It is fair to say that Palace had a very poor start to 2016.
Four Premier League losses have seen us drop down the table, and average (at best) performances have had lots of fans calling for fresh impetus within the squad, whether that be through new signings or a change of tactics and/or personnel.
The most worrying factor in the losing streak has been the lack of goals, with Palace having seemingly joined in with ‘Dry January’, albeit abstaining from scoring rather than alcohol. With the news emerging today that Connor Wickham has been charged with violent conduct for his needless elbowing antics and the continued absence of Yannick Bolasie, the feeling that Palace are on a bit of a downward spiral is palatable around supporters at the moment.
This brings us to the vital month of February. I do not agree with those that say our rightful position in the league is any lower than tenth. We have finished eleventh and tenth consecutively with a worse set of players than we have currently, and ninth or above should be a very realistic finishing spot. The Premier League is relatively tight this year, so eight points from February should see us shoot back up the table.
There are definitely reasons to believe we can go on a winning streak as well:
1. The transfer window is still open
In typical Palace fashion, we have left it to the last week to do our business. But it is not over yet, and I fully expect Pardew to bring in a couple of players before the window closes on the 1st February to add reinforcements to the squad to give everyone associated with the club a boost to turn our fortunes around.
Transfer wise, some of the more heavily linked names may seem uninspiring at first glance. However, contrary to popular opinion, I think Emmanuel Adebayor would be a good signing. He may seem like a troublesome character, but can one player really have that much of a negative effect on the dressing room?
The spirit around the team seems positive at the moment, and I do not think the culture at Palace will allow him to step out of line. Even Tim Sherwood got him playing well, and that is saying something! Similarly, Nicklas Bendtner. He is a figure of ridicule but so was Chamakh and he turned out to be a good signing. Then there is Loic Remy who is my personal preference. There is clearly negatives when signing a player (i.e Adebayor’s wages, Remy’s lack of match sharpness) but there is also real positives behind most of the players we have been linked with, and surely it is better to focus on these until the new signing has had a chance to prove himself?
2. Pardew’s infamous streaks
Throughout his career, Pardew has had many peaks and troughs during the duration of a season. Win four, then lose four. The losing streak sometimes lasted longer when at Newcastle United, but they always seem like they are on a losing streak whoever the manager is. Hopefully January was just one of those troughs and we get back to winning ways against Bournemouth.
3. The return of Yannick Bolasie
Without him in the team, we lose so much of our attacking threat and one of the main ingredients that have made us successful in the past few seasons. Wilfried Zaha has had a bit of an up and down month, but it has been hard for him with multiple defenders circling him every game. With Yannick Bolasie in the team, not only does the threat down the left hand side improve but Zaha has more space to wreak havoc as well. It is no coincidence that we only scored one goal in the league in January without him, and even that was an own goal. Dwight Gayle is also close to returning, and although I can still see him leaving, he gives us a chance to mix it up in the line up.
4. An easier set of fixtures
In January we played two of the top teams in the league in Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur, both of whom are very likely to finish in the top four, as well as last seasons champions, who still have world class players. Aston Villa was the most disappointing result by far and if we had have won that, I think the whole complexion of the month would have changed, but that is beside the point. Three of the four teams that we play are below us in the table currently, without being too low that we choke, like against Sunderland and Villa. The other opponent is only one place above us, Watford, and are very beatable in my eyes.
5. It cannot really get much worse
So although it seems that it is all a bit doom and gloom around Selhurst Park at the moment, there are reasons to be cheerful going into February. Well, that is what I try to tell myself anyway.