Zaha’s Crystal Palace dilemma, 12 out-of-contract stars and Hodgson decision

There's no playing down the reality of Crystal Palace's current contract situation, with Eagles supremo Steve Parish facing a hectic round of negotiations ahead of next season.

Not only is manager Roy Hodgson out of contract in the summer but, perhaps more importantly, 12 members of the first-team squad have also entered the last six months of their deals.

The contract saga at Selhurst Park, unforeseen at a Premier League club, undoubtedly highlights the transition period ahead of the south Londoners.

And, when you throw in the uncertainty of star man Wilfried Zaha, it's fair to say this could be a pivotal moment in Palace's long-term future.

So, what's exactly going on at the club? Mirror Sport takes a look…

 

The Zaha dilemma

There's a reason Palace are often regarded as a one-man team.

Wilfried Zaha, the Eagles superstar who came through the ranks at Selhurst Park, has been a constant menace in Hodgson's attack.

But when Zaha is absent from the starting XI, Palace struggle to deliver. The 4-0 thrashing by Manchester City last month meant Palace have picked up just two wins in the last 17 Premier League games that Zaha has missed.

The arrival of Eberechi Eze has helped ease the burden on Zaha, but there's no denying that Palace do not possess the same attacking threat when their prized asset is out of the team.

So, it's understandable that Parish is desperate to keep hold of the Ivory Coast star, with Everton and Arsenal both failing to prize him away from south London in recent years.

But Zaha, whose £130,000-a-week contract still has two-and-a-half years until it expires, has made no secret of his desire to quit the club for pastures new.

Only last month, the 28-year-old – whose dream to play in the Champions League has been widely documented – admitted his shock that Arsenal signed Nicolas Pepe ahead of him.

Potential suitors failed to step up their interest in January but it's expected that Zaha will again flirt with a move away this summer, leaving Parish with a huge decision to make.

Cash in on their prized asset and risk a huge backlash from fans – or retain his stubborn stance and risk upsetting the player?

Over to you, Parish.

First-team squad overhaul

As aforementioned, Palace have found themselves in a unlikely contract stand-off with a large portion of their first-team squad.

Indeed, a whopping 12 players – 10 of whom are regarded as key members of Hodgson's team – are out of contract in the summer.

You can look at it two ways; it's a good opportunity for Palace to get their big earners off their wage bill and lower the average age of their squad.

The Eagles' squad average age of 28.7 is the highest in the Premier League and, although they have attempted to lower that by bringing in Eze, 22, and Nathan Ferguson, 20, last summer, it's a squad which needs a huge overhaul.

Parish will surely jump at the opportunity to get rid of Christian Benteke and Mamadou Sakho, who are both among the big earners but have struggled to deliver in recent seasons.

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Elsewhere, the likes of Scott Dann, Joel Ward, Wayne Hennessey, Connor Wickham, Stephen Henderson and James McCarthy could be allowed to leave too, given their failure to hold down regular starting spots.

But, what does Parish do with Andros Townsend, Patrick van Aanholt, Nathaniel Clyne and Gary Cahill?

All four are integral to Palace's plans at the moment, and losing more than half of their first-team squad could have disastrous implications for the club.

It's undoubtedly a difficult time for Premier League clubs, with the coronavirus wreaking havoc on finances, but Palace certainly find themselves in a situation tricker than their rivals.

While they simply can't afford to lose all 15 and, with their transfer strategy in the top-flight era a slow-and-steady one, their 2021/22 squad could have a very different look to it.

Hodgson dilemma

Ah, the million-dollar question. What next for Roy Hodgson? Firstly, the former England and Liverpool manager deserves huge credit for the job he has overseen at Selhurst Park since arriving in September 2017.

It was no easy feat turning things around when he took over the reins from Frank De Boer and he ultimately guided the club to an 11th place finish in the Premier League.

He's made Palace a hard team to beat and his biggest achievement at the club is undoubtedly getting the best out of Zaha, who has become Palace's go-to man in their quest for success.

But the progress has been slow in recent years at Palace and it's often felt like one step forward, two back.

This season is perhaps a perfect example of that, with the Eagles failing to get a decent run of results together in their quest to prove they can one day compete for European football.

They're currently 13th, 12 points off the relegation zone, and head into Tuesday night's clash with Newcastle on the back of a hard-fought win over Wolves.

But Hodgson's flaws have come to light again this season, with his tactical decisions and reluctance to play free-flowing football raising eyebrows among the Palace faithful.

Perhaps it's time for Parish to try something new? With Frank Lampard joining Eddie Howe as an attack-minded manager currently out of work, he may well jump at the chance to go in a different direction.

There's no guarantee that Lampard or Howe would want to take the reins at Palace, while the Eagles chief is a also long-term admirer of Burnley boss Sean Dyche.

Palace is a club with huge potential, with a new academy centre and stadium expansion on the horizon; the next six months could shape the club's long-term future.

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