Sam Allardyce’s position as resident Premier League Championship-dodger is under threat. Outside of the relegation places on goal difference, the king of the firefighters has shown little sign of turning the fortunes of Crystal Palace around. Since his appointment on December 23rd, Allardyce has notched one point in four matches. Included in those four games were defeats to Swansea City and West Ham United, two matches that Allardyce will have seen earmarked for at least two points.
Sacking Alan Pardew after a narrow defeat to Chelsea was a surprise. It looked as though Pardew had dodged his P45 after a victory over Southampton: the team’s performances seemed to have improved, albeit marginally.
Allardyce was the card that all the boards were waiting to cut at the bottom of the Premier League table. Rumours occasionally surfaced about his return to the division, it was seemingly inevitable that he was going to be brought in as a crisis manager for one of the bottom four at some point this season. Palace, who have a far stronger squad that the other three sides, will have been expecting to be well safe from relegation this season after the additions of Christian Benteke and Andros Townsend last summer. Appointing Allardyce was an acceptance of the danger that the club was facing and a step away from the brief ambition shown by the club after the great start Pardew made to 2015/16.
The former Bolton manager’s record in similar situations speaks for itself. Palace’s squad should not be struggling as it is, all he has to do is find a way to eliminate the chaos defensively and find a means of creating regular chances for Benteke. The performances are yet to improve – if anything they have worsened.
Allardyce’s reputation is well deserved with clubs like Palace, but his start must be a grave concern for the Eagles’ board. Matches with Watford and Swansea were eminently winnable. A trip to West Ham was going to be challenging, but the manner of the 3-0 defeat was concerning, even though it could have been so different had James Tomkins netted a simple chance in the first half.
As the fixtures hit Allardyce thick and fast after his appointment, his impact was likely to be delayed. He still has time and January signings will allow him to mould a team for the way he would like to play. Removing Pardew from his post before Christmas has given Allardyce the luxury of time. There are 17 matches left in the Eagles’ Premier League season and another 22 points from those matches will almost guarantee safety.
Four fixtures into a tenure is obviously far too early to tell if a manager will be a success. Crystal Palace, though, have a right to be concerned. While January additions were likely a condition of his appointment, the squad Allardyce has already been working with should be sufficient to avoid relegation. For a manager who specialises in making a quick impact, particularly defensively, Allardyce has started very poorly.
Palace’s next five matches are all very winnable – the toughest being Everton at home next, and Stoke away. This run is a chance to pull away from the bottom three and, with a horrible set of fixtures in April and May, it could well define Allardyce’s time at the club.