Guardian writers’ predicted position 11th (NB: this is not necessarily Ed Aarons’s prediction but the average of our writers’ tips)
Last season’s position 12th
Odds to win the league (via Oddschecker) 500-1
The end of this season will mark a decade since Palace were promoted via the playoffs under Ian Holloway in what has been the most sustained period of success in the club’s history. There is now genuine optimism that Patrick Vieira can take the perennial mid-table finishers into uncharted territory following a promising first campaign at the helm with an exciting young squad.
Remarkably, the Frenchman took only a few weeks to transform Palace from the dogged defensive side that hit opponents on the break under Roy Hodgson into a team that plays exciting, possession-based football and does not just rely on old talisman Wilfried Zaha. He and captain Joel Ward are the only remaining players from Holloway’s side that won promotion in 2013, with the 29-year-old Ivory Coast forward contributing his best-ever return of 14 goals in the Premier League last term.
Retaining Zaha’s services with less than 12 months of his contract now remaining will of course be a priority for Vieira and the chairman, Steve Parish, although there are other areas of concern such as filling the Conor Gallagher-shaped hole in midfield. The Chelsea loanee was the heartbeat of Palace’s team last season and while they have acted decisively to sign the Mali international Cheick Doucouré from Lens to play in the holding role, concerns over the fitness of 34-year-old James McArthur means more cover is needed.
As well as the burgeoning partnership between Marc Guéhi and Joachim Andersen, the arrival of USA defender Chris Phillips from Bayern Munich and England goalkeeper Sam Johnstone to provide competition with Vicente Guaita and Jack Butland should at least provide Palace with the defensive solidity they need to stay well clear of trouble. After that, a repeat of last season’s FA Cup run or securing a top-10 finish – only the third in the club’s history – could be well within their grasp.
There were many who doubted the former Arsenal midfielder’s credentials when he was chosen as the man to succeed Hodgson last summer. Yet the transition of Palace’s approach with largely the same group of players has shown that Vieira is certainly managing to convey his message effectively. He will have learned from the defeat to Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-final when he opted to change formation in the absence of Gallagher and paid the price with a 2-0 defeat. But if anyone doubted Vieira’s new allegiance to south London then his frustrated reaction to Arsenal’s last-gasp equaliser during the seesaw match at the Emirates in October was enough evidence he now bleeds red and blue.
Having to release a statement in July which said he had been a victim of blackmail and “an attempt to extort funds from several individuals acting in concert” was not quite how Doucouré would have hoped to have started his Palace career. The 22-year-old Mali midfielder has denied accusations that he has “a double identity” and pledged to take legal action. Born in Bamako and having made his name in France with Lens, Doucouré could be exactly what Palace have been missing.
World Cup impact
With only a handful of players, including Andersen of Denmark and Jordan Ayew of Ghana, likely to be involved at the World Cup, the rest of Palace’s players will have an opportunity to recharge their batteries at home. Guéhi and Tyrick Mitchell will hope they can book a place in Gareth Southgate’s England squad.
Alternative attractions during World Cup
Croydon’s town centre used to be renowned for its shopping but times have changed and sadly the Whitgift Centre isn’t quite the same draw these days. Try heading down to see the dinosaurs in Crystal Palace park instead – they were unveiled in 1854 as the first dinosaur sculptures in the world.
Leading the shirt sales
While Zaha remains the king of SE25, there is a new prince in town. Michael Olise has captured the hearts of Palace supporters thanks to his breathtaking performance in the FA Cup victory over Millwall in January that kickstarted an incredible run of form. Had it not been for the foot injury that hampered the France Under-21 forward towards the end of the campaign, he could easily have been subject to offers from bigger clubs this summer but will probably benefit significantly from another year under the tutelage of Vieira and his staff.
Zaha’s 1.1m followers put him way out in front and barely a day goes past without an Insta update. Having not travelled with the main squad for their tour to Singapore and Australia after not meeting the entry requirements when the trip was scheduled, Zaha has regularly been keeping fans up to speed while he trains in south London. Meanwhile, the dapper Olise has also been dipping his toes into the world of social media with some seriously cool poses in various shades.
If Palace were a Netflix doc …
While the Channel 4 documentary “The Academy” following players from the club’s youth set-up is set to be broadcast in August, a sequel to the excellent “When Eagles Dare” – the Amazon series which tracks Palace’s journey from the brink of bankruptcy to the Premier League – could also be on the cards if they can build on the promise of last season. After two chastening FA Cup final defeats to Manchester United in 1990 and 2016, perhaps Vieira is the man to finally lead Palace to glory?