Adrian Clarke looks at key tactical points and players who can be decisive in Matchweek 30.
Team analysis - Crystal Palace
Roy Hodgson hit the ground running on his return to Crystal Palace with an unexpectedly adventurous tactical approach.
Switching from two holding midfielders in a 4-2-3-1 to the use of twin attacking box-to-box players in a 4-1-4-1, his Eagles side tore into Leicester City to claim their first Premier League victory of 2023.
Hodgson is not renowned as an attacking coach, but the 75-year-old demanded a positive mindset from his players in what was a crunch fixture at the bottom end of the table.
At half-time they led the shot count 20-0, and by the time they had completed a richly deserved 2-1 win, they had managed a total of 31 efforts on goal.
Palace's winner v Leicester
This was Palace’s joint-highest tally in the Premier League, and their 28-shot difference compared with the Foxes was the largest margin in any Premier League match so far in 2022/23.
Pushing Leicester on to the back foot with such an assertive style of play was an incredible way for Hodgson to kick off his tenure, 682 days after he had left Selhurst Park.
Palace's numbers v Leicester
|v LEI||Previous best||Season ave|
|Shots in box||21||15||6.72|
|Touches in opp box||47||36||19.34|
During a 12-match winless run that preceded Hodgson’s arrival, Palace had been struggling to create sustained pressures or quality chances.
They even broke a top-flight record when going three consecutive matches without registering a single shot on target, so confidence was understandably low.
Hodgson’s plan was to move the ball earlier and with greater purpose into the opposition half than they had done under Patrick Vieira.
Full backs pushed 10-15 yards higher up the pitch to support their wide men.
Hodgson also demanded that Jeffrey Schlupp and the recalled Eberechi Eze played significantly higher than they had in the previous set-up, ensuring they had the bulk of their touches inside opposition territory.
As you can see from this chalkboard, Schlupp (No 15) and Zaha (No 11) did a terrific job of forcing the Foxes to retreat down the left-hand side.
They combined well, with Zaha firing off an incredible seven shots before an injury forced him off during the first half.
Ward and Olise shared 20 passes, Ward and Eze made the same number between them, with Eze and Olise combining 19 times too.
In previous weeks the Eagles’ forward players had looked isolated, but Hodgson’s vision meant the wide forwards had team-mates in closer proximity to link up with in general play.
With Schlupp and Eze stretching Leicester’s midfield two wider apart than they wanted to be, the Eagles also created a better avenue for central players to pick out their striker.
Will this style continue?
It will be fascinating to see if Palace attempt to repeat this bold tactical approach away to Leeds United on Sunday.
Hodgson is usually pragmatic in his strategic thinking, so he may temper his midfielders’ urge to make forward runs with quite as much regularity in a challenging away match.
If Palace do continue with the same style of play, we could be in for a fabulous spectacle at Elland Road.
His game plan and use of five attack-minded players reinvigorated the Eagles.