A Little Bit of History…
Crystal Palace begin their ninth consecutive season in the Premier League, and it is fair to say that fans can probably expect more of the same. This famous club from South London have rarely been at risk of relegation from the Premier League during the previous eight season (they’ve never finished lower than 15th in the league) and they have a stable ownership with access to several billion US dollars. They’ve also had the steady hand of Roy Hodgson steering the ship for the last four seasons.
But the flip side to living in the comfort zone is the absence of progression. For a club as well established as Palace, their honours and achievements are sparse. The last 30 years have seen an appearance in the FA Cup, a much publicised scare when closure and liquidation loomed…and that’s about it. Palace have never finished higher than 10th in the Premier League, and while Hodgson has left a good squad behind him, that’s all they are. Good.
Palace are a functional side, and while there are flashes of quality, there’s little on show to indicate that a challenge for a top 10 finish is on the cards. Like a few other clubs in the Premier League, goals are the big issue. Palace are lacking a quality striker who can deliver 20+ goals a season, and experiments with Michy Batshuayi and Christian Benteke have brought limited returns. Wilfried Zaha is the keystone for Palace, the bundle of creativity who can make things happen. But more on him later…
The Season Ahead…
When Hodgson left the club, the original target to fill his seat was Lucien Favre. Despite days of positive talks, and reports that an appointment was imminent, the story took a 180° turn when the former Borussia Dortmund boss decided that he wanted a break from football. So, Palace have now turned to Patrick Vieira (below). The former Arsenal, Juventus and Inter Milan player is a relative newcomer to management. He’s chalked up four years as a boss; two at New York City FC and two at OGC Nice. The latter job ended in disappointment when he was sacked in December 2020 after a string of poor results.
Palace fans have been spilt on Viera’s appointment, with some expressing their disappointment, but they’ll all be praying that the club avoids a repeat of the Frank de Boer debacle in 2017; he was sacked after just four Premier League games, with the team failing to win a game or score a goal.
In pre-season, Viera has been focusing on creating more chances in the attacking areas of the pitch, moving the ball quickly and getting it to the feet of their creative players, particularly the aforementioned Wilfried Zaha (below). The boy who joined Crystal Palace at age 12 has developed into one of the most exciting players in the league. This dynamic forward has lightning pace and unbelievably quick feet, able to move past players with ease. In the past, he has been targeted, often getting fouled several times a game, something Zaha has been vocal about. “I feel like I’d have to get my leg broken for anyone to get a red card,” he has been quoted as saying before.
There have have rumblings that Zaha has wanted to leave Crystal Palace in the past, with both Arsenal and Everton both allegedly considering a bid for the player, but these rumours have subsided recently. His hugely disappointing move to Manchester United in 2013 will make people question if he can perform at the highest level.
A few players have joined the club in the summer, including the highly rated Michael Olise from Reading, but no signing really stands out. It has been reported that the club are interested in the 24-year-old striker Adam Armstrong from Blackburn Rovers, who is valued at about $27 million, but it looks like he’s headed for Southampton instead.
Elsewhere, goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey has moved to Burnley, Andros Townsend has gone to Everton, Mamadou Sakho has joined Montpellier, James McCarthy has signed for Celtic and both Patrick van Aanholt and Gary Cahill have released.
Location Selhurst, South London
Stadium Selhurst Park (25,486 capacity)
20/21 Final League Position 14th
Opening Game of the 21/22 Season away at Chelsea
21/22 Predicted Final League Position 16th
It’ll no doubt me more of the same at Crystal Palace, unless the unproven Viera proves to be an unexpected diamond. Survival in the Premier League is on the cards, but not without a few nervous glances over the shoulder until May.