With Jefferson Lerma shining on his Premier League debut last weekend at Sheffield United alongside Palace’s Player of the Season Cheick Doucouré, Hodgson was full of praise for his side’s engine room in his pre-Arsenal press conference.
The manager smiled: “You saw it on Saturday [at Sheffield United]. I don’t think that either Doucouré or Lerma are people who just sit in front of a back four – they’ve both got much more to their game than that.
“They are No. 6s, if we call players by numbers in the modern game, but I don’t think we’d say [Arsenal’s] Declan Rice is a No. 6 – he’s a very, very good central midfield player.
“That’s what I’d describe Lerma as and Doucouré as: good central midfield players, who know how to operate in that area and luckily, also, understand the defensive aspects of that position as well.”
Expanding further on Lerma’s strengths, Hodgson noted: “He was Player of the Season last year at Bournemouth. He doesn’t have obvious weaknesses in his game. He’s high-energy, a hard-working player and a team player, so really he’s got all the things that a coach, a manager, is looking for.
“We can only hope that he continues to develop within our team structure. He’s made a very good start. The players have taken to him and he seems to have taken to the players and the way we work. At the moment, everything about Jefferson Lerma is a hundred percent positive.
“For all players, it’s about what they do when they cross that white line, and up to now, he’s done it three times for us: for 60 minutes against Millonarios, for 90 minutes against Sevilla and 90 minutes against Sheffield United. If I can bottle those performances and release that performance the next time he plays, we’ll be fine.”