Connect in the back of the net

Appointing Sam Allardyce as manager is historically a sure fire way of avoiding relegation from the Premier League with the Dudley born coach having successfully guided Bolton Wanderers, Blackburn Rovers, West Ham United and most recently Sunderland to safety in England’s top flight.

Following the 62 year old’s acrimonious departure from his long coveted role as England boss, Allardyce has arrived back in the Premier League with Crystal Palace but the Eagles’ safety is far from secure.


Just over the drop zone

After being appointed on Christmas Eve, the former Wanderers boss has guided Palace to 16th place in the league table with 10 matches left to play, however the club sit only a perilous four points clear of the relegation zone.

To fully appreciate the position the club are in we must look at exactly when Allardyce arrived.

Alan Pardew was dismissed in December and there was a concern that there wouldn’t be enough time left in the season for the new boss’ methods to be implemented successfully.


Poor start

Looking back at the 2015/16 season when Sunderland were rescued by the hand of Allardyce it was early October when he arrived on Wearside, almost a full two month head-start on his arrival this term.

He recorded just three victories in his first 11 Premier League matches with Sunderland with his team’s inability to keep clean sheets a visible source of frustration for Allardyce at the time.

After a busy January transfer window in which key stalwarts such as Lamine Kone and Wahbi Khazri were signed, Sunderland would only lose three of their remaining 19 league games as they avoided the drop at the expense of fierce rivals Newcastle United.

It took time for Allardyce’s ideas to be soaked up by his players but once this happened they were an incredibly difficult team to beat with every single point vital in a battle for survival.

At Selhurst Park it has been a similar story with the club winning just four of the 10 matches the former England coach has been in control of.

Rather more positively however is that three of these four victories have actually arrived in the club’s last three matches.


Finally adjusting

After a disastrously slow start, the team appear to be finally adjusting to the new coaching regime.

With that said however there are still important matches to play and a difficult upcoming run of fixtures could be the difference between survival and relegation for the Eagles, especially with teams around them likely to pick up points.

The next four matches see Palace face Chelsea and Southampton away from home before Arsenal and Leicester City visit the South East London club.

Taking points off Antonio Conte’s side at the present moment would be a near impossible task for most teams and in truth the matches against Southampton and Arsenal may well be the club’s best opportunity to pick up invaluable points.

Leicester City have momentum on their side although negotiating a domestic calendar in-between their Champions League quarter-final tie against Atletico Madrid could prove somewhat problematic.

Defensive solidity will be imperative if Arsenal’s horrific recent form is to be taken advantage of because the Gunners will undoubtedly create chances at Selhurst Park, yet with three clean sheets having come in each of Palace’s last three outings, it appears as though the Allardyce modus operandi of keeping the back door well and truly shut is once again working wonders.

Marco Silva’s arrival at Hull City has sparked somewhat of a turnaround in fortunes for the club yet they remain four points adrift of Crystal Palace.


Upcoming fixtures key for Palace

Now when you compare the upcoming fixtures it will become clear just why Allardyce has to guide his team through the next four matches whilst picking up points where possible.

The Tigers have back-to-back home games against West Ham United and a Middlesbrough team who simply cannot find the net.

There is every chance the hosts could take a full six points from these matches provided they show the spirit and determination present in Silva’s early successes against both Liverpool and Manchester United.

Trips to Manchester City and Stoke follow with Mark Hughes’ side somewhat renowned for giving up points once their Premier League status is secured.

Hull seem to have the far kinder April on paper and it could be decisive in the relegation battle.


Must keep their heads afloat

Crystal Palace have to continue their recent positive form and fully illustrate that they have taken on board Sam Allardyce’s defensive specifications otherwise it could be a potentially nervous end to the campaign.


Written by Chris Winterburn

Follow Chris on Twitter @Chriswin4

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