Substitute Gabriel Martinelli buried the Eagles with two goals inside two minutes of second-half stoppage time, adding to Gabriel and Leandro Trossard’s earlier efforts and a Dean Henderson own goal that all-but guaranteed the hosts victory before half-time.
As Palace defender Chris Richards nodded over a chance to claw back a late consolation, away supporters raised a banner reading “wasted potential on and off the pitch, weak decisions taking us backwards” while another protested “no shared vision, no structured plan”.
Hodgson, when asked if he felt he had unified support of his boyhood club’s board and those above, replied: “That’s a question for them, isn’t it? But if you’re asking me if I’ve ever felt a lack of support from them, then the answer is no.
“I think they’ve been good, but I mean now in [the] situation that you’re obviously discussing, in this scenario you’re envisaging, that’s going to be a question for them.”
He later added: “When a team isn’t doing as well as it should be doing, someone needs to be held responsible, and that’s the manager.”
The Eagles’ vital victory over Brentford to end 2023 and snap an eight-game winless streak seemed to subdue Hodgson’s critics, but Saturday’s result will no doubt loudly revive that chorus, particularly following on from their midweek third-round FA Cup replay loss to Everton in which the former England manager controversially substituted the influential Eberechi Eze.
While he and his players felt there were “infringements” ignored by referee Paul Tierney in the build-up to the opening pair of goals, Hodgson took the blame for Martinelli’s quickfire brace, admitting he had perhaps erred in removing some of his tiring starters in favour of “young lads, and it was too much to ask them to go on and deal with a rampant Arsenal”.
Hodgson understood the frustration from the disillusioned Palace fanbase, adding: “All I can say is I think they are totally entitled to their opinion in that respect. I do understand their frustration, even anger and disappointment, and things haven’t gone better.
“We can make our excuses which we’ve been doing because certain things have worked against us in this period of time, but the bottom line is that if we’re going to go forward and avoid relegation and do well, we need those fans with us. Hopefully we can do our best to keep them on board.”
Arsenal, meanwhile, avoided a fourth-straight defeat across all competitions and kept within striking distance of the Premier League title.
Gunners boss Mikel Arteta was particularly pleased with the way his side worked their set-pieces in their first top-flight meeting of 2024, saying: “Credit to all the coaches, to Nico [Jover, set-piece coach] for the amount of time and belief we put in.
“It’s got a huge impact. We’ve seen that as well in recent games that we’ve lost when we’ve conceded set-pieces, so the outcome is very different when you don’t concede and score.
“We wanted to start the second part of the season with a great performance, with a great result, and build that positivity and momentum again, and I think the boys did a good job today.”