Crystal Palace: Eagles Soaring Towards Europe?
Alan Pardew has been a catalyst for a club that last season was struggling to keep its head above water in the Premier League. Whilst Leicester are taking the plaudits for their work at the top of the table it is the Londoner's who are slowly creeping up the table and staking a claim for a European place. The Hype Train looks at some of the factors surrounding the club, and what they have, what they need to do, including their players, and a new investment that might just elevate this club into the stratosphere.
The Manager Alan Pardew last season moved to Crystal Palace after getting Newcastle their points to stave off relegation, and then he went to the Eagles and continued amassing points. Let us take a look at the table of 2014/15 and then his record in that season for both clubs and find out where a Pardew team would have finished.
Pardew started the season at Newcastle United, and after a huge campaign to see the man sacked from the clubs own supporters turned out to be a huge mistake it was undoubtedly the work of Pardew that ultimately kept Newcastle in the Premier League last season.
BPL Games: 19
BPL Wins: 7 BPL Draws: 5 BPL Losses: 7
BPL Points: 26pts
After moving to the Eagles in early 2015 the former Toon boss went straight to work on making Crystal Palace the team they are now. His record is impressive.
BPL Games: 18
BPL Wins: 10 BPL Draws: 1 BPL Losses: 7 BPL Points: 31pts
Alan Pardew had amassed 57pts last season if he combined both efforts, putting himself just outside of European places. His record at Palace was significantly better than at Newcastle, the only difference being that he was either a ‘win guy’ or ‘lose guy’, there seemed to be little middle ground between success and failure, only one draw in his start to life as Crystal Palace manager occurred in eighteen games. He also is a game off, he only managed thirty seven games, not thirty eight, so there was the potential he could have obtained sixty points to chase a European position.
Every Eagles fan should feel confident this can be a special year for them, we not take a look at this season so far.
Crystal Palace 2015/16
BPL Games: 17
BPL Wins: 9
BPL Draws: 2
BPL Losses: 6
BPL Points: 29pts
Goals scored: 20
Goal conceded: 15
After exactly the same number of games Alan Pardew has improved his record on the 2014/15 season, so improvement under him is already taking form at Crystal Palace already, and if he wins his next match against Bournemouth then he continues that trend. The only buckling trend that needs to be eliminated is the habit of losing games without reply; four of their six losses have ended without them gaining at least a small slice of retribution against the victor. All in all the Eagles are perfectly poised at this stage of the season and with a promising run of fixtures heading their way in the festive period Alan Pardew will be a happy man.
Perks of ‘London Living’
Now, one factor of why success is on the cards is a simple one: location. London is the perfect place for a team to marketed, to be advertised, to be attractive for fans and investors to the club. London is ideal for the growth of the club, and there are plenty clubs in London who have been successful given the right application. Here are some of the advantages of being in London:
Fixture planning is easy, a huge burden off always having to travel. At least a quarter of all away games are in the same city.
Players are attracted at the prospect of living their lives in the capital. Alexis Sanchez favoured Arsenal over Liverpool last season due to the practicality and desire to live in London.
Huge fan base, and massive commercial viability. London clubs tend to do well in Europe and with the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal, and even Spurs all in European competition it is a promising prospect to follow suite.
If you have been paying attention to any news in the last few months then you'll perhaps picked up on the Crystal Palace investment plan. In simple, the Palace board at selling a stake of the club to outside investors and a joint partnership will form to further grow the club. From the clubs own website this is what they said:-
"Crystal Palace Football Club is delighted to announce that it has today signed a deal with investors Josh Harris and David Blitzer. The deal will see chairman Steve Parish, Josh Harris and David Blitzer take control of the club in a general partnership structure."
Should this all be worked out then Crystal Palace may have funds to further build their squad, stadium, and infrastructure. The club as a whole is intent on solidifying their status as a Premier League club and push on from where they are. Currently they aren't wasting time on the pitch, but sooner rather than later they could be cementing themselves as a stable top-half team.
Key Players (FPL Options)
In order to gauge their success we look at their key players to their current squad and what they offer the Crystal Palace team and FPL managers.
Wayne Hennessey – GK – £4.1mil
Alex McCarthy was dropped because Pardew wanted a safer pair of gloves in goal, and he opted for Hennessey over the veteran Speroni in goal. Hennessey is a very cheap goalkeeping option and after four clean sheets in a dozen performances has him quickly becoming the choice backup keeper in many teams. Chris Coleman will be happy to see his first choice keeper for Wales getting some well-deserved game time ahead of the Euros next summer.
Scott Dann – DEF – £5.5mil
Scoring at both Merseyside clubs home stadiums might just be the knife that stings for most watching in these games. Liverpool supporter scoring the winner at Anfield and Liverpool supporter deflating Everton at Goodison, the scenes. If there is any scouser left in Liverpool who doesn’t hate this man then it will come as a great surprise. Dann has been one of the best attacking defenders from corners this season and every time the ball whips in from Puncheon has FPL managers on the edge of their seats expecting the Dann’s head to connect. Four clean sheets at this stage of the season also helps his case to a potential England call up.
Yannick Bolasie – MID – £6.2mil
The energy and direct threat of the team comes from Yannick Bolasie who is causing waves all over the world with his trickery and pace. Bolasie is a big player, and one who you never know what you are going to get until the dust has settled. Partnered up with Connor Wickham he is there to hurt teams on the counter attack and also play in the other forwards if needs be. The great strength of Bolasie is that he is playing in a striker’s role as a listed midfielder. FPL dreams.
Connor Wickham – ST – £5.5mil
The transfer from Sunderland didn’t make much sense at the first but the more he plays in the setup with Bolasie as his partner the more it makes sense. Wickham’s hold up play is brilliant and he is a great target for the ball which compliments Bolasie’s style of play. Wickham is a poacher and can be in the right place at the right time, and Pardew believes in the man so much he let him take their last penalty in the absence of Yohan Cabaye to sink Stoke at the Britannia.
Yohan Cabaye – MID – £6.6mil
One of the transfers of the summer was the return of Cabaye to the Premier League, after falling out of favour at PSG he returned to Alan Pardew’s custody and since has been a driving force for the Eagles rise up the BPL table. Cabaye when playing is on every set-piece from corners, free kicks, and penalties, there is nobody that Pardew trusts more than the Frenchman. Newcastle fans are envious of his return as they remember just how great he was for them and so far he hasn’t disappointed.
January: Shop or Drop?
The current Eagles nest is looking healthy, the team spirit is there, and the direction is there, as is the ambition and ability. But no team is perfect, and with such ambition the Eagles can be looking to land more targets such as Yohan Cabaye in the future. The Frenchman’s arrival was the biggest statement of all, Crystal Palace aren’t messing about.
Whenever the team watches Crystal Palace the one thing that separates them from their opponents is their physicality, nobody takes the ball off their players without one hell of a fight. Wilfried Zaha shook off three Liverpool plays in their victory over the Reds at Anfield, and Bolasie is constantly scrapping with defenders and always winning. A true grit illuminates from this Crystal Palace squad, and as such these types of physical players are the perfect typecast of ideal players. If you can’t hold your own in in the squad then you’re done for. If you look at Newcastle when Pardew was there he liked ‘beast’ players, Sissoko is a brute when he turns it on, as was Tiote, Cisse, and Ameobi. Pardew isn’t assembling a team of players; he is building an army to go to war in Europe.
Arguable the three weakest areas are a centre back to compliment Scott Dann to help plug the defensive woes, and cover for both left sided players. Competition is important to give players the fire to hold and fight for their place. Puncheon is a big example; he has been influential and is far off a convention wide midfielder, so someone who can add more guile on the left would be perfect if it wasn’t working down that side. The same applies to Souare at left-back, as his replacement is usually Martin Kelly who traditionally plays at right-back. A fourth addition is needed, and this is the most important…a class striker. Wickham has been quality if he is fit, and that is the concern, he won’t play more than thirty games a season and Pardew knows it. He needs someone reliable.
The only area where we think they could do in reducing their options is in goalkeeping, it is time to let Speroni find new pastures and stop wasting his time. McCarthy is a perfect backup keeper and can come into the fold if required so this is the only area where it is recommended players are reduced. Now, below is conjecture and should be treated as that. But players that suit the system are obvious. Below are some players The Hype Team would slot perfectly into the way they play, we have even considered their availability and club expectations.
Moussa Sissoko: Relationship with Pardew may play a factor and the Frenchman can play down the right of midfield or centrally.
Michy Batshuayi: Currently a Belgian forward playing for Marseille in the French top flight. A centre forward full of power and pace, he could compliment the style of Yannick Bolasie.
Fabian Schar: A rarity amongst football, an experienced young player with plenty of league and European experience. Currently playing for Hoffenheim in Germany’s top division, Schar is a burly and surprisingly quick central defender that would be a welcome addition in the back four.
Jetro Willems: The current left back at PSV, he isn’t the tallest but the Dutchman is an all-round defender and very quick and powerful. Has a lot of big game experience and would be able to settle in quickly into the role Souare is currently playing.
Islam Slimani: Sporting Lisbon’s Algerian striker is all power, and very mobile. He could be the perfect target man for Pardew’s men and also play on the counter away from home.
Moustapha Sall: A centre back of extreme build from Saint Etienne in France, a monster of a man that could overload the defensive units with so much beast there would be no words to describe it.
Everyone would have their own ideas about what Pardew needs, but at the end of the day only he knows. There are two others that were considered but due to availability may not be available to them, but in the dream scenario the two best strikers that could suit their system are already in the Premier League, but who knows if they do end up in European competition next year. Wilfried Bony and Odion Ighalo would make Crystal Palace a significantly better team but those are currently only dreams for fans and FPL managers alike.
One major factor to their success has been the emergence of a strike partnership between the pairing of Connor Wickham and Yannick Bolasie; they rely on a traditional 4-4-2 to get the job done. The Eagles are an incredibly aggressive and strong team, and it is no lie that during their matches the members of The Hype Train team are constantly in awe of how they bully teams, all of their players are stoics and it is refreshing to see such physicality.
Alan Pardew is no stranger to rotating his team, especially in defensive positions. People have stepped up from the bench when needed to, Martin Kelly and Brede Hangeland providing evidence they already have options to consider if injuries strike them. The only vulnerable positions are attacking potentials if Bolasie gets injured. Sako and Gayle have both suffered recent injuries and it has further outlined the potential fragility they face should the worst case scenario happens.
Despite not having one striker who has played all season they are working as a team to secure goals, the brilliant Yannick Bolasie is playing as a striker with Connor Wickham currently but they may chance in January. Never less we’ll take a look at how the team is performing so far this bizarre season.
Yohan Cabaye: 5
Yannick Bolasie: 4
Scott Dann: 3
Wilfried Zaha: 2
Joel Ward: 2
Bakary Sako: 2
James McArthur: 2
Damien Delaney: 1
Lee Chung-Yong: 1
Connor Wickham: 1
Jason Puncheon: 3
Wilfried Zaha: 3
Connor Wickham: 2
James McArthur: 2
Damien Delaney: 2
Yannick Bolasie: 1
Yohan Cabaye: 1
Dwight Gayle: 1
Scott Dann: 1
Bakary Sako: 1
Pape Souare: 1
Scott Dann: 4
Wayne Hennessey: 4
Pape Souare: 3
Martin Kelly: 3
Damien Delaney: 2
Brede Hangeland: 2
Last season Julian Speroni kept only six clean sheets all season, Wayne Hennessey kept one, meaning that all in all the Crystal Palace team of last season kept seven clean sheets in total. They were one of the worst teams for conceding goals last season and for them to have kept four clean sheets so far means they are on track to beat their defensive record of last season which is encouraging for the belief they will ascend higher up in the table. Crystal Palace have made themselves a hard team to beat and that helps when trying to stake a claim in European places.
Dwight Gayle: 1 red, 1 yellow
Yohan Cabaye: 4 yellow
Wilfried Zaha: 4 yellow
Jason Puncheon: 3 yellow
James McArthur: 2 yellow
Pape Souare: 2 yellow
Scott Dann: 2 yellow
Martin Kelly: 2 yellow
Mila Jedinak: 1 yellow
Connor Wickham: 1 yellow
Frazier Campbell: 1 yellow
Yannick Bolasie: 1 yellow
Joel Ward: 1 yellow
Brede Hangeland: 1 yellow
Wayne Hennessey: 1 yellow
FPL Bonus Points
Yohan Cabaye: 13pts
Scott Dann: 10pts
Joel Ward: 6pts
Bakary Sako: 6pts
Yannick Bolasie: 5pts
Damien Delaney: 4pts
Pape Souare: 2pts
Brede Hangeland: 2pts
Lee Chung-Yong: 2pts
James McArthur: 2pts
Wayne Hennessey: 1pt
Connor Wickham: 1pt
With five away wins, and four home wins so far it is comfortable to say that the Eagles prefer foreign hunting grounds than Selhurst Park so far this season, their setup seems to work better when venturing to new pastures than relying on home comforts. Their away record makes them such a great threat to teams, after all it was Stoke who hadn’t conceded since Ryan Shawcross that returned which learned painfully that Crystal Palace are one of the best travelling teams in the Premier League.
From that stats and points accrued so far here are the players that the FPL so far say are the best options for Crystal Palace:
Yohan Cabaye (MID) – 74pts – Ranked 10th in Midfielders
Scott Dann (DEF) – 72pts – Ranked 3rd in Defenders
Yannick Bolasie (MID) – 61pts – Ranked 20th in Midfielders
James McArthur (MID) – 52pts – Ranked 33rd in Midfielders
Damien Delaney (DEF) – 45pts – Ranked 31st in Defenders
Wayne Hennessey (GK) – 41pts – Ranked 17th in Goalkeepers
From this list it is obvious who is the obvious choices from Crystal Palace, Cabaye and Dann are standout, and this is why many FPL managers find the Eagles frustrating. Scott Dann for example has hit big in few matches, so it is a matter of patience. FPL managers want more consistent returns from their defenders; even if there is a goal threat no more than seventeen percent of players wants to take the gamble of backing the scouse defender. Wayne Hennessey’s inclusion is oddly unfair as he sat out a large part of the opening season with McCarthy starting between the sticks, but time will tell if he is worth it, but it is noted that Hennessey has all of the Eagles clean sheets so far. That leaves us with the mystery that is Yannick Bolasie, and if you watch Crystal Palace then you’ll know there is nobody more dangerous than the man from the Congo. He is a midfielder playing as a striker and even if he has great game he can come away with no returns to everyone’s disappointment.
There is optimism among players rating Crystal Palace players that at one point they are going to come through for them, because just like the pattern of showing up or not, when Palace show up it normally means huge hauls of points for managers hoping to be in the right place at the right time. Bolasie’s hatrick against Sunderland last season was testament to that, and nobody wants to miss out on that moment should it strike again.
There are only a few FPL options for Crystal Palace because they play as a team and do not have a single source of relief for FPL managers. In terms of Pardew’s philosophy he has a whole team and bench to look for goals and assists, there is no selfish unit in the Eagles arsenal.
Crystal Palace have the tools to get into the top six easily, they have every foundation in place from a capable manager to a strong team, and options on the bench. As highlighted in this article their biggest crutch is the ‘on switch’, as people are becoming more alert to the fact that Crystal Palace on a bad day don’t show up at all. Correct these errors and Pardew will win over haters, particularly on home soil. Crystal Palace are best described as a team of extremes, it a cavalier win or die attitude that seems infectious among the Eagles camp, this could be a mental barrier holding them back from reaching their ultimate aim, but in comparison to last season they are on track to beat their standing from last year without doubt.
January will provide a lot of insight as to how far the Eagles choose to soar, bring in a class striker to provide goals and they have a team capable of reaching their expectation. Unpredictability of this season means they have a chance to grab the league by its neck and shake it down, and Alan Pardew has experience of doing this with Newcastle when he guided them to European football after they got promoted. Shades of that form are returning to Pardew’s methods and should he deliver that feat for Crystal Palace it will be his best achievement as a manager to date. The Eagles fearless attitude when the switch is turned on is breath-taking viewing, and the key to their hopes reaching fruition is finding that consistency which is why a striker and a partner for Scott Dann in the heart of defense should see them through.
One thing that The Hype Train admires about Crystal Palace is their total lack of respect for other teams, they knock on the door with a wrecking ball and pillage the whole house for valuables. They then look to the next house next door and plan the exact same strategy. Heritage means nothing to them, wins over Liverpool and Chelsea proved that, especially because Pardew gave Jurgen Klopp an introduction to his no-nonsense demeanour. Like his team Pardew doesn’t back down easily and he likes to speak his mind. Unlike other managers he doesn’t have the concerns of European football to distract him from the Premier League which is his sole focus. We are now going to compare Crystal Palace to other teams in the top half and see where they stand:
Leicester: Most likely finish in the top four
Arsenal: Most likely finish in the top four
Man City: Most likely finish in the top four
Spurs: Inconsistent and have a ‘draw’ mentality
Watford: Palace more established, have experience on their side.
Liverpool: Massively inconsistent, expecting more of the same for the Reds.
Man Utd: Have lost their defensive and attacking prowess recently.
Everton: Mirrors their Merseyside neighbours.
West Ham: Injury problems will curse the Hammers, particularly to their forwards.
Crystal Palace: Have kept true to their form that Alan Pardew brought in last season.
We wanted to give some time to Leicester City this week but thought it was much more fitting to praise Crystal Palace who have had a great start to the season so far. Teams will expect them to drop off but having considered all factors in play it is actually very likely to see them fight for a place high up in the table this year. Merseyside clubs will be disappointed, and perhaps even the established Spurs and Man Utd will be left scratching their heads. If Alan Pardew can do it with Newcastle then there is no reason for a repeat with Crystal Palace. Why not? Crystal Palace have a plan, and with one of the top managers of the league in their corner Steve Parish might just be the luckiest man alive ahead of the expected merge. Pardew is one of the most experienced managers in the game and offers the world to his fervent support after knowing what it takes to succeed. Leicester may offer surprise of the season, but the chaos of the 2015/16 opera may filter down to other European places. Fourth place in the Premier League is up for grabs and at the moment Crystal Palace are in prime position to do the impossible and claim their place in Europe’s elite competition.