Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson’s baffling admission about Eberechi Eze arguably poses more questions than answers.
Palace completed the signing of Eze from London rivals Queens Park Rangers for £16m up front with £4m in potential add-ons in the summer, whilst QPR attached a 20% sell-on clause in the contract.
Speaking in the pre-match press conference, Hodgson said, as quoted by London News Online: “Once again it’s [about] competition. Jeff Schlupp isn’t exactly anything other than a very good attacking left-sided midfield player.
“So I had to make choices there. I’ve not been able to fit both in the team together – especially with the form of Andros Townsend on the other side.
“It’s been nothing more complicated than that. But again, like Jairo Riedewald, he has been excellent in training. He’s done really, really well. He’s impressed everybody – not just with his ability but his attitude and professionalism.
“His chance, I’m sure, will come very, very soon.”
Since the start of the season, the Eagles have a pretty average record of four wins in eight games in all competitions. Hardly something to sniff at, but there is certainly room for improvement. Eze has featured in seven out of eight of their top-flight fixtures but has only started three games so far.
Palace have often been accused of being a side that lack ambition but you have to give credit where credit is due as Steve Parish put his money where his mouth is in the summer.
The Eagles have been ensconced in mid-table mediocrity for so long, constantly looking over their shoulder at the relegation battle below over the years. But Parish has signalled a statement of intent by bringing in Eze, Michy Batshuayi and Nathan Ferguson, who have added a breath of fresh air to an aging squad. Whilst Ferguson is yet to make his first-team debut, he is clearly one to watch for the future.
Granted, the 22-year-old started against Leeds, but it looks like it could be a case of too little, too late, as fans are reportedly growing frustrated by the lack of minutes he has gained under his belt. Per SofaScore, he has averaged just 46 minutes per game in the Premier League so far.
For all of Hodgson’s good qualities, he’s never been particularly great at managing a squad – flashbacks to his short-lived Anfield reign will send shudders down the spines of Liverpool fans.
Sticking with Jeffrey Schlupp who has struggled for consistency this season seems like a bit of a pointless endeavour, especially when you consider the fact that the 27-year-old is dispossessed 2 times per game in the Premier League, via WhoScored. By comparison, Eze, who reportedly earns wages worth £30,000-per-week, has only been dispossessed once per game, as per WhoScored. If those stats aren’t enough to go by, he scored a goal and supplied an assist against Leeds United, which is more than Schlupp has managed this season.
If Hodgson wants to stick with his senior players he needs to be a bit more savvy about when to do it as he has badly misjudged this one so far. Starting Eze against Chelsea and Everton is almost setting him up for failure right from the start.