This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…
At 72 years of age, Roy Hodgson has been in football management for a staggering 43 years, starting at Halmstad and involving huge jobs such as Inter Milan, Liverpool and England.
Perhaps it is his vast experience that makes the Crystal Palace manager such a stubborn customer.
It has already been detailed by us that the Eagles boss is not utilising the players at his disposal properly, and it is increasingly frustrating to watch when it is so painstakingly obvious at times where some characters would operate best.
Players such as Wilfried Zaha and Max Meyer really aren’t being used properly by Hodgson.
In the Ivory Coast international’s case, he has been frequently used as a centre-forward alongside Christian Benteke where he simply can’t influence the game as effectively as he can when out on the wing.
With Meyer, the diminutive German is quite clearly best suited to the centre given his small frame, lack of pace but brilliant close control due to his low centre of gravity – however, Hodgson has been using the former Schalke man out on the left for almost the entire time he has been in south London.
So, how does Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl come into this?
Well, the same sort of functional issue was happening over at St Mary’s in the first two games of the Saints’ season, with Hasenhuttl twice persisting with a 3-5-2 system that quite clearly wasn’t working – the horrid 3-0 loss to Burnley on the opening day more than proved this.
After that game, many Southampton fans presumably would’ve been startled to see the same system adopted when European champions Liverpool came to town – unsurprisingly, another loss ensued.
However, the former RB Leipzig manager bit the bullet and saw that this system wasn’t working, quickly ensuring he changed it up before the moans started to be heard on the South Coast towards a stubborn approach.
A 4-2-2-2 system was implemented for the short trip to Brighton in the Saints’ last Premier League outing, and a much better level of performance followed as Hasenhuttl’s side picked up their first three points of the season.
The Austrian also made the bold call to hand Kevin Danso a place at left-back over the experienced Ryan Bertrand – the former Chelsea man had a knock, but Hasenhuttl later revealed that the Englishman would’ve been dropped anyway.
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These types of bold decisions are what Hodgson must do to ensure he is obtaining the maximum out of his most talented players, or he risks enduring another season like the last in which Palace struggled to break down sides at home and just look generally all over the place positionally in attack – the south Londoners had the second worst home record in the league in 2018/19, with only bottom-placed Huddersfield faring worse.
A 2-1 win at Old Trafford last time out for Palace in the league has momentarily papered over the cracks, but that is a running theme which we saw last term with wins over Arsenal at the Emirates and Manchester City at the Etihad.
Hasenhuttl’s excellent awareness of things not working and moving quickly to solve the problem is what Hodgson must take on board in order to turn Palace’s season around. Let’s hope he’s not too set in his ways to make the changes Palace clearly need.