Are We Walking In An Upside Down Pardew Wonderland?

I will understand if a few people are scratching their head about what I am talking about – an upside Pardew wonderland? Or more accurately a nightmare. I am happy to explain!

After the end of last season, I have always felt this season was going to be potentially tricky. I accept that is not an amazing conclusion to reach – we did not win any of our last eight matches and only drew one. The fact that we risked having this negative momentum dragging into this season, especially with the short “summer” break is hardly a startling revelation.

In many ways I see some parallels between this season and the 2016/17 season but with one real difference, which I strongly hope will be a positive difference. If we cast our mind back even further to the end of 2015/16 season we limped across the finish line with a single Jason Puncheon goal against Norwich City saving us from an end of season relegation scrap. Ignoring our run to the FA Cup Final, our form was dreadful. Alan Pardew’s conversion of the strong defensive unit he inherited from the Tony Pulis era into a “maverick” attacking force was coming apart. We were still scoring goals but not enough to make up for our shambolic defence.

Despite signing Christian Benteke in the summer there was a real fear that the poor form in 2016 would hang over the start of the 2016/17 season and sure enough after some decent results against the likes of Middlesborough, Sunderland and Stoke we were plummeting down the table with the nadir being the shambles of the 5-4 loss to Swansea in November 2016. Somehow, Pardew hung on until just before Christmas but with Palace having the worst record in 2016 in all four divisions in English football it was clearly time for him to go. As all Palace supporters at the time will know Sam Allardyce came in and after a rocky start we regained our combination of defensive solidity blended with an ability to hurt teams on the counter-attack.

There are superficial similarities to our current situation, only with our problems being due to a perceived over reliance on defensive solidity and an inability to score goals, not the other way around. Hence the upside Pardew wonderland! We came into this season off the back of a terrible run of form with Roy seeming to struggle to stop the rot. Like in 2016 we have signed some new attacking players – for Benteke and Loic Remy (on loan) we now have Eze and Batshuayi (on loan). Also like 2016 we have a restive fan base, unhappy with the manager and very quick to jump on every loss or poor performance (the Brighton draw) with Twitter fire and rage. Every decision by Roy is criticised. Why is Eze not starting every match? All of our players have got worse under Roy, his tactics are boring and too cautious etc etc.

Although Roy’s style does not lend itself to quick fixes and sudden changes, I am becoming more and more confident that this season will not spell an early end to Roy’s spell in charge. I will admit that Saturday’s 4-1 defeat of Leeds has boosted my confidence but it was there already! Roy has too much experience to panic at the odd defeat and his methods are tried and tested. Over the past three seasons they have been proven to work and I see no reason why things will change.

Contrary to his reputation he has improved a number of our players during the course of his tenure; Schlupp, Ayew, Kelly, MacArthur are all players who have flourished at various times under Roy. The latest example is Jairo Riedewald who after three seasons in the shadows has started to fulfil the talent that has always been there. Roy is inherently a cautious manager and is not prone to rush young players but when he spots talent (whether through choice or circumstance) such as Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Tyrick Mitchell or Jairo Riedewald, he will gradually bring them into the side. The same is going to happen I am sure with Eze and hopefully Nathan Ferguson when he is fit.

Similarly if Roy has the right players he will find the right balance between attack and defence. We have all seen this when we had Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Michy Batshuayi respectively in previous seasons and I am sure we will start to see this again during the course of this season. Roy’s cautious and methodical management style does not lend itself to radical changes, which of course frustrates lots of our supporters when we do not get the results they want. Time and time again over Roy’s career he has delivered the goods and I am hopeful that this season will end no differently.

Unless and until the bad run at the end of last season becomes a distant memory, I fear every poor result will cause social media angst, which is out of proportion to the result itself. If we can get a few more wins in this early part of the season I am hoping the confidence in the players and the supporters will grow. With that confidence the sound structure of a Roy Hodgson team will allow the attacking talent we have to flourish and banish any thoughts of an upside down Pardew wonderland!

  1. Fair enough except I think you are confusing result with performance. We accept we are going to lose games like we did to Chelsea on occasion however the performance was unacceptable at any level.

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