After a strong finish to last season and some astute business in the transfer window it looks as though The Eagles are going to continue establishing themselves as a mid-table Premier League side. Can Crystal Palace possibly improve on their highest placed finish of 10th in the top flight which they achieved in May?
Story of Last Season
Palace’s season in 2014/15 can be split into two clear sections defined by the man in charge at the time; Warnock or Pardew. Under the former QPR boss, the team looked scared, rigid and lacking goals. Before Pardew came in after Warnock departed, the team was left floundering in 18th place, staring the brutal realisation of relegation in the face. Nobody could have predicted what was to come. Alan Pardew arrived from Newcastle United in somewhat of a surprise appointment given his long-term contract with the Magpies.
The change of club seemed to give Pardew a new lease of life after tough period in the North East. The fans are integral to the success of any manager at Newcastle and his relationship with them was strained at the best of times. This ‘feel-good’ factor seemed to spread throughout the entire club very quickly, and Crystal Palace’s attacking players began to flourish. Glen Murray was brought back into the side and contributed vital goals while Yannick Bolasie and Jason Puncheon enjoyed arguably the best form of their careers. Come the end of the season and Palace could be found in 10th – their best ever finsh. Pardew also became the first manager to inherit a team in the relegation zone and finish in the top half.
Yohan Cabaye (undisclosed): Potentially the signing of the summer, Cabaye has proven he has the quality to make a real difference to his side’s fortunes in the Premier League. The Frenchman can control a game from deep or provide the imagination in a more advanced role, all in all the acquisition can be seen as a real coup for Palace.
Patrick Bamford (loan): The Championship Player of the Season looks to continue his fine form into the Premier League and the youngster won’t be short or supply from Palace’s creative midfield. A hat-trick in a pre-season match by no means guarantees that he will be a success but certainly sets him off on the right foot for a hard few months ahead.
Alex McCarthy (undisclosed): The former Reading and QPR keeper is undoubtedly a great talent but has yet to truly prove himself at the top level. With this motivation to achieve, he provides Julian Speroni with some much needed competition.
Connor Wickham (£7 million): Bursting onto the football scene at an incredibly young age for Ipswich, his career somewhat stagnated at Sunderland until the last few months of the 2014/15 season where he really began to show his potential once more. Crystal Palace are possibly the perfect side to revitalise his fortunes and perhaps initiate a concerted push for international recognition.
Jason Puncheon: Since Pardew’s arrival, Jason Puncheon has been a massive factor in Crystal Palace’s success. The 29 year-old was moved from his position on the flank to give him more responsibility in the centre of the park. Since then, his performances in this position have more than justified the faith displayed by the manager. Puncheon lead the team in assists last term with seven and as the team improves around him this number is only likely to rise.
Yannick Bolasie: Bolasie’s last season was nothing short of incredible and he made certain that the whole of the league took note. 2014/15 was the campaign when everything came together; pace, power, skill, technique and most importantly goals. I am sure that if you asked any full-back in the league, the Congolese winger would be up there with the players they would least like running at them. Dangerously unpredictable, holding onto Bolasie has been a huge boost for the South Londoners ahead of the upcoming season.
Mile Jedinak: Since signing for Palace in 2011, the Aussie has become the heartbeat of the team. Jedinak provides a real driving force in the middle with his power and strength but he also combines this with great intelligence, knowing when to hold and when to attack. The 2014 Asian footballer of the year had his best season to date in 2014/15 and his set pieces are yet another impressive string in the 30 year-old’s bow. If Crystal Palace are to push on then their captains performances will be key, and with Yohan Cabaye next to him Palace’s central midfield have everything.
“Pardiola” more than lived up to the name last season, completely transforming Palace’s season after his appointment. After leaving difficult circumstances in Newcastle, Pardew has settled in incredibly well at the club he used to play for. One of Pardew’s greatest qualities is that he likes to keep it simple as a manager, building good relationships with the players and seemingly allowing them a degree of freedom on the pitch. This particularly suited the three behind the striker last season allowing all of them; particularly Bolasie, to shine. Pardew is also somewhat of a set piece mastermind, guiding Crystal Palace to the highest percentage of goals directly from dead-balls last season. As Pardew begins his first full season in charge, there is good reason for cautious optimism with him at the helm.
First Six Fixtures
Norwich (a), Arsenal (h), Aston Villa (h), Chelsea (a), Man City (h), Spurs (a).
The first 6 fixtures look very difficult for Palace with 4 of last seasons top 5 having to be accosted in this short period of time. The first day of the season will be vital as will the home game against Villa. Realistically 6 points from those two games is what The Eagles should be happy with, and perhaps expecting. Anything less than this may halt any momentum from last season. However, if Crystal Palace can find a surprise result against one of the big boys it could give them a huge boost to go on and have a terrific season.
Final Prediction – 13th
Palace have a tricky start to the season which could well define the rest of their year. If they avoid slip-ups, they will be well on course to emulate last seasons 10th placed finish. However, if they are unable to find results in their easier games then Palace will surely find themselves playing catch up. The Selhurst Park outfit come into the season on a high and the signing of Cabaye only boosts the morale in a squad that finished in great form. Their starting 11 looks pretty strong and they are definitely in the group of teams in the hunt for a top half finish. The only doubts creeping in are about squad size, as with many of the mid-table teams in fact. Their first team is strong but the quality quickly tails off if you delve any deeper into the squad and a few injuries could really disturb the side. I would expect Crystal Palace to obtain a few surprise results this season against the stronger teams and would not be shocked if they had a decent cup run. Over a 38 game campaign however, I doubt they can keep their form up with their current squad size. A mid-table finish should again be seen as a decent season.
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Crystal Palace’s Premier League run-in could see them beat the drop
The Eagles are in the relegation zone with eight matches to play.
On the surface, Crystal Palace has little to cheer at the moment. Their last win came exactly two months ago, and although Roy Hodgson brought an initial uptick in results to Selhurst Park, the Eagles currently occupy 18th position.
Furthermore, Palace are coming off a brutal stretch of three straight losses to top-five clubs, all of which they excruciatingly lost by the solitary goal. Injuries have destroyed their first-team squad to the extent that an entire starting 11 can be compiled with players on the treatment table.
Yet, although this picture may appear bleak, a favourable run-in combined with the anticipated return of crucial players means Crystal Palace will be confident of retaining their Premier League status for a fifth straight season.
After a grueling stretch of matches versus Tottenham, Manchester United, and Chelsea, the remaining eight matches present a plethora of winnable fixtures against teams in the bottom half of the table. Palace will play Huddersfield, Bournemouth, Brighton, Watford, Leicester, Stoke, and West Brom; a run-in of dreams.
The only match where the Eagles would not be expected to pick up all three points is the March 31st encounter with Liverpool. But Palace have shown remarkable fighting spirit and drive in their matches against the top sides in the division.
Crystal Palace near toppled Manchester City back in December, they raced out to a 2-0 lead against Manchester United, came within minutes of a draw against Spurs, and deserved a draw against Chelsea but were denied by a questionable disallowed goal.
The vital return of integral players in the coming weeks is also a massive boost for Palace’s survival hopes. On Monday, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Wilfried Zaha, Yohan Cabaye, and Mamadou Sakho all returned to training.
Welcoming these experienced professionals back into the first team set-up will be priceless, as all four returning players played enormous roles in the early revival under Hodgson.
Add in a run-in brimming with winnable fixtures, and the Eagles should just about have enough to avoid relegation come May.
Crystal Palace 2-3 Manchester United: Three talking points from Selhurst Park
The Red Devils mounted an incredible comeback at Selhurst Park.
Nemanja Matic scored a dramatic stoppage-time winner as Manchester United overturned a two-goal deficit to inflict more pain on struggling Crystal Palace. Matic fired home from 25 yards to complete a memorable comeback from United, whose victory helped them regain second spot in the Premier League. Palace, meanwhile, remain in the relegation zone after slipping to their third successive defeat.
Selhurst Park was rocking when Andros Townsend put the hosts ahead via a huge deflection, before Patrick van Aanholt doubled their lead shortly after the break. However, Chris Smalling gave United hope 10 minutes later and the visitors then restored parity through Romelu Lukaku. With time ebbing away the draw looked inevitable, only for Matic to break Palace’s hearts with his first goal for the club. Here are three talking points…
Palace’s survival hopes suffer a hammer blow
A week earlier, the Eagles thought they had earned a vital point against Spurs in their battle to avoid the drop. That was until Harry Kane popped up to snatch victory with practically the last touch of the game. A sense of deja-vu was palpable when, after another encouraging performance against one of the top-flight’s heavyweights, Matic ensured Palace went home empty-handed. It was a monumental body blow.
Roy Hodgson’s side had belied their lowly league position and taken the attack to United, deservedly assuming complete control. Had the score remained at 2-0, Palace would have been as high as 13th in the table. But United’s comeback, which left Hodgon and his players visibly deflated, means they are 18th, one point adrift of safety with an inferior goal difference. Although the performance was a positive one, the result leaves the South London club deep in the mire.
Mourinho buoyed as United show resilience
For all the talk about how this has been a disappointing campaign for United, they leapfrogged Liverpool into second place as a result of this stunning victory. Jose Mourinho’s men exhibited substantial amounts of steel in doing so. They faced a real test of character, having fallen behind against a team fighting for their lives. It looked like a mountainous task, but United fought their way back into the game before snatching all three points at the death.
This was the first time since 2013 that the Red Devils had clawed back a two-goal deficit to win a Premier League match. Of all their victories this season, perhaps this one will please Mourinho the most. Any divisions are quickly exposed when teams find themselves in trouble. But the way United stuck to their task was a big statement at a key stage of the season. It should give Mourinho belief that his side can see off the likes of Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur in the battle to finish runners-up.
Hodgson desperate for Wilfried Zaha’s return
Hodgson has previously tried to dismiss its significance, but Palace’s inability to win without Wilfried Zaha cannot be passed off as an anomaly. The Eagles have lost every single one of the nine Premier League games in which the 25-year-old has not featured this season, scoring only one goal in the process. For a while it looked as though that alarming record would be consigned to the history books, until United mounted an inspired comeback.
Zaha is clearly a talented individual whose absence would affect any team’s potency, but Palace’s over-reliance on him must be very concerning. The Ivory Coast international is currently sidelined through a knee injury and although he is back in light training, Hodgson has put no timeframe on his return to the fold. It’s no exaggeration to argue the Eagles’ survival aspirations depend on him.
Crystal Palace 0-1 Tottenham: Harry Kane proves his class with late winner
Tottenham managed to get a late winner against Crystal Palace to move into the Champions League places. They were the dominant force and had the better chances, but their final product wasn’t as reliable as usual. It looked as if an injury-hit Palace would earn a valuable point, but Harry Kane scored late on to win the game.
Mauricio Pochettino’s men are hitting form at the right time and look a good bet to finish in the top four for the third successive season. Meanwhile, Roy Hodgson was visibly frustrated at the end of the game and he will be aware of his team’s position.
They are only outside of the relegation zone on goal difference and have a number of key players unavailable with matches against Manchester United and Chelsea on the horizon. Here are three talking points to come out of the game at Selhurst Park:
Harry Kane proved why he is world class
The England international will be the first to admit it wasn’t his best performance. He had six shots during the match and missed a couple of really good chances before he finally did find the back of the net.
However, he remained confident and continued to take attempts on goal. It was a good header and earned the side a crucial two points.
Although Kane can miss a lot of chances and he did during this match, he doesn’t allow himself to get affected by his misses. Alvaro Morata is a high-profile striker that appears to lose confidence in himself after a big miss and that is a worrying trait to have as a goal-scorer.
The Tottenham number ten doesn’t have that and a miss only motivates him more. That was evident on Sunday. That shows an elite level mentality and one of the reasons why Harry Kane is one of the best strikers in the world. Despite playing poorly against Crystal Palace, he worked hard and got the crucial goal. That is all that matters.
Crystal Palace’s injury crisis could cost them their Premier League status
With ten matches to go, Crystal Palace will be confident that they can stay up as they have a more talented squad than the majority of clubs down there.
However, a lot of their best players are out injured right now and they were hindered by that on Sunday. They had only 24% possession and offered little attacking threat.
They were missing Wilfried Zaha, Scott Dann, Yohan Cabaye, Jason Puncheon, Joel Ward, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and a number of other first-team players. Their woes were compounded on Sunday as James Tomkins was forced off with an injury.
Palace’s next two matches are against Manchester United and Chelsea, two teams competing for a Champions League place. On one hand, these are tough matches that they would be outsiders in with a fit squad, therefore it is beneficial these are being played now.
That said, they are slipping closer to the relegation zone and building negative momentum at a bad time. Supporters will be more worried than they were at the beginning of the month.
Eric Dier impressed at centre-back
The 24-year-old is a great squad player to have and he showed his versatility on Sunday as he filled in at centre-back in the absence of Jan Vertonghen.
Toby Alderweireld suffered a setback and it was important that Tottenham fielded a player with experience there. Dier has benefitted from focusing on the midfield role in terms of development, but he remains able of filling in at the back.
During the match, he won four aerial duels and completed four ball recoveries. The time spent playing midfield has helped him develop on the ball and his distribution was very good on Sunday, as he completed 90% of his passes.
Tottenham will be hopeful of getting both Alderweireld and Vertonghen back together at the heart of their defence for the run-in, but the fact that they kept a clean sheet without both is encouraging. They have built a strong squad under Pochettino with plenty of options in every posiion and Dier’s centre-back display underlines that.
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