When you’ve lost each of your opening seven matches without scoring a single goal, it is pretty much all doom and gloom. Crystal Palace took this record into their game against defending champions Chelsea, who were looking for their 7th straight away victory at Selhurst Park. There seemed to be only one winner on paper.
Football, however, has a funny way about it sometimes. The Eagles put on an incredible performance, while the Blues looked jaded, tired and devoid of any fight or motivation. It ended 2-1 to the home side at full-time, giving Roy Hodgson his first win as Palace manager, and a kickstart to the season at long last.
There is little doubt that Palace have great quality in their ranks. The likes of WilfriedZaha, Andros Townsend, Christian Benteke and Ruben Loftus-Cheek can open up any Premier League defence on their day. They have the creativity of Johan Cabaye and the tenacity of James McArthur in midfield, while the defence of Joel Ward, Scott Dann, MamadouSakho and Patrick Van Aanholt is full of Premier League experience. It’s a group of players with the potential to be effective without being spectacular and is therefore tailor-made for the Hodgson.
The former England manager has once saved a club from the depths of relegation. In 2007, he was appointed manager of Fulham with the club in dire straits. He guided them to safety on the day of the season, before kicking on and taking them to a seventh placed finish the following season. Now, at the ripe old age of 70, he has the opportunity to do it again with another London club.
Vital run-in coming up
In their next eleven fixtures before taking on Arsenal on Boxing Day, the only three clubs they face from the current top half are Watford, Spurs and Newcastle. The rest are games against West Ham, Everton, Stoke, Brighton, WestBrom, Bournemouth, Swansea and Leicester. This is a run-in that Hodgson will want to capitalize on and gather maximum points from. The next two months will play a telling role in the picture at the end of the season for Palace. It will all depend on whether or not they can beat and overhaul teams in and around them. If they are able to do so, they could find themselves out of the top quite comfortably by the New Year.
Palace have the resources to make good of their promise. They played some great football and showed brilliant spirit against Chelsea. It is now upto them to maintain that level of performance and push themselves onto greater heights.
If Hodgson is able to take Palace to safety, it certainly will be one of the greatest comeback stories in Premier League history. No team had ever failed to find the back of the net in its opening seven games, while the only side to lose seven in a row was Portsmouth back in 2009. They went on to finish last and get resoundingly relegated.