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March 18 2018 9.13pm

Can Palace survive the drop?

February 13 2018



It's been a challenging season for Crystal Palace after a nightmare start, but can they stay up? Fred Davies looks into it.

Palace broke English records for the worst start to a season ever with seven straight defeats, without a goal in August and a very inconsistent run of games since.

Frank de Boer was giving his marching orders after game number four, and the rest of 2017 was extremely rocky for the Eagles before they managed to find some form under new manager and former England boss Roy Hodgson.

They are now sitting in 15th, but still extremely close to the relegation spots, with 10 points separating Watford in 11th place and West Brom at the bottom of the table. Now, Palace are just 7/2 to be relegated, and fans are still nervous as the team tries to make up ground after such a poor first half of the season.

Palace weren't exactly a bad team on paper going into 2017/18, but the dreadful form in August and September mixed with some big names missing through injury certainly have hampered efforts to try and reach the mid-table status they've been working towards over the last few years.

It was announced last week after the draw with Newcastle that key player Wilfried Zaha was sent to a knee specialist, putting him on an injury list that reads more like a first team line-up.

Zaha joins Bakary Sako, Scott Dann, Jason Puncheon and Connor Wickham and Ruben Loftus-Cheek on the long-term injury list, all players with Premier League pedigree that Hodgson could definitely do with on the pitch. With all of these big names now definitely confirmed out until the end of the season, staying up could be a big ask for the highly-experienced Hodgson and his coaching team.

The fans, board and even Hodgson knew that January wouldn't be a month that would see a host of back-ups arriving, and it seems Hodgson has put his trust in his scouts with three untested European players arriving to try and shore up a very leaky Palace first team.

Norwegian striker Alexander Sorloth has been brought in from FC Midtjylland to provide a big target man up front, something Palace have been lacking severely this season, and he's backed up by the equally gigantic Poland defender Jarsolaw Jach.

These two will offer a serious aerial threat, and with new loanee Edral Rakip who has been borrowed from Benfica, the squad looks a little bit more capable than they did in 2017. Form has already improved and Hodgson is slowly but surely nicking results here and there to get some space between the Palace and the bottom three places.

The signings he has made and the change in team dynamic are really pointing towards where Hodgson is trying to take Palace too. Hodgson has played for the draw in tough games and has come away with wins against Chelsea, Stoke, Leicester, Southampton and Watford, as well as others, since he took the reigns in September.

Play has been more deliberate and less reliant on loose balls pumped up the field, with a focus on build-up play from a solid back four, rather than hanging on and hoping the opposition don't score. It's not like Hodgson doesn't have experience of dragging teams out of the muck either, having taken Inter Milan, Fulham and West Brom to respectable finishes. Steve Parish should have targeted him over De Boer at the start.

Palace still have a long way to go and the table is exceptionally tight this year. Wins from Newcastle and West Ham and a 3-1 defeat away at Everton certainly haven't helped this weekend, and Hodgson can't afford many more matchdays where Palace are soundly finished off.

The fans should still be prepared for the worst, but a little faith in Hodgson and the rest of what is a decent Premier League squad should be enough to keep the wolves from the door.

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