Premier League 2016/17 preview: Crystal Palace – Boom and bust, but more of which?
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Last year was a microcosm of Alan Pardew’s career: Palace experienced boom and bust in the space of one campaign. They were level on points with Tottenham Hotspur in December and in danger of relegation in April.
They won nine of their first 17 games and only two of the last 21. It suggests they could be top-eight finishers or in danger of the drop.
They were nine minutes away from winning the FA Cup final but a poor start to this season could bring added scrutiny of Pardew’s position and fears that a slump would extend across the summer.
Pardew has recognised Palace’s clearest shortcoming last season, when no one scored more than five league goals, and the striking situation is changing: Dwight Gayle and Emmanuel Adebayor have gone. Michy Batshuayi, one target, has eluded Palace.
Christian Benteke and Saido Berahino seem possible attacking recruits, almost certainly requiring a club-record fee. Palace were better served on the flanks last year, but Andros Townsend joins Yannick Bolasie and Wilfried Zaha in the band of speedy wingers.
They gave Palace a counter-attacking threat that brought wins at Chelsea and Liverpool but it may be dangerous to rely on their away form, especially in spring, when they face many of the probable contenders on the road.
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Key Man: Yannick Bolaise
Mercurially brilliant and one of the select band of players at mid-table clubs with the ability to determine games against virtually everyone but his total of five league goals last season felt underwhelming.
Pivotal Signing: Steve Mandanda
The France international goalkeeper arrives from Marseille. Wayne Hennessey made too many mistakes last season. Palace will look for more reliability from his probable successor.
Point to Prove: Connor Wickham
Could be the man demoted if Pardew signs a new striker. If not, he will be charged with becoming the consistent scorer Palace need. A career total of 16 goals in 100 top-flight games is not great.
Crucial Factor: Home form
Selhurst Park rivals any ground in the league for an intimidating atmosphere and yet Palace scored a mere 19 goals and were beaten 10 times on their own turf. Only Aston Villa fared worse in each respect.
Predicted finish: 13th
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Published: July 31, 2016 04:00 AM