Premier League

Crystal Palace Squad Can Improve in Second Half of Season

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The Crystal Palace squad are at a crossroads in their development under manager Patrick Viera. Last season they finished 12th and reached the FA Cup semi-finals and going into the World Cup break, the Eagles sit in 11th position, just 3 points better off than this time last season. However, the Crystal Palace Roster can improve in the Premier League Second Half.

In seasons gone by just avoiding relegation was their only ambition and maybe the hope of getting a run in one of the cups. Now positioned in the middle of the table, everyone involved at Selhurst Park are surely asking ‘can the club push on to the next level?’

The job that Viera has done since taking over from Roy Hodgson in the summer of 2021 has been fantastic, the Frenchman has helped the club move away from the dour football played by his predecessor. He has done this by getting Palace to adopt a more possession based style of play, incorporating some excellent young players into the side such as Tyrick Mitchell, Michael Olise, Marc Guehi and Eberechi Eze.

Europe is probably out of reach, but finishing within the top ten surely should be something that is achievable. Only once since gaining promotion back in 2013 have they finished tenth or higher – finished 10th in 2014/15 under Alan Pardew – and it’s time to show some ambition. 

Here’s how theCrystal Palace squad can do it.

Stop Over-Reliance on Wilfried Zaha

Only One Player Has Scored More Goals

It is no surprise that Zaha tops the Palace goalscoring charts, his influence and leadership in attack have been crucial since he rejoined the club after his disastrous stint at Manchester United. 

In the Premier League, the Ivorian has had 8 goal involvements – 6 goals and 2 assists – at times he has made Viera’s side look like a one man team. Though playing well this season, Odsonne Edouard has not scored enough goals and can be very wasteful inside the box. 

Signing a striker that could take the pressure off Zaha would be a smart move. Blackburn striker Ben Brereton Diaz has been heavily linked with a move to the Premier League after excelling for club and country over the last two years. The Chilean has scored 9 goals already and with his contract running out next summer they could sign him relatively cheaply in January. 

Diaz’s physicality would dovetail well with the speed and agility of Zaha, leading to a potentially devastating partnership up front if Viera decided to alter his tactics.

With only 34 goals in 240 games between Ayew, Edouard and Mateta for Palace, getting an extra striker who can score goals more regularly wouldn’t hurt.

Find Doucoure a Partner

Palace Lack Extra Quality in Midfield

Since joining in the summer from French club RC Lens, Malian international Cheick Doucoure has quickly become a fans favourite and a mainstay in the side. 

His dynamism has been a welcome boost to the midfield, providing an excellent reading of the game as well helping Palace to progress the ball forward with his range of passing. 

The problem is twofold: Doucoure needs help in the middle of the park and cover where rest is required, or if injuries were to happen. 

Losing Conor Gallagher has been a blow at Selhurst Park. He was one of the best players last season but has struggled to get into the Chelsea squad since returning from his loan. It would be unlikely that Graham Potter would let him leave in January yet it should not deter any potential bids. 

Matheus Franca has been linked with a move from Flamengo in Brazil. He hasn’t featured much but was part of their recent Copa Libertadores winning squad. At 18 and with very little experience, the youngster is unlikely the answer to the problem.

January will be an important month for every club in the Premier League to add quality and extra bodies to boost squad numbers. With the 22/23 campaign being such a truncated season the South London club are no different, especially having a place in the top 10 in sight. 

Sort Out Away Form

Address the poor showings on the road

Crystal Palace have one win away from home all season. The worst of these defeats came at Goodison Park in October when Everton won 3-0 in a totally dominant display. 

Selhurst Park has long been a fortress where the tightness of the ground and closeness of the fans to the pitch make for an intimidating away day for any team. Bringing their home form on the road will be key to any challenge to breaking into the top half of the table. 

In the only away win so far, 2-1 over West Ham, the Eagles brought a level of aggression and intensity that they normally only display on home soil. 

Not controlling matches and poor game management on the road has led to mistakes being made at crucial times. The issue with having a young side is that the lack of experience can prove costly in these key moments. 

Dipping into the transfer market to sign more experienced players to help in this area would make a massive difference. The loss of Gary Cahill a few seasons back, though not felt on the field with his decline, was certainly a blow with his experience in the dressing room.

Getting someone in with that profile should be one of the priorities to help move the club forward. 

Stay Focused

Play For 90 Minutes

There have been games this season where Palace have gone a goal down in games; the panic and negativity clearly visible on the players faces. 

Building mental toughness and resilience comes from playing to the very end, something the best sides do. It is up to Viera and the old heads in the squad to display leadership and to back themselves that they can turn games around when faced with adversity. 

That starts with taking the shackles off and seeing the likes of Olise and Ezi be braver in possession, causing defences more sleepless nights. Three goals and five assists so far are not terrible numbers but it is time the two talented attackers show more than only glimpses of their undoubted talent. 

Defensively they have looked solid with Vincent Guaita playing to his usual high standards but Mitchell and Guehi need to raise their levels, their form is below their excellent showing last season and will need to improve for the remaining part of the campaign.  

It is an exciting time to be a Crystal Palace supporter, a gripping second half of the season beckons with plenty of promise and hope. 

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