Roy Hodgson identified a key factor in explaining Crystal Palace’s recent good form, citing Crystal Palace’s impressive start to the season as being down to a competitive, enlarged squad.
Palace beat Fulham 2-1 at Craven Cottage on Saturday to move up to seventh (at time of writing) as of Monday, with 10 points from their opening six games. Their points tally makes for prettier reading after ending their previous season with a winless run of eight games.
Speaking after the Fulham result, Hodgson asserted a number of key reasons for Palace’s recent good form:
“We’ve got a stronger squad,” he said. “There’s no question of that. Looking at the bench there were some good players that had been kept out by the fact we had a good start and the guys who got in, for one reason or another, have managed to keep their places.
“That’s a major factor without a shadow of a doubt. I think the team discipline, organisation and work-rate is also extremely important. Even on days when our passing and attacking play isn’t quite as good as it was today we still stay in games and give ourselves a chance of getting some points.
“And I think the team spirit is very good – the guys know what they’ve got to do to climb up the table and they’re all determined I think to do that.”
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An improvement in squad depth has certainly left a positive selection headache for Hodgson and will undoubtedly raise the long-run prospects of the Eagles.
That depth was put to the test on Saturday. Summer signing Nathaniel Clyne made his second-spell debut for the club over twelve years since his first, whilst injury kept the likes of Gary Cahill and James McArthur out of the squad.
Considering that injury had whittled down the available team options, Hodgson’s faith in his starting XI was more than repaid. In only his second start this season, Riedewald drifted forwards from midfield and curled a sumptuous ball from talismanic forward Wilfried Zaha into Fulham’s net.
Equally, although substituted in the 72nd minute, Nathaniel Clyne put in a well-rounded display as he looks to regain match sharpness. There were a number of key performances, but Palace’s result cannot be divorced from the fact that Hodgson had to call upon the depth of his side – and his choices duly delivered.