Crystal Palace: 2018/19 Premier League Preview
Roy Hodgson and the Eagles are hoping for a season of no drama and consolidation.
Crystal Palace have been perennial relegation strugglers ever since they entered the Premier League back in 2013/14. Since then they have gone through a catalogue of managers, but seemed to have landed on the right man finally in Roy Hodgson.
He and his team struggled out the gate last season – mainly through the fault of Frank de Boer – but eventually recovered to finish in a respectable 11th place. This year the target must be more of the same and Palace fans should be happy to avoid talk of the “R” word – that would surely represent success.
A solid season of no drama would be the perfect tonic to Crystal Palace fans who are more used to scrapping for their lives.
2017/18 Season Review
A woeful run of seven straight defeats – in which they failed to score – to start last season left Palace staring into the Championship oblivion. Frank de Boer began the season at the helm, but was soon ousted after Palace lost 1-0 away to Burnley in their fourth game of the season.
Roy Hodgson was brought in to try to steady the ship and he did that and more, starting with a 2-1 win over Chelsea in their eighth game – their first victory and first two goals scored. Two defeats in 15 games over the winter gave Palace a great chance of survival and they eventually stayed up without any real late-season concerns.
Four wins from five to end the season put gloss on what was a miraculous job done by the former England manager. An 11th place finish was a remarkable achievement after that awful start and to finish with 44 points – 11 points ahead of the drop-zone – was the icing on the cake.
Fee: £10.7 million
A quiet window so far finally got going for Palace as they signed West Ham star Cheikhou Kouyate for £10.7 million. The signing will give them some steel in midfield and finally add some strength in the engine room that they have lacked since Mile Jedinak left.
Fee: Free transfer
Palace have been particularly poor in goal since they were promoted to the Premier League and they have failed to address the lack of quality. Guaita represents a small risk on a free transfer and will provide competition for Wayne Hennessey and Julian Speroni.
Fee: Free transfer
Upon expiry of his Schalke contract, Palace were the club to snap up young German talent Max Meyer, and he’ll be important in adding creativity to a Palace side that struggled for goals last season.
Palace have not allowed any of their star players to leave this summer and as a result have not brought in any fees for their players. Wilfried Zaha is still rumoured to be leaving over the summer, with the forward attracting the interest of both Tottenham and Chelsea.
On the way out, Damien Delaney, Yohan Cabaye, Jarosaw Jach, Chung-Yong Lee, Diego Cavalieri and Bakary Sako. The only real miss could be Cabaye, but at 32-years-old he did not warrant a new contract.
Hodgson, for the most part, used a 4-4-2 formation last season, with Zaha partnering Christian Benteke up front. However, Ruben Loftus-Cheek – on loan from Chelsea and used out wide – has since returned and it leaves Palace without a left midfielder. Zaha could be moved there, but that leaves Benteke without a strike partner.
The solution, therefore, could be switching to a 4-2-3-1, which gives Meyer a space in the middle and gets Zaha and Townsend on the wings to create crossing opportunities.
In goal they can look at Hennessey, Speroni or new signing Guaita – this could arguably be their weakest position. Defensively they look solid with proven players at this level. There is also Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who impressed at full back last season when he was brought in.
Their midfield looks strong and the addition of Kouyate should improve them and give them the strength that they have lacked since Mile Jedinak left the club. Townsend and Zaha are of obvious quality and will be the envy of every side not in the top six.
And if Christian Benteke can finally play like he did at Villa, Palace will finally get their money’s worth for the former Liverpool striker. Meyer’s addition, too, will be essential in creating chances for the Belgian up front.
The key question: Can they start the season on time?
Last season Palace faced an uphill battle because they lost their first seven games. This season the team cannot afford to start so slowly, or they run the risk of never being able to catch up.
Of course, with Hodgson still at the helm, the likelihood is that the team benefits from that consistency and get off to a steady start. But, another bad run could signal yet another managerial change at Selhurst Park – something they need to avoid at all costs if they want to steer away from having a reputation as a managerial graveyard.
Imagine if Palace had another bad start? They would undoubtedly change their manager and have to go through another rollercoaster campaign that’s sole aim is just survival.
Sides that have continued to do that in the Premier League like Aston Villa and Sunderland eventually crumbled – Palace need to make sure that they do not suffer the same fate.
For any side not in the big six, the best case scenario is to ‘do a Burnley’ and clinch seventh spot and Europe.
Relegation. Palace may have a proven manager and longevity in the Premier League, but they still have to aim for 40 points so they can be sure of survival.
Steady yet unspectacular. Palace should finish without any relegation concerns, but in the bottom half of the table.
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