Premier League preview - Crystal Palace
Championship: 5th (promoted via play-offs)
FA Cup: Third Round
League Cup: Second Round
After an eight-year absence Crystal Palace are back in the Premier League. The question of course is can they achieve what no other Palace team has been able to in each of their three stints in the top flight since their first relegation back in 1993 - extend their stay for longer than a single season.
The Premier League has changed remarkably since Iain Dowie’s Eagles were relegated on the final day of the 2004/05 season and that goes for the club too, with administration entered and fought off in the eight years since.
Indeed, considering those very recent financial troubles it is remarkable that Palace even find themselves with an opportunity to face the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal again.
Last season’s initial aims were simply to stay up under Dougie Freedman, so to see the Eagles deservedly triumph in the £100m play-off final against Watford at Wembley last May under the stewardship of Ian Holloway took some believing for even the most optimistic of Palace supporters.
The momentum gained from that day as well as Holloway’s infectious enthusiasm and attacking style should serve Palace well this season but as their charismatic manager knows from his single year in the top flight at Blackpool, those factors can only take a club so far against the big boys.
The Eagles go into the campaign missing arguably their two most crucial attacking players from last season, with the twinkle-toed Wilfried Zaha now officially a Manchester United player while Glenn Murray, scorer of 31 goals last season, is out with a long-term knee injury.
While Holloway has not been frugal in the transfer market so far, the funds have not exactly been flowing at Selhurst Park, with the club’s owners seemingly set to invest most of the money received from being in the top flight into the club’s infrastructure.
However, some interesting business has still been done. Stephen Dobbie and veteran Kevin Phillips were loanees in South London last season and given their contributions to the club’s promotion campaign, it was hardly a surprise to see their signatures secured.
What was more of a surprise was the money spent on Dwight Gayle from Peterborough. The 23-year-old was playing non-league football no less than 18 months ago but impressed in the Championship last season, scoring 13 league goals for Posh - comparisons with Palace legend Ian Wright have already been made. Alongside him, Arsenal misfit Marouane Chamakh has been brought in and while the Moroccan has had a lean time of it in the last two seasons, he does represent proven international, Premier League and Champions League pedigree.
Elsewhere, the arrivals of Jerome Thomas and Elliot Grandin, wide players with top flight experience, look like shrewd moves by Holloway while the capture of Jose Campana from Sevilla, the 20-year-old who captained Spain’s under-19 side to the 2012 European Championship could be a hugely exciting one.
Manager - Ian Holloway: The 50-year-old will always be a favourite for journalists but has now firmly proven himself to be an excellent manager and more than deserves a second crack at the Premier League. Keeping Crystal Palace there may well be a tougher ask than it was in his failed attempt to keep Blackpool up but Holloway will certainly not be giving up without a fight.
Key signing - Dwight Gayle: Due to Murray’s injury, Kevin Phillip’s age and Marouane Chamakh’s lack of form, the pressure is on Gayle’s young shoulders to score the goals to give Palace a chance of staying up. His pace alone will be enough to worry defenders and if he can get close to 10 goals, it will represent good business.
Key sale - Andre Moritz: The 27-year-old Brazilian was hardly a regular in the Palace first XI last season but proved himself to be a valuable squad member capable of notching vital goals at hugely important times. Bearing that in mind and the need to keep squad numbers high, it resembles a bit of a surprise that he was allowed to leave the club on a free transfer.
Keep an eye out for - Jonathan Williams: The youngster they call “Joniesta” continues to excel at Selhurst Park and in the Premier League where he may just have that little bit more time on the ball than in the Championship, the Welshman could be set to gain even more admirers. May not play every week but expect his technical skills and passing ability to catch the eye when he does take the field.
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