Arsenal, Tottenham, United …. Which Clubs Will Be Left Behind In This Palace Revolution?

“Be careful what you wish for.”  When Holmesdale Fanatics strung up a poster in February complaining Palace were showing a lack of ambition, Roy Hodgson loaded his response with warnings and foreboding – and, unbelievably, drew comparison between Palace and Charlton!

In the last two seasons, while Royball kept us safe, many Palace fans had questioned if relegation would be a better option. Attracted by a fresh start with a new boss and time to bring in new blood and rebuild, they dreamed of a Palace team dominating opponents, exciting fans and winning lots of games. With Roy in charge, most matches had delivered a familiar cloud of depression as, time after time, Palace sat back and hoped to block more ambitious teams, saving a point or, now and again, squeezing a win.

Stats prove the point. Over and over, opponents had more possession, more touches, more passes, more shots and of course more goals.  Most games, opponents even fouled more than we did. Passive play lacked passion and only just brought enough points. That’s why the high speed reversal seen this season has been so welcome, so amazing. Already, we have passionate play, a strong desire to dominate games and, as Slurst saw recently, Spurs, Brighton, Newcastle and Wolves were all suffocated so effectively that their stars lost desire and ability to mount more than a very occasional threat on our goal. Under Patrick, Palace have swiftly become an exciting Premier League team playing with style that has fans everywhere oozing positives.

Still, let’s not get too carried away.  The season is still young, and while Roy and Ray are now firmly in our collective rear view mirror, let’s take a moment to consider Roy’s advice, let’s be ultra careful as he said we should, and let’s do it under the icy stare of reality.

Starting at Burnley on 20 November, Palace face 10 games in just 43 days. To put that in perspective, the first 10 matches this season were stretched over 78 days. So we can be sure that our squad depth will soon be tested. Suspensions and injuries could easily drag us down. Gallagher, Ward, McArthur and Andersen are already all on 3 bookings, and just 2 more will trigger a ban.

On the bright side, results so far have of course been achieved AWE – All Without Eze, and his prime creative talents might be back very soon indeed to support Zaha, Edouard, Benteke and Olise.

Nevertheless, when it comes to putting Patrick’s preaching into practice on Premier League pitches, the squad still looks thin. Outside the eleven who started in the beating of Wolves, only Schlupp, Luka, Ayew and Olise have proved publicly that they can play the Vieira way.  Beyond those 15 players, we have Eze, Butland, Kelly, Clyne, Tomkins, Riedewald and Hughes – all are mostly untried. Yet we must expect most to be called into action by New Year’s Day.  And that’s when we – and Patrick – will discover who’s who.

Looking forward (and, of course, upward), the next 10 games will reveal to us what the Palace target truly should be for this season.

At work, in life, in sport, targets matter. Since promotion 8 years ago, Palace have only ever had one target – 40 points by the end of the season. And it’s been achieved. Every year. That is quite something because, since Palace came up in 2013, only 7 other clubs have had 40 or more points every year. Not even Southampton and West Ham can lay claim to that achievement! So let’s feel good about the past, and at least congratulate Roy for playing a major role in exceeding this minimum target since 2017.

History now supports Palace achieving this target yet again. Yes, we can shout it in November: we are staying up!  Why?  Because:

  1. Every relegated club in the last 10 seasons has lost at least 19 of their 38 games. In order to be relegated, then, history says we must lose 17 of the remaining 27 games,  With this team, does that really look likely?
  2. The 54 teams relegated in the last 18 seasons have all failed to reach 40 points. To avoid failure, Palace now need just 25 points from 27 games. Being really really real, do you think we look like a team that, over the rest of this season, can’t even average a point-a-game?

Even in my red blue giggle goggles, I think you must agree that it’s very tough indeed to see this team this season with this manager going down to the Championship.

The next question, then, becomes obvious. Is it time for Palace and its fans to raise the target? Nobody in the club has admitted it publicly before the weekend just gone, but Joachim Andersen broke the ice when he told The Independent: “We could finish in a nice spot and of course we are aiming high.”

So. Still taking utmost care, we ask ourselves…..can Patrick Vieira and this Palace team go further?

So far, so encouraging. OK, only 3 wins in 11 games. But only 2 defeats, and both were away to 2 of the top 4 in the table.

What, then, can we call realistic?

Thanks to the fixture computer, Palace have the easiest remaining schedule of all 20 clubs in the Premier League. No fewer than 17 of our last 27 games (over 60%) will be against teams currently in the bottom half of the table.

Unlike so many clubs we see around us today, Palace means much, much more to its supporters than just winning or losing, so anticipation and excitement are reaching deep inside us all. Already, some of our fans are calling this the best Palace team in living memory, better than “the team of the 80s”, better even than the 90/91 team that bounced back from Cup Final Replay misery to finish a deserved third in the best league in the land.

If we dare to ignore Roy, then, if we dare to wish and to dream, how many games do you think it will take us to get to 40 points? And, if we do hit target ahead of schedule, what will that mean?

Taking points achieved last season as the measure of what can be achieved …..

Can we be top half? – Last season, Everton reached 40 points after 24 games, but they tailed off to finish 10th with 59 points.  Leeds took 30 games to get 40 points, and they ended the season sizzling hot in 9th place with 59.

Can we get into Europe? – Last season, Spurs reached 40 points in 26 games and finished 7th with 62 points, putting them in the Europa Conference League.

Or …. Whisper it!  Can we shock the lot and qualify for the Champions League?  – LOL.  A step too far?  Probably, but we might as well know the facts.  Chelsea reached 40 points in 24 games, and they finished 4th with 67 points.

As must be clear, expectations are soaring.  Patrick’s change to our playing style has been so positive that we’re seeing and hearing a growing torrent of compliments from analysts, commentators and even other Premier League managers.  Stand by, Slurst!  Recognition is arriving!  Patrick already has his first nomination for Premier League Manager of the Month.

Finally, just one quick message for Arsenal, Tottenham and United. Without a Super League, your place in Europe will never be guaranteed. With Palace coming for you, your place in Europe is now no longer the entitlement you expect. And we’re on our way! Onwards and Upwards, Palace!

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