Matchweek Moments: The Eagles Take Flight

By Ian Katan

Crystal Palace’s 11-game winless run was more than enough to justify sacking former manager Patrick Viera in mid-March. In need of a new air of consistency to revitalize the Eagles’ end-of-season form, Palace turned to the manager who delivered exactly that during his previous four years at the club: Roy Hodgson.

The South London team have been stuck in 12th place since early January. The nearly four month winless stretch that led to Viera’s sacking was shockingly not enough to drop them into the relegation zone, let alone shake them from their midtable position. While being six places clear of the drop zone should have been comfortable, Palace’s poor form had let the gap narrow to only three points between 12th and 18th when Viera was let go.  

Roy Hodgson replaced him only days later, having spent four years as Crystal Palace manager from 2017 to 2021. He brought consistent results during his time, finishing between 11th and 14th in all of his seasons. Hodgson was brought in this season to widen the gap over the drop zone and guide his side to another year in the top flight, and his appointment has been exactly what Palace needed. Three wins from three is a strong enough turnaround, but the way in which he’s revitalized the team is the most impressive part of his return. The Eagles have beaten their opponents by a total score of 9-2 in those three games, scoring as many as they had in all of their games since November 6th combined. 

Even beyond their newfound eye for goal, Crystal Palace are playing with a much more mature and dangerous style. They showed fight from Hodgson’s first game in charge, beating Leicester 2-1 on a 90+4th minute comeback. Leeds scored first in the next game, but the Eagles ran riot with five goals of their own, cutting through the opposition as they pleased with clinical counterattacks. The following week against Southampton, Eberechi Eze and Michael Olise dazzled as Eze’s double took them nine points clear of that same 12th to 18th place gap. Their emphatic victories haven’t moved them from 12th position yet, but are extremely promising signs of the squad’s potential. 

Viera does deserve credit for his accomplishments as manager, but the team was starting to stagnate. His side finished 12th in 2021/22 while also going to the semifinals of the FA Cup that year. However, the team began to slow down this season, including three consecutive games without a shot on target. The possession-based style lost its edge, the Eagles looked uninspired, out of ideas, and lethargic, and star players like Eze, Zaha, and Ayew lost their threat. It was time for a change. 

Hodgson became the oldest Premier League manager when he took charge against Leicester, beating his own record from four years earlier. In that time, he had retired twice and said he wouldn’t consider managing again, yet he just couldn’t stay away from the game. Watford hired him to aid their unsuccessful attempt to avoid relegation, and after another short retirement he has rejoined Crystal Palace. Hodgson has so much affection for the sport and for the South London club that the opportunity was impossible to turn down. 

With a familiar face in charge, their mediocre season so far seems increasingly likely to turn into a strong end to the campaign. Palace have seven games left to play and plenty of opportunities to gain points, since they take on only one side currently higher than 10th. The combination of Hodgson’s consistency and experience, along with the increasingly dangerous squad on the field that’s looking better and better by the week is one that every team needs to watch out for. With free-flowing style, high-scoring attack, and born-again energy, the Eagles have absolutely taken flight.