Following Crystal Palace's 3-1 loss to Southampton yesterday, Neil Warnock has been sacked. Pressure had been mounting on Warnock after a run of six games without a win had left Palace 18th. Nonetheless, the decision to sack Warnock is quite bizarre to say the least.
Palace have actually been playing decent football since Warnock arrived at the club, their season being characterised by near misses and narrow margins. Of the 16 matches Warnock has overseen as manager, 9 of them have been score draws or defeats with a 1 goal difference. They have seldom been blown apart and have shown the skill to defeat Liverpool effortlessly, as well as the resiliency to keep Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham honest.
Palace's problem has been their ability to put teams away when they have had the upperhand, a lack of a top striker proving pivotal. Warnock can take little blame in this as he only joined the club on the 27th August - a mere four days to complete transfer deals. Instead he has had to manage a striking cast of misfits and journeymen in a bid to stave relegation.
In the summer, Fraizer Campbell was signed for £900,000 by Tony Pulis. Campbell's best ever season in the Premier League saw him score 6 in 36. His entire Premier League record reads as 16 goals in 122 appearances.
The next two striker's were brought Warnock, but only after the transfer deadline had past - in other words they were either a free transfer or a short loan deal. The first was Kevin Doyle on loan from Wolves. Prior to his loan spell, Doyle, 31, has last played in the Premier League in 2012 and was on the bench for the majority of last season in League 1 for Wolves.
The last striker brought was Andy Johnson on a free transfer from QPR. Johnson, 33, has failed to play 30 or more league games since the 2008/09 season and has only played 20 league games since August 2012. Furthermore, Johnson was never truly prolific in his peak; his biggest asset, his pace, has diminished. Since August 2009 he has only scored 8 league goals and in this sense, it is telling he was also signed to help with coaching.
Mile Jedinak, a defensive midfielder, leads the Palace goalscoring chart with five goals. Predictably, the majority of his goals have come from set pieces. In regards to the strikers, Campbell is next with three goals in 15 games; Dwight Gayle, formerly of Conference North two year ago, has scored two in 12 games; finally, Marouane Chamakh has scored just the once in 13 games.
Under the most difficult of circumstances, Warnock made Palace difficult to beat. The team was devoid of quality going forward - a fact Warnock was painfully aware of. Given how Warnock had kept Palace in contention to stay up, the very least he deserved was an opportunity to build on his good work.