New Crystal Palace signings can put them on road to Europe
Crystal Palace ended last season under a cloud. A run of seven defeats and one draw to close the campaign saw Project Restart turn talk of Europe into suggestions that Roy Hodgson’s future could be in doubt.
Two games into the new season, though, and things look a lot brighter at Selhurst Park.
The Eagles are revitalised and have made a perfect start after an opening-day victory over Southampton was followed by an impressive win at Manchester United.
Hodgson has always been a pragmatist when it comes to his approach to matches — his Palace side has always been remarkably well-drilled, if a little restrained — but after a summer of investment and exiting attacking arrivals, he has licence to be more adventurous.
That has been evidenced by the 73-year-old’s change of tack so far this season. A holding midfielder has been sacrificed for another forward alongside the striker, while Hodgson has twice turned to Eberechi Eze from the bench while holding one-goal leads, rather than simply looking to shut up shop.
Eze is one of three summer signings who, alongside Michy Batshuayi and Nathan Ferguson, has added youth, vibrancy and competition to a squad that had become a rather stagnant. They could soon be joined by more new faces, with Palace keen on both Brentford’s Said Benrahma and Liverpool’s Rhian Brewster.
On top of the new additions, Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend look revived.
Both players endured tough campaigns last season, with Zaha struggling for form after he missed out on a move to Arsenal, while Townsend fell out of favour and suffered from injury problems.
With under a month until the close of the window, there seems little prospect of Zaha leaving. And, so far, he has not clamoured for a move. Palace’s talisman is fit, firing and seemingly happy to stay and play his part.
Hodgson said at the end of season that if Palace had the transfer window he wanted, then those slim hopes of European football last season could become more realistic this term.
He warned yesterday that it is still the early stages of a long campaign. Against Everton tomorrow, Palace face a real test of what their summer of evolution has done in terms of their prospects. Everton, too, have invested well and got their season off to a flying start. The meeting at Selhurst Park could be the acid test of Palace’s ambitions.