TEB Writers Share Their Thoughts Ahead Of New Campaign

It is good to be back even though the new campaign is upon us thick and fast with hardly an opportunity to draw breath. With that in mind, we kick off the 2020-21 season with a few predictions from some of the writers here at TEB HQ.

SAM SMITH

Q. How will Palace fare this season?

With the much-needed additions of younger players to redress the ageing squad, supporters should be excited ahead of the new season. The club has addressed a few of the problem positions; the signing of Ebere Eze will bring creativity from midfield which was lacking last season. Nathan Ferguson brings some competition at full-back.

However, for most of the younger players this will be their first taste of Premier League football and expectations should be tempered. Another season of consolidation before trying to break into the top ten the year after has to be the short-term goal.

Q. What are the needs before the transfer window closes?

The overall aim of the window should be to continue dragging down the average age of the squad.

A centre-back is still necessary. Mamadou Sakho and James Tomkins are excellent defenders but are unreliable with injuries. There has been no definite timescale on the return of Gary Cahill, leaving Scott Dann, Cheikhou Kouyate and Martin Kelly as the only first-team options for at least the first few weeks of the season.

Supporters yearn for a 15-goal striker but, in the current climate and with other areas where signings are often cheaper needing to be addressed, that may not be possible.

Q. Premier League predictions;

Palace finish: 13th
Champions: Liverpool
2nd: Chelsea
3rd: Manchester City
4th: Manchester United
Bottom three: Fulham, West Brom, Brighton

DAN CRAME

Q. How will Palace fare this season?

I always find it hard to predict where Palace will finish each season so with the aftermath of the pandemic to take into account too, it’s near impossible. That said, with a few good squad additions and the avoidance of injuries throughout the season, Palace have a very good chance of a solid top half finish. This campaign will be a whole lot harder than the last however, due to the strength of the top six and the promoted sides. 

Q. What are the needs before the transfer window closes?

The addition of Eze from QPR is a huge boost for Palace. His creativity and vision from the midfield area is fantastic and all Palace fans will be buzzing to see him succeed for us. Getting a new striker in would also be a good move. Relying on just Jordan Ayew as our main man in front of goal for a whole season wouldn’t be productive and could prove costly due to the unreliability of Benteke and Wickham. I would also go as far to say that another right-back would be helpful. Don’t get me wrong, having Joel Ward still taking up that spot eight years on from our promotion to the Premier League has a very sentimental value to it but, we need depth and Joel needs competition. If I was a scout, Jayden Bogle of Derby would be top of that list. 

Q. Premier League predictions;

Palace finish: 9th
Champions: Manchester City
2nd: Chelsea
3rd: Liverpool
4th: Manchester United
Bottom three: Fulham, West Brom, West Ham

JAMIE LAWRENCE

Q. How will Palace fare this season?

It’s been one of the strangest years in the world of football and sport in general in our lifetimes, not since World War Two has the football season been so dramatically paused, and unfortunately, overshadowed by such a dreadful set of circumstances. Palace came back after lockdown all guns blazing with a storming victory over Bournemouth, unfotunately, as is all too often with our aging squad, the ammunition soon ran out, and we subsequently endured a Pardew-esque run of form that saw us slip down the table, finishing in a pretty mediocre position, not looking over our shoulders, but not looking forward either.

It was all seemingly quite a glum set of circumstances, yet our business so far this (decidedly late) transfer window has been nothing short of completely refreshing. With our recent Category 1 academy status confirmed, we’ve brought in some terrific young talent in the form of Eze and Ferguson, with some intriguing loan signings in the form of Gallagher seemingly on the horizon too, there is reason for optimism. The big question is will Roy play these upstarts when he clearly favours the older, more experienced player? Only time will tell, but these movements in the window represent a seismic shift in policy which spells a potentially bright future for the club.

So, where does that leave us? Well, my season finish prediction is a bit further down; it is understandably pessimistic, it’s Palace after all, we won’t get everything right… but I think we can finally start to look forward, rather than over our shoulders. Last season was the first time I was not concerned about relegation at all throughout the season, I hope this continues, for the sake of my health, and my worryingly depleted hairline.

Q. What are the needs before the transfer window closes?

Despite Palace Twitter stating to the contrary, I genuinely believe we currently have access to one of the strongest squads in our history, certainly in the past 25 years. With the additions we’ve made, my hope is that we keep the existing foundations of the squad, with the additions of some more top young talent. Early in the window we were linked with the brilliant Ollie Watkins from Brentford, I can’t tell you what a significant statement of intent that would be if we were able to get that signing across the line, although the chances are slim. For me, I am happy now, but a striker would top off a solid window for me without upsetting the harmony in the squad.

I’m not actually fussed if Wilf leaves either, he’s had an amazing run, last summer’s Transfer Request saga left a rather bitter taste in the mouth, and performances last season were pretty mediocre on the most part. If he does stay however, let’s hope for the Wilf that we know and love to return, to link up with the new signings and bring some excitement back to Selhurst.

Q. Premier League predictions;

10th – I still don’t think we’ll make it to top half, the quality in teams such as Wolves, Everton, Sheff United, Newcastle etc along with the usual top 5-6 teams will see us cut out from the top half, but I predict another safe, secure season allowing us to continue to build on the existing foundations.

Champions is a difficult call, Liverpool looked unstoppable last year but Chelsea for me have had an unbelievable transfer window, and if Lionel Messi heads to the blue half of Manchester who knows what could happen. I think it’ll be a lot closer this year but I have to go with Liverpool again, Jurgen Klopp is a top class manager and after 30 years they deserved every success this year and going forward too.

Top four for me has to include Chelsea and City, alongside Liverpool. Fourth is harder to call. I despise Arsenal because one of my closest friends supports them despite being from Northampton. However, they have put in some solid performances under Arteta but then Wolves and Leicester have also been in great form in recent seasons. I cannot rule out United either, they’ve looked solid as a rock this year too. The jury is still out, but if there is a gun to my head, I’m going to go for Arsenal and hope that I am wrong!

Finally bottom three. It’s not nice to have to predict a team to be relegated (the only exceptions being Watford, I’m absolutely delighted that they’re no longer an ongoing concern). I think most typical Palace fans will yearn for Brighton’s demise, yet I am not one. I think it’s a fantastically well run club with a good manager, although with a slightly bizarre transfer policy of selling some of their best players, they’ll definitely be in the mix, but relegated? Not for me, no.

I think Fulham will be in trouble, they don’t seem very consistent to me, although I didn’t catch as many of their games last season to completely pass judgment. Leeds, for all their spending, seem to be falling into the trap Fulham did a few years ago, sometimes big spending doesn’t secure big results, however I think they’ll stay up.

So, Fulham I think will go back down, West Brom I don’t think will stay up either, I just don’t think they are good enough. The final spot is so hard to predict, this is the strongest Premier League in a very very long time, for me though it’s between West Ham and Villa – I can’t decide who to pick so will leave it open to interpretation, and we’ll just see how this season pans out.

MARK SILVERSTEIN

Q. How will Palace fare this season?

I am viewing this season with more trepidation than any season since 2013-14. The end of last season showed how an ageing squad with little attacking threat would fare this coming season. Thankfully the club’s management have realised they need to spend money to address these issues, but if we lose Wilf there will be a huge amount of change to contend with. I believe Roy is the man to manage this transition but it could get tricky .

Q. What are the needs before the transfer window closes?

Having made some excellent signings this close season already to bring down the age of the squad we still need a striker who is capable of scoring goals this season (i.e. not one for the future) and if possible some younger defenders and midfielders, more with a view to future development.

Q. Premier League predictions;

Palace finish: 11th
Champions: Manchester City
2nd: Liverpool
3rd: Manchester United
4th: Chelsea
Bottom three: Aston Villa, West Brom, Newcastle

STEPHEN LEHANE

Q. How will Palace fare this season?

I think we will struggle and I do not think Roy Hodgson shows enough ambition so a survival mentality pervades in the team.

Q. What are the needs before the transfer window closes?

A goal scorer. A midfield playmaker. A new manager.

Q. Premier League predictions;

Palace finish: 16th
Champions: Manchester City
2nd: Liverpool
3rd: Arsenal
4th: Manchester United
Bottom three: Fulham, Brighton, Newcastle

ANDY LEISEN

Q. How will Palace fare this season?

My heart says that Palace will be a top ten club with Europa League aspirations but my head says otherwise. Palace have struggled scoring goals the last few seasons and unfortunately that trend does not look to end. Roy Hodgson’s conservative tactics coupled with the lack of forward thinking signings have really hindered the clubs goal output in recent years. The purchase of Championship youngster Eberechi Eze is a great step forward and hopefully a sign of things to come.

Q. What are the needs before the transfer window closes?

Palace NEED a goal scorer. In the worst way. Anyone that can score goals are welcome to come play for the club. Also, in what used to be an area of depth for the club is now a position in need with injuries and old age creeping up with Palace’s central defenders. There have been rumours of a Mamadou Sakho deal back to France that have not materialised and long term injuries to Gary Cahill and James Tomkins have really weakened the middle of the defence. So much so that Cheikhou Kouyate has featured at centre back during the pre-season. 

My perfect transfer window? Sell Sorloth. Buy Michy. Keep Zaha. European Tour commence.

Q. Premier League predictions;

Palace finish: 12th
Champions: Manchester City
2nd: Chelsea
3rd: Liverpool
4th: Manchester United
Bottom three: West Brom, Brighton, Sheffield United

WILL BRENNAN

Q. How will Palace fare this season?

I think what we will see is the same rigid defensive structure. It is too early to tell whether Eze is the key in our attacking mishaps or not, and to pin our hopes on one youngster does make me nervous. But if we improve our attack even in a small way I can see us comfortably 10th.

Q. What are the needs before the transfer window closes?

A striker is the obvious choice but it is a tricky market. If we could scoop another Cahill style cheap/free CB that would be great, god knows we need options for our injury prone defence, even when it looks like we have plenty.

Q. Premier League predictions;

Palace finish: 10th
Champions: Liverpool
2nd: Manchester City
3rd: Chelsea
4th: Manchester United
Bottom three: Fulham, West Ham, Brighton

SAM CARP

Q. How will Palace fare this season?

Had you asked me this the day after last season finished my answer would have been a lot more pessimistic than this one. The sequence of results – coupled with some very abject performances – between June and July made it pretty clear that Palace needed to move fast and move smart in the transfer window, otherwise they would risk carrying a hangover from that run of form into this campaign. Factor in the short turnaround before the start of the new season and the task of overhauling an aging squad in quick time looked to be an increasingly daunting one. Thankfully, though, the board seems to have recognised that, and the additions of Nathan Ferguson and Eberechi Eze suggest that Palace’s transfer strategy is finally moving in the right direction.

Having said that, Palace will have to hit the ground running if they are to get the end of last season out of their system. The games will once again come thick and fast which won’t allow much time for the new signings to settle in, so it would be wrong to expect Palace to come pirouetting out of the blocks against Southampton with a completely revamped style of play.

What we can hope to see this year, though, is at least some variety and signs of progression. There should be enough experience in this squad to keep the Eagles up again, but that shouldn’t mean the same team being churned out week after week. This season should be about blending experience with youth, about building a side around the players that are going to be here for the foreseeable future, rather than continuing to rely solely on the ones that are past the peak of their powers. 

How will they fare? Who honestly knows in a year as unpredictable as this. But given that Palace are set to start this season with a stronger squad than the last, there is no reason to think that they won’t push towards mid-table again. The least we can expect is to be entertained a little bit more along the way. 

Q. What are the needs before the transfer window closes?

A lot of that will still depend on whether Wilfried Zaha goes. If he does, then Palace will need to bring in a replacement; if he doesn’t, they could still do with a little more strength in depth in the wide areas to add some competition for the Ivorian and Andros Townsend. Another striker feels like a must, while the Eagles could also do with another box-to-box midfielder capable of chipping in with a few goals. Palace have an embarrassment of riches at centre back, but few of them seem capable of staying fit for an entire season. If the Eagles can get one of those players out the door and off the wage list, it might be worth investing in a younger centre half who can build a partnership with one of the older heads in the squad.  

Q. Premier League predictions;

Making predictions for a season like this feels almost impossible. The turnaround has been quicker than ever before, each team’s preparations are being disrupted by international games and clubs won’t know what their squad is going to look like until the end of the month. I expect Palace to finish in the bottom half of the table again but to be able to stave off relegation, so I’ll be vague and say somewhere between 12th and 15th. 

I don’t expect Liverpool to run away with the league again but do think they’ll be too strong. The rest of the top four will be Manchester City, who I still think will struggle defensively, followed by Chelsea and Manchester United. 

The bottom three is tough to call this year, and I hate predicting who will go down when it very easily could be Palace, but I’ll go for Fulham, West Brom and Aston Villa.

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