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Roy Hodgson has sprung surprise after surprise at Palace

While Crystal Palace’s 3-1 victory over Burnley at the weekend was far from surprising considering that the Eagles have now found the net in nine consecutive away games and they have the talent to create plenty of problems for any team in the league, taking all three points away from Turf Moor is no easy feat.

Having not lost since 19th January against Liverpool, the Eagles’ wings were clipped by Manchester United in midweek but, in bouncing back from that loss, a much-changed Palace side showed brilliant character.

Hodgson sprung plenty of surprises in his lineup – the strike-force was split up by the benching of Andros Townsend, while Vicente Guaita, James McArthur and Martin Kelly also missed out, with Wayne Hennessey, Cheikhou Kouyate, Max Meyer and Scott Dann getting rare starts.

The deputies performed capably in the absences of a number of first XI faces, despite plenty of panic prior to kick-off from Palace fans who felt that they boss had made some curious decisions. All of the changes paid off, though, with Dann and Hennessey, in particular, dealing well with the physical threat posed by Burnley.

This wasn’t the first time that Hodgson’s decisions have been called into question and it also wasn’t the first time that the former England boss had answered those questions brilliantly.

Many of the Selhurst Park faithful have been bemused week after week by the omission of Meyer from the starting XI as Hodgson has regularly opted to deploy Jeffrey Schlupp – a left-back by trade – in central midfield instead of the German, who was once tipped to become a star of European football.

Crystal Palace midfielder Jeffrey Schlupp in action against Leicester City

Ghanaian Schlupp has proved that the faith placed in him by Hodgson has been justified – the former Leicester man’s performances in February, in which he chalked up one goal and two assists, earning him the player of the month accolade in the process.

Now, the 26-year-old is proving to be a key player for the Eagles, who have lacked a driving force from midfield since the departure of Ruben Loftus-Cheek in the summer. Meyer, meanwhile, had an opportunity in his preferred central role against the Clarets and couldn’t deliver.

This kind of flexibility regarding utilisation of players is something that, in his long career, has never been associated with Hodgson, but that could be about to change.

The former Fulham boss seems to have found a formula that works, with the January addition of Michy Batshuayi meaning the Eagles’ front three finally has a spearhead with a quality finish – something they had previously lacked for a couple of seasons.

There was already plenty of creation in the Croydon outfit with Wilfried Zaha and Townsend conjuring opportunities galore week-in, week-out, but now they are certain to get the assists they deserve.

The dynamic duo were excellent last season playing as unorthodox strikers – another clever Hodgson move, when it would have been easy to stick with target man Christian Benteke up front.

Many surely scoffed when Hodgson was appointed at the SE25 helm considering the mockery made of his tactics in England’s 2016 Euros nightmare.

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One of the best goal-scorers in the world, Harry Kane, was put on corner duty – a decision that is baffling to this day – but we have yet to see big Benteke whip one in from the flag and the tactical risks Hodgson has taken have, more often than not, paid off.

The 71-year-old might be the oldest manager in Premier League history but, since his appointment at Selhurst Park, he has rescued them from the dire position Frank de Boer left them in; successfully converted two wingers into strikers on a temporary basis in the absence of a recognised centre-forward; and transformed a lacklustre signing into exactly what the team needed and more.

Will there be any more new tricks from the old dog who most had written off long ago?

Article title: Roy Hodgson has sprung surprise after surprise at Palace

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