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CRYSTAL PALACE

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LAST SEASON AND STARTING POINT BEFORE 2016/17

Last season proved a real rollecoaster for the Eagles. Before the turn of the year everything was looking rosy, as Palace were stationed fifth in the league on equal points with Spurs. However, disaster struck in 2016 as Alan Pardew's men only managed to collect two victories in the final 19 games of the season. That horrible run meant that Palace finished the season in 15th place, so there's plenty of things that can be done better this season. 

The most astounding thing about Palace's season was that even though their league form turned sour, in the FA Cup it was a completely different story. In the cup they defeated the likes of Southampton, Stoke, Tottenham and Watford, with only final opponents Manchester United proving too strong for them. A historic trophy was only 9 minutes away, which further serves to underline the obscure nature of their season.

KEY PLAYERS:

Palace's strong suit is without a doubt their midfield. Operating on the left wing, the skillful winger Yannick Bolasie led the way in both goals (5) and assists (3). On the opposite side Wilfried Zaha caused opposition defences problems with his pace and direct approach to the game. Meanwhile, French international Yohan Cabaye serves as the link between attack and defence.

In defence the undoubted leader of Palace is central defender Scott Dann, who had a fine season in 2015/16. Dann will have a new partner in the centre of Palace's defence, as James Tomkins has joined the club from West Ham. Palace also have a new face between the posts, as Steve Mandanda has joined from French club Marseille.

Out of their new recruits Palace are expecting big things of Andros Townsend, formerly of relegated Newcastle United. It will be interesting to see how Pardew uses Zaha and Towsend, as both men play on the right wing and have the quality to be in the starting eleven.

EXPECTATIONS:

The excellent first half of the season and the disastrous second half that followed probably mean that the general level of Palace is somewhere in between the two. Towsend, Tomkins and Mandanda are all good accusations, so even if the departure of striker Dwight Gayle has weakened the attacking potential of Palace, they should still be a stronger outfit going forward than last season.

Attacking effectively was Palace's biggest problem last season, as Bolasie, Cabaye, Dann and Connor Wickham all finished joint top scorer for the Eagles with five goals. The 39 goals they scored all season was the third-lowest tally in the league, so quality up front is desperately needed. Pardew has turned his gaze towards the likes of Christian Benteke and Saido Berahino in the transfer window, but no deals have been completed as of yet.

The purchase of a high-profile striker would make Palace a significantly better team, as otherwise must of the scoring burden will rest on the shoulders of 23-year old Wickham. They will also need to rediscover the defensive solidness they had in the first half of last season. If Pardew can find ways to correct those issues and restore some consistency to the side, Palace could finish in the top half of the table.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR:

There are a lot of candidates for player of the year at Palace this season. Goalkeeper Mandanda could prove a crucial cog if Pardew chooses to employ more defensive tactics. However, you can't win football matches by just defending, so Palace are looking at Bolasie to provide some real attacking quality. The 27-year old was their top scorer last season, and he finds some consistency he can be a real force in the Premier League. This is especially true if Pardew can find the high-profile striker he's in the market for.

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