The persistent problem holding back Roy Hodgson's Crystal Palace
Photo by Daniel Leal Olivas - Pool/Getty Images)

Sitting back, soaking up pressure and hitting sides on the counterattack have become the hallmark of Roy Hodgson's Crystal Palace side, and for the most part, a style of football at which they are particularly effective. 

However, their brand of football, something they find confidence in, has become their own worst enemy - Palace fail to break down opponents who play them at their own game.  

In some ways, the lacklustre, abject performances against sides who play Palace at their own self-proclaimed forte, have now become expected. Hodgson's team were far too predictable against a Burnley side which had failed, prior to kick-off on Monday evening, to pick up their first win and home goal of the season.  

An uncharacteristic error from Cheikhou Kouyaté, gifted Chris Wood the only goal in a game that was over before it had even begun.  

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There was a chance to redeem themselves against Newcastle United on Friday evening. Steve Bruce's side play in a similar fashion; it was the perfect opportunity for Roy Hodgson to display a sense of invention, perhaps attacking the game, and showing a different style of play to put to shame those who say they are unable to win without Wilfried Zaha.

Before the game, Roy Hodgson said in his interview with Amazon Prime, "I don't believe in the possession stat." Yet, he was about to watch his side dominate the ball and come away with nothing, once again, as Steve Bruce's side finished the game 2-0 winners, hitting Palace on the counterattack twice in the dying embers of the match. 

No plan B

Ever since the calming influence of Yohan Cabaye departed Selhurst Park, the Eagles have struggled really to impose themselves on games, preferring to sit back and unleash Wilfried Zaha on explosive attacks in order to find goals.  

There is no problem with this; it is an extremely productive style of play when executed correctly. But when the swashbuckling football fails to work, it backfires spectacularly.

Facing opponents who match Palace in shape and style, forces Hodgson's side to take charge in games, retaining the majority of the ball and carving out opportunities with moments of inspiration.

The truth is, when the Eagles have possession, they appear to hesitate. Against Wolves, Burnley and Newcastle, where Palace have been ask to control the tempo of the match, the south Londoners have failed to score a single goal or even a solitary point. 

There is a burning desire in the side for a player who can take control of the game. Jairo Riedewald has a forward thinking passing range, that has been nurtured under the tutelage of the Ajax academy, however, the arduous defensive work Roy Hodgson commands, nullifies any attacking potency from the centre of the pitch. 

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Eberechi Eze was signed after lighting up the Championship, playing in a visionary role in a three-man midfield. Since joining from QPR, Eze has been shoehorned into left midfield and been required to adhere to his defensive responsibilities, suffocating a large part of his attacking quality. 

If Hodgson persists with defensive caution, then having a player of Eze's attacking nous and creative spark in the middle of the pitch, could give Palace another option when going forward, downplaying the reliance on Zaha and creating other avenues to devise goal scoring opportunities.  

A lack of goals 

Added to their possession woes, in the last seven Premier League games, where they have had over 50% of the ball, Palace have lost in every outing, scoring only once from 87 shots at goal. 

With talisman and main goal source, Wilfried Zaha, having tested positive for COVID-19, it has highlighted the reliance placed upon him by Hodgson. 

Against Newcastle, Hodgson decided to play versatile Jeffrey Schlupp alongside Jordan Ayew, a partnership which failed to spark a real connection, leaving a deep craving for a focal point up front. 

Christian Benteke came on and instantly added some form of intensity and meaning to any attack. Michy Batshuayi further strengthened the claim for two out-and-out strikers starting the next match, coming agonisingly close to giving Palace the lead from a Patrick van Aanholt cross. 

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The Eagles struggled for goals last season, recording their worst tally in the club's history, and although this season they have reached 12 goals for the campaign, 7 of them have either been scored or created by Zaha, further strengthening the need for a different option should Plan A fail to come to fruition. 

Against Burnley, Roy Hodgson named four defenders on the substitute bench, leaving any form of a different game plan or creative outlet, in the shape of Max Meyer or academy prospects, Brandon Pierrick and Scott Banks, out of the squad.

With Palace a goal down after eight minutes, the only attacking threat off the bench was Christian Benteke, a player against whom Burnley's centre backs thrive, due to their height and physicality. 

Having this negative approach is now becoming the fans' main frustration towards Roy Hodgson.

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Going forward

Wilfried Zaha is scheduled to arrive back to first team training this week, should he provide a negative COVID test. 

His return should be a beacon of hope going forward that Palace can start to pick up where they left off, prior to the last international break, building on impressive performances such as the 4-1 demolition of Leeds United and their 2-1 away win at Fulham

The trip to take on West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns will confirm whether Palace are set for a season battling it out for Premier League survival or perhaps, looking to build on their second best start in the top-flight. 

In arguably the best squad seen at Selhurst Park since their return to the Premier League, there is a hankering for more.

When setting up against Manchester United, Chelsea and even Leeds, for teams who like to have the ball, then Roy Hodgson's cautious approach is the undeniable way of spearheading the game.

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However, as highlighted in recent performances, there has to be another way of tackling games where Palace are asked to showcase their natural ability.

In a team that possesses the artillery of Batshuayi, Zaha and Eze, there is an abundance of dormant quality which needs to be awoken; it can perhaps be achieved through a style of play that can bring the best out of these players. 

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