Wolves v Crystal Palace: Inside track on Roy Hodgson's side

Wolves take on Crystal Palace next in the top flight - get to know the Eagles here.

Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha reacts
Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha reacts

We spoke with James Howland, Author of The Palace Addiction, and Chris Windsor, from the Rethink it Palace podcast, to get a real look at Roy Hodgson's side.

See what he had to say here.

How has the start of the season treated Palace, have things been promising?

JH: ​Points wise, it's been a very strong start to the season - especially with the 3-1 win at Old Trafford.

Wilfried Zaha has been back to his best and looks to be on track for his best season yet after a disappointing return in 2019-20.

Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha (left) and Fulham's Tim Ream

However, a lot of fans have been concerned by the ultra-defensive performances.

The home match against our arch rivals, Brighton, was particularly frustrating to watch as we mustered only one shot on goal - a very dubious penalty - in the entire match.

CW: It's been somewhat of a promising start, victory against Man Utd being the highlight for many fans but conceding a late equaliser to rivals Brighton and a stunning by Chelsea has taken the gloss off of the start.

What sort of business did the Eagles do this summer, and what have you made of that business?

JH: ​Our business in the summer was some of our most exciting for years.

Last year, we had the oldest squad in the Premier League so the priority was to bring the average age down.

We picked up two of the best young players from last season's Championship - Eberechi Eze and Nathan Ferguson - as well as securing Michy Batshuayi on a season-long loan with an option to sign him permanently.

Batshuayi doesn't have the all-round game that the top clubs need from a striker but he's a superb goal-scorer as he showed for us on loan in 2019.

Unfortunately, Ferguson has been injured but that meant we picked up Nathaniel Clyne on a free transfer who was outstanding for us at the start of his career.

Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson

He's still only 29 and we're hoping that a return home will help him to re-find the form that made him Liverpool and England's first choice right back for a couple of years. Another cheap but popular signing was Jack Butland.

Like Clyne, he's younger than you realise (27) and is seen as a much better back up option than Wayne Hennessey who's been universally disliked since signing from Wolves in 2014!

CW: The window saw Palace try and go young, bringing in Nathan Ferguson and Ebere Eze from the Championship as well as Jack Butland.

They also brought back Michy Batshuayi and former Academy Graduate Nathaniel Clyne. Eze has showed promising flashes but none of the signings have set the squad alight, but they've provided competition and depth which we have arguably lacked for a number of seasons.

The best piece of business has been keeping Wild Zaha, who has already scored more this season than last, thriving in a more central role up against opposition centre halves.

What kind of football can we expect to see against Wolves?

JH: ​Defensive! Hodgson's teams are always well organised but not easy on the eye.

We haven't lost when scoring first for something like 24 games but rarely get anything after falling behind.

CW: I think the game itself will be who can do the most with possession - both teams actually are better without the ball looking to counter attack.

Palace will likely set up 4-4-2 and defending as a team before trying to counter with width and pace from up front.

Who are the big danger men to worry about in Palace's ranks?

JH: ​Zaha! If we do anything, he's always involved. Whether that's scoring, assisting, "second assisting" or simply drawing in defenders, you can link the vast majority of our goals back to him.

CW: Zaha is clearly the biggest danger man in the side, but Andros Townsend has had an excellent start the season after one of his worst last year.

He has been threatening with his balls into the box but his work rate and defensive duties have earned him high praise from fans.

Jairo Riedewald has also stood out in CM the last few games, so look out for him and his haircut to try and dominate the centre of the park.

Are there any injury issues at Palace?

JH: ​Always! We seem to have a never-ending list of injuries, mainly picked up in training.

Crystal Palace's Jairo Riedewald

Jordan Ayew has COVID and is self-isolating but might be back for next weekend, James Tomkins is a long-term absentee, Gary Cahill missed last week after an assault by Lewis Dunk, former Baggie Nathan Ferguson is yet to make his debut with an on-going injury, Connor Wickham is always injured, and both James McCarthy and James McArthur missed out last week.

Christian Benteke and Patrick Van Aanholt have returned to the bench in recent weeks but are still yet to make a start this season.

CW: Palace have been decimated at the back and have relied on CM Cheikh Kouyate to fill in at Centre Half which has done extremely well, however it remains to be seen who will partner him as he has already had three men next to him this season.

Full back Ferguson has yet to make an appearance due to injury and there is always a risk that we may lose someone through a positive COVID-19 test, with both Jordan Ayew and Jack Butland testing positive this season.

What's your predicted XI?

JH: ​Hodgson rarely changes a winning team so I can't see us changing from the Fulham match unless we picked up yet another injury!

We've returned to a rigid 4-4-2 this season that was successful when Hodgson first took over in 2017-18.

Guiata, Mitchell, Dann, Kouyate, Clyne, Schlupp, Riedewald, Milivojevic, Townsend, Zaha, Batshuayi

CW: Guiata, Clyne, Kouyate, Sakho, Mitchell, Townsend, McArthur, Riedewald, Schlupp, Batshuayi and Zaha. 4-4-2.

What have you made of Wolves from afar, how do you think they'll manage this season?

JH: ​Wolves have been seriously impressive since returning to the top flight.

Crystal Palace goalkeeper Vicente Guaita

They seem to play good football although sometimes overplay it and struggle against teams who sit back like Palace. I like your manager and a lot of your players.

I can't see them being anywhere but in the top half again this season.

CW: Wolves continue to impress, especially lacking a preseason and will continue to push for the top seven.

Their business always seems to work, clearly aided by the Portuguese connection but there are goal threats across the pitch which makes them so dangerous.

I'm pleased that Coady has made it into the England squad too, as a player that has been with the club and thrived in Wolves' recent rise.

Your match prediction?

JH: ​The first goal will be vital. I can see it being 0-0 at the break as Wolves tend to be patient with the ball and we'll sit deep.

If I was a betting man, I'd go for Wolves to nick it 1 or 2-0 in the second half but if we get our noses ahead, I'd back us to hold out.

CW: 1-1 - both teams are going to have more of the ball than they are used to and are going to o have to tweak their gameplans to try and get anything more than a draw out of the game!

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