Of all the extraordinary stories of the Premier League last season, that of Crystal Palace is probably the most remarkable. From imminent relegation under Ian Holloway to a tremendous fight back and a brilliant 11th place finish under manager of the year Tony Pulis, the Eagles’ 2013/14 defied the odds and shocked everyone. The new Premier League season is on its way and Palace will attempt to repeat their heroic feats. Many teams who managed to stay up in their first Premier League season have gone on to become victims of the dreaded ‘second season syndrome’, but Palace are in a position to avoid the drop and consolidate their warranted position in the top flight.
Squad morale will undoubtedly be at an all-time high and the fearlessness that Pulis instilled into the team last season, typified by five straight wins in April, most notably over Chelsea, and the spirited comeback against Liverpool from 3-0 down to level 3-3 on the penultimate match of the campaign, will remain a key part of team tactics. No doubt, the rest of the Premier League will now be fully aware of Palace’s style of play and better prepared to contain it, meaning that the challenge to stay in the league again will be a tougher task.
As a unit, the team was together and coherent in its quest to survive last season and this togetherness will remain, as well as the unique attacking threats provided by wingers Jason Puncheon and Yannick Bolasie, and reborn striker Maroaune Chamakh, all of which dug Palace out of many a hole last season and should look to improve upon the 33 goals Palace mustered up last year. Attacking options have been boosted by the signing of Frazier Campbell, an unpredictable forward who will provide a relentless work ethic in addition to an eye for goal. The defence has also been strengthened by the capture of Brede Hangeland from Fulham and he will add strength and robust defensive qualities at the back, making the Palace back four more difficult to penetrate. The heroes of last year also remain, particularly Chamakh and loyal servant, goalkeeper Julian Speroni who penned new deals in pre-season, and captain Mile Jedinak who returns after leading Australia during the World Cup – keeping the squad that defied the odds last season intact will go a long way in improving the club’s chances this time round.
Perhaps most important for Palace this season is that they begin the campaign better rather than relying on results nearer the end of the season to go their way. At the beginning of last season the club picked up just four points from their first 11 games but Pulis, a master of survival having consolidated Stoke as a mainstay in the Premier League, understands the importance of getting off to a good start when tipped to go down and will drill this urgency into his players and, if they pick up from where they left off last season, the early season record will undoubtedly see an improvement this year.
Belief surrounds the players, manager and fans, a belief that Palace can continue the dream and remain a Premier League side. This season will pose a more difficult challenge but with the quality already in the side and with more to come, Pulis’ squad are more than capable of avoiding becoming victims of ‘second season syndrome’.