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Why Crystal Palace are the team to watch out for in 2015-16

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Under Tony Pulis, Crystal Palace became a difficult, resilient team to play against. After Pulis came to the club, Palace not only survived relegation but instead comfortably finished in mid-table. Therefore, it was a huge surprise to see Pulis depart the club ahead of the 2014-2015 season. Palace did not trust Pulis with transfers, which was fair given many of his transfer decisions at Stoke City. In came Neil Warnock, such an experienced manager in the Championship, but like Ian Holloway, a manager who has struggled in the English top-flight. With Warnock, the enjoyment soon dried out. And as Palace headed for another relegation battle, they decided to sack Warnock. They brought in Alan Pardew from Newcastle and their fortunes changed. The happiness was back at Selhurst Park, one of the best (if not the best) stadiums in terms of fan support in the Premier League. The results returned too, and Palace finished a respectable tenth in the league, far from the relegation spots.

This summer, Pardew is in charge and the goal for Palace should be upwards. The team contains a fantastic core of hardworking players, especially defensively, who can succeed at the top level. In midfield, Mile Jedinak has gone from strength to strength, and Palace’s captain could see a new face next to him in holding midfield this upcoming season. Palace have usually played in a 4-2-3-1 formation under Pardew, with Jason Puncheon playing in the hole as the No. 10 behind a striker (usually Glenn Murray). At the moment, the two defensive midfield spots have been covered by two of Jedinak, James McArthur, and Joe Ledley. Now they have made one of the biggest signings of the summer in Yohan Cabaye. The French international midfielder has played at his best under Pardew at Newcastle, and his great form for Newcastle saw him earn a move to Paris Saint Germain. Ultimately, he could not get consistent game time in an established midfield and has returned to the Premier League.

Cabaye played two different positions under Pardew at Newcastle. Against teams in the bottom half of the table, where Newcastle were ready to play proactively, Cabaye played as part of two central midfielders in a 4-4-2 formation. In tougher games, Cabaye was pushed upfield behind one of Demba Ba or Papiss Cisse in the Number 10 position. At Palace, Cabaye can expect the same. He can control midfield alongside Jedinak in games where Palace play proactively, linking up play and creating chances. The setup would be similar in style to Chelsea’s duo of Cesc Fabregas and Nemanja Matic, with one creator and one destroyer. Against the top teams, Cabaye can move further upfield and compete for a spot with Jason Puncheon. Puncheon is an underrated player, and he has put in some great performances for Palace under Pardew. For example, Puncheon scored two goals from direct free-kicks against Manchester City and Liverpool. Cabaye brings a similar threat, as he too is good from set-pieces. Jedinak is also a good free-kick taker, so Palace will be an even bigger threat from set-pieces next season.

The second position Crystal Palace lacked a bit of punch last season was up top. The likes of Shola Ameobi, Fraizer Campbell, Marouane Chamakh and Yaya Sanogo are not the type of quality required to compete for a European place. Sanogo and Ameobi have left, while Chamakh can still be a useful backup who works very hard. Glenn Murray played well last season, while Dwight Gayle is a good option off the bench, bringing speed to run in behind defences when they get tired. The addition of Patrick Bamford on loan could turn to be brilliant. He has been consistently superb in the lower divisions in England, and is coming off of two successful spells in the Championship. He even scored for Middlesborough last season in the FA Cup against Manchester City at the Etihad. Bamford will be keen to take this chance to put himself in Jose Mourinho’s plans for upcoming seasons. To establish himself at Chelsea, Bamford needs a good loan spell. For both parties, Bamford and Palace, the loan spell could well be a successful one. There has been talk of signing Charlie Austin from Queens Park Rangers, and if Palace can pull off a signing of this magnitude, they could be competing for European spots come the end of the season.

Palace have the hallmarks of a side ready to compete. They have quality goalkeepers in Julian Speroni, Alex McCarthy, and Wayne Hennessey, a solid defence and quality going forward in the likes of Wilfried Zaha and especially Yannick Bolasie. These two wingers have proven to be a threat to just about every top side in the league, helping Palace to a number of upsets across these last two seasons in England’s top flight. Add in an established Premier League midfielder in Cabaye and a young striker eager to impress in Bamford and you have a quality team. Considering what Palace did in the second half of last season, they are the team to watch out for in this upcoming Premier League season.

 

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