It’s fair to say Crystal Palace fans have been put through the mill since their return to the Premier League five years ago. The Eagles have been scraping survival every season since their promotion, the most dramatic of which being last year. Roy Hodgson managed to guide a team with the worst ever start in Premier League history to survival with a game to spare. However, can they finally build on their now familiar end of season flurry to avoid another relegation scrap?
Crystal Palace Season Preview
Roy Hodgson – South London’s Newest Hero
Roy Hodgson’s heroics at Palace last year have rightly made him an all-time favourite amongst fans. The former England manager guided the Eagles from the worst start in top-flight history – zero points and zero goals in their first seven league matches – to the brink of a top-half finish.
The big worry for Palace fans, however, will be keeping their beloved boss. Both Tony Pulis and Sam Allardyce previously left the club during pre-season when they were in charge. Pulis sighted transfer disagreements as his reason for departing, while Allardyce insisted he had no intention of taking another job in football. However, given that he showed up at Everton less than six months later, it’s likely he left for similar reasons to Pulis instead. This is a worryingly familiar pattern – with Palace having failed to complete a single signing during the summer window.
Chairman Steve Parish has cited a lack of funds as the reason for lack of activity. Hodgson also stated yesterday his chairman’s main goal will be survival again. This is failing to appease some fans, as they are desperate to see their team avoid another relegation scrap. For years, Palace have craved stability, but six managerial changes in five seasons have made that impossible. Having blown so many chances to consolidate their position, fans are understandably petrified that they will falter again this season. However, Hodgson seems to show far fewer signs of unrest compared to his predecessors. It suggests that he is quite happy where he is too if frustrated at points.
Player to Watch – Wilfried Zaha
It’s no secret that Wilfried Zaha is Palace’s star man. The Eagles failed to gain so much as a point in any of their games without him last season, and his pieces of individual brilliance have singlehandedly dragged Palace through matches on countless occasions. This has understandably led to several clubs fighting for his signature. Long-time pursuers Spurs have reportedly been weighing up a bid, alongside German giants Borussia Dortmund. However, both Zaha’s manager and chairman remain adamant that he is staying put. Even the Ivory Coast international himself has admitted he is still enjoying his football at Palace.
If Palace do manage to keep their star man, he will no doubt be the key ingredient in their season. He has the ability to tear through defences like a knife through butter and is the sort of player who keeps both supporting and opposition fans on the edge of their seats. Roy Hodgson has taken to playing Zaha up front alongside Andros Townsend, but he is also clearly adept out wide. Whatever his role, Palace will certainly want to utilise his talent as the focal point of their attack. His presence and trickery alone are enough to cause chaos amongst the entire opposing team. Without him in the side, Palace often fail to display the same attacking creativity in their play. If he continues to show the form he has for the past few years, Zaha could drag his side three or four positions higher by himself.
It could be argued Steve Parish is taking advantage of his manager’s loyalty and good faith by not providing him with the funds he clearly desires. He certainly is playing with fire by risking both his manager’s and team’s future like this. However, Palace do have one of the strongest starting eleven’s outside the top six on paper, and could certainly go far with that squad.
The problem for Palace is that almost all of the teams around them have strengthened significantly, particularly the likes of West Ham and Wolves. As we all know, standing still in the Premier League transfer market is a recipe for disaster. All it could take is one serious injury – which Palace have had more than their fair share of in recent years – and their whole squad could be derailed. However, if Hodgson does remain with the club, it is difficult to see them getting relegated with his experience. But if they can’t pull something out of the bag in the remaining weeks of the transfer market, it could be another long season for Palace fans.
Predicted finish: 14th
Main Photo Embed from Getty Images