Many Palace fans may not realise that this season is particularly special. This might well be the only season where we see all of these wonderful players teaming up in red and blue.
- Barring serious injury, the value of every one of these players is very likely to rise between now and next summer.
- 2024 promises to be a vintage summer for clubs owning players that others want. Clubs in Saudi Arabia will still be hoovering up warm bodies to people their Saudi Pro League, and this will underpin market prices. If they pay the agreed fees in full, Saudi clubs will put potentially hundreds of millions in the pockets of the Big 6 English clubs who will immediately need to fill squad gaps plundered by the Saudis.
- Clever buying by Palace means our players (who are already desirable to big clubs, according to widespread rumours) have qualities that push their market value up. All have long careers ahead, while Guehi, Eze, Johnstone and Henderson are all England internationals.
A Solid Window
Expert verdicts on Palace’s window were generally “moderate”. In the Guardian assessment of performance during the transfer window, Palace were rated 13th in the League. The Daily Mail said our window was 17th best. As for the Palace fans, well, they always want more … but the window really wasn’t that bad, was it?
It can even be argued that the window went as well as it could have done. Palace are not made of money, Wilf’s departure was a huge loss, especially as (with Luka, Jimmy and Guaita) he was one of 4 on-field leaders who all left the club in one window. But Lerma, Henderson and Holding each bring years of priceless Premier League experience, and these three will blend with Franca and the other raw young talents in our squad. Total price for the four players – just 36m. Looking at these four, an average price of 9m looks great value to me!
Further, during the summer window, Palace received their first big transfer fee for an Academy player since Wan Bissaka. Jake O’Brien went to Lyon for 800,000, and it’s hoped there will be more opportunities to raise funds this way.
Palace’s loan army is only 6-strong this year, but it’s exciting to see Jesurun Rak-Sakyi has stayed to spend at least the autumn with Palace’s first team squad.
Oh, and Andros Townsend was available all window – and we resisted the temptation to sign him back!
A Good Start
Considering that we lacked Zaha, Olise and Franca, and bearing in mind that England’s giant clubs were targeting our starlets, the results Palace achieved in the first 4 games have honestly been the best we could have realistically expected.
If this start had been any better at all, Palace fans might now be wearing silly smiles all day long. If there had been a winning goal at Brentford or a deserved equaliser against Arsenal, our team would now be on 8, 9 or 10 points from the first 4 games – a flying start that would put Palace as part of the leading group alongside Man City, Arsenal, Spurs, Liverpool, West Ham and, yes, Brighton. We are that close.
Individual players are already stepping up – and it may not be the ones you’d expect:
Odsonne Edouard is currently 4th, level with Heung Min Song.
Sam Johnstone is currently 3rd, just behind Edersen.
Premier League Playmaker of the Year
Jordan Ayew and Jean-Philippe Mateta are currently 5th for assists, jointly with several players including Mo Salah, James Maddison and Gabriel Martinelli.
Is This Hype?
Here are the facts:
- Palace have only conceded once in 4 matches in open play. This is the stat that has opposing coaches scratching their heads.
- Palace stand 3rd for most shots so far at 17.3 per game. Only Brighton and Spurs are better, while Palace currently shoot more frequently than Man City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Man United.
- Palace stand joint 3rd with Arsenal and Man City for 26 goal attempts on target so far.
A New Way Of Playing
Roy and Ray have devised a new system where Doucoure and Lerma perform a vital function.
Under this new system, Doucoure and Lerma work in close partnership to provide a flexible hinge that links the whole team together as they move up and down the pitch. Jointly, these two provide a tough tackling shield for the defence as well as a snappy ball-winning platform for the attack. Both are keeping discipline too – Lerma’s disciplinary record over the years has been improving, and Doucoure will be looking to avoid suspension as he’s likely to miss games when Afcon happens in Jan/Feb.
The twin tigers have started really well together, and they look like they’ll just get better as their understanding grows.
When Olise returns, this will be the youngest Palace team since promotion in 2013. If Roy picks Franca too, the youth of this team will be historic.
The Biggest Risks
Palace are 2 or 3 injuries away from being much weakened, especially if key players are affected. And the temptation for opponents to kick players like Eze, Olise, Franca and Ayew will be very real.
12 of the last 15 goals Palace have conceded were from set pieces. This is a serious problem which, if corrected, would greatly improve our results. Maybe we should hire Tony Pulis as a set piece consultant?!
Our Best Opportunity?
Will we stay up? Yes! In the last 10 seasons, only 7 clubs have achieved the 40 point target every single season – the Big 6 plus one other. Who? Was it a club that screams that it belongs, like West Ham, Newcastle, Southampton, Brighton or ….. No! It’s Crystal Palace! To reach 40 points this season, Palace now need 33 points from 34 matches. I don’t think for one moment that this team will fail to get a point a game for the rest of this season.
Will we finish top half? Despite the risks, for the reasons put forward here, we conclude that 2023/24 is Crystal Palace’s best opportunity to challenge the Premier League elite.