Stoke 1-2 Palace
Roy Hodgson’s Crystal Palace secured Premier League safety and an unprecedented sixth consecutive top-flight season with a come from behind win against Stoke City, who will be playing Championship football next season.
A deflected free-kick gave the hosts the lead three minutes before the break, but goals from James McArthur and Patrick van Aanholt won the three points that moved the Eagles up to 11th place in the table. A position that would have been considered utterly unattainable when the Club slipped to their seventh straight defeat, without scoring a single goal, back on September 30th.
Stoke launched an aerial bombardment on the Palace penalty area for long periods of the first-half only for James Tomkins and Mamadou Sakho to deal with the threat. It took a Ruben Loftus-Cheek mistake and a Shiqiri dive for the hosts to break the deadlock, but it might have been the worst thing to happen to them.
After the break, Stoke retreated and invited Palace on to them as they tried to hold what they had and Paul Lambert’s men could not handle the pace and movement of the Palace attacks.
McArthur’s strike came from a devastating counter-attack that saw red and blue shirts swarm all over the Stoke defence before the Scot overlapped Loftus-Cheek and slotted a perfectly placed shot past the outstretched leg of Jack Butland in the Stoke City goal.
The moment that Butland had to pick the ball out of the net signalled the moment that Stoke had to go for broke, and this meant that it was only a matter of time before Palace found a winner. It eventually came four minutes from time when Zaha found Patrick van Aanholt, who calmly put the ball through the keepers’ legs and ended Stoke’s ten-year stay in the Premier League.
Should Roy Hodgson win Manager of the Year?
Steve Parish said on the 2012/13 Promotion DVD: “I think that your ability as a manager should be measured against what resources you’ve got and what you achieve.”
Mauricio Pochettino on this seasons Manager of the Year debate: "For me, if you say to me, pick one - I cannot pick one. I am going to pick two. Pep Guardiola deserves it and Roy Hodgson deserves it. For me, there are two winners."
Frank Lampard after seven games of the season said: “I don’t think you can give away seven games and expect to get out of relegation… they’re not that good to recover on a seven-game head start.”
I guess this all comes down to what school of thought you fall under. If, as the Spurs Manager says, trophies are the be all and end all, then it should be Pep, but being a Crystal Palace fan, you can be certain that this is not how I view achievement.
For me, there are only two true contenders for the award – Sean Dyche and Roy Hodgson. They are the two managers that have far exceeded expectations.
What Dyche has done at Burnley is fantastic and is a testament to what a Club can achieve with stability. The gravelly toned man has been given the luxury of time, despite a relegation, and has built a project that has led to the successes we have seen this season. Burnley making Europe gives us all hope.
Burnley haven’t gone nuts in the transfer window because they haven’t had to. Dyche has been able to gradually build and improve a squad of players because everyone is behind his vision. They’ve, even with a relegation, always taken steps forward as the footing has always been sure.
Naturally, I am going to be a bit biased in this argument towards Hodgson, but what he has achieved this season surpasses what Dyche has achieved.
Alan Pardew had started to build a squad to move in one direction, Sam Allardyce then tried to patch it up and Frank de Boer then tried to take it in a completely different direction. After four games, Roy was thrown in without the luxury of identifying transfer targets and simply had to get on with it with what he had.
When Allardyce was appointed, I said that he had the easiest “hard” job in the world. Keeping us up was a piece of cake as the quality of our squad was far superior to any of the teams battling with us and all Allardyce had to do was getting them all pulling in the same direction. Eventually, he managed that and kept us up at a canter.
So, why is it not the same measuring stick for Hodgson? Palace fans know why, but most outsiders seem to ignore all of the nuances to the rollercoaster ride of this season [much like I am probably missing nuances to the Dyche argument and Pep arguments – I am aware of that irony].
Allardyce had Benteke scoring goals and a fully fit Zaha for the entire season when he came in. Hodgson has had to deal with an injury crisis that everyone around the Club, including Hodgson with some 40 years of experience in managing, are saying they have never seen anything like it. Zaha has had two periods out, Benteke has had two periods out. At one point, over half our squad was injured and we had to play multiple games in a row where we didn’t even make substitutions as the quality on the bench was lacking so severely. This injury crisis has only cleared up in the last three weeks.
If the Premier League started on January 1st, 2018 – Crystal Palace would sit FIFTH in the league table. Despite half the squad being injured, including both Benteke and Zaha for extended periods, Roy has managed to continue to pick up results.
Palace have lost only once to a team outside the top six since November. That was Everton at Goodison Park in a game where we failed to take several great chances and gifted Everton goals.
Palace haven’t lost to a team in the bottom half of the table under Roy Hodgson since his first game in charge.
Basically, Crystal Palace ARE the Burnley of this season, without an ounce of stability. Not to mention we played Burnley off the park twice this season.
If Hodgson had come in, had to deal with injuries as per every other Club and had been given a chance in January to improve the squad how he saw fit then there is no argument for me, Dyche is the Manager of the Season. However, Roy has had to deal with a 31-game season, an injury-ravaged squad, star players constantly missing and yet still he has turned it around when no one outside of South London gave us a chance.
Assuming that we do not have another summer of upheaval, if he doesn’t win Manager of the Season this year, he will next year as we will be finishing in the top seven. Minimum.
The Patrick van Aanholt 180
I know that it’s not just me having to reevaluate their view on Pat after his performances in the second half of this season. I had completely written him off as a liability, but the way Roy Hodgson has utilised his talent has seen him become an indispensable member of the first team.
He still has so much to learn in terms of position, but the way that the team is set up under Roy, there is enough protection to allow him to go wandering and he is rewarding the boss with goals from an unlikely source.
Pat, please accept my apology for being a nonbeliever and thank you for the passion you show for our Club.
Man of the Match: Wilfried Zaha
Wilf became only the second Crystal Palace player ever to win PFA Player of the Month for his performances April, joining Andy Johnson who won the award in October 2004. As the calendar ticked over to May, Zaha showed no signs of slowing down with another blistering display against Stoke.
After the break, he grabbed the game by the throat and scythed through the back line with a combination of unstoppable dribbles, even with half the Stoke team were trying to disconnect his legs from his torso, and through the eye of the needle type passing.
It is another game where he comes away without an assist after Christian Benteke put a brilliant chance wide and his through-ball to Patrick van Aanholt for the winning goal was touched by a Stoke defender on the way through. His assist stat this season is up where with the most misleading stats I have ever seen.
On that Benteke chance, the way he ran the long way around Ramadan should see the Stoke winger should retire from professional football and the pass he threaded to Benteke was elite level football. Next season, fingers crossed that Benteke will be stroking that sort of chance away.
Up Next: West Brom
Are we going to be the final nail in two coffins this season? In the hope that a win could see us finish 10th, I hope so.
Come on you Palace!