Despite seeing his side wrap up the 2017/18 season with a 2-0 win against West Bromwich Albion, Roy Hodgson’s thoughts have already switched to next season as he targets a similar finishing position to the 11th place spot the Eagles ended up in this term.
Goals from Wilfried Zaha and Patrick van Aanholt secured another win at the Baggies’ expense to finish the season six games unbeaten, but as well as his thoughts turning to adjusting his squad over the summer, Hodgson admits that he wants his side to register a similar mid-table spot next term but without he need to look nervously over their shoulder at relegation.
Speaking in his post-match press conference, the Palace boss talked about a number of topics, including:
Final game: “It was a very satisfying end to the season. We dominated the first half in terms of possession but they were hard to break down. They are an organised team and get players behind the ball well and worked very hard, so even though we had a lot of the ball, it was very hard to create a clear-cut chance – we had two in the first half which we might have scored.
“In the second half we were quicker and more incisive, and looked like we were going to score even before Wilf put us in the lead. That was the goal we needed to settle things down and open up the game a little bit more, because there was no point in them then defending for their lives. They had to try and come forward a bit more and that gave us some more space, and I think we used that well.”
Star performers: “In particular I was very pleased with the two full-backs. We knew we would need them to make a lot of forward runs and give us width in attack because our wide midfield players often come in off the line. Patrick van Aanholt made a goal and scored a goal but his general play was also very good, as was Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
“Ruben Loftus-Cheek impresses me every time I see him in training and matches. He’s a fine player and I think we needed people like him, Wilf and Andros today because they are a hard defence to unlock. We can only do that using the time they give you in front of the defence to hoist balls into the penalty area or hit deep crosses, because they’ve got a fantastic goalkeeper and some outstanding back players who are tall and strong in the air. We knew we had to play through them and so I was impressed with the way those players went about that.”
Finishing position: “We need a philosophy and clear idea of where we want this club to go, and we need to build on this success, which is just based on the last two or three games. We could so easily have been relegated, so we mustn’t start thinking that because we finished 11th, that’s where we are. If we’re to finish 11th again we’ve got to do what Burnley and Leicester this season and never be close to the relegation zone.”
Fans’ reception towards him: “It was very nice, and I’m proud that it wasn’t just the Palace fans but also the West Brom fans, who even initiated it which was nice of them. Our fans have been brilliant right the way through, and every time I come here I get an incredible reception before and after the game and I’m extremely grateful for that.
“Fans are not every easy to please, so when they show their support and gratitude for what I and the team have done, you’ve got to be happy about that and not be nonchalant and take it for granted. I certainly don’t do that and I’m really enjoying the moment.”
Speculation surrounding Zaha: “I think that’s going to happen all the time between now and 9th August. Every day I’ll be able to pick up a newspaper and find Wilf or several other of our players being linked with other clubs, and read about all the other players that we’re going to sign. As far as I’m concerned, until a day comes where an offer is made that the club accepts, that speculation can wash over my head.
“Wilf knows exactly how we value him as a player and as a person because he’s an important figure for us. He’s literally a Croydon lad who has dedicated his career to Crystal Palace, and been helped by the club to become the player he is today. He has a long-term contract and is one of our best paid players, as well as he should be, and the last thing on anyone’s mind here is letting him go.”
Summer plans: “We want to keep the nucleus of this group of this team together and hopefully strengthen in one or two areas to make certain that next season we can finish 11th again, which if we do will be a good achievement. We have to be satisfied with that because we have modest expectations at the moment. If we get there, we can’t do it the way we got there this year; it’s got to be a much more solid, consistent performance for the start.
“I’m ready for what is going to happen. Both Dougie Freedman, myself and the owners are in constant discussions about what needs to be done, but football is thinking on your feet. You don’t leave tonight, go on holiday and never give Crystal Palace another thought until 2nd July. You’re in discussions all the time, as it’s a constantly changing world and we have to be ready for that and adapt to it.”