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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