The FourFourTwo Season Preview 2015/16: Crystal Palace
Palace fans must have feared the worst when Tony Pulis, the man who inspired a great escape in 2013/14, jumped ship just before the start of last season. And, indeed, the brief reigns of Keith Millen and Neil Warnock looked to be taking the Eagles back to the Championship. Enter the prodigal son. Alan Pardew was a Palace hero as a player after scoring the winner in a shock FA Cup semi-final win over Liverpool in 1990. And having steered the club to 10th in the Premier League, he’s well on the way to achieving similar status as their manager.
What the fan says
Jay Crame of the Eagle's Beak Crystal Palace blog gives us the lowdown on the upcoming campaign...
Why they’ll do well
After surviving the Premier League for two seasons in a row – a first for the club – Palace have now achieved something approaching stability. And with stability comes a better calibre of player. How else could you explain the signing of Yohan Cabaye, who was a target for the likes of Arsenal before he hopped across the channel to join PSG? The France midfielder looks a snip, even at £12.5 million for a 29-year-old, and adds to an increasingly deep-looking squad, particularly going forward. In front of him, there is real quality in the form of Jason Puncheon, Yannick Bolassie, James McArthur, Wilfried Zaha and – if he can find some form after returning from injury – Jordon Mutch. Overcome a tricky start – they play Arsenal, Chelsea, Man City and Spurs in their first six games – and there’s no reason why Palace can’t take advantage of some uncertainty at the clubs around them and make a push for Europe.
Why they’ll do badly
At time of writing, there is uncertainty over the future of captain Mile Jedinak. The Australian midfielder has arguably been Palace’s best player since they returned to the Premier League, and although the arrival of Cabaye and the form last season of Joe Ledley softens the blow of the 30-year-old’s potential departure, Palace have less quality behind, Scott Dann apart. Julian Speroni can’t be expected to perform miracles in goal forever – hence the £3.5 million signing of Alex McCarthy from QPR – while at the other end, the Eagles still lack a Prem-ready centre-forward who guarantees goals in double figures (see Patrick Bamford below). Then there’s the uncertainty at the top. Pards should be bulletproof after last season’s heroics, but as he proved with Pulis, chairman Steve Parish usually gets his own way and isn’t afraid to pull the trigger. He just needs to make sure the gun isn’t pointing at his foot.
The big questions...
1) Why are they better on the road?
- Yohan Cabaye (Paris Saint-Germain)
- Patrick Bamford (Chelsea; loan)
- Alex McCarthy (QPR)
- Lewis Price (Released)
- Owen Garvan (Released)
- Peter Ramage (Released)
- Stephen Dobbie (Released)
- Jerome Thomas (Released)
With the pace of Bolasie, Puncheon and Dwight Gayle, Palace are perhaps better suited to counter-attacking football – which is why it’s no surprise that they fared better away from home last season. Still, just four of Pardew’s 12 victories came at Selhurst Park. Must do better.
2) Are they still a Pulis team?
Don’t be fooled into thinking the Eagles were suddenly liberated from a long-ball, set-piece based game by Pards’ arrival. No team scored more goals from corners and free-kicks (19) than Palace last season, to go with five from the penalty spot. A full pre-season should have enabled Pardew to make his team more dangerous from open play.
3) Can Bamford make the step up?
With Glenn Murray Palace’s top scorer in the league with seven, it looks like the England U21 star – who has arrived on loan from Chelsea – will be thrown straight in at the deep end to solve the centre-forward problem. But despite breaking the 20-goal mark for Middlesbrough in the Championship last season, he’s unproven at this level.
Key player: Scott Dann
With only QPR keeping fewer clean sheets in the Premier League last season than Palace, it has come as some relief that their most reliable defender has signed a new five-year deal. The Eagles’ player of the season should have more support from fellow giant centre-back Brede Hangeland this time around – the veteran Norwegian struggled for fitness and form last season but has also signed a new deal, having been on the verge of leaving. Behind other regular defenders Damien Delaney, Joel Ward and Martin Kelly, though, there’s very little backup. Wrap this man in cotton wool.
What we’ll be saying come May
It was all looking so good for Palace until Diego Costa’s dodgy hamstrings and Radamel Falcao’s dodgy knee prompted Bamford’s recall to Chelsea from his loan spell. In the youngster’s absence, Marouane Chamakh remembered that south London in January was nothing like Morocco and the Eagles had to make do with surviving by the skin of their teeth.
To see where FourFourTwo think Crystal Palace will finish – along with a bespoke two-page preview – get our special new season issue, out Saturday 1 August.