Note: Over the next twenty days, we will spend a day previewing each team in the Premier League in advance of the coming season. We''ll start with the promoted teams, then move up the table, skipping Newcastle and saving them for last. We will finish on August 12, exactly one week prior to the Toon's opener with Manchester City.
Crystal Palace were promoted through the Championship play-off at the conclusion of the 2012-13 campaign, defeating in-over-their-heads Watford 1-0 at Wembley after defeating rival Brighton & Hove Albion in the first leg. Their re-entry into the Premier League also marks the very welcome return of colorful manager Ian Holloway to the top flight, as well as yet another club with a connection to Alan Pardew:
Palace are led on the pitch by captain Paddy McCarthy and Australian Mile Jedinak, who wrote the armband in his absence following a groin injury. The standout player is undoubtedly Glenn Murray, who scored 31 goals in 2012-13. Now the Eagles must deal with the double-edged sword of having a prolific scorer who tallies the vast majority of goals for the team. The next-highest scorer, Wilfried Zaha, posted just 8, and now he is at Manchester United. If injury, bad form, or some other malady (EDIT: and apparently he's nowhere near ready to return from his knee injury) keeps Murray from scoring at last year's rate, another source of goals must emerge from an unexpected place if they are to be competitive. The club record purchase of Peterborough United striker Dwight Gayle may mitigate this risk somewhat, and it sure is nice to see a team addressing their needs (this will be a theme throughout this series).
One interesting facet of the Eagles' promotion season that will be fascinating to watch moving forward is the extreme disparity between home and road performance. It's not just the records (13-8-2 at Selhurst Park vs. 6-7-10 away). They scored 52 goals in their home park (1st in the league) and just 21 elsewhere (22nd in the league, and less than 1 per game. It's this kind of inconsistency that can be punished in the Premier League. Also troubling is the way they finished the season. Winning the play-off was a nice cap, to be sure, but prior to that they won just 1 of their last 10. That they still finished in the top six is certainly a credit to the lead they built up, but let's ask Reading how they feel about a dip in form in April and May.
Will Palace survive? They have a tough hill to climb. The last Holloway-managed team that won promotion through the play-off had a tough go of it, and while Palace aren't Blackpool, there are several red flags that point to a stacked deck in the wrong direction for supporters. Blackpool were sure a lot of fun to watch, though, and we can probably expect similar things from Crystal Palace.
Away: 21 December
Home: 22 March