Content Editor at Free Super Tips, Alex was born in the shadow of Old Trafford and is an avid Man Utd fan. After graduating from university he combined his love of football, writing and betting to join FST and now closely follows goings-on in all of the top European leagues.
Crystal Palace returned to the Premier League five years ago, and every single season has been akin to torture for the Selhurst Park faithful. It’s almost laughable how predictable their seasons are becoming – The first half of the campaign is characterised by at least one run of dreadful form, but as the season approaches it’s twilight months The Eagles arise, fending off much stronger opposition against all the odds to secure safety for another season of nail biting, nerve shredding torture.
Last season was perhaps the most dramatic of all though. Newly appointed manager Frank de Boer was tipped to bring great things to the hallowed turf of Selhurst Park, but a few matches in it became apparent that something wasn’t quite right. His style of football simply wasn’t working, and Palace lost their first four games of the Premier League season and failed to score a single goal.
The Dutchman was swiftly sacked, breaking yet another unwanted record for Crystal Palace. His reign was the shortest of any manager in the Premier League era in terms of games played, and his Palace side became the first top flight team in 93 years to begin a season in such a fashion.
The appointment of Roy Hodgson wasn’t exactly met with ticker tape parades at Crystal Palace, and after losing his first three games in charge the fans were already planning their tour of the Championship the following season. However, Hodgson finally brought his team together and embarked on an incredible recovery, eventually finishing a respectable 11th in the table and becoming the first top flight side ever to survive relegation after losing their first seven matches.
Now, in his first full season in charge, Hodgson will look to provide a rare spell of comfort for the poor season ticket holders at Selhurst Park. Can he break a five year spell of flirtation with danger?
Position last season: 11th
Top Scorer: Luka Milivojevic – 10 goals
Vicente Guaita – Getafe (free transfer)
Damien Delaney – Cork City (free transfer)
Yohann Cabaye – Al-Nasr (free transfer)
Jaroslaw Jach – Rizespor (loan)
Cheong-yong Lee (released)
Diego Cavalieri (released)
Bakary Sako (released)
Player to Watch
Most of the teams in the Premier League have what they can call a star player, but few are as important as Wilfried Zaha. So much of Crystal Palace’s fate boils down to the future of the 25 year old Ivory Coast international. Will he stay or go? Can he fend off injury for the season? These are two very important questions for Roy Hodgson.
The Eagles failed to pick up a single point without Wilfried Zaha in the team last season. In the ten matches Zaha wasn’t in the starting lineup Crystal Palace failed to pick up a single point, but speculation is mounting around a potential exit from the club. He has indeed become a very big fish in a small pond, but his failed season at Manchester United will weigh heavily on his mind.
A rather cryptic Instagram post that was swiftly deleted fuelled the fires even more though. He has reportedly turned down a much improved £120,000 per week deal at Palace, and while their valuation of £70 million for the skilful winger is putting some suitors off you get the feeling that he would be able to manufacture a move away if he really wanted to. Borussia Dortmund, Tottenham Hotspur, Everton, and Manchester City are all monitoring proceedings.
Zaha’s nine goals and three assists last season may look replaceable with a cool £70 million in the pocket, but his influence on matches might not be. His mere presence on the pitch seemed to lift every other player in the team, and his blisteringly fast dribbling required the opposition to completely change their defensive plan. To cut a long story short – Wilfried Zaha is simply irreplaceable for Crystal Palace.
The Season Ahead
The start is crucial
Crystal Palace have a very persistent monkey on their back when it comes to the first half of the season. In every campaign bar one since their return to the Premier League they have endured a terrible run of form in the opening half of the campaign. Last season was the worst, but their poor start wasn’t exactly unexpected.
Their complete ineptitude in the opening months of the Premier League season instantly put them on the back foot in the race for safety, pile the pressure on the manager’s shoulders, and get the crowd to join the monkey on their back. This compounding negativity isn’t a sustainable method for staying in the top flight, and it’s something that Roy Hodgson will be keen to shake off.
In fairness, it can’t get much worse for The Eagles. Losing all of the opening seven matches is a feat that has never been achieved, so surely the only way is up for Hodgson’s Eagles.
A quiet summer at Selhurst Park
If you look at Crystal Palace’s starting lineup is leaps out as one of the best teams outside the top six in the Premier League. James Tomkins and Mamadou Sakho are top class centre backs on their day, and Luka Milivojevic is a crucial asset in the centre of the park. Add that to an attacking force of Wilfried Zaha, Andros Townsend, and Christian Benteke and they have all the makings of a top half side.
However, the quality ends there. Palace’s strength in depth is almost non existent, and the summer has seen a couple of important players depart the club. Midfield duo Yohann Cabaye and Ruben Loftus-Cheek have both left Selhurst Park, the former going on a free transfer to Al-Nasr and Loftus-Cheek returning to parent club Chelsea.
And what of the incoming players, you ask. Well, there’s not much to talk about there. Roy Hodgson has welcomed Getafe goalkeeper Vicent Guaita to the club, who is praised as “one of La Liga’s best goalkeepers”. However, the fact that even that was a free transfer indicates that the board aren’t willing to give Hodgson so much as a morsel of a transfer budget.
Crystal Palace have next to no strength in depth, and they have seen two very important midfielders depart the club this summer. It’s already a worrying sign, and that sign becomes cataclysmic if Zaha leaves as well.
Managerial stability to keep Palace safe?
We’ve already mentioned Crystal Palace’s historically poor starts to their Premier League campaigns, but that has another albeit unsurprising consequence. The manager so often ends up the one on the chopping block after a losing streak, and six managerial changes in five seasons illustrate this.
Tony Pulis, Neil Warnock, Alan Pardew, Sam Allardyce, and Frank de Boer have all taken the reins before Roy Hodgson, with a further two stints of Keith Millen as caretaker manager extending the list. This change in managers has often facilitated an upturn in form, but there’s a lot to be said for stability as well.
Roy Hodgson, despite his unpopular appointment last year, is now a fan favourite. He guided Crystal Palace away from what looked to be certain relegation and into a very respectable finishing position, but will he still be a fan favourite if Palace lose six games in a row? It’s doubtful, and that ever looming guillotine over the manager’s head is a concern.
Hodgson undoubtedly has the experience to manage this pressure, but it doesn’t bode well for the club as a whole. Chairman Steve Parish isn’t providing the funds necessary to make Crystal Palace comfortable regulars in the Premier League, and while a lack of funds is excusable his lack of patience is less so. If your spending can’t keep pace with the competition, you must be patient enough to allow your manager to at least attempt to build a dynasty of his own.
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