Over the past five years, it has been a whirlwind experience for everyone at Crystal Palace. On the brink of administration, a fierce relegation battle and Championship survival on the last day of the season, winning a play-off final to get promoted to the Premier League and surpassing everyone’s expectations by finishing 11th in England’s top flight are some of the highs and lows that the Eagles fans have gone through. It’s safe to say that there is never a dull moment at Crystal Palace.
At the start of the 2013/2014 campaign, many were shocked at the sacking of the eccentric Ian Holloway, with his character alone seemingly being the main reason why fans trusted in the former Blackpool boss. But no one knew how much of a success Tony Pulis was going to be. Sitting at the foot of the Premier League table when Pulis took over the club in November, the ex-Stoke manager used his credentials and fantastic football knowledge to maintain his record of never being relegated as a manager. The South East London club were a force and struck fear into many an opposition manager when the Welshman was at the helm.
Now times have changed with former Sheffield United, QPR and Leeds United gaffer Neil Warnock returning for his second spell at Palace after Pulis had disagreements with chairman Steve Parish over transfers which forced him to resign, something that shocked English football. Currently sitting in 16th place, two places above the dreaded relegation zone, the Eagles are no longer the force they once were under the stewardship of Warnock, and the risk of a season back in the second tier of English football for the 2015/2016 season looms.
The comparison between Warnock and Pulis at Palace show the latter’s Eagles side conceded less goals, had both more shots and more shots on target, produced more accurate crosses and won more tackles and interceptions. However, it doesn’t matter what club Pulis is managing, the former Plymouth Argyle chief will always be associated with long ball football. Under the guidance of Warnock, Palace have had more possession, scored more goals, made more successful dribbles and are fouled more often than the Crystal Palace under Pulis. The anthesis of ‘tika-taka’ football, Pulis set up his sides in a superb defensive manner, while Warnock likes his sides to play more open.
Last weekend’s defeat at home to table toppers Chelsea was a prime example of what could have been. Palace were aiming to emulate what they achieved last season when they took maximum points from Jose Mourinho’s men thanks to a John Terry own goal. It could have been the same again, had it not been for the sending off of centre half Damian Delaney. Unlike the management of Pulis, Palace will not be picking up as many unexpected points against the top teams. Nevertheless, Warnock’s Palace are more likely to beat the teams around them, especially at home where they benefit from fantastic support, as he encourages his teams to attack. This is why Palace will spend another season in the top flight.