Last Season: Finished 14th, 41 Points, 50 Goals For, 63 Goals Against
2016-17 Summary: There’s no doubt that Crystal Palace fans held the biggest expectations in club history entering last season after spending more than £50 million in the summer (and another £30 million in the winter). Suddenly, the Premier League minnows of south London featured star-caliber players like Christian Benteke (a club record £27 million) and Andros Townsend to go with big names in Wilfried Zaha and Yohan Cabaye. Amid all the excitement, the loss of club favorites Yannick Bolasie and Mile Jedinak went relatively unnoticed, and the team’s chemistry suffered.
Manager Alan Pardew had everything a manager could want: a massive transfer kitty, boardroom backing and a ravenous, faithful following. But after losing eight of 10 leading up to Boxing Day—not to mention 22 losses in 2016 as a calendar year—Pardew got the boot, leading to the appointment of nationally disgraced Sam Allardyce following his 67-day stint as England manager. But talk about a manager that was a complete 180-degree-turn from Pardew and his free-flowing tactics.
Still, the club’s fortunes didn’t change much under Allardyce; the Eagles lost six of the first eight under new management. But chairman Steve Parish began laying the groundwork for the future with Jeffrey Schlupp, Patrick van Aanholt and Luka Milivojevic while Mamadou Sakho added a stabilizing presence on loan. In the end, Allardyce was able to right the ship and lead the club to a 14th-place finish, seven points above the relegation zone.
2017-18 Forecast: After spending more than £80 million last season, the club has reversed its approach to the transfer market. Parish’s first priority was to look for the club’s third managerial search of the year; but this time he had plenty of time to vet through his options, moving for highly acclaimed, ex-Ajax and Inter Milan manager Frank de Boer. However, the reluctant board has held onto its checkbook this summer with only one buy: an £8 million move for young Ajax defender Jairo Riedewald. While also bringing in a budding star in Ruben Loftus-Cheek on loan from Chelsea, the transfer market has been quiet on Palace’s end.
The Eagles still have a weakness at center-half that needs to be filled after being priced out of a permanent move for Mamadou Sakho and seemingly losing the race to sign Bruno Martins Indi after a successful loan at Stoke City. And the depth chart is thin at striker with only Benteke and a recovering Connor Wickham. But if add a few names arrive in the near future and key players stay healthy, they have the leadership under de Boer and the core to make a strong push for a top-10 finish.
Salary Cap Fantasy Notes: The FPL salary cap world is buzzing about the potential of Loftus-Cheek ahead of his first real shot at the Premier League after excelling through Chelsea’s system that saw him make brief cameos on the big stage. But now, the 21-year-old has his chance to shine, possibly as the No. 10 in Palace’s fluid attacking setup under de Boer. The versatile midfielder has been a standout for the England U21 side for some time now with his attacking prowess despite being the size of a solid center-half. At £4.5 in the official FPL.com game, he’s absolutely worth a pick as a fifth midfielder who could make his way into your weekly lineup.
Then there’s Luka Milivojevic, the winter arrival from Olympiakos who quickly adapted to the rigors of the Premier League. The Serbian midfielder has been a standout performer in the preseason (see his free-kick goal against West Brom) and will surely build upon his two goals from a deep-lying position last season. But the real value in Milivojevic is this: He looks set to take penalty kicks and set pieces for Palace this season. That alone make his a bargain at £5.0 in FPL.com standards.
Draft Fantasy Notes: In draft leagues, Benteke is the clear top choice from Palace after leading the club with 15 goals last season. But it’s Zaha who has the best value as an attacking midfielder who’s trending up. The former Manchester United winger put together a career season last year with seven goals and 11 assists, which drew summer interest from Tottenham. At the moment, nothing points to Zaha leaving his childhood club with the winger intent on improving ahead of his World Cup debut with the Ivory Coast next summer. Be sure to get him early, because he’s a hot commodity taken in the early rounds.
Depending on your draft league rules, Patrick van Aanholt looks to be the next best pick after Benteke and Zaha. Especially in the new FPL Draft format, van Aanholt looks like a steal that has even gone undrafted in a couple of the leagues I’ve joined. Sure, he’s probably not going to get you too many defensive points, but the winter arrival from Sunderland is more of a winger than a defender; he’s recorded 11 goals and 10 assists in his past three seasons. And with the Dutch international playing under de Boer and competition from Jeff Schlupp, I expect even bigger things this season.
What to Watch Before September 1?
- Who does Crystal Palace add to the back-line to bolster an injury-prone center-back pairing in James Tomkins and Scott Dann?
- How does Benteke perform out of the gate after reportedly being unsettled during the last season amid transfer rumors this summer?
- Will the club add another goalkeeper after losing Steve Mandanda back to Marseille?