Roy Hodgson eyes January squad rebuild
(Photo by Pool/ Getty Images)

Roy Hodgson is the oldest manager to ever take charge of a Premier League side and this stat resonates in the 72-year-olds team building; Crystal Palace have the squad with the highest average age in England's top-flight.

It is safe to say that the Palace boss is not one to be capricious. Once Hodgson finds a system he likes, it is difficult to persuade him to change. 

So much so that, towards the end of last season, Hodgson fielded the oldest squad in the Eagles' recent history - when an average aged line-up of 31 years old welcomed Chelsea to Selhurst Park behind closed doors. 

Hodgson is an ineradicable character with a deep-rooted philosophy that revolves around having an ageing squad with level headed personalities and leaders in all areas, but there are signs of his principles changing.

Crystal Palace have already scored more than three goals in a match twice this season, a feat they were unable to achieve through the entirety of the 2019/20 campaign by virtue of Hodgson's timely decision to make adjustments to his squad. 

There is no doubt that Hodgson's well-drilled defensive structure is slowly but surely declining in importance for the Eagles' head coach as he looks to focus his attention on the future of the club and their potential to carve out success.

  • Hodgson outlines his plans to reduce the squad age

The summer acquisition of Eberechi Eze has proved to be a steal for Palace, and it signalled the start of a transition phase for the Eagles. 

The English midfielder, who nurtured his trade in the Championship for Queens Park Rangers last season, has been a live-wire in the nucleus of the Palace squad. 

You can almost highlight Eze as the key figure in transforming Hodgson from a strictly defensive coach to a more broad-minded tactician. His recent exhibitions of flair and creativity have culminated in Palace realising their potential to be a threat on the attack. 

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This signing, along with that of Nathan Ferguson, has helped to reduce Crystal Palace's squad age, but Hodgson admitted it is still too high in a recent interview with Londonnewsonline. 

"This squad of players has aged together. They have played together, aged together and done a fantastic job. But one has to be realistic and accept that one day that’s going to catch up with us and, maybe, the fresh blood needs to be made available.

“It’s something that the chairman and the owners are very aware of, and something that Doug Freedman and I are aware of, too. We have made the first couple of steps – we’re doing a lot with the academy and trying to make certain that we improve things there, so that hopefully one or two of those players will come through.

“We’ve signed Eze, of course, who was our only really serious signing outside of the loan player who we signed in Michy. We’re thinking along those lines, but you need to realise sometimes that those are the hardest players to get.

“To get the quality that you require – [which is] to be better than what you’ve already got, and on top of that the player needs to be young and needs to have a big future in front of him – they’re the hardest players to get because everyone really wants them, and they are the ones whose prices are often the most inflated.”

On top of that, Jairo Riedewald has added fresh impetus for Palace this season as he has wriggled his way into selection, and has given Hodgson even more young talent to pick from.

Whilst it is rumoured that not too many big introductions will be weaved into the Eagles' squad in January, some younger additions are hoped to be captured.

The preliminary phases of Palace's rebuild will come at the expense of some veteran figures at the club, but 2021 could promise to be an exciting one for fans of the South London outfit.

  • Spiralling wage bill needs to be controlled

Yes, the age of Palace's squad hampers their performance and could backfire in years to come when they all retire, but a lot of these senior players also mount pressure on the financial status of the club.

Many of these senior players last renewed their contract when they were at the peaks of their career, and thus warranted a higher salary. Now that they have surpassed their career highs, they are becoming anchors weighing down Hodgson's freedom to invest in the transfer market. 

Even back in 2019, the Guardian reported that the Eagles' wage bill was a major problem for the club. After all, high earners such as Max Meyer and Mamadou Sakho are going to waste on the bench.

Luckily for Hodgson, these two, like many other out of favour players, are out-of-contract in summer. This allows for an easy resolution for the boss and his mission to free up his teams' wage bill. 

Though it may not be the instant fix the fans were hoping for, January provides the former England international manager the opportunity to lay down the first foundations of a rebuild. 

Christian Benteke is another player whose contract expires in the new year, but his sudden upsurge in confidence could spare him the axe, as the Belgian frontman scored two in an enthralling showing at The Hawthorns.

Meanwhile, the central defensive options for Crystal Palace are also a concern for the head coach. The youngest centre-back to start for Roy Hodgson this season in the league is Cheikhou Kouyate, who is at the mature age of 30-years-old.

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In fact, a lot of Palace's expiring contracts come at the heart of the defence. Sakho, Martin Kelly, Joel Ward, Scott Dann, James Tomkins, and Gary Cahill all have to show their worth in the second half of the season if they are to stay in contention for Hodgson's plans going forward.

The Eagles' boss will endure sleepless nights over the festive period, it's never an easy decision for a manager to make, surrounding the future of his squad, especially when he is so used to this set of players.

The number of departures taking place during the course of 2021 is still up for debate, and decisions are still not conclusive. However, the need for fresh impetus has already been highlighted by Hodgson.

  • Potential additions to Hodgson's squad in January

As the mid-season transfer window beckons, a crop of transfer rumours will begin to come to fruition. Palace are linked with a few names already, but their most important scavenging will come in the market for a young Centre-back.

It is unclear who Hodgson will look towards for fresh impetus at the back, but Chelsea's forgotten man, Fikayo Tomori, could be the answer to the Eagles' anxiety.

The English defender has found it difficult to get into Frank Lampard's system as of late. The teenager saw his Chelsea career start to materialise in 2019/20 as his hard work paved a way for fifteen Premier League appearances. 

The signing of Thiago Silva, however, has resulted in a decline in first-team action for Tomori, and many Chelsea fans are suggesting the defender should be given a chance to go out on loan in January.

Palace would be boosted by the signing of the internationally capped defender. He would inject more pace at the centre of defence, something that isn't prevalent in the current line-up.

Furthermore, his strength and hunger could prove pivotal to grinding out results against bigger opposition, where the Eagles are forced to defend for large segments of a game.

Though it would most likely be a short-term loan deal for the teenager, it would bide Hodgson some time in finding a long-term solution to Palace's ageing defensive infrastructure. However, Tomori does have the capacity to make an impact from the get-go too.

But, with the arrival of Tomori, Hodgson will need to make the difficult decision on the future of loanee, Michy Batshuayi. The attacking player is also from Chelsea, so Palace can't have two loan players from the same club. 

The most likely outcome to take shape would be the cancellation of Batshuayi's loan to make way for the capture of Fikayo Tomori. However, Hodgson may have the backing of the board to sign Batshuayi on a permanent basis.

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Rumoured to be on Palace's radar in an attacking perspective, Marcus Edwards seems the likely replacement for Andros Townsend. The former Spurs right winger has flourished since his move to Vitoria De Guimaraes.

There's no question that Townsend has passed his peak and unfortunately, his fitness concerns are a testament to that. The English midfielder has made over 140 appearances in the red and blue of Crystal Palace, but his time is coming to a close.

With Eberechi Eze and Wilfried Zaha stealing the show, the signing of Edwards would not be a move to make an instant impact, but rather a move that would allow the youngster to find his feet in England again and be a future mainstay. 

Though the starlet was deemed surplus to requirements during his spell at Tottenham Hotspur, his efforts in the Portuguese top division have propelled his side to a top-half spot going into the halfway mark of the season. 

In 46 appearances for the Portuguese club, he has ten goals and eleven assists, an impressive return. In comparison, Hodgson's current first choice right winger has only contributed to three goals in the league this time round.

The introduction of Marcus Edwards could not only add an extra dimension to Palace's front line but also provide competition for Townsend to step up his game, leaving Eze to cause chaos on the other flank.

  • Exciting times for those involved with Crystal Palace.

As the transfer window looms, more and more updates will be provided on VAVEL and elsewhere to keep Eagles' fans on the edge of their seats, and their eyes glued to the news.

For sure, a lot of developments are expected to take shape over the course of 2021, and January is the start of that.

Will Tomori be considered in January, or will the first port of call be in attack for Hodgson and his team?

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