What three things should Crystal Palace do different to build on last season?
As Crystal Palace gear up for their Premier League opener against West Brom at Selhurst Park on August 13th, players, managers, and fans alike are pondering how to build on last season. Opinion is split on the success or not of last season. Despite the fact the Eagles got off to a flyer, results took a bad turn after Christmas and the club slid down the league table.
Palace’s terrific FA cup run was one for the ages in the hearts of Palace fans but as the new season grows nearer and nearer we must all face the fact that last year the South Londoners did not match their potential.
It’s amazing that as Palace fans we can nowadays criticize a 15th place league finish but that is the way the club has grown so rapidly.
Here are three lessons Alan Pardew and the squad must take from last season:
Rotate the squad
Don’t be fooled by the fact that last season Palace used the 6th largest amount of players throughout the course of the season.
Alan Pardew was stubborn last season and failed to shuffle his starting XI when times got tough at the turn of the new year. Hennessey stayed in goal a very long time before being rested despite a string of shockers and poor performances. Palace obviously needed someone new between the sticks but Alex McCarthy and Julian Speroni only got one match each as Pardew refused to budge on Hennessey as his number one.
The back four also stayed the same. Some lacklustre performances between January and March by Joel Ward and Pape Souare saw no reshuffle. Martin Kelly got no opportunity to prove his worth despite a good showing in the FA cup against Tottenham.
At times, Mile Jedinak and Joe Ledley came into the side during the rut but to no significant degree.
Part of the issue in Palace’s mid-season downturn in form was the security players like Joel Ward and Pape Souare had. As certain starters, many Palace players got lazy and lost an edge.
Pardew must seek to keep his players motivated next season by changing things up and increasing competition.
Gamble less with the strikers
This one is as pertinent as ever. Palace is yet to sign a proven and reliable goalscorer. The Benteke saga is drawing on but Berahino is becoming the more likely signing for Alan Pardew’s men.
Fans are currently on edge as they wait for Alan Pardew to finally sign a much-needed striker. Last season made it oh so clear why Palace need a confident and reliable striker next season. Pardew took his chance with proven but volatile veteran Emmanuel Adebayor last season, talented but inconsistent Connor Wickham, a somewhat reliable but untrusted Dwight Gayle, and an expired Frazier Campbell. Conor Wickham was Palace’s top goalscorer last season. In truth, tied top goalscorer. He was tied with centre-back Dann, Cabaye, and Bolasie. The magic number was a weak 5 goals.
It’s hard to hope for your midfielder to win you a match with a goal during a dry spell and that’s exactly what Pardew did for portions of the season, seeming to grasp onto a notion that Yannick Bolasie can play as an out-and-out striker.
Palace is no stranger to tight matches and rarely get drubbed. A reliable striker can be the difference between 0 points and a point, 1 point or 3.
Give youth its chance
This lesson relates to the first. Some Palace youth made strong cases for further involvement in the first team next season. Beyond Zaha and Wickham, most of the steadfast Palace squad is over 25.
Palace fans are eager to see more of Johnny Williams who got some good playing time on one of world football’s premier stages. It is hard to imagine what more the “Welsh Iniesta” can do to impress Pardew. Playing at the Euro’s boosted William’s prestige and confidence after some solid showings in Wales’ charge to the Semis.
Eagles supporters surely don’t want to the crafty attacking mid be shipped off on loan to Ipswich or another Football League side. Williams deserves his minutes this season in Jason Puncheon’s new central role.
Keshi Anderson and Freddie Ladapo have also made their cases for playing time this season after catching their fair share of the preseason spotlight.
Not that any of these players are short-term solutions for Palace’s striker shortage, these young players could have an impact mid-season when older players start feeling more beleaguered.
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