One of the major complaints we've seen from Roy Hodgson this season is that he hasn't utilised his subs bench. Here, Jack Snell takes a look at the players he could bring on.
For the second season in a row, Roy Hodgson faces criticism for his lack of substitutes and reluctance to make tactical changes. It appears that the full 25-man squad does not have the full trust of the Palace manager. Last seasons injury nightmare saw the likes of Freddie Ladapo, Levi Lumeka and Erdal Rakip keeping the benches warm alongside Damien Delaney and Chung Yong Lee. Hodgson publicly stated how he felt limited by his options and questioned the quality of the fringe players. This year however, the bench has been vastly improved, prodigal talents, experienced European footballers and proven Premier League players man the benches, but is Hodgson justified in his lack of change, or should he be more active in adapting to the game?
The Meyer of London has been the main source of criticism for Hodgson's befuddling team selections. When coming off the bench, Max Meyer has been an influencer and a game changer. Even though only starting one game, he has made a handful of substitute appearances and has some of the most superior passing statistics in the side. Not only is his retention of possession a huge positive in what is has been an under-performing midfield this season, he already has one assist to his name. The same cannot be said for Andros Townsend, James McArthur, Jeffrey Schulpp or Luka Milivojevic, all of whom have started most of this seasons games. Hodgson's decision may be justified as the fitness of Meyer was under scrutiny at the start of the season, however after solid performances in and out of the Premier League, the manager still chooses not to play him and has also left him as an unused sub.
After Alexander Sørloth foolishly made comments to the Norwegian media about his game time, Hodgson retaliated with comments of his own, inferring that the young Norwegian still had a way to go before he could be considered as a first choice. Although, showing a few glimpses of potential, Sørloth has gifted Palace with a string of indifferent performances. Zero Premier League goals and no assists to his name have not earned him the “game changer” status that some substitutes are heralded for. When coming off the bench, he does not offer the feeling of 'maybe we can snatch something here' by the Palace fans.
The perplexing case of Jairo Riedewald continues. He doesn't typically fit the bill as a Hodsgon player, but he nevertheless possesses some potential. He will only improve with more game time. His performance versus Premier League Champions Manchester City last season was sublime, the maturity and poise from such a young talent could have lead to a regular starting-11 position. Yet, the very next game he was an unused sub. He started one more game in the season (the 1-0 win over Burnley) but was consistently an unused sub. Jairo may not offer the flare and skill of other teammates, yet he is a solid defensive player who can pick out a pass. A player that could be valuable to the squad when trying to hold onto a point, more than Schlupp for example. Riedwald could also replace the tiring legs of the central midfielders and apply an element of stability. However although demonstrated it on a number of occasions, Hodgson does not seem to value his impact on the squad, this is typified by the proposed sale to Swansea in the summer.
Sullay Kaikai has shown all the signs he could be Palace's next young talent to emerge, however when he has stepped up into the squad in Premier League matches, he has not delivered. In friendlies and against weakened cup tie opponents he demonstrates the kind of potential that has excited Palace fans for a number of years. However he has not taken the opportunities given to him like Aaron Wan-Bissaka has, for example. Although he clearly has talent, he has not replicated this at the top level and is therefore a risky sub to make.
Jason Puncheon should go down as one of Palace's Premier League Greats. His last few seasons were disappointing, however he was a vital team member both on and off the pitch when helping Palace secure Premier League status again and again. Last years injury cushioned the disappointment of his dropping out of the first team, however when considering his last run of performances, this demotion was already in the works. It is therefore a challenge to believe in a player who is on his way down, rather than in the ascendancy. That being said, he has a wealth of experience and, once upon a time, could score a Premier League goal.
Also known as Mr Reliable, Martin Kelly has arguably become Palace's most vital squad player. He comes in, works hard and, although a backup, feels like a player who can be trusted. He is a troubleshoot player, rather than a player brought on to positively affect the game. However, when trying to protect a point or a lead, going 5 at the back could tighten up the gaps that always seems to open up in the last ten minutes of a Palace match.
All said and done, Palace now also have Connor Wickham, Vicente Guita, Jordan Ayew and Pape Souaré, all bar one are players with Premier League minutes under their belts, the other was on the radar of Barcelona and other European giants.
So, unlike last season, there is quality in the squad and there is an absence of injuries. However, this quality does pose risk. The experienced players have not demonstrated consistency in the recent years and the inexperienced players only have their reputation in other leagues as their biggest argument. That being said, the majority could potentially add something to the last 15 minutes of a game and with the way Palace's luck is falling now, taking a risk could lead to a big reward.