Can I share a secret with you all?
I am extremely nervous about the 2020-21 Premier League season. Like, relegation to the Championship worried.
It is a terrible feeling but it is one that I really must get off my chest and share with you, the loyal Palace fans and TEB readers. Our beloved club has just completed its seventh consecutive season in the greatest league in the world. Will the eighth season end in crushing sadness?
I do not intend for this to come off all doom and gloom and that there is not optimism for the upcoming season. I am just worried, and I will tell you why.
Palace are not immune from relegation
This obviously goes without saying but this club will EVENTUALLY be relegated from the Premier League. I hate to be the bringer of bad news but SOMEDAY it will happen. Palace just finished their record seventh consecutive season in the top flight of English football and yet have only broken the top ten once (way back in 2015, which feels like a decade ago). The club has two eleventh placed finishes, a twelfth, two fourteenth’s and a fifteenth. Palace are your stereotypical middle of the road club and have earned an average of 44.6 points in the seven seasons.
Here is the list of clubs that have been relegated during Palace’s stay in the Premier League – Stoke City, Sunderland (who are now in League One), Burnley, Newcastle United, Aston Villa, Norwich City (3 times!), Fulham (twice), Cardiff City (twice), West Bromwich Albion, Swansea City, Watford, Bournemouth, Queens Park Rangers, Middlesbrough, Huddersfield Town, and Hull City (twice).
There are some traditional heavy hitters that have felt the sting of relegation.
Strengthening the squad has not yet materialised
With the exception of the splash signing of Eberechi Eze this summer, Palace have failed to adequately impact the first team squad with signings. Since January 2018, Palace have bought six players that are still currently with the first team – Jordan Ayew, Gary Cahill, James McCarthy, Vicente Guaita, Cheikhou Kouyate, and Max Meyer. Polish defender Jaroslaw Jach is technically part of the first team squad but I’m not going to count him. They have also taken two strikers on loan during this time in Cenk Tosun (thanks for that goal away at City!) and Michy Batshuayi (please come back!). Also, remember Victor Camarasa? That was fun, right?
In total, those six players cost Palace less than they just handed Queens Park Rangers for Eze’s services. This can, and should, be viewed as screwed business from Steve Parish. Although, it still is lacking in comparison to the rest of the league. Fans have been crying out for depth for years to no avail. Now, I cannot say what happens behind the scenes in regards to transfers because I am not Dougie Freedman’s right hand man (yet!) and I can imagine that things are more complicated than us as fans believe.
The end of the restarted season was troubling
We all watched Palace lose seven of the nine games during the restart to end last season. It was bad, and that is putting it lightly. In those nine games, Palace managed to score only five goals while conceding eighteen. A once stingy defence was blitzed as the offence stayed stagnant.
Emotions ran high after the opening win against a struggling (and eventually relegated) Bournemouth side where safety was all but assured for a record eight consecutive Premier League seasons. Even after a heavy defeat at the hands of league champions Liverpool, Palace fans still had their sights set on the fabled European Tour with a big match against Burnley inside of an empty Selhurst Park. A lifeless performance saw the Clarets leave London with a narrow victory. South London’s Number One went on to lose their next five games until squeaking out a draw in the last game of the season against Spurs. Not great. In total, Palace won four points out of the possible 27 after the season restart.
The supporters of this football club do not ask for much. Try hard. Act like you care, and maybe score a goal or two here and there. During that seven game losing streak to finish out the season, the players that wore red and blue on the pitch did not check any of those requirements. Not one. It was frustrating to spend over two hours every game day hoping that we would see any sort of a resemblance to passion but it was more blase than flashy. A sense of total apathy washed over the club as they meandered to a 14th place finish.
That’s not good enough
We shouldn’t be settling for yet another low mid-table finish. In seven years, Palace have yet to have one season in the upper half of the table and haven’t cracked the 50 point barrier. During our run in the Premier League, Stoke City and Southampton BOTH have three 50+ point seasons. Hell, even Swansea had one. We should not be in the position where the majority of pundits around the globe have us in the relegation zone year after year in their pre-season forecasts.
There are two ways to get relegated from the Premier League. One way is to be caught by surprise. A team can have a season so tragic where they find ways to lose games instead of grabbing those much needed points. Think West Brom and Stoke in 2017-18. They finished tenth and thirteenth respectively the previous year and my guess is that no-one had either of those clubs being relegated. Or Bournemouth just this past season. Other than their first campaign in the Premier League where they finished five points above the drop zone, the closest they got to relegation was still eleven points away. Premier League teams can have bad seasons and it will cost a team very dearly if it continues for the duration of the year.
The other way to get relegated is to flat out be a bad team. Huddersfield Town in 2018. Villa in 2016. Norwich last season. Teams that, when you look at their team sheet, only a small handful of players would make another Premier League squad. The great thing about this league is that realistically, any given game, either team can win. It is a matter of doing it consistently for 38 games where teams often struggle.
This is the category I fear Palace are heading towards
Besides Wilf (who could walk into 15 or 16 clubs in the league and instantly line up on either wing), how many players in the first team for Palace would hold that same spot on any of the clubs with top half of the table aspirations? Maybe Guaita could get between the pipes for a good number of them. Luka may be able to lock down a defensive midfield position somewhere. PVA could make overlapping runs for a team like Burnley or Newcastle. But is there anyone else? The squad is aging in dog years right before our eyes.
Which is why the signing of Eberechi Eze and Nathaniel Ferguson is so important. Being linked to Flynn Downes and bringing in Conor Gallegher on loan is so important. Gone should be the days of strictly signing veteran players on a free. Palace need a talent and youth injection to the squad and it looks like Dougie and Steve are doing just that. Now please go bring Michy home so I can tweet out #SauceFC for the next nine months!
My expectations for the season are simple
I want to see the players care. I want to see them try their hardest. To see passion when we score and when we concede I want to see more. I want to keep Wilf and reunite SauceFC. I want Tyrick Mitchell to become AWB 2.0. I’d like a striker to score more than 10 goals in a season. I’d like a cup run of some sort. Watching Brighton get relegated would be very nice. But most of all, I want to stay in the greatest league in the world for the foreseeable future.
Even after all of this worrying and negative talk, I DO think the club survives this season. Personally, on paper, Palace have a better starting XI than most of the teams that are figured to be in the relegation scrap. It’s up to the players and Roy putting them in the positions to succeed. No more playing three defensive midfielders when we are down two goals. Enough with the positive substitutions coming in the 83rd minute with no time to actually impact the game. No more. Never again. Things do need to change or we will find ourselves playing on a cold and rainy day at Stoke before we know it.
In Roy We Trust.
UP THE PALACE!!!