Season Preview: Crystal Palace

Andrew Gastelum
Rotoworld

Fans at Crystal Palace must be uneasy over the club’s chances for the upcoming season. No club has spent less money this summer than Palace and only a transfer-ban Chelsea has seen less players come into the squad in the current transfer window. Will veteran savvy and Roy Hodgson’s experience be enough to see the club through a scary opening schedule? It looks doubtful, to say the least.

 

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In the next week, we are Rotoworld will be loading you up with club previews and lots of content to get you ready for the start of the season. I’m welcoming all suggestions and debates on Twitter (@gastelumEPL) and hopefully I can include your thoughts here in this column. Just a few days before the start of the season!

 

 

Last Season: Finished 12th, 38 Points, 51 Goals For, 53 Goals Against; Quarterfinals FA Cup; Top Scorer: Luka Milivojevic (12)

 

Arrivals: Jordan Ayew (Swansea City), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Víctor Camarasa (on loan from Real Betis), Stephen Henderson (Nottingham Forest),

 

Departures:  Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Manchester United), Pape Souaré (Troyes), Julián Speroni (released), Jason Puncheon (Pafos), Bakary Sako (released), Alexander Sorloth (on loan to Trabzonspor)

2018-19 Summary: After the a debacle of a start in 2017/18 (remember the short-lived Frank de Boer era where the club lost its first seven games?), Palace won their first game of the season; then, they fell back into the early-season doldrums with eight losses in the first 13 games including seven games without a goal. Yet somehow, like every year since their reappearance in the Premier League, Palace bounced back somewhere along the way and avoided relegation. Nine of the club’s 14 wins came in the second half of the season where an FA Cup win over Tottenham seemed to buoy the team for the rest of the season.

 

But out of a hectic season, perhaps the biggest surprise in the Premier League emerged from Selhurst Park in Aaron Wan-Bissaka. The 21-year-old became the hottest bargain fantasy pick from early on and was even named Crystal Palace Player of the Season. But maybe he was too good: The England U23 just left for Manchester United in a £45 million move after just one season in the senior side. Meanwhile, moves for Vicente Guaita and Cheikhou Kouyaté shored up some of the team’s biggest weaknesses while Luka Milivojevic and Wilfried Zaha led the team in scoring once again despite more lackluster production from the club’s forward’s, which even included Michy Batshuayi on loan for half the year.

 

2019-20 Forecast: The forecast seems pretty straightforward: grim with a chance of an early sacking. The opening schedule is challenging to say the least, including a stretch in mid-October when the club must face Manchester City, Arsenal, Leicester City, Chelsea and Liverpool all in a row. Given Crystal Palace’s penchant for slow starts, I can’t see Roy Hodgson surviving this one, and if he does we might as well consider him for Premier League Manager of the Year considering the limited resources he’s been given in his two seasons at the helm.

 

Now the club has lost Wan-Bissaka and star winger Wilfried Zaha has also reportedly asked to leave the club, although Arsenal fell well short of the club’s firm valuation as Everton remain the only club somewhat in the running. However it’s not a good position to be in when there’s more talk about who’s leaving than coming in. The squad is one of the thinnest, if not the slightest, in the Premier League with only 19 players on the FPL.com roster. There are massive gaps at full-back and the forwards have all seen their best days behind them. While everyone else around the club in the table has been adding reinforcements, Palace have only spent £2.5 million this summer. With just 24 hours before the transfer deadline, things do not look promising for Crystal Palace this season.

 

DEFENDERS:

With their star defender now gone, Joel Ward and Martin Kelly are expected to fill in at right back after Wan-Bissaka’s hasty exit. Fullback, which was once the club’s biggest strength, now looks like a weakness after Palace have failed to reinvest that £45 million payday from Manchester United. The addition of Gary Cahill on a free looks to be a shrewd move as a center-half pairing of Cahill and Mamadou Sakho at least gives the Eagles an experienced and battle-tested back-line to hold things down until an injury exposes their depth problems.

 

Patrick Van Aanholt remains the club’s best fantasy option in defense, especially if you can get him in the later rounds of a draft. But at £5.5 in the Premier League, his price looks steep until he becomes one of the club’s leading scorers. The Dutch international only scored three goals last season but set a career-high in minutes, proving that he could do enough defensively to become an everyday defender. Vicente Guaita also received a price boost that puts him out of contention for most FPL.com teams at £5.0.

 

MIDFIELDERS:

The club does have a veritable strength, and that’s in its midfield core. Luka Milivojevic leads by example as club captain and leading scorer based almost entirely off of penalties alone. But finally the FPL.com trendsetters have raised his price enough to give you a difficult decision at £7.0 after finishing seventh among midfielders in FPL.com points last season, more than stars like Christian Eriksen and Bernardo Silva. Pairing him with Cheikhou Kouyaté and James McArthur has given Roy Hodgson a solid base in midfield that covers the blemishes in the rest of the squad, although Milivojevic is the only central midfielder worth considering in FPL.

 

Then there’s the bargain of the preseason, and it comes in Wilfried Zaha’s £7.0 price-tag. After the best season of his career with 10 goals and 11 assists and a career high in minutes while listed as a forward, I don’t know where the stagnant £7.0 valuation comes from—I’m just happy I get to take full advantage of it. If only he took penalties; regardless, I still expect Zaha to lead the team in goals and have a monster year to set up a long-awaited transfer to a Champions League club. And the good deals don’t stop there: Andros Townsend is listed at just £6.0 after a setting a career high with six goals.

 

FORWARDS:

I really wish we could have seen more of Michy Batshuayi at Selhurst Park—he never really settled in having come to the club in January as he worked past several niggling injuries. Seeing record signing Christian Benteke priced at £6.0 is still a shock; I remember when the Belgian international was listed at £9.0 and consistently recorded double-digit goal tallies. Last year, he recorded just one goal…one. It’s been a sad decline for Benteke, and unfortunately it would be wishful thinking to think this will be the year he turns it all around.

 

There are two FPL.com bargains at forward for Palace with Crystal Palace turning Jordan Ayew’s loan from Swansea City into a permanent deal for £2.5 million, the only they’ve spent all summer long. Ayew looks like the locked in starter for Palace up top and his price-tag makes him a low-risk, high-reward third forward option. And then there’s Connor Wickham, who has put together a solid preseason and is a Roy Hodgson favorite. The former Sunderland star is listed at just £4.5 and is expected to see substantial game time, meaning he’s the cheapest forward option in FPL.com who will play a serious part in the upcoming season.

 

 

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