Arsenal Game Good Indicator For Palace
Each passing year at Crystal Palace of late has seemed to bring with it a rapid sense of development.
Progress of course made much easier with the pool of resources the Premier League has to offer, but as the Eagles face their first game at Selhurst this season against Arsenal on Sunday, our opponents provide a good barometer as to how far the club has come since staring into the abyss just over five years ago.
There are a number of areas that link Crystal Palace to Arsenal. Aside from the obvious London factor, there have been a fair few players that have donned both shirts over the years. In recent memory, the most notable are the likes of Ian Wright, Eddie McGoldrick and Kenny Samson with honourable mentions too for Andy Linighan, Tommy Black, Julian Gray and the affable but largely useless Yaya Sanogo.
The inclusion of Sanogo’s name is an important one. Picked up on loan last January, the switch to Selhurst was seen by many as the potential move for the fringe Arsenal player that would give him a platform to get some regular Premier League experience in an attempt to harvest the potential that Wenger had seen in the young French striker.
Fast forward six months, and the reality of that move was that Sanogo simply was not of enough quality to cement a place in the Palace side, despite a promising start to his Palace career at Southampton in the FA Cup.
The current squad that Alan Pardew has built, is now laced with quality, with the arrival of Cabaye signalling a seismic shift in both the pulling power of a stable side like Palace and the quality of player the club has at its disposal. Cabaye, for many, is a player that would not look out of place in an Arsenal side challenging for the league title and competing in the latter stages of European competition.
Furthermore, with Arsenal’s defensive frailties again being exposed in their defeat to West Ham last weekend, it would not be too outlandish a claim to suggest Scott Dann is the sort of centre back that would help solidify an Arsenal rearguard. Dann, subject to a lot of interest in the summer from Everton, has seen his stock rise in his eighteen months at Palace where he can now reliably consider himself not too far down the England pecking order if he maintains his exemplary form of last season.
It seems a far cry from earlier this century, when excitement greeted the arrival of Tommy Black and Julian Gray, two Arsenal youth castaways deemed not of the ability to further their career at Arsenal. Black and Gray both featured prominently for Palace at a time when not even fringe players at the North London club would have considered a move to SE25. Certainly not on a permanent basis, the Ashley Cole loan spell aside.
Sunday’s encounter should make for an interesting early season test for Palace. Keen to build on the somewhat fortuitous victory over Norwich on the opening weekend, the coming weeks will start to shape exactly how Palace plan on building on their last two fantastic seasons in the top flight. Factoring in the exciting wing play of Zaha and Bolasie, you there have two other players in Palace’s potential starting eleven that would not look out of place in a squad with the calibre of the first visitors to Selhurst Park this season.
Of course much has been made about the strength and depth Palace have accumulated over the summer and preceding months. A bench boasting Wickham, Bolasie, Jedinak and Bamford last weekend further emphasises the point that conversations about Palace are certainly started in a more positive light. That said, it must also be remembered that it is not just Palace who are making forward advances in the Premier League market.
Stoke City, West Ham United, Swansea City, Southampton and even Newcastle United have all added notable quality to their playing squad, highlighting the reality that a few good signings doesn’t necessarily guarantee an improvement on last season. A rejuvenated Everton, buoyant Leicester City and others will also feel that they can jostle for position in that mid table mini league that acts as the divide between Europe and relegation.
A good performance against Arsenal will be welcomed, before any considerations of the result are put in place. With ropey home form last year and Arsenal’s loftier ambitions for this season, Palace holding their own side by side with the perennial top four club should be a good indicator of how Palace hope to push on. And that is the important thing – the level footing that Palace will approach the game with this weekend. There are no Arsenal castaways or reserve team players making up Palace’s numbers, but a group that will be looking at this as an opportunity for a good three points.
And while consistent performances against bigger clubs in recent years would put Palace’s better players like Wright and McGoldrick in the Arsenal shop window, that is no longer the case. Alan Pardew’s side are no longer there to make up the numbers.