COMMENT: It’s time for boring Palace to move on from Roy Hodgson

Since being appointed in September 2017, Roy Hodgson has guided Crystal Palace to three mid-table finishes and looks set to make that four this season.

However, after four seasons of pragmatism, many Palace fans have questioned whether it is time for them to go in a new direction.

While the team may be effective and get results, they are not very good to watch.

 It is clear to see that Palace are poor in attack, far too reliant on individuals, and have lost their trademark defensive solidity.

The boring football, poor numbers both in attack and defence, and the fact Hodgson’s contract is up at the end of the season means it may be time for both parties to move on.

These points are backed up by data including the number of expected goals.

According to Sport Performance Analysis, expected goals can be defined as the number of goals a player or team should have scored when considering the number and type of chances they had in a match.

Going Forward

Under Hodgson, Palace have never really scored many goals.

The problem is that over the last three seasons, their attacking output has steadily declined.

In the 2018/19 season they scored 51 goals which is a fairly respectable tally for a mid-table side but in the 2019/20 season that number dropped to 31.

That decline has continued this season with the Eagles only scoring 30 goals, albeit with 10 games remaining.

On the face of it that does not seem too bad but a deeper look into the expected goals tells a grim story.

Using data from understat.com we can see that in the 19/20 season Palace produced an xG of 34.45, which means that they would be expected to have scored 34 goals.

That looks even worse when you consider the fact it was the lowest xG in the entire league that season.

In 28 games this season Hodgson’s men have registered 24.39 xG at an average of 0.8 xG per game. 

This means we can expect Palace to finish the season with an xG of 33.10.

Only 19th-placed West Brom currently have a lower xG value.

This shows us that under Hodgson, Palace do not score many goals and do not create many chances meaning they are not a very attractive side to watch.

Over-reliance on Zaha

Not only do Palace not score many goals under Hodgson, most of their goals come from one source: talisman Wilfried Zaha.

This season Zaha has scored 9 goals and assisted 2.

In open play Palace have created 17.7 xG and Zaha has been responsible for over 40% of that registering 7.29 xG.

This reliance on Zaha has been magnified in his absence. He has missed Palace’s last five games through injury and they have been awful going forward.

In that time, Palace have won one game and scored two goals from an xG of 2.03, an average of 0.41 xG per game.

The Eagles had an over reliance problem last season too but with Zaha in indifferent form after a failed move to Arsenal, it was Jordan Ayew who carried the load.

In 19/20 Ayew scored nine and assisted two as well as contributing 7.68 xG.

There are some signs this season that Christian Benteke may be rediscovering his form with five goals this season and summer signing Ebere Eze has looked promising but Hodgson’s Palace are too reliant on one player.

Defensive frailty

While they may not have scored many goals, under Hodgson Palace have been renowned for their defensive solidity.

However, that has not been the case this season.

In 2019/20 Palace conceded 50 goals and they conceded 51 the season before. 

However, with 10 games to go they have conceded 47 goals and only West Brom have conceded more. 

The underlying numbers do not look particularly good either.

They have conceded 44.27 xG against, only the bottom two have conceded more, at an average of 1.58 xG per game. 

Therefore, Hodgson’s team are on pace to concede 60 xG against this season.

That would be worse than the 57.39 xG against they conceded last year, only the bottom team Norwich had worse xG against.

In Hodgson’s defence, some of this can be mitigated by the fact Palace have had an unsettled backline all season.

Regulars like Scott Dann and Mamadou Sakho have missed time through injury and midfielder Cheikou Kouyate has often had to fill in at centre back but the fact is that Palace’s numbers have been amongst the worst in the league for a while now.

This means that it cannot be argued that Palace make up for their attacking flaws by being defensively sound.

Overall, Hodgson’s tenure at Palace has been a successful one. 

He has consistently kept them in the Premier League and they have never looked likely to go down.

However, it is clear to see why some Palace fans may be unhappy.

Their team has been declining for three seasons and the the lack of excitement has begun to take its toll.

While many may say that Palace fans should be careful what they wish for and point to the disastrous tenure of Frank De Boer – eight games, eight defeats and no goals scored – should Palace fans be expected to be happy with a yearly march to 40 points and safety?

At the end of the day football is an entertainment sport and fans pay thousands to watch their team, and the least they can expect is goals and entertainment.

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