Crystal Palace made history last season by going scoreless for the first seven games of the season. Then they beat Chelsea. Then they finished 11th with 44 points. Can they bring the momentum from the end of last season with them into a new campaign?
- Cheikhou Kouyate — 28 — Defensive Midfielder — West Ham — $11.1M
- Vicente Guaita — 31 — Goalkeeper — Getafe CF — Free
- Max Meyer — 22 — Central Midfielder — FC Schalke — Free
- Jordan Ayew — 26 — Center Forward — Swansea — Loan
- Damien Delaney — 36 — Center Back — Cork City — Free
- Yohan Cabaye — 32 — Midfielder — Al Nasr — Free
- Jaroslaw Jach — 24 — Center Back — Rizespor — Loan
- Chung-Yong Lee — 29 — Right Winger — No Club
- Bakary Sako — 30 — Left Winger — No Club
The most important thing Crystal Palace could do to improve their dreams of European football is to put together two decent-to-average halves of the season. Last August-October was a disaster when they dropped their first seven. Then they came storming back at the end of the season to safely finish 11th, winning four of their last five matches. This has been a familiar script for Palace over the past five seasons in the Premier League.
If they begin this season the way they ended the last, with their weak schedule, they’ll be somewhere among the Top 6 in October. Surely that will change around Boxing Day, but if they don’t drop too fast in January, they could be in a neck-and-neck race for seventh.
Of course, this is all pie floating harmlessly in the sky, and when they get pumped by Liverpool on Monday all hope will be lost.
Speaking of Liverpool, striker Chrisitan Benteke has to bounce back to his 2016-17 form for Palace to have a chance to finish in the top half of the table.
Two seasons ago, Benteke scored 15 goals with an xG90 — expected goals per 90 minutes — of 0.5. Last year, Benteke score 3 goals with a 0.45 xG90. It was an unprecedented swing that shook the soccer analytic world last season.
Watching Palace as obsessively as I did last season, it was easy to see Benteke wasn’t finishing chances — but it wasn’t because he was unlucky. The Belgian was firing headers wide or over the crossbar consistently and one-timing shots straight at keepers for easy saves. While most good, reliable strikers are finishing these chances on a regular basis, Benteke was not. It affected him throughout the season plummeting his confidence which resulted in him finishing the year on the bench.
So, the question is: was that just a one-off or is it evidence of a decline? We should be able to tell with a handful of games this season.
When Will Your Manager Be Fired
Crystal Palace have had nine managers over the past eight years, including a double-dip with Neil Warnock. Since the beginning of the 2016-17 season, they’ve had four.
It appears that they’ve found some stable footing with Roy Hodgson, who will be at Palace for a full year in September. He also signed a new three-year contract just days before the Fulham match. All seems to have smoothed itself out at this perennial mid-table club.
But smooth sailing isn’t the Palace way. Here are Palace’s five matches from October 21 to November 24:
- Away — Everton
- Home — Arsenal
- Away — Chelsea
- Home — Tottenham
- Away — Manchester United
Then they play European qualifying Burnley before visiting their rival Brighton at the Amex. Overall, Palace’s schedule is favorable with only one sequence of back-to-back matches against Top 6 sides in April to worry about. If Hodgson makes it that far, I think he’ll keep the Palace job going into the summer.
Which Player Will A Bigger Club Poach?
There’s no other answer than 25-year-old winger/striker Wilfried Zaha. In 29 appearances for Palace last season, Zaha scored a career-high nine goals. He averaged just over four dribbles per match for the second consecutive season, placing him behind only Eden Hazard in the Premier League. He also led the league by drawing 2.6 fouls a game. No one causes more headaches for opposing fullbacks than Zaha.
That’s why there have been two speculation-filled summers about him leaving Selhurst Park for a Top 6 club. It wouldn’t be the first time he left.
Zaha was purchased by Manchester United in January 2013. He joined the Red Devils that August after finishing the season at Palace on loan. He butted heads with David Moyes and a year and a half later, he was officially back at Palace.
If he stays healthy, Zaha should have his first double-digit scoring season for Palace. There’s a good chance he reaches that mark with assists, too. That’s why the time is now for Palace chairman Steve Parish to start lining up a massive transfer for Zaha.
The rumor that’s been floated around by Palace is they won’t accept anything less than €70M, or $89 million, for Zaha. Most English football fans who have perceived Zaha as a whiner and diver have scoffed at this number. If Zaha can stay healthy and keep his form, Top 6 fans will be begging to get this man for less than $100M.
Unknown to Household
Twenty-year-old right back Aaron Wan-Bissaka darted up the Palace youth system and became a regular in the starting lineup for Hodgson after an injury crisis at fullback.
Wan-Bissaka made a loud Premier League debut against Tottenham last February. He was Palace’s best defender in a match that resulted in a last-minute Harry Kane winner. He started the next five games including impressive performances against Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool.
He’s getting the start at right back for Palace this season and is primed to enter the same conversation as Trent Alexander-Arnold as England’s next great right back.
5/1 – Tied with Newcastle and leaning toward mostly safe.