Has this season been one to remember, or one to forget?
I’m very sure that the overall feeling will perhaps lead as one to forget. Despite Palace sitting fairly comfortably without much fear of relegation, the feeling around Crystal Palace Football Club has been hugely negative, especially in recent weeks.
The large amount of criticism is down to the style of play Roy Hodgson has implemented, we often see Palace struggle when conceding first and this is backed up by the fact that team have come back to win after going behind just once this season. When watching Roy’s side, the players seem to have only one plan without having another system to revert to. This obviously makes it very easy for an opposing team to counter and make life very difficult.
A common theme that neutrals and pundits like to say regarding Roy is his organised defence. However, this has been very misleading. Palace have conceded the second most goals behind West Bromwich Albion this season and have yet to field the same defence for more than three games in a row.
The lack of consistency has definitely taken its toll in our ability to see out games for even the first ten minutes. Kouyate for example was brought in to be a makeshift centre back as a result of injuries in September, but he has found himself arguably performing as our most consistent defender in a very ageing back line. This really shouldn’t be the case as we enter the end of February. No team can perform well defensively with such an inconsistently selected back four.
The most concerning statistic out of all the reasons for the lack of results this season has been our win record without Wilfried Zaha. His goals tally since being played as a striker has been fantastic but when he is unavailable the team crumbles and our outlet for goals is yet again an answer we just do not seem to have. If we do manage to pull a miracle next season and keep him, we must invest around him or if he leaves, finally give the manager some adequate funding to replace him. If we keep relying on Wilf to win us games, the problem will only worsen each season as everyone around us improves.
Not everything is doom and gloom down at Selhurst Park. This season has had its positives. The emergence of Eberechi Eze has been great to watch and he will no doubt go to the very top if he can continue to play with the confidence that he has shown since his big summer move to SE25. His link up with Zaha has brought back memories of Zaha and Yannick Bolasie which in Palace terms, praise does not get much higher than that for the England Under 21 star.
Jairo Riedewald and Tyrick Mitchell have also been bright sparks in a team that has been desperate for a younger influence in our defence and midfield areas. Jairo has finally been able to show us why he had so much hype as a youngster back at Ajax and his composure on the ball has been something we have missed since Yohan Cabaye left the club.
Mitchell has completely changed our left side defensively. Patrick Van Aanholt this season has definitely struggled more than most and Tyrick’s balance of attack and defensive ability makes us a stronger side. Nathaniel Clyne is another who deserves a huge mention. It is always fantastic to see a local boy doing great for your club and Clyne has been, in my opinion, the best defender we have had this season. His consistency at right back has kept out fan favourite Joel Ward and has provided us great depth in a position that had needed filling since the departure of Aaron Wan Bissaka.
We have also managed to combat the problem of scoring early on in matches. Those who had watched us last year would have known that scoring goals in the first half was a myth. Now we seem to be a team who like an early goal. When we have managed to score first our record for holding on is fairly remarkable even if our defence has come across as inconsistent.
Of course, there is a long way to go until the end of the season and I am sure there will be many twists and turns to come before the final game of the season ends. Big matches like Brighton on Monday night do decide players and managers fate at the club and I am sure that will be passed on in the dressing room before the players make their way down to the Amex.
The fixture list we have unfortunately inherited towards the later part of this campaign will certainly not be easy, but what is important to remember is that the summer is likey to see a number of changes at the club. With an academy doing so well and several players and potentially a manager leaving, Palace will have an opportunity to build on what has been a season of highs and regrettably, too many lows.
My overall opinion is that the season will most likely be labelled as unsuccessful. It does feel like for every positive there are two negatives and it is time for a change at the top in order to progress into what we hope could be a top half side. For the meantime, we will just have to see how the future pans out for Roy and his team until June.