When Wilfried Zaha sent two Burnley defenders sprawling in vain to block a shot that never came in the 76th minute at Turf Moor on Saturday, there was a certain inevitability about what followed next.
Zaha, one of the Premier League’s most free-wheeling purveyors of chicanery, promised to shoot with his right, before breaking that oath with his left a split second later.
The result of Zaha’s wonderful feint and finish was Crystal Palace’s 3rd goal – a strike that secured the Eagles 4th away win in 6 league outings. It was also the hosts’ 1st loss in 6 on the home turf of Turf Moor.
Springing away day surprises has become something of a speciality for this Palace team, but what is it about Roy Hodgson’s Eagles that makes them one of the Premier League’s masters of migration?
Let’s take a closer look.
Crystal Palace Away Stats 2018/19
In many ways, Crystal Palace’s Premier League performances inside the last 8 days or so perfectly encapsulated the kind of long-running patterns that have characterised their overall 2018/19 campaign.
On the last weekend of February, the Eagles dished out a 4-1 battering to Leicester City at the King Power Stadium – a performance so potent, that the Foxes sent Claude Puel packing almost immediately after.
Palace followed that superb display with a much limper one against an injury-ravaged Man Utd side at Selhurst Park just a couple of days later, eventually falling to a disappointing 1-3 defeat when so much more was on offer.
True to form, the Eagles re-straightened their flight-path at Burnley, reaffirming their preference for playing away from the Borough of Croydon.
After that trio of hugely contrasting performances and results, Crystal Palace were simultaneously left with the Premier League’s 2nd worst home record and the division’s 6th best away record for the season.
The Eagles are 1 of only 3 Premier League clubs to have amassed more away points than home points this season, though Palace are out on their own in terms of the difference between those totals.
3rd placed Tottenham Hotspur’s Wembley problems have been well documented and Spurs have taken 33 or 54% of their 61 points this season away from their temporary accommodation.
Leicester City have won 18 or 51% of their 35 points on the road in 2018/19, though the Foxes and Spurs’ percentages are both dwarfed by Crystal Palace’s equivalent figure.
Incredibly, Palace have gathered 20 or 60.02% of their 33 Premier League points away from Selhurst Park this season, and just as remarkably, 71% of the Eagles’ goals this term were scored in those away games.
Similarly, Crystal Palaces’ joint leading goalscorer Wilfried Zaha has plundered 7 or 87.5% of his 8 league goals this season in away matches.
Why are Crystal Palace so good away from home?
There are various factors that could be combining to have a major influence the Eagles’ sparkling away results and the subsequent contrast between those and their results at home.
One of those factors could relate to something as simple as space. The pitch at Selhurst Park is among the smallest in the Premier League – the surface Crystal Palace play on every other week is just 6,700m2, making it the 3rd most compact playing area in the division behind Craven Cottage (6,500m2) and Molineux (6,400m2).
It could be then, that Crystal Palace’s pacey attacking frontline that includes players like Andros Townsend, Wilfried Zaha and now Michy Batshuayi, tend to excel when there is more space to exploit.
However, that train of thought doesn’t hold up that well under closer statistical scrutiny. Palace have played away games on 7 of the Premier League’s top 10 biggest pitches, taking 21 points from 30 available.
Yet, in fixtures on the league’s smallest pitches, Palace have also taken 10 points from the slightly higher 24 that were available to date.
Could luck be the defining contributing factor?
Delving a little deeper into the statistics behind Crystal Palace’s home and away results takes us along a very interesting tangent.
The figures in the table above show us that Palaces’ home displays have been outperforming their away ones, from a statistical standpoint at least, giving their overall results a somewhat paradoxical look.
Palace have enjoyed more possession on average, more shots on goal and more shots on target per game at Selhurst Park than in matches away from that venue this season. They have also conceded a whopping 46% more shots away from home on average in 2018/19.
The table above, showing Crystal Palace’s expected goals (xG) and expected goals against (xGA) figures for the season also return some startling revelations.
The xG models show that Palace have had an enormously poor return on their clear goal scoring chances at Selhurst Park this season, scoring a full 10.31 goals fewer than they should have.
As a result of their poor finishing and rotten luck, the same models show that Palace have taken approximately 8 points less than they should have at home this term. A 21-point return from their 14 home matches would certainly look far healthier than the 13 they actually managed.
No other team in the league comes even close to matching Palace’s 10 point-shortfall at home this season. Huddersfield have the next highest difference between points accrued and expected points accrued at home (actual points 8, xPTS 12.8, difference 4.8).
Away from home, Palace have also been outperforming their numbers – the Eagles have scored roughly 9 more goals on the road than xG models insist they should have, and Palace are 3 points up on their statistically determined away total.
Applying the numbers to the betting markets
Where the betting markets are concerned, a glance at Palace’s deceptive points totals in the “home and away” Premier League table could lead to some dodgy deductions.
Palace’s away points haul considerably dwarves their equivalent home total, though the underlying data strongly suggests punters would be advised to temper their enthusiasm a little and think twice about backing the Eagles in their next away fixtures.
Roy Hodgson’s charges have been both under and overperforming in terms of their results home and away from Selhurst Park, and a complete reversal in fortunes could be imminent.