When Crystal Palace survived relegation to League One in 2010, their fans could have only dreamt of the club being managed by a Champions League winner like Frank De Boer with the likes of Yohan Cabaye and Christian Benteke starting week in week out.
Crystal Palace Signings Needed After Tough Start
However, seven years later, the dream became a reality. The club are embarking on their fifth straight season in the top flight this year, a remarkable achievement by the club and owner Steve Parish alike.
Having brought in Tony Pulis in November 2013 to keep the club away from relegation to the Championship, for the following two seasons, the side were known to be a team that favoured attacking on the counter. They deployed two fast wingers either side of the forward, working on little possession and keeping 10 men behind the ball when defending.
This tactic worked wonders for the Eagles as they pushed away from the drop zone each year. Alan Pardew then tried something new; to inject a new style of play into the side. A free-flowing attacking game favouring more possession with eye-catching football.
However, fast forward five months and the club found themselves in the bottom three. They needed the help of Sam Allardyce to step in and steer the side clear of relegation.
Now, Dutchman De Boer is attempting to change the Palace side into a slick, one-touch passing team. However, after an embarrassing 3-0 home loss to newly promoted Huddersfield and a close 1-0 loss at Anfield, De Boer’s style of play is yet to to kick off in South London. Recruits are needed, with the club currently having just one fully fit striker on the books.
With just one week until the window closes, one would expect to see Palace targeting signings to ensure the club reverse their early season form.
When Crystal Palace entertained newly promoted Huddersfield Town on the opening day of the season, there was great optimism around SE25 that this season under Frank De Boer, the club could break into the top ten.
However, 90 minutes later, the club were defeated 3-0, a humiliating opening-day defeat. The team lacked any real goal threat throughout the match. The best chance came to defender Scott Dann, but he couldn’t convert.
The Eagles shaped up with a 3-4-3 formation with the exciting Chelsea loanee Ruben Loftus-Cheek making his home debut. However, after a positive start, it was clear that the players were not truly comfortable with this new style of play.
Wayne Hennessey is a very good shot stopper but playing out from the back is not one of his strongest features. It was clear that he was struggling with this instruction. His goal kicks were instantly creating pressure for the defenders in front of him.
Last season, the emphasis was on getting the ball up to Benteke as quick as possible. Zaha and Townsend would then be ready to pounce on his knock downs. However, the big Belgian found himself isolated up front. As a result, the side lacked that killer impact up top.
Huddersfield soon found that by pressing the Palace back line, they could force the hosts into making mistakes. Tom Ince constantly found himself with room to explore in behind Joel Ward.
In order for a 3-4-3 formation to effectively operate, the side requires a goalkeeper comfortable with playing out from the back, ball playing centre backs and a wing back able to effectively perform the transition of defence to attack quick enough. The club still needs to work on these three areas.
On Tuesday 22nd August, Crystal Palace defeated Ipswich 2-1 in the second round of the Carabao Cup. Lining up with their now familiar 3-4-3 shape, the side struggled to break down a very youthful Ipswich side. It took until the 76th minute for the Premier League team to find the opening goal through midfielder James McArthur.
However, it was before this goal that the potential Plan B from De Boer was illustrated. Sullay Kaikai was replaced by Lee Chung-Yong just a minute before the goal. With this, the team switched to a 4-3-3 formation.
Joel Ward and Jeffrey Schlupp reverted to full backs and Jason Puncheon, Cabaye and McArthur played across the midfield. Suddenly the Eagles were carving out multiple goal-scoring opportunities. They found it much easier to break down the Championship outfit, with McArthur adding a second.
Palace fans had been crying out for this change following the two opening losses. This should give manager De Boer an indication that if the team are struggling with the three at the back during the game, adapting back to a more comfortable four may be the best option.
Having brought in just three players so far this summer, the Eagles really need to bring in at least two more players before the window slams shut next week. However, Steve Parish has made it clear that this will not be easy. In a recent interview with BBC Sport 5 Live, he had this to say on the matter;
This shows that in order for the club to bring any players in between now and the end of the window, some of the players more surplus to requirements at the club will need to move on.
On the 21st of August, Crystal Palace made a £15 million move for Tottenham centre-back Kevin Wimmer. This comes after the £30 million price tag on Liverpool’s Mamadou Sakho seemed to put the club off.
For just half the price, Wimmer would be a fantastic addition. He is a player comfortable on the ball and with plenty of years ahead of him. Sakho’s future at Liverpool is uncertain and with most clubs being put off by his price tag, it may go down to the last few days of the window if the centre-back is to break away from Anfield.
Sky Sports have reported that the club are interested in signing Tottenham goalkeeper Michel Vorm. Again, this would be fantastic signing for the club. The goalkeeper is a clear improvement on the team’s current shot stoppers. Additionally, the Dutchman is comfortable with playing out from the back, suiting De Boer’s style.
However, what is most worrying for Palace fans is the lack of reports linking the club to a striker. Christian Benteke is the only real option for the side up front; Englishman Connor Wickham is currently out injured until January.
In the recent game against Ipswich Town, Benteke was an unused substitute as youngster Jason Lokilo started the game in his place. However, in what is a very physical game, Lokilo would struggle on the ball in the Premier League and he is not an adequate option as a backup striker.
Whatever happens in the last week of the transfer window, bringing in a second option up front is certainly required. If Benteke suddenly gets injured, the club will find themselves in a very difficult position.
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