Selhurst Park is rocking this year. The Eagles are flying high so far, their position of 8th in the rapidly-developing Premier League table a reflection of how consistent they’ve been so far this season.
Palace have achieved some memorable results in the last few months, including an away win at Chelsea back in August, and last weekend’s deserved 2-1 victory at Anfield.
Their manager, local hero Alan Pardew, is adored by the fans and credited with bringing joy back to the style of football Palace play, after Tony Pulis and Neil Warnock, who the supporters never quite adored so much.
As usual, the fans have backed their team every step of the way, vociferous in support of the Eagles and taking huge support all over the country.
So what exactly has their excellent form so far this year been down to? Let’s take a look at what we think are the main five reasons…
Everything else springs from this really. Pardew has instigated a style of play that incorporates defensive solidity (with two defensive central midfielders), along with flying wingers and a centre forward whose main role is to bring others (Bolasie, Zaha, Puncheon, etc) into play.
So far it has been rather impressive, as shown in their almost perfect away performances at Stamford Bridge and Anfield. Yohan Cabaye (more about him later on) and James McArthur perform the sitting role admirably, and the whole team is now a well-drilled, effective unit that will never give an opposing team an easy game.
Without any doubt, signing Yohan Cabaye from PSG would have to be classed as one of the signings of the summer, possibly along with West Ham’s signing of Dimitri Payet.
Cabaye has been masterful for the Eagles so far, providing a cultured presence in midfield that frankly would not be normally associated with a Premier League mid-table side.
His range of passing, expert penalty taking and all round class means that Palace can now either control games through his passing, or use him as a conduit to initiate fast breakaways, whichever suits the specific game they’re in.
He has been a revelation so far.
The Eagles have rapidly become a redoubtable defensive unit. First drilled into them over and over again by Tony Pulis, Pardew has continued that good work and the back five is often an impregnable barrier.
Scott Dann, Damien Delaney, Joel Ward et al are doing a fine job at the back, where their no-nonsense style defending has proved successful against the very best this year – Diego Costa and Wayne Rooney are amongst the strikers who have failed to get the better of the rugged centre back pairing.
It’s not like Selhurst Park is a library when things are going badly, as it plays host to arguably the Premier League’s most passionate, noisy and fanatical supporters – the ‘Holmesdale Fanatics’ who occupy a corner of the ground and make an awful lot of noise.
However, one can sense that the whole stadium is now firmly behind Pardew, a local boy done good who answered their SOS call in January and has been on an upward curve with them ever since.
When the fans are all behind the manager and feeling good about their team, there is no more intimidating, raucous ground in the league.
Wilf Zaha and Yannick Bolasie are not, by nature, models of professional consistency as Premier League players.
They both had a slight tendency to go missing at points in certain games last year, and neither produced quite as much end product in the first half of last season as they would have probably liked.
However, all that changed when Pardew took over, and now both are flying. Zaha is now looking like the player who helped get Palace promoted before his ill-fated sojourn at Manchester United, while Bolasie has steadily improved his performances and consistency since last winter.
They are unstoppable on their day – and that is more often than not at the moment.