Since Roy Hodgson took over, Crystal Palace have taken nine points from 10 Premier League matches. Given they have faced both Manchester clubs, Chelsea and Tottenham during that spell, that is a decent return.
The late winner at home to Stoke City last weekend was a massive moment for Hodgson and his side. They have to win matches against fellow bottom-half sides at Selhurst Park if they are to ever escape the bottom three mire.
A draw away at Brighton in midweek was an okay result, too. Palace created very little, but then neither did their hosts. It was not one for the neutral, though the one point for Palace kept them within three points of 17th place.
Wilfried Zaha has continued to deliver in the final third. The Ivorian has thrived down the middle, and end product is now an expectation rather than a rare treat. The return to fitness of Christian Benteke will be key as well, and gives the Eagles a proven goal scorer that several other relegation-threatened teams do not possess.
The numbers like Crystal Palace. They have done all along, even in the nightmare start under Frank de Boer. Misfortune has been their downfall more than deeper-lying problems, and their expected points – remarkably – has them seventh in the table.
Poor finishing has really hurt the London club to date. That should even itself out somewhat, though.
A lot will depend on their results between now and Christmas. Fixtures are favourable until we settle down for our turkey. Things are drastically less pleasant on the 28th and 31st, though, when Hodgson hosts Arsene Wenger and Pep Guardiola respectively.
While Palace’s defence is far from the lock tight unit of a Tony Pulis or Sam Allardyce team, Hodgson has more talent at his disposal than many of his rivals.
In the form of Zaha and Benteke they have a duo capable of winning matches alone, and options in midfield allow for tactical flexibility. This is before we even mention Andros Townsend and Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who both have key roles to play.
It was always going to take a while to compensate for the record-breakingly terrible start. The improvement under Hodgson has, however, been stark. The bottom of the Premier League table is very close, and it is testament to their upturn that Palace are back in touching distance.
Palace are well placed to quickly move out of the bottom three, and could be in the cosiness of the Premier League’s middle before long. The failings of teams in the bottom half have helped, but the Eagles certainly have enough to be safe this season.
Injuries could, of course, derail that, and as could failure to win either of their next two matches at Selhurst.
Written by Sam Cox
Follow Sam on Twitter @SamRCox_
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