28 Sep 2020 11:50 AM +00:00

Football Manager 2018: Crystal Palace guide, player ratings & tactics

After losing their first seven matches of the Premier League campaign, Crystal Palace looked dead and buried. The club was missing the structure of previous manager Sam Allardyce, but Roy Hodgson came in and turned things around at Selhurst Park. The former England boss led them out of the relegation zone and up to the dizzy heights of 12th in the league table.

With a whole season ahead of you, can you get the most out of this squad and lead them to the top half of the Premier League table on FM 18? There are some talented players in the Palace squad, and a couple of useful signings could help you close the gap on the big boys. 

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There are no philosophies you need to follow as Crystal Palace manager. You can suggest your own to the board, but with a small transfer budget you will want to take as much pressure of yourself as possible.


Palace chairman Steve Parish will welcome you to the club and issue you with the expectations for the season. The default is to finish mid-table in the English Premier Division, reach the fifth round of the FA Cup and reach the fourth round of the Carabao Cup. If you aim for the top half of the table, you will receive an extra £1.4 million for your transfer budget.



Transfer: £8 million

Wage: £1.48m per week (Current spend: £1.46m)


We have gone for a 4-1-2-3 DM Wide formation, but with so many centre back options at Crystal Palace you could go for a 5-2-3 system.


Wayne Hennessey is in goal, behind a back four of Joel Ward, Scott Dann, Mamadou Sakho and Pape Souare.

Luka Milivojevic is the defensive midfielder, with James McArthur and Yohan Cabaye just ahead of him. 

Andros Townsend and Bakary Sako provide the width as Wilfried Zaha is inured for the first couple of months of the season. Christian Benteke is up front on his own. 

Julian Speroni, James Tomkins, Patrick van Aanholt, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Jeffrey Schlupp, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Jason Puncheon should be the men on your bench.

Key players

It’s a mix of talented creative players and some average but disciplined performers at Crystal Palace.

Yohan Cabaye – CA 4 star (148), PA 4 star (160)

He’s had a below-par season, but there is no doubting Yohan Cabaye’s technical ability. The Frenchman was the star at Newcastle before joining former manager Alan Pardew at Crystal Palace, and when he is on-song, Cabaye can go toe-to-toe with any midfielder in the league. His consistency remains in doubt, however. 

Cabaye, 31, has stats of 18 teamwork, 18 work rate and 17 technique on the game which provide him with a 148 current ability rating. This may have fallen from his 160 potential, but he is still the best player at the club. 


Mamadou Sakho – CA 4 star (146), PA 4 star (154)

Mamadou Sakho was Palace’s big money buy in the summer, arriving from Liverpool for £24 million after a successful loan spell. The Frenchman has shored up things defensively for The Eagles, and at 27 he could be at the club for another six or more years. 

Sakho’s 146 CA consists of 17 strength, 16 stamina and 16 anticipation, which will still improve as he closes in on a 154 potential.


Christian Benteke – CA 3.5 star (145), PA 3.5 star (160)

A superb striker, but you wonder if Christian Benteke is getting the right service at Crystal Palace. The Belgian is superb in the air, but with wingers at Palace who like to cut in and shoot at goal, Benteke can be wasted.

He’s your only fit forward at the start of the season, so you will need every ounce of the former Liverpool man’s 145 CA rating. His stats of 18 heading, 18 adaptability and 18 jumping can increase as the 26-year-old builds towards his 160 potential. 

Young talent

Names such as Gareth Southgate, Victor Moses and Nathaniel Clyne have come through the Palace youth setup, and they must now hold onto the talented youngsters if the club is to move forward. 


Jason Eyenga-Lokilo – CA 2 star (95), PA 2.5-3.5 star (120-150)

Right winger Jason Eyenga-Lokilo made his debut for Crystal Palace this season, playing the full 90 minutes in their EFL Cup victory over Ipswich. Also able to play up front, it may be wise to loan the 18-year-old out for the first part of the season and then involve him in the first team. Eyenga-Lokilo’s 95 CA can rise to a potential between 120 and 150. 


Levi Lumeka – CA 1.5 star (80), PA 1.5-2.5 star (110-140)

Levi Lumeka has featured for The Eagles twice this season due to a few injuries in the squad. The 18-year-old left winger came on us a sub against Bristol City in the EFL Cup and then again in the Premier League clash against Burnley. Keep an eye on how he develops over the next few seasons as his 95 CA improves to a potential between 110 and 140. 


Luke Dreher – CA 1.5 star (77), PA 1.5-2.5 star (110-140)

Central midfielder Luke Dreher is yet to represent the Palace first team, but at 18 he has time on his side. After a season or two working with the youth side, perhaps loan Dreher out to get the minutes he needs to turn his 77 CA into a potential between 110 and 140. 

Team Report

Strengths Weaknesses
Youth prospectsOverall depth
Defensive midfield depthStriker depth
Central midfield depthWage budget
Central defence depthTransfer budget
Star right back (Joel Ward)Goalkeeper depth
Star centre back (Mamadou Sakho)Aggression
First touch
Work rate
Coaching staff
Scouting staff


Team Leaders – Wilfried Zaha, Julian Speroni, Jason Puncheon (C)

Highly influential – Yohan Cabaye, Damien Delaney, Scott Dann, Joel Ward, James McArthur, Wayne Hennessey, Mamadou Sakho, Andros Townsend

The main new feature for Football Manager 2018 is Dynamics. This section shows the atmosphere inside the dressing room, the different social groups in the squad and the more influential players over their teammates. 

When dealing with one player, you must note the impact it will have on surrounding players, so be careful with the words and tone you use. If you upset the dressing room, the players will turn against you and the performances on the pitch will decline.


Transfer targets

£8 million is almost nothing for a top-flight club in the transfer market, but if you hunt hard enough, there are bargains to be found on FM.

Another strike option – Santi Mina (CA 133, PA 150)

Connor Wickham is out injured for four to five months, leaving Christian Benteke as your only strike option. This has to be resolved straightaway, and if you can find a forward who can also play out wide, you can kill two birds with one stone.

Valencia’s 21-year-old striker Santi Mina is available for just £8 million, but you will need to make some sales to free up space for his near £50,000 a week wages. The Spaniard has a current ability score of 133 which can improve to a potential of 150. His best stats include 16 off the ball, 15 acceleration and 14 versatility.

Alternative options

  • Sebastian Driussi – Age 21, Zenit, Argentina, CA 139, PA 164, Value: £7.3m, Wage: £28k
  • Antonio Sanabria – Age 21, Real Hispalis, Paraguay, CA 130, PA 160, Value: £3m, Wage: £14k
  • Dario Benedetto – Age 27, Boca, Argentina, CA 143, PA 155, Value: £2.5m, Wage: £7k
  • Stipe Perica – Age 22, Udinese, Croatia, CA 130, PA 140, Value: £5.5m, Wage: £16k

Players to sell

With just £20,000 a week left over in your wage budget, you will need to sell to bring in more talent.

Damien Delaney

With so many centre back options at the club, Damien Delaney will struggle for minutes this season. The 35-year-old may be one of the highly influential members of the squad, but he is also one of the weakest. The Irishman will collect you around £500,000 in the transfer window, saving you £25,000 a week in wages. 



The financial situation at Crystal Palace is amongst the weakest in the Premier League. The overall balance of the club is on the up, and they should be out of debt by the end of the season. This will continue to grow into positive numbers over the next few seasons. The club’s profits however will turn to a loss, and you will have very limited resources in the transfer market in the coming years. As things stand, you will have £13 million for next season and close to £18 million in two years’ time.

Creep up the table

If you are looking for a challenge on Football Manager 2018, you will have a lot to do with Crystal Palace. You must decide to either work with the players you have at the moment or take a risk and sell off your highest talent and replace them with high potential youngsters. If the latter move pays off, you could become a top half club, but you would have a couple of seasons of serious relegation battles. So, what will it be? Stick or twist?

Crystal Palace first team squad, player roles and ratings

Player Age Pos Role Duty Role Ability CA/ PA
Starting lineup
Wayne Hennessey30GKGoalkeeperDefend3 star137/ 138
Joel Ward27DRWing-backDefend3.5 star133/ 136
Scott Dann30DCRDefensive centre back/ ball playing defenderAny/ stopper3.5 star134/ 144
Mamadou Sakho27DCLDefensive centre backAny4 star146/ 154
Pape Souare27DLWing-back/ defensiveDefend3.5 star136/ 142
Luka Milivojevic26DMBall winning midfielderSupport3.5 star140/ 145
James McArthur29MCRCarrilero/ defensive midfielderSupport3.5 star134/ 139
Yohan Cabaye31MCLDeep lying playmaker/ mezzalaSupport/ defend4 star148/ 160
Andros Townsend26AMRWingerSupport3 star136/ 150
Bakary Sako29AMLWingerSupport2.5 star127/ 130
Christian Benteke26STCTarget manSupport3.5 star145/ 160
Julian Speroni38GKSweeper keeperSupport/ Attack2 star110/ 120
James Tomkins28D (RC)Defensive centre backDefend3 star134/ 138
Patrick van Aanholt26D (L) WB (L)Full-backAttack3 star134/ 134
Timothy Fosu-Mensah19D (RC) DM M (C)Ball winning midfielderSupport3 star130/ <170
Jeffrey Schlupp24D (L) WB (L) M (L) AM (L)WingerSupport3 star132/ 137
Ruben Loftus-Cheek21M (C) AM (C)Deep lying playmakerDefend3 star130/ <160
Jason Puncheon31M (R) AM (RLC)Shadow strikerAttack3 star134/ 138
Damien Delaney35D (C)Defensive centre backDefend2.5 star121/ 128
Jairo Riedewald20D (LC) DMWing-backDefend3 star131/ 149
Martin Kelly27D (RC)Defensive full-backDefend3 star125/ 130
Jordon Mutch25M (C) AM (C)Deep lying playmakerSupport/ defend2.5 star120/ 144
Lee Chung-yong29M (R) AM (RC)WingerSupport2.5 star122/ 136
Wilfried Zaha24AM (RL)WingerAttack/ support3.5 star142/ 149
Connor Wickham24AM (RLC) ST (C)Target manAttack/ Support3 star130/ 140

Who have you signed on FM? Let us know in the comments section below.

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