THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRETY OF PREMIER LEAGUE HISTORY, spanning across 25 seasons, the current Crystal Palace side has made the worst ever start to a league campaign in England’s top flight.
The Eagles are currently positioned at the bottom of the league table, having lost seven successive games. During that time, Palace even showed the temerity to sack Frank De Boer after only five games in all competitions. It was a decision that reeked of dysfunction and confusion, and De Boer’s successor, Roy Hodgson, has had no influence on fortunes at Selhurst Park.
At the time of the announcement, De Boer’s departure seemed harsh and pitiless. In hindsight, his departure seems harsh and pitiless. The Dutchman was entrusted with the responsibility to alter Palace’s style of play, to structure the team around the mentality of playing free-flowing, expansive football.
A process as exacting as this requires time to change the style and the culture of a team; it isn’t achieved instantaneously. This point is magnified when considering that De Boer inherited a team that was primarily moulded by Tony Pulis and Sam Allardyce. Both managers are excellent in their own right at achieving results, yet physicality is often prioritised over technical flair. Thus, it isn’t a surprise that the process of altering Palace’s identity required a degree of patience and faith.
Having lost De Boer, Palace is now fixated in a position in which they’ve failed in their quest to reinvent the team’s image while still languishing in bottom place. Roy Hodgson is a manager who provides stability, experience and guile, yet he doesn’t exhibit the necessary traits to refashion Palace’s style of play. Accordingly, the reasoning behind De Boer’s appointment has been rendered utterly futile by the club’s decisions. They were willing to prioritise what seemed to be short-term solidity over their long-term ambition.
Their pursuit of a short-term fix has been to no avail, and under Hodgson’s cultivated guidance, Palace has still yet to score a single league goal. Palace have failed to score in over 630 minutes of Premier League football. Indeed, it’s a genuinely depressing statistic that could potentially forebode Palace’s season. Online bookies have placed Roy Hodgson’s side as favourites for relegation; if their fortunes don’t change swiftly, they could be facing a return to the second flight of English football.
The Derby County team of 2007/08 is widely considered as the worst team to have played in the Premier League. The Rams only managed to attain 11 points throughout the entirety of the league season, and they became the first team in the post-war era to be relegated in March. Additionally, Derby achieved the record for the longest run without a victory, a total of 32 winless games. While it’s far too soon to insinuate that Palace will emulate the horrific season that Derby endured, even that dreadful team of 2007/08 had amassed four points in their opening seven games, while also scoring four goals.
There is considerable time for Palace to alter their fortunes and to attain some vital momentum, but the early signs aren’t conducive to a successful season. In terms of creating chances, Palace are doing a creditable job, however their ability to convert those opportunities has been unequivocally woeful.
Things aren’t substantially better from a defensive perspective either. The Eagles are currently conceding an average of 2.4 goals per game; nine of their 17 goals that have been yielded were conceded in their last two games against Manchester City and Manchester United.
To further compound the misery and the apathy associated with the club at the moment, Christian Benteke will be absent for six weeks with a knee injury. They’re enduring a severe depletion with regards to their attacking options. With Benteke joining Connor Wickham on the injury list, Palace were devoid of a recognised striker starting their game against Manchester United. They were also reliant on 24-year-old Freddie Ladapo, who was introduced as a substitute in a desperate attempt to augment their striking depth. It was Ladapo’s first ever appearance for Palace.
Nevertheless, the Eagles aren’t entirely lacking hope or positivity. Wilfried Zaha – who is clearly Palace’s best player – has returned to full fitness, and while Palace faces champions Chelsea in their next Premier League fixture, they’re only five points from safety.