Crystal Palace’s 2017/18 campaign displayed all the phases of a classic road to redemption movie, culminating in the finest and most dramatic of conclusions.
They were down in the dumps at the start of the season, and many considered the damage done to be irreversible. But as fate would have it, a messiah emerged in the form of Roy Hodgson, and together with the help of his right-hand-man Wilfrid Zaha, he steadied the ship and calmed the waters. Finally, towards the end of the season, he channelled the entirety of the players’ willpower, ability with a blend of good man-management to ensure they finished the season in 11th spot, greatly exceeding everyone’s expectations.
This summer, their chief concern will be to build on from the stellar season they had, but more importantly to ensure a collapse like last season does not occur. For that, they will have to ensure the quality from their ranks does not poached away to pastures anew, especially their talisman Zaha. Further, a few additions will have to be made, particularly in midfield.
Another concerning thing for Palace is the sheer number of players who could potentially walk out the door for nothing this summer; They are yet to renew the contracts of the likes of defensive midfielder Yohan Cabaye, both right backs Joel Ward and Martin Kelly, and both goalkeepers Wayne Hennessey and Julian Speroni. With the clock ticking against getting them to stay, it could force Palace into the market for more players, and possibly higher transfer fees, if clubs sense the urgency of their needs.
The situation is exacerbated by the departure of Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Ruben Loftus Cheek and Erdal Rakip on the expiry of their loan deals, to Man United, Chelsea and Benfica respectively.
To alleviate some of the worry, the club has a pre-contract agreement in place with Getafe shot stopper Vincente Guaita. Another name they are targeting is Hiroki Sakai of Marseille, as a replacement for the outgoing Joel Ward. Mathieu Debuchy had a redeeming season in the Ligue 1, and he too could be a name targeted, being Premier League proven. The fact that he would arrive on a Bosman is another advantage.
Palace would do well to offer an immediate route back into the PL for a few who just went down; namely Chris Brunt (Free transfer), Xherdan Shaqiri, and Joe Allen as they would offer both depth and added quality, and would likely be available for subsidised fees. I personally feel that Palace would do well to re-sign with the likes of Fosu-Mensah and Loftus-Cheek.
Christian Benteke is likely to be sold, with the club eager to cut their losses on a player who has been a shadow of the goalscorer he showed himself to be at Villa, and briefly at Liverpool. With Hodgson favouring playing his wide-men in a front 2, the sale of Benteke to finance a move for Shaqiri could make a lot of sense. Moving for a CB could also prove to be prudent, for as it stands, Palace have only 4 senior centre-halves.
It proves to be a season, and potentially future-defining summer for the Eagles, for they have a lot of berths to fill, and that number may be escalated further by the contract expirations of a fair number of first-teamers. Good, orderly recruitment will be pivotal to Palace’s season.
Written by Ayush Verma.