If you compare the table and points total this season with pretty much any season since 2013, the Palace garden is looking rosy.
Top half of the table and 23 points (as I am writing) is a much better performance than we have had bar 2015/16.
In many ways there are in fact parallels with that season. We were just out of the top four (!) on goal difference at Christmas that season. The European tour plans were in full swing. Our only signing that January transfer window was Emmanuel Adebayor. The feeling at the time was that the points total and form were good enough that we did not need to spend much money during the transfer window. With the benefit of hindsight, the only good thing about that signing was the one goal he scored against Watford and the fact that the deal only lasted to the end of the season.
Where I hope that the parallel does not correlate is our form the rest of that season. We went from top four contenders to relegation candidates alarmingly quickly and it was only some wins late in the season, most memorably Punch’s winner against Norwich City, that prevented us from having a truly nail biting end to the season. It was one of the most miserable periods to be a Palace supporter since our promotion in 2013. The FA Cup run was clearly a welcome distraction but I have no desire to go through that experience again.
Our current injury crisis – no truly fit full back, two of our goal scoring forward players (however meagre their return has been!) out and only one centre back fully fit or not suspended – suggests we need to address some of the gaps that were clear to all once Wan-Bissaka had been sold. When you add in the lack of a regularly scoring striker (Ayew has worked miracles but not exactly prolific), there are warning lights flashing in the rosy garden, if that is not too much of a mixed metaphor!
Since Roy has come in the owners has have not exactly flashed the cash with an overall negative net spend of tens of millions. For us to be confident that we will not have a repeat of the first five months of 2016 we desperately need some new signings to address at least some of these gaps.
In addition the lack of recruitment over the past two seasons has meant that our squad is ageing with many players at or beyond their physical peak. We currently not only have the oldest squad in the Premier League but the younger players we do have (Meyer and Riedewald) are barely getting a look in. Without new blood coming in, we are going to get into trouble, if not this season, but certainly in the next couple of seasons.
The genius that is Roy Hodgson has helped mask some of these risks due to his tactics and methods helping to get the best out of our squad and making sure that our defensive solidity keeps us in matches so that we can get those late equalisers or wins. There is, however, only so much Roy can do if he has no fit players. One day Roy will hang up his training ground boots and we need to be as prepared as we can be for that terrible day.
In some ways one can say that our injury crisis has come at the perfect time. It has given Roy the ammunition to raise the need to sign some players both privately to the club’s management and publicly, even if it gets edited out of the official club video of the post Brighton press conference! What I would love to see is some signings that first of all address the gaps we have had since the summer transfer window but also, if at all possible, address the age level of our squad. It does have to recognised that the latter concern is better addressed in the summer when there is more time to consider the best options and we are bringing players in mid season but it is still something that needs to be considered.
The fear is that the owners continue to watch the pennies reliant on Roy’s management skills and the return to fitness of our players. That will be a high risk strategy both for the rest of this season but even more so in the future. If, as is commonly accepted, the American owners want out, I hope they will be shrewd enough investors to realise they will have to spend some money protecting their investment. A club plunging towards the relegation zone is hardly going to attract new owners being asked to pay top dollar.
While now has been one of the best times to be a Palace supporter in our history, it is important that our successful start to the season does not hide our urgent need to address both our short and medium term recruitment needs. I hope the owners found a way to listen to Roy’s edited out comments.