Crystal Palace v Manchester United: Why Roy Hodgson must better Sam Allardyce and Alan Pardew just to keep Eagles up

Joe Hall
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Manchester City v Crystal Palace - Premier League
Hodgson will need to produce one of his best seasons as a Premier League manager yet to keep Palace up (Source: Getty)

In normal circumstances, a defeat for Crystal Palace at Manchester United could be written off as something approaching a lost cause, with games beyond the homes of the Premier League elite more likely to be profitable hunting ground.

Yet the worst start to a Premier League season in history means these are far from normal circumstances for Palace, who on Saturday have the unenviable task of attempting to end a goalless streak of six defeats at Old Trafford.

Should Palace’s unwanted run continue into October, they will be left with 31 games to reach the hallowed 40-point mark often cited as being required to clinch safety in the top tier.

That would leave new manager Roy Hodgson needing to achieve more points from a sequence of 31 matches than either Sam Allardyce or Alan Pardew managed in the last two seasons.

Already Palace must average 1.25 points per game from their remaining 32 fixtures, including the trip to United, in order to hit 40 by the end of the season. They have not attained that points-per-game rate over any stretch of 32 games since the 2014-15 campaign.

Should they lose at United, who have won all five home games this term and scored 17 goals in the process, the task will get even harder as Palace will need 1.29 points per game from their remaining matches.

Palace’s best points tally on a rolling 31-game basis in the last two years came last season, when they secured 37 points during a period largely managed by Allardyce.

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But that was a more favourable set of circumstances – they had not lost their first seven games – and even then Palace, who finished the season with 41 points, only secured a spot in this season’s Premier League on the penultimate game of the season.

As things stand, Hodgson’s track record could be the best suited man to steer his hometown club to survival.

Crystal Palace v Southampton - Premier League
Familiar feeling: Palace currently have a goal difference of -13 (Source: Getty)

His average points-per-game from 227 matches in a Premier League dugout is 1.25 — exactly what he needs to hit 40 points ahead of his trip to Old Trafford.

Yet defeat this weekend would require Hodgson, who has never tasted relegation as a Premier League manager, to produce one of his best seasons yet.

Only twice before has Hodgson averaged at least 1.29 points per game over a 31-game stretch.

In the 1997-98 season, his first campaign as Blackburn manager, Hodgson qualified for the Uefa Cup via a sixth-placed finish with an average of 1.5 points per game across 31 fixtures.

His only full season as West Brom manager — a campaign that earned him the England job in 2012 — finished with an average of 1.3 points.

In one of Hodgson’s finest hours, however, his celebrated saving of Fulham from relegation in 2007-08, he only managed 1.16 points per game over 21 fixtures.

Perhaps the best hope for Palace comes from their first season back in the Premier League in 2013-14.

In the relegation zone and with just three points after seven games, Palace gained 42 from their remaining 31 matches — an average of 1.31 per game. Yet back then Palace were not in as desperate a situation as they are now.

While a first league win at Old Trafford since 1989 looks unlikely, history suggests it could be particularly valuable.

A victory in September has tended to be a good indicator of a side that will stay up — 14 of the last 18 to be relegated failed to do so.

And it won’t get any easier for Palace in October. First up? Only the visit of Premier League champions Chelsea.

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