Crystal Palace’s 4-0 humbling at Tottenham on Saturday may force Roy Hodgson to have a defensive reshuffle.

If Claudio Ranieri was known as the tinker man, Hodgson, in his Palace days at least, is surely his polar-opposite such is his reluctance to make changes – let alone sweeping changes unless injuries arise.

The four goals conceded at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium at the weekend however will surely make the manager ponder defensive changes for the visit of an attack minded Wolverhampton Wanderers this Sunday.

It’s certainly what the majority of the Eagles faithful are calling for.

An experienced back-line consisting of Joel Ward, Gary Cahill, Patrick van Aanholt and the fit again Mamadou Sakho felt the full force of a potent Spurs side in the first 45 minutes, but they were helped by some truly awful defending.

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Sakho, a colossal performer last season before a knee-injury at Leicester struck, is still some way short of the rigours of Premier League football, but he’ll only get better.

Cahill’s afternoon could be put down as ‘a bad day at the office,’ such has been the quality of recent displays, notably in the historic win at Old Trafford at the end of August.

Concerns - not for the first time

There are some long-term concerns over Ward and van Aanholt however.

Both have been ever presents this season, and it’d be unfair to single them both out for poor performances in each of the first five outings which has garnered seven points from a possible 15.

Ward, seen primarily as a utility defender covering the entire backline since his arrival in 2012, has seen an extended run at right back with the departure of Aaron Wan Bissaka.

Ward struggled at the weekend, but against an in-form Heung-Min Son, there wouldn’t be many right backs that could cope with the South Korean.

Although with a shortage at right back it’d be a surprise if Hodgson would opt to drop the former Portsmouth man.


That leaves van Aanholt.

The Dutchman has cut a divisive figure in the Selhurst Park stands.

When the left-back is praised, it’s usually after a comprehensive Palace win where he’s been allowed to roam forward, overlapping the midfield and dovetailing with the talismanic Wilfried Zaha.

In defeat however, and when they’re asked to defend, van Aanholt often comes in for some unsavoury words.

Many feel that it’s usually the quality of the defender inside him, Sakho or the currently injured James Tomkins, which spared his blushes on a number of occasions last season.

And judging by Saturday’s defeat this may be the case.

With Sakho looking off the pace in North London as he patrolled van Aanholt’s inside channel, it magnified the ease at which the left-back was got at, passed, or beaten.

And more worrying, it wasn’t an out and out winger that was causing the damage, it was right-back Serge Aurier.

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The former Chelsea man’s defensive errors over the course over 91 league appearances for Palace haven’t gone unnoticed by the regulars in SE25, but for those that weren’t aware, Saturday’s own-goal and Tottenham’s fourth encapsulated van Aanholt’s poor decision making and position taking.

For both goals the left-back was found drifting inside, towards the ball.

And these occasions were the ones that were punished, there were many that went without.

For all his attacking prowess, and that’s where his strength is – think of his late match-winner at Old Trafford, it’s the defensive side of the game that has left fans frustrated and calling for change, and his latest showing could force Hodgson to listen to those cries.


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Could Jeffrey Schlupp be the man to fill the spot?

He’s a favourite of the manager and is trusted to carry out his instructions. You may not get the go-forward that van Aanholt gives you, but you’ll get a solid left-back who operated down the flank during Leicester’s title winning campaign.

Schlupp’s positional move would also solve a midfield dilemma.

With creativity lacking in Palace’s opening fixtures, it would allow either Max Meyer, Victor Camarasa to pull the strings in a central role, relieving the heavy pressure piled on Zaha and Andros Townsend to deliver.

Two birds with one stone? Only Hodgson can decide.


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