The Mastermind brings you an exclusive guide to every single Premier League team going into the highly anticipated 2017-18 season. From lineups, to transfers to the wackiest of predictions, The Mastermind has you covered. Here is your guide to a team with a new manager but a very familiar look, Crystal Palace.
Sam Allardyce swooped in last season to lead Crystal Palace to safety when all hope seemed lost and then when the season came to an end, he left the London club abruptly and unexpectedly. With Frank de Boer now in charge, Palace now could have a very different look about them. But because they have so many of the same players, with even their new additions just fitting into the club’s familiar style of play, this season could be exactly the same as the previous few for Crystal Palace. Zaha, Benteke and Cabaye all have tremendous quality but the vast majority of their remaining players are very average as far as Premier League players go and so they look very likely to hover above the relegation zone for large parts of the season but comfortably survive in the end.
Predicted Starting XI
Frank de Boer has made a couple of interesting signings, but there don’t appear to be too many more on the way and so the Dutch manager’s best starting XI is likely going to be one very familiar to Crystal Palace fans from both the days of Alan Pardew and Sam Allardyce. Wilfried Zaha is likely to be the star of the team and will certainly play to the right of the club’s goal-scoring saviour of 2016-17, Christian Benteke, while Bakary Sako could lineup on the left instead of Andros Townsend. The club will be hoping to secure the signature of Liverpool’s Mamadou Sakho who performed excellently well on loan from January to May last season but in the meantime will have to stick with Scott Dann and newboy Jairo Riedewald who has arrived from Ajax. Club-captain Jason Puncheon will have to contend for his place inside the starting 11 against the likes of Yohan Cabaye and James McArthur, while a back-three could completely shake up the XI and move Luka Millvojevic into the defensive line. Ruben Loftus-Cheek is expected to come straight into the side after arriving on loan from Chelsea while Joel Ward and Wayne Hennessey are likely to retain their starting spots despite decent competition. Finally, Patrick Van Aanholt, Jeffrey Schlupp and Pape Souare will all fight for a spot at left-back with the role likely going to the former Sunderland man who was one of Allardyce’s most trusted figures at both Sunderland and the Crystal Palace of last season.
Key Player: Wilfried Zaha
Wilfried Zaha has been Crystal Palace’s key man and in fact Player of the Year award winner for the past two seasons running. He is just so instrumental down that right-hand flank and although at times being controversial for diving, inconsistency or whatever else, he is a handful for any defender to deal with. In all of Palace’s best games last season, Zaha was the pivotal player and the key reason why they were able to secure victory; leading Allardyce’s side to impressive victories over Chelsea and Arsenal. The Ivorian assisted 9 goals and scored 7 himself last season, highlighting his importance to Crystal Palace and if he can just continue to cater to Benteke’s strengths, Frank de Boer’s side will be more than fine this season.
Breakthrough Player: Jairo Riedewald
Luka Millojevic may prove to be a key cog in everything Palace do well this season and truly establish himself in the league but it is Jairo Riedewald that The Mastermind is expecting to be the club’s breakthrough player this season. Riedewald is just 20 years of age and actually doesn’t have a whole lot of experience playing top flight football, even despite Ajax’s tremendous trust in youth. But he has been acknowledged heavily for what he does well on a football pitch and could prove to be an excellent signing for Frank de Boer’s men. He was an established part of de Boer’s Ajax back in 2014-15 and the manager has already shown how much he trusts the Dutch youngster to perform. Jairo Riedewald is definitely one to watch this season should he be able to secure regular playing time again.
Frank de Boer has only made three changes since his time with the Eagles began and all three have been smart and welcomed modifications. Goalkeeper Steven Mandanda is the only departee after he was sold back to Marseille for proving to be one of the most failed signings in the history of the club. In the other end of the spectrum, Jairo Riedewald has signed for the club for a fee of 7.9 million pounds despite never being a regular in Peter Bosz’s Ajax of last season. Ruben Loftus-Cheek has also been loaned over from Chelsea and could prove to be one of the signings of the season if he is given the chance to prove himself.
- Christian Benteke will score 16+ goals to be one of the league’s top strikers again. Meanwhile, Zaha will improve on last season and score 10 or more.
- Luka Millvojevic will be one of the first names on the team sheet every single game and will be an essential component to de Boer’s system.
- The Eagles will lose more games from winning positions than any other team.
- Palace will also lose more games than they win or draw.
- Jason Puncheon will play regularly despite only scoring 1 goal and assisting no more than 6.
- Joel Ward will not play every single fixture like he did last season.
- Frank de Boer will strangely be sacked with limited reason.
PREDICTED FINISH: 15th
Sam Allardyce led Crystal Palace to a 14th place finish last season against all odds and the season they are expected to finish in and around the exact same place. With the addition of Newcastle United to the league, The Mastermind has bumped Palace back down to 15th, assuming that all the teams that finished below them last year will also do so in 2017-18. With the quality of Zaha, Benteke, Millvojevic and Dann, they should be able to steer clear from relegation with ease. But the rest of the squad could use some serious improving and none of the players listed above or so amazingly spectacular that they can lead the Eagles into the top ten. Often the criticism about Palace is that with the players they have in their squad that they should be challenging for European places, which just isn’t true. They have a very average squad, it’s the reason they’ve finished so low two seasons in a row now and it’s the reason they’ll finish in exactly the same area as they did in 2016-17. Crystal Palace have a good team that will be very capable of surviving relegation this season, but they won’t be anywhere near good enough to breaking into that top ten.