Nik Argiropoulos

Summer Priorities

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Crystal Palace: Summer So Far

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Pre-Season Prediction
Last summer I felt Crystal Palace had been promoted too early in their young squad's development and tipped them for relegation.
 
Finishing Position
An astonishing 11th position, after one of the most remarkable turnarounds in Premier League history.
 
 
2013-2014 Quick Review
Manager Ian Holloway had to improve his squad prior to the start of the season to give himself any hope of keeping Palace in the top tier - especially after losing key men Wifried Zaha to Manchester United and Glenn Murray to serious injury - but the ex-Blackpool boss made similar mistakes to Paolo Di Canio at Sunderland.
 
Holloway signed no fewer than 14 players, seemingly operating a scatter-gun approach and choosing quantity over quality. In fact, the club made so many new signings that there wasn't room for them all when it came to submit their 25 man squad in August. Unsurprisingly the approach did not work out, and with only four points gathered from the first 11 games of the season, Holloway jumped before he was pushed, with Palace rock bottom of the Premier League and set for relegation. Or so many people thought.
 
Tony Pulis was a surprise replacement, but boy did he prove to be the right man for the job. Under his stewardship the Eagles took 40 points from 27 games, securing another season in the top flight with plenty to spare. The methods brought in by the new manager led to the players flourishing, with success built on organisation and hard work. The goals didn't exactly flow but Pulis made sure Palace became very difficult to beat, and this led to a remarkable 11 clean sheets on the way to an 11th-placed finish, with a club record Premier League points total thrown in for good measure.
 
The entire squad deserves huge credit for such an achievement, with goalkeeper Julian Speroni, captain Mile Jedinak, Joel Ward and Jason Puncheon deserving of particular praise for astonishing consistency, producing performance after performance of the very highest quality. But the biggest pat on the back must be saved for Pulis, who was fully deserving of his LMA Premier League Manager of the Year award.
 
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Summer Departures
Neil Alexander (Released), Kagisho Dikgacoi (Cardiff City), Daniel Gabbidon (Released), Dean Moxey (Released), Jonathan Parr (Ipswich Town), Aaron Wilbraham (Released), Jose Campana (Sampdoria), Jack Hunt (Nottingham Forest - Loan)
 
Summer Needs
Striker - As mentioned earlier, while defensively solid Palace lacked goals last season. Jason Puncheon did a fine job scoring seven goals from out on the wing to end the campaign as top scorer and Dwight Gayle showed flashes of his potential, but goalscoring isn't one of Marouane Chamakh's strengths and Cameron Jerome returned to Stoke after his loan spell. Glenn Murray's return to fitness after a full pre-season is a massive boost, but another striker to replace Jerome (and the now retired Kevin Phillips) was needed. Pulis has put his faith in Fraizer Campbell from Cardiff.
 
Central Defender - With Danny Gabbidon released, Palace are a central defender short despite securing last year's loan-star Scott Dann on a permanent deal from Blackburn. The club did everything they could to convince Steven Caulker to join, but the ex-Cardiff man chose to rejoin old boss Harry Redknapp at QPR, so another defender must be brought in before the big kick-off.
 
Creative Attacking Midfielder - More frustration here, with Palace coming close to a move for Gylfi Sigurdsson. They had actually agreed a fee with Tottenham before the player was used in a trade with Swansea. Pulis will want to revisit this position and has been linked with a return for Zaha on a loan deal.
 
Central Midfielder - Kagisho Dikgacoi made the surprise decision to drop down a division to join Cardiff when his contract expired and has not yet been replaced. Joe Ledley has been excellent since he arrived at Selhurst Park back in January and will be expected to line-up alongside Jedinak in the center of midfield, but an additional option is required.
 
Summer So Far
Pulis has allowed a fair number of fringe players to leave the club, mainly those brought in by Holloway last summer, while loaning out some younger players. Losing Dikgacoi on a free transfer to Cardiff is a blow as he played a key role alongside Jedinak last season, but aside from that the club have done well to hold on to their most important squad members.
 
Julian Speroni had been linked with a move away after his contract expired, but Palace were able to tie him to a new deal before Sunderland could get their grasp on him, while Chamakh also signed a new contract. Fraizer Campbell's arrival alongside Murray's return means there are four strikers on the books, so that area is covered.
 
What's left on the shopping list is another central defender to provide competition and back-up for Damien Delaney and Scott Dann, a energetic central midfielder to replace Dikgacoi and a creative attacking midfielder to unpick defences. A full-back who can cover for Adrian Mariappa and Joel Ward would be useful, and perhaps another winger to take the pressure off Puncheon and the exciting Yannick Bolasie, but there is certainly no need for an overhaul.
 
This squad of players have proved to the manager that they have the discipline to adapt to his system, and they did a fantastic job for him last season, so the majority will be expected to keep their place in the starting XI. It's vital that nobody at the club gets complacent - the same attitude is required again - but a bit more defensive depth and a quality addition in midfield should be enough to ensure Palace avoid another relegation battle.


Nik Argiropoulos is a London-based soccer writer for Rotoworld and co-founder of Never Manage Alone. You can find him on Twitter @nikarg.
Email :Nik Argiropoulos





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