Recent losses against Leeds United and Burnley spell trouble for Roy Hodgson's Crystal Palace as fans grow frustrated with the lack of drive and motivation in the team.
Premier League football is expected for Palace next season, however, it seems as if the ambitions from the fans are parallel to the expectations of the board.
Securing safety every year must not be the only expectation for a team that have competed in the top flight for eight consecutive seasons. There are teams such as, Burnley and Wolves, who have experienced UEFA Europa League football and Palace fans will be asking 'Why not us'?
VAVEL Crystal Palace takes a look at why the summer is so important to prevent further stagnation in the future.
Removal of deadwood in the squad
The Eagles have looked sluggish this season and fans thought that this would be the season where they would see change. Wins against Southampton and Manchester United early on were promising but consistency remained an issue brought over from last season.
With safety very likely, a lot of the players on the pitch are playing like their objective for the season has already been met. Players such as Patrick Van Aanholt, Jordan Ayew, Andros Townsend and many more look to be on the beach.
Palace are playing like a team with nothing to prove and no clear direction in where they are heading. The motivation seems to have dropped massively, which is grim reading for their upcoming fixture against fierce rivals, Brighton and Hove Albion.
The age of the squad is far too high and the defence has been the leakiest it has ever been. Representing the second-worst defence in the league is not like Palace at all and that has to be fixed before it gets any worse.
Contract issues remain
With 12 unsigned contracts at the club, it gives off the notion of a summer clearout. Key names include Wayne Hennessey, Joel Ward, Mamadou Sakho, Scott Dann, Gary Cahill, Van Aanholt and Townsend.
The player that deserves a new contract the most is Joel Ward, without a shadow of a doubt. It is a shock as to why Ward has not committed his future to Palace yet, given the service he has devoted to the club.
Christian Benteke is another player that is crucial to the team and he is also yet to be sorted out with a new contract. What the board are waiting for is unclear, but everyone else can see how valuable the pair are to the club.
Reliance on Zaha needs to be eased
Over the last four seasons, Palace are almost a point-per-game worse off without Wilfried Zaha, winning just two from 19 games without the Ivorian.
⏱️ FT | Crystal Palace 0⃣-3⃣ Burnley— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) February 13, 2021
📊 After 23 matches of the season, 23.5% of Burnley's Premier League goals have now come against Crystal Palace
😬 Palace have now lost 16 of the 18 league games Wilf Zaha has missed since 2017/18#CRYBUR pic.twitter.com/Z2TNOk2Oj1
Palace have to find a way to thrive without Zaha and the introduction of Eberechi Eze from QPR should have helped more than it has so far. Over the years, Hodgson's side seem incapable of winning a game without him.
In recent games, Palace have lost against bottom-half opponents comfortably without troubling their defences despite the best efforts of Eze. it is alarming that Palace have not worked out how to play without Zaha since the Tony Pulis era of the 2013/14 season.
A replacement for Zaha in the summer would be very handy especially if the forward is convinced to leave Selhurst Park for a bigger team. Young and hungry players with a lot of potential are the option for Palace and not just high-profile players that will not give their all for the club.
Opinion: Hodgson's time is up
Signings such as Eze, Clyne, Jack Butland and most recently, Jean-Philippe Mateta, were good acquisitions from Hodgson but Palace remain in mid-table mediocrity with no domestic cup competitions to look forward to until next season.
Passive football, little passion and no ambition are some of the terms used by Palace fans when describing the team this season and last season. This group of players look like they have stopped playing for the manager and seem to have no confidence without the presence of Zaha.
Five goals conceded against Leeds and Burnley in their last two games is simply not good enough and it looks damning for the Eagles with undoubtedly their biggest game of the season coming up.
This game is do or die for Hodgson. In their previous meeting, Palace failed to capitalise on their lead and allowed Brighton to score late.
Time is ticking for Hodgson; fans are losing patience more than ever, and chairman Steve Parish is bound to lose his very soon if poor results like these continue to happen under his reign.
Names such as Frank Lampard and Eddie Howe have been whispered around South London in recent weeks. For Palace to progress and meet the wishes of fans for a possible European place, Hodgson has to be shown the door in the summer.