several seasons now; and perhaps now is the time for a new direction.

Where do they go next?

With Palace keen to avoid a repeat of the De Boer mistake, it's understood Parish will want his next boss to have Premier League experience.

And there are two obvious names; Eddie Howe and Sean Dyche.

Both would surely jump at the opportunity to manage Palace, with Howe currently out of work after leaving Bournemouth last season while Dyche has seemingly reached his limit as Burnley boss.

Dyche is similar to Hodgson in the way he sets his teams up, while Howe's attacking intent proved a distraction for the Cherries last season as they suffered relegation.

Howe is believed to be the front runner, with Parish known to admire his managerial ability and the job he oversaw in leading Bournemouth from League Two to the Premier League.

One's thing for sure; there's plenty of potential at Palace – the club just need to get their next appointment spot on.

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