By Edmund Brack at Selhurst Park
Crystal Palace will be prioritising loan signings during the upcoming January transfer market – but Wednesday’s result at home to Bournemouth should send alarm bells ringing that business must not be left to the last minute of the window.
The Eagles got off to the worst possible start against a Bournemouth side that had found a good run of form under boss Andoni Iraola before their trip to SE25.
Antonie Semenyo, who Palace could have signed last winter before he moved to The Vitality from Bristol City, Luis Sinisterra and Justin Kluivert caused all sorts of problems with their pace and directness.
A sustained period of pressure around Palace’s box led to Marc Guehi rushing a clearance and slicing it behind for a corner to the visitors.
The Eagles switched off and Leeds loanee Sinisterra – another who was offered to Palace over the course of the summer window – met the corner to head on at the back post for the unmarked Marcos Senesi to bundle into the net.
Things went from bad to worse when Tyrick Mitchell went down with an injury in the 29th minute, meaning the club’s only recognised first-team left-back was forced to leave the pitch.
A loud series of boos met the team and Hodgson at the half-time whistle, with fans calling for the manager to ‘sort it out’ during the interval.
Palace came out with a slightly more attacking adventure – Jefferson Lerma smashing the woodwork after latching onto Michael Olise’s perfectly-timed through ball.
Hodgson subbed off captain Joel Ward for the third time this season and moved Chris Richards to right back to introduce Naouirou Ahamada into an attacking position.
But, in truth, Palace never looked like getting back into this game.
Bournemouth emptied out the ground in the 91st minute and made Selhurst Park look like a pre-season friendly when Kieffer Moore met Philip Billing’s cross at the back post and headed past Johnstone.
The stark difference between Palace’s squad and Wednesday night’s winners was that Bournemouth were able to take off their attacking front three of Sinisterra, Semenyo and Kluivert and replace them with players who were able to do a similar job and even kill off the game.
Whereas Palace failed to have a shot on target after 27 minutes at Selhurst Park, with £26million summer signing Matheus Franca, 19, left on the bench for the fifth consecutive game running.
The Eagles drastically need to improve their attacking options over the winter, but there are other problems littered throughout the squad.
Cheick Doucoure is out for six months with a ruptured Achilles tendon and Eberechi Eze has also been missing for periods this season.
Joel Ward, 34, has struggled for consistency and now Tyrick Mitchell has succumbed to injury.
And Wilfried Zaha was never replaced after he chose to turn down a record £200,000 a week to sign for Galatasaray.
“It’s experience (we’re looking for),” Palace chairman Steve Parish told Amazon Prime ahead of the clash on Wednesday.
“We’ve got to cover Cheick. He’s a really important player – our Player of the Year last year.
“We’ll be looking maybe more for loans. I wouldn’t say we won’t buy anybody but that (loans) is what we’re going into the market for.
“You can have plans, but until you get to the market and see what happens, it’ll dictate what you do. We’ve definitely got to get cover, maybe on the left-hand side as well.”
After one win in eight, Hodgson is now rightly or wrongly under pressure, but once again he has been dealt a short hand in being tasked with building an exciting brand of football with a squad which has taken a huge step back.
But heading into games against Liverpool, Manchester City and Brighton before Christmas, it is not set to get any easier for the Palace boss.
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