Inside Track: Crystal Palace

By SFC Media time Thu 30 Aug Crystal Palace v Saints
Photo by Getty Images | Jeffrey Schlupp

We get the lowdown on Southampton's Premier League opponents this weekend from Evening Standard football correspondent Giuseppe Muro...

What’s the general feeling on the way Palace have started the new season?

Three points from the first three games does not tell the full story. Palace looked good against Fulham on the opening day and then they were unlucky to lose at home to Liverpool. Liverpool look like they’ll push Manchester City really close this season and Palace matched them at Selhurst Park until Liverpool got a soft penalty at the end of the first half which put them in control. Then against Watford last weekend Palace missed a great chance to earn a point late on. So Roy Hodgson is pleased with the way they have been playing.

How tough is it for any team to stop Wilfried Zaha on current form?

Very tough. In one-on-one situations I don’t think there is anyone better than him in the Premier League. Keeping hold of Zaha in the summer was massive for Palace. Hodgson plays him in a more central role now up front alongside Christian Benteke and his pace and trickery means it’s difficult for defenders to stop him.

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 11:  Wilfried Zaha of Crystal Palace celebrates following his sides victory in the Premier League match between Fulham FC and Crystal Palace at Craven Cottage on August 11, 2018 in London, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)
Palace talisman Wilfried Zaha has two goals in three games this season

Which other players have made a positive impression so far?

Aaron Wan-Bissaka. He’s a 20-year-old right-back who broke into the Palace team in the second half of last season and looks a real prospect. He kept Ryan Sessegnon quiet against Fulham and impressed against Liverpool before he was sent off late on for bringing down Mohamed Salah when he was through as Palace chased the game. Coaches in the Palace Academy believe Wan-Bissaka has the potential to one day play for England.

After the midweek win at Swansea in the Carabao Cup, have any of Hodgson’s fringe players played their way into the side?

If anyone has, it’s probably Alexander Sorloth. He struggled last season after joining Palace in January but scored his first Palace goal against Swansea and Hodgson must decide whether to play him ahead of Benteke. Benteke scored only three goals last season and is really short of confidence in front of goal. Hodgson has been patient with Benteke, but Sorloth has given him a decision to make.

READING, ENGLAND - JULY 28: Alexander Sorloth of Crystal Palace during the Pre-Season Friendly between Reading and Crystal Palace at Madejski Stadium on July 28, 2018 in Reading, England. (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)
Norwegian international Alexander Sorloth provides competition for Christian Benteke

The team has not changed much from last season – has Hodgson made a conscious effort not to disrupt the momentum that saw Palace pull clear of relegation?

He’s been very loyal to players that kept Palace up last season. New goalkeeper Vicente Guaita was expected to become the Palace number one but Hodgson has stuck with Wayne Hennessey and he’s made a really good start to the season. Max Meyer, who they signed from Schalke, looks a real talent. He hasn’t been fully fit but Hodgson says he is ready to start now. Cheikhou Kouyate is another player who has not been 100 per cent fit, after starting pre-season late after the World Cup, so Hodgson has stuck with the team from last season. 

What would be considered a successful campaign for the club?

A season without another struggle against relegation. I think they will be alright this season and a top-half finish is possible. 


Tactical Watch: Wilfried Zaha
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