Crystal Palace at a glance
Premier League titles: 0 (highest finish: 3rd – English First Division, 1990-91)
FA Cups: 0 (best finish: runners-up – 1990, 2016)
League Cups: 0 (best finish: semifinals – 1993, 1995, 2001, 2012)
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Since the start of the 2014-15 season, five managers (including Tony Pulis, who resigned two days before the campaign began) have been in charge at Selhurst Park (average tenure: 290 days). Somewhat surprisingly, Palace have managed to finish 10th, 15th, 14th and 11th during those four tumultuous seasons. Relegation seemed a distinct possibility in each of the three (particularly last season, when they started the season without a point — or a goal — in the first seven games), and yet, here we are in August 2018, previewing Crystal Palace, Premier League club.
Roy Hodgson arrived to replace Frank De Boer (just five games into his tenure) on Sept. 12, and while results didn’t take an immediate 180-degree turn, the Eagles lost just two of their following 12 games after finally getting on the board. Hodgson steadied the ship from October to January, hit a bit of a rough patch (in successive games against three of the PL’s top-five finishers) in February and March, and finished with five wins (and just one loss) in the final eight games of the season. Add it all up, and you’ve got 44 points (11 clear of the relegation zone).
Perhaps the only question that matters ahead of the 2018-19 season is whether or not Hodgson can carry that momentum over to the new season and guide Palace to a handful of points in August and September.
Palace will finish top-half because… they genuinely have one of the most talented starting units outside of the top-six (and one or two others). They managed to keep hold of Wilfried Zaha, who’s very much at home as a very unconventional striker, as well as Mamadou Sakho and Luka Milivojevic. Cheikhou Kouyate will make them much tougher in midfield, and Max Meyer could turn out to be an absolute steal as a midfield playmaker.
Palace will end up in a relegation battle because…. they’re Crystal Palace, and it’s kind of what they do. While they’ve finished fairly high the last three years, it’s been an absolute slog to get there. A similar start this season, followed by a failed bailout by [insert English relegation-battling specialist here], and it could all go wrong very quickly.
Best possible XI:
Ward — Tomkins — Sakho — Van Aanholt
Milivojevic — Kouyate — Meyer
Townsend — Benteke — Zaha
Transfers In: Cheikhou Kouyate ($12.5 million, West Ham United), Max Meyer (free, Schalke), Vicente Guaita (free, Getafe)
Transfers Out: Yohan Cabaye (free), Lee Chung-yong (free), Bakary Sako (free), Damien Delaney (free)
Ranking their offseason: C
The squad was already quite talented, but a bit more depth was certainly needed, particularly in the attacking half. Getting out from under Cabaye’s crippling wages was a massive win itself, and Meyer could make a real impact over 24 or 36 months, but it doesn’t feel like quite enough for this season. Considering what was done this summer by the other clubs aiming to finish between 10th and 17th, one or two more signings (for decent money) before the deadline would be welcome.
Star player: Zaha was linked with a move to Tottenham Hotspur, and a couple other PL clubs, all summer long, but fortunately for Palace, Tottenham don’t actually sign players during the transfer window, so the 25-year-old looks set to tear it up in south London for another season.
Coach’s Corner: Hodgson has been everywhere (nine different clubs and three national teams at multiple age levels) during his 36-year managerial career, so there’s nothing he hasn’t seen (Palace is his fifth job in the PL). Despite not scoring a single goal in the first seven games, Palace still managed to finish 9th in goals scored last season, so he’ll let them play.
PST Predicts: At this point, Palace feel like part of the PL furniture, destined to finish 12th or 13th season after season. It’s not a bad place to be, but they’re a few players away from dreaming of breaking into the top-eight.