The January transfer deadline came and went for Crystal Palace with little activity on the last day.
Jean-Philippe Mateta was the only arrival for the club throughout the month, at a time when most of the Premier League was barely making any real investments.
In addition to the usual loans for younger players, the only real exit in January was that of Max Meyer, who terminated his contract on an amicable basis before sealing a move to FC Köln in the Bundesliga.
It was a window of much speculation, but pragmatism was the name of the game for most of the clubs and palace.
Palace weren’t the most active club in the transfer window in January and this was certainly one to follow the pattern.
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Mateta’s addition came as a bit of a surprise when Roy Hodgson admitted they didn’t think the striker the club had been looking for for a while would be available. However, when it became clear it was him, Palace moved quickly to finalize a loan agreement with an option to buy the young striker.
When Jack Butland arrived at the end of the summer window to protect the injured Wayne Hennessey, there was no question that a new goalkeeper was joining the ranks.
It mattered whether there would be players in defense or midfield, and no such goals came up. The reasons for this are complicated and evolving, but there are some things that had a noticeable impact on the window.
Roy Hodgson pointed out in his press conference on Friday that the coronavirus pandemic had a huge impact on soccer clubs and their budgets for transfer windows.
“The COVID virus crisis has done tremendous damage to football clubs,” Hodgson told reporters. “They did very well to go on and bear the losses as they had no fans in the ground and lack of sponsorship money.
“I’m not at all surprised that there isn’t quite the same amount of money to upgrade your squad and attract new players, and I think everyone understands.
“You have to cut your shawl to size and right now our size is determined by the fact that there is not that much money available.
“And so there is more credit, folks, that the players kind of want to distribute. The number of transfers that go on in that transfer window where you raise an eyebrow and think that’s a lot of money they spent there, we don’t see that.
“In any club where money has to be measured carefully, you really can’t afford to spend a lot of money on a player who turns out to be different from what you need.”
“We have to be careful, weigh things carefully. It’s a headache for the chairman, the owners. They’re the ones with the names on the check.”
It is a big problem for them to take this leap of faith. Doug Freedman and I say, “This is the player we think will improve as a club.” But I would like to think that our record over the past four years has been pretty good. ”
The other factor that turns out to be some kind of roadblock towards the end of the season is the sheer volume of players nearing the end of their current deals.
Hodgson admits this is a far from ideal situation and hopes the club will announce some new deals over the coming weeks and months for a group of players he broadly wants to keep at the club.
“I think there are some good players in this group who are no longer signed,” said Hodgson. “There are no obvious candidates who could say he’s leaving, we don’t want him.”
“These are all players who are still part of the first team and are either playing on the team or knocking on the door to play, so it is not easy for them to resolve this situation.”
“I know they are working hard and I am focused on the next games against Newcastle and Leeds. I will let them deal with the situation.”
There is also uncertainty about Hodgson’s own future. The manager says he’s more than happy to wait and allow Doug Freedman and Steve Parish to grapple with the first-team contract issue before his own.
However, there are early signs of Hodgson’s impatience with the lack of progress on his team. The manager sent a subtle warning to the palace hierarchy that the situation with its players is dragging on.
In his press conference, he said that if the club couldn’t convince the majority of players to sign new contracts, the club was heading for “total rebuilding”, adding that Freedman would be a particularly busy man when signing new players would have to replace the one that had served the club so well in recent years.
“The fact is, I don’t feel very old,” Hodgson said of his own future. “I don’t wake up every day thinking about my age, far from it.
“But at the same time, I have no problems with my future. I’m really happy to see how things are going and it seems the club are very happy about it at the moment.”
“I’d rather let them move on to the bigger question to make sure there is a good group of players to work with next year.”
“The day may come when we will sit down and decide if I have another year in me, or if they want another year from me, or if I want to say ‘Thank you’. Now it’s time for me to be in to ride the mountains.
“I think it’s a much bigger problem for the club when so many players are missing at the end of the season because it’s difficult to replace players who are out of contract or want to leave or are no longer with you. ” .
“But when you have that many, you are really going to consider a total rebuild if all the out-of-contract players don’t sign new contracts. If the club doesn’t keep them, it’s Doug Freedman.” will be an incredibly busy man.
“It won’t be easy to find so many people to come and replace people who have done such a good job for the club for at least three or four years, some even longer.”
It is clear that a decision on this matter sooner rather than later would benefit everyone, whether Hodgson will stay at the club for another year or go the other way.
The instability of half a team out of contracts at the end of the season can’t drag on for long, and a calm transfer window in January did little to cover up this looming problem.