Crystal Palace are at a crossroads heading into the new Premier League season.
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Sam Allardyce stepped down as boss following a successful relegation battle last season and now the Eagles have plumped for a bright young manager in Frank De Boer, with the Dutch legend experiencing English soccer for the first time. He will be tasked with creating a new playing identity for a young, hungry squad who have been dragged into too many relegation battles for their talent levels over the past few seasons.
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The Eagles have yet to win a major trophy in their 111-year history but backed by American ownership they have big plans to extend Selhurst Park and kick on to become one of London’s big boys. The self-proclaimed “Pride of South London” have a passionate fanbase who generate a fantastic atmosphere down in SE25 and they’re one of the trendier teams to support with the sense of hipster strong.
Can they finally push for a European spot and win a cup competition?
Best, worst case scenario: Everything clicks and Palace push for seventh spot and a place in Europe, but on the other hand if they can’t sort out their defensive issues than they must prepare for another relegation battle.
Best possible XI is…
—– Hennessey —–
—- Ward —- Dann —- Reidewald —- Van Aanholt —-
—- Zaha —- Milivojevic —- Puncheon —- Schlupp —-
—– Cabaye —–
—– Benteke —–
Transfers out: Steve Mandanda ($3.9 million, Marseille), Mathieu Flamini (Released), Jonathan Benteke (Released), Joe Ledley (Released), Frazier Campbell (Free, Hull City), Zeki Fryers (Free, Barnsley)
– 14th in the Premier League
– FA Cup 4th round
– EFL Cup 3rd round
Star player: Wilfried Zaha – It may be Christian Benteke who grabs the goals but Zaha epitomizes what Palace is trying to do. The local lad has pace to burn and his direct style of play terrifies opposition defenders, with his crossing and shooting ability improving all the time. He will be handed the keys to Palace’s offense and after signing a new long-term deal, he’s proved he is Palace through and through. Now he needs to add more goals to his game to become the complete package. Don’t be surprised if he floats just behind Benteke rather than spending all of his time out wide this season.
Coaches’ Corner: Frank de Boer enters his first season in England in an interesting predicament. Palace want to become a club who are known for an attractive style of play rather than a club full of good pros battling relegation. The only issue is that most of the defense-minded team put together by Sam Allardyce last season remains and FDB has to mold them subtly into something a little different. It has to be said, he’s not going for an all-out ‘Total Football’ approach and his Ajax teams were at times more robust than many would like to believe, but it will still be tough for the former Ajax, Barcelona and Glasgow Rangers defender to make his mark in the Premier League. After a tricky, and short, spell at Inter Milan last season, de Boer seems ready to prove he had what it takes to succeed. Palace haven’t backed him in the transfer market and the Dutchman will need a fast start to the season.
PST predicts: Another relegation battle beckons if they don’t get off to a flying start. If they win four of their first five games all will be well and confidence will grow. If not, they have a horrendous run of games coming up in late September (Liverpool, Man City and Man United in a row) which could define their season. The Eagles will be hovering just about the drop zone.