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February 27 2020 8.41pm

Palace's season in numbers so far

January 24 2020

Roy Hodgson

Roy Hodgson

Joe Turner takes a statistical deep dive into Crystal Palace’s season, including how they rank against the rest of the sides in the Premier League.

Palace lost their first game in six on Tuesday at home to Southampton, which came just a few days after the superb performance away at Champions Manchester City.

How will Roy Hodgson be feeling going into this seven-day break, given the difference in the two performances and just when does an unbeaten run become a winless run? Before the defeat, the football form guide showed that Palace had no defeats in the last five, but it also showed four consecutive draws.

The oldest manager in the league has so far led his Palace side to 11th in the Premier League, with 30 points from 11 games. The defeat to Southampton, and the fact that it placed them 9th in the table, shows that this is one of the tightest campaigns in years.

At the time of writing, Palace are currently seven points clear of the relegation zone and thus far has not had their names dragged into that unfortunate conversation. They have been solid, with small highs and lows throughout the season. They have been safe, defensive and not overly-exciting.

We’ll start by looking at the clean sheets. Palace have kept 6 clean sheets from 24 games (25%). It feels low, but in this Premier League season, it ranks them 8th. They have kept more clean sheets than Southampton, Chelsea, Arsenal, Wolves, Manchester United and Tottenham. Interestingly, Spurs are rock-bottom of the charts for clean sheets (3/24).

Palace had a run in early December where they kept three clean sheets in a row. This also kick-started a remarkable pattern where they went seven Premier League games without conceding a single goal in the first half. This is a decent chunk of games, so can we take anything from this? Possibly.

It might raise questions about the fitness of the players. It could also suggest that Palace are quite comfortable at allowing teams to attack them, having confidence in their ability to defend their goal for the majority of the game. However, if you give teams time on the ball, eventually they will come close to scoring.

Remarkably, it turns out that Palace actually kept a clean sheet in the first-half of 18 Premier League games. This really interested me, so I dug deeper into when goals are scored and it turns out that 68% of goals are scored in the second half of games. This is exceptionally high compared to other teams in the league. Now, they might be keeping clean sheets, but are they going into half-time the better side? Mostly, the answer is no.

If you look at the half-time Premier League table, you will see that Crystal Palace are 16th with 26 points from 24 games. No team has gone into half-time with the scoreline level more than Palace. The issue, to me at least, is crystal clear. They’re not attacking the game.

They have scored just five first-half goals so far this season. This is the worst in the Premier League, followed by Burnley (8), Sheffield United (9) and Wolves (9). I would say there’s a rather interesting trend there with the way all of the aforementioned sides approach their games.

I understand the pragmatism from Roy Hodgson, especially away from home, where Palace has picked up 1.13 points per game this season. However, this pattern is even more evident and is actually worse whilst playing at home.

Are you ready for this?

When playing at home this season, Palace have scored just a single goal in the first half of all games. That’s a single goal after ~1,080 minutes of football. What’s worse, this goal was a Luka Milivojevic penalty against Norwich. No goals from open play. Talk about starting slow.

Can we simply but this down to the way they’re set up, or does Roy Hodgson not have faith in his players to play a more expansive style at Selhurst Park? Next, let’s take a look at the goals that Palace have scored this season and how they rank against their rivals.

Only Watford has scored fewer goals than Palace this season, and that looks likely to change given recent form. Palace have scored 0.92 goals per game in the Premier League overall, 0.83 per game at home and 1.00 per game on the road. In terms of goal-scoring ability, they are the worst team in the Premier League.

They have scored more than once in just 2 games from 12. Compare this to West Ham, for example, who has scored in 91% of home games. However, football is a balancing act and whilst The Hammers can boast a better goal-scoring record, they have one of the worst defensive records in the league.

All the stats we have discussed thus far suggest that Palace may be better suited to playing away from home, with their counter-attacking system sometimes more effective. Personally, I wonder if Hodgson could adapt and play with multiple systems depending on where and whom his side are playing?

It seems Palace has their way of playing, and that way of playing does not care whether they’re hosting Watford or travelling to Manchester City. They will soak up pressure and they will counter-attack when the time is right. The objective is to win, sure, but the primary focus of Hodgson’s tactical approach is the defence. No doubt about that.

They have picked up 1.33 points per game at home this season and 1.13 points per game on the road. Not too much of a difference, but compared to the rest of the league they are one of the better away sides. Statistically, they are the 8th best away team in the Premier League this season, with a better record than Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham.

Do you see things improving, or will Palace stay in this same, safety-first zone without really taking much risk? How much of an impact can Cenk Tosun have? Personally, it feels like the tactics need to change.

Zaha, Townsend and Tosun should provide enough of a threat for the majority of teams in the Premier League. Then again, Palace are 11th in the table and just four points off 5th place Manchester United. Maybe Hodgson should change nothing.

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