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Football News: Crystal Palace Season Review

Crystal Palace Season Review
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Crystal Palace Season Review

That was a bit of a rollercoaster ride for Palace last season, following an FA Cup final appearance to end the previous one. With the new American owners backing, Alan Pardew was able to spend big to build on the FA Cup success and he splashed out £50m on Christian Benteke, James Tomkins and Andros Townsend. After 6 matches in the Premier League it all seemed to be working well, with the Eagles sat happily in 7th place, having won 3 of that run of six games. That was as good as it got for Pardew, a run of 6 defeats in a row saw the team slide down the table to sit just outside the relegation places, but looking dead certs to drop further.

Eventually the disorganisation and lack of leadership from him saw Pardew booted out in December and the call was sent out to Sam Allardyce to rescue another side that looked doomed to the drop. At first the arrival had little effect, as Allardyce's proud record of never suffering a relegation began to come under severe pressure with Palace dropping to 19th in February, despite another spending spree in the January transfer window. However the players got together for a team meeting and realised that they were the ones at fault. Realising their survival chances rested on them 'buying into' Allardyce's methodology and working with it, they threw their backing behind him.

With the players and the manager singing off the same hymn sheet, things quickly improved and Allardyce was able to hold onto his proud record. Defensive organisation improved and clean sheets became a genuine possibility, as you would expect under Allardyce. A trio of shock wins over top 6 clubs Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool pulled Palace clear of the relegation places and they never looked back. The end of season resignation of Allardyce and arrival of Frank De Boer, has meant increased optimism around the club. A fresh and exciting feel, rather than the bitter and confrontational air that surrounded the Pardew era.

Alan Pardew

Disorganisation, discord and disunity were a big part of the issues that surrounded Palace's team under Pardew. In particular the defence was shambolic under him, with little to no teamwork amongst the players. Though the attack was as poorly coached, it had individual flair to dig it out of trouble sometimes. It is hard to understand how Alan Pardew has made a career out of being a Premier League coach, as each time it has the same pattern: a short period of success followed by disintegration of the team until he is sacked.

Pardew is unable to do the basics, to organise a team, to create a style of play that works, to build a team that fights for each other and to avoid embarrassing himself with his idiotic antics on the sidelines and in interviews. That is not helpful for team morale, it does not help the team get results either. His successor showed exactly what the Eagles needed, the basics done right.

Marks out of 10: -9

Sam Allardyce

Allardyce came in with a point to prove to his critics, following his removal from the England role, and prove it he did, to a degree. He did improve the team by coaching, ensuring the basics were done right, but the main reason that things improved was that Allardyce worked the transfer market well in January. It was as much to do with skilful use of the chequebook as good coaching that his team survived to play in the Premier League again next season. It is the basics that he does so well, bringing in players to fit the gaps in the team, rather than the haphazard recruitment of the previous regime.

The big surprise was that it took so long for him to achieve safety, which shows just how bad a mess it was that Allardyce inherited. The question is, was his retirement final or will he find a new niche for himself as a relegation saviour for short term roles?

Marks out of 10: 8

Yannick Bolasie

Bolasie made just one appearance before heading off to join Everton for £25m in the summer transfer window.

Marks out of 10: 2

Mile Jedinak

The Australian midfielder played the full 90 minutes of the first game before being sold to Aston Villa in the Championship. It had been a struggle for him to adapt to the pace in the Premier League and it was decided, at the age of 32, it was time to cash in.

Marks out of 10: 3

Jordon Mutch

When he was emerging at Cardiff City, Mutch was seen as a bright hope for the future, a couple of moves later and he is struggling to get a regular game, even in a struggling Palace side. Four substitute appearances are all he has to show before being shipped off on loan to Reading in the Championship. It was beyond him to even make the squad at all most weeks.

Marks out of 10: -2

Mamadhou Sakho

After arriving on loan from Liverpool in January, after falling out with boss Jurgen Klopp, Allardyce got the big Frenchman performing to a high level. High enough to make himself a cult hero amongst the fans, as their previously weak defence began to keep clean sheets with him at the centre. How much of that was down to Sakho and how much was down to Allardyce's tactical set up is debatable, but there is little doubt he was impressive until a knee injury ended his season early.

Marks out of 10: 7

Loic Remy

The forward spent the season on loan from Chelsea but sent a long time out injured, then could barely get in the squad after recovering. Remy has struggled ever since moving to Chelsea, even his loan spells have not worked out for him. This was another struggle of a season.

Marks out of 10: -7.5

Steve Mandanda

It was a coup when the Eagles picked up Mandanda from Marseille on a free. Just ten games into his Palace career and he suffered a season ending knee injury.

Marks out of 10: 2.5

Wayne Hennessey

The Welsh international had probably expected to spend the season watching from the bench after the arrival of Mandanda, following his dropping for the French keeper. However Mandanda's knee injury gave him a chance to return to the team and he held on to his place for the rest of the season, with some good performances.

Marks out of 10: 6.5

Julian Speroni

The Argentine keeper has dropped out of the reckoning now, making just two appearances, both in the FA Cup 3rd round, before getting dropped for the 4th round, despite only conceding one goal in those 2 matches.

Marks out of 10: 2

James Tomkins

One of a bunch of summer signings, Tomkins arrived from West Ham United and slotted straight in to become a regular in the Palace defence. Never looked truly solid back there, though he did improve when paired with Sakho in the second half of the season.

Marks out of 10: 3

Scott Dann

Dann is an interesting centre back, for years he has been knocking around the lower half of the Prem, improving the defence he plays in. Dann is not the best defender in his own right, but he has a knack for improving the play of those alongside him, while he usually goes unnoticed until one of his lengthy injuries, that his career has been plagued with, when the defence he played in usually falls apart. This time around, even he could do little to improve the defence under Pardew and Allardyce did not need his particular skillset, so his injuries did not cause a major issue. In fact, for once, the defence improved during his absence, as the team finally got behind Allardyce in his absence.

Marks out of 10: 2

Damien Delaney

The veteran Irish international defender arrived at Palace on a free from Ipswich Town five years ago now, but is still going strong at 35. Strong enough to get a new contract this season to keep him at the London club for another season. A mainstay of the defence, he does lack pace but he is solid and usually dependable.

Marks out of 10: 5.5

Patrick van Aanholt

Since leaving Chelsea to join Sunderland, the former PSV Eindhoven youth player has built a reputation as a very attacking left back who tends to forget completely about his defensive responsibilities. So it was a bit of a surprise that Allardyce moved to bring him in to Palace in the January transfer window. Other than a spell in March and April when injury kept him out, he was a big part of Allardyce's rebuilt Eagles' team.

Marks out of 10: 5

Jeffrey Schlupp

Another of Allardyce's January buys, intended for the left of midfield, but ended up covering at left back and, in time of desperate need, centre back against Manchester City. It was a bit of a change for Schlupp to return to a relegation battling side from the previous season's champions Leicester City. His pace and willingness to play anywhere was a big part of Palace's revival.

Marks out of 10: 5.5

Papa Souare

After just three Premier League games and 1 EFL Cup match, Souare was involved in a traffic accident that ended his season and raised doubts over his future career. His injury left a huge hole at left back for the team.

Marks out of 10: 1.5

Zeki Fryers

The left back only made 12 appearances, despite the injury to Souare, and impressed to such a degree he was released in the summer!

Marks out of 10: -6

Joel Ward

Somehow Ward has become an ever-present at full back in the Premier League, despite lacking quality, both defensively and offensively. His only real quality seems to be an ability to avoid injury and so make himself available for every game. Regularly caught out of position when getting forward, lacks the ability to pick a pass or put in a good cross when he is forward, it is a symptom of the lack of quality fullbacks in the game currently that he is playing in the Premier League.

Marks out of 10: 2

Martin Kelly

Kelly has failed to kick on since breaking through at Liverpool in a right back role. His early success, including an England call up, was soon put to a stop by injuries, which have since hampered his career in the long term. A move to Crystal Palace has not really seen him get back to his initial form, but he did show some promising signs, amidst a bunch of mistakes, when the Eagles were forced to put him back to the position he played in youth football, centre back. Still, it was all a long way from the performance levels he showed when he first broke through.

Marks out of 10: 2.5

Luka Milivojevic

The Serbian arrived from Olympiakos in the January transfer window to fill the gaping hole in midfield that was being left by the more attacking players Palace possessed. Milivojevic was very comfortably amongst the club's better performers as the club fought their way out of relegation trouble. He broke up play and moved the ball on quickly, he also got forward to support attacks and scored a couple of goals. Though you have to wonder if he got less bookings than he probably should have due to his name being so difficult to spell for referees, as Milivojevic was always willing to make the challenge to break up an attack.

Marks out of 10: 7.5

Mathieu Flamini

Flamini has been a fading force ever since he left Arsenal to join AC Milan. With more wealth, on paper at least, than he could ever possibly spend, it does seem like his motivation has gone. It was little wonder his few short late-game substitute appearances were not enough to get him a new contract and he has left the club on a free.

Marks out of 10: -3.5

Yohan Cabaye

Cabaye still has that creative ability and can still crack one in, but he suffered in the early part of the season by being asked to perform a more defensive role. The arrival of Milivojevic freed him up to play further forward, where he is much happier and he looked more like the player that has performed well enough at Newcastle United to tempt PSG to buy him.

Marks out of 10: 5.5

James McArthur

The Scottish midfielder offers huge amounts of work, but little in the way of quality. McArthur did manage to weigh in with his fair share of goals, his 5 in total made him the 3rd highest scorer at the club last season.

Marks out of 10: 4.5

Joe Ledley

Ledley was gradually eased out of the team over the course of the season, after his performances were enough to convince Allardyce that he was not good enough for the first team.

Marks out of 10: 1

Bakary Sako

Sako has once again suffered an injury hit season, which seems to have happened to him every year since joining Palace from Wolverhampton Wanderers. With the AFCON mid-season also affecting his availablity, he never had a chance to get going and impress the manager.

Marks out of 10: 1.5

Wilfried Zaha

Zaha's pace and trickery were Palace's main threat over the course of the season, with the, now, Ivory Coast international beginning to add an end product to his game, at long last. He has always had a goal threat, but now he has added assists to his game with 11 last season. That has made him a much better player than he was, when he just ran and ran, followed by hitting and hoping.

Marks out of 10: 6.5

Andros Townsend

At times Townsend can be devastating, he has incredible pace and good trickery, plus a decent shot, but those times are so very few and far between. More often he plays with his head down, running very fast then hitting and hoping with the final ball, whether it is a cross or a shot. There were times this season when Townsend looked a proper player, but it was only a flash here and there.

Marks out of 10: 3

Jason Puncheon

Played a different role most of this season, deeper than he usually plays, in central midfield. Puncheon was expected to do more to break up play than he is used to, rather than just be a playmaker. As the season wore on Puncheon began to grow into the role but he never looked entirely comfortable there.

Marks out of 10: 5.5

Chung-Yong Lee

At one time the Korean winger was highly rated, but injuries and loss of form have taken their toll. This season was a struggle for him, very few starts and not many more chances as a sub either, when he was even included in the squad. Lee is a long way from the form he once showed at Bolton Wanderers.

Marks out of 10: 1

Christian Benteke

The big Belgian striker was a club record signing from Liverpool in the summer, and went on to be the club's top scorer over the course of the season. However, for a player with his power, pace and quality, it always feels like he should do more. 15 goals was a decent return for Benteke, but it is hard not to feel he should have done better.

Marks out of 10: 6

Connor Wickham

The big striker was in and out of the squad before his season was ended early by a cruciate ligament rupture.

Marks out of 10: 2

Frazier Campbell

Struggles with hamstring injuries aside, Campbell has really not lived up to his potential, with a real lack of goal threat from the forward. This was a particularly poor season, with just one goal all season.

Marks out of 10: 0

Written by Tris Burke June 30 2017 09:50:29