To say Crystal Palace’s return to the Premier League has been difficult would be an understatement. The club have come from the brink of extinction to the Premier League in a mere three years. Now in the promised land, the Eagles have only three points from their opening eight games and the club have parted ways with manager Ian Holloway. Holloway has left the club by mutual consent with owner Steve Parish stating that “Ian felt the club might benefit from a new direction”. Holloway is the Premier League’s second managerial casualty of the season, the other being Paolo Di Canio at Sunderland, the only team below Palace.
Reports this week have claimed that Holloway had his team locked in the changing room for seventy-five minutes after their last game with the feeling being that he had lost the changing room. He had brought sixteen players in this summer, most of them towards the end of the window and it was clear that he did not know his best eleven. In their first eight games this season, Palace’s midfield three has been changed in five of their eight games. This has prevented the midfield from building any cohesion and understanding. For this reason, Palace have struggled to keep the ball in the majority of their games. Their average possession stat of 43.66% reflects this. Holloway had started seven different players and played nine different players in his centre midfield. This does not speak of a team that is settled or a manager that knew his best eleven.
The wide areas were another area that Holloway constantly changed. So far Dwight Gayle, Stephen Dobbie, Jimmy Kebe, Cameron Jerome, Yannick Bolasie and Jason Puncheon have started in a wide position. It has therefore been tough for any of the midfield to gain any cohesion compared to last season where Zaha and Bolasie would start most of Palace’s games. It could be a case that Holloway was giving all of his players a chance to play to see who is best suited for the game that he would like to play, but the Premier League is the most unforgiving in the world and there is no time for testing the waters. The rut that the Eagles currently find themselves in is one that needs continuity in the team in order to improve. Steve Parish and the Palace board will be hoping the new manager will bring stability.
The question now is who Palace will name as their new manager. The bookies have already suggested that Neil Warnock could be in line for a return to Selhurst Park, but the former Leeds man seems content out of football. Other front runners are Tony Pulis and Roberto Di Matteo. Of those two, Pulis is the man that has the experience of keeping a newly promoted team in the league whilst Di Matteo would bring a more aesthetically pleasing approach to football. Whoever the new man is, they need to bring some organisation and structure to the Eagles squad. The arrival of a new manager will also bring chances to players like Owen Garvan, Florian Marange and Stephen Dobbie, when he returns from his loan, to impress and force their way into the 25-man squad in January.
With Arsenal coming to Selhurst Park in their next fixture, even the most optimistic Palace fan will be expecting a loss this coming weekend. How the team reacts after this game will be very important. The Eagles could find themselves with three points after nine games, a position that may be impossible to come back from. After the Arsenal game, the Eagles face Everton, West Bromwich Albion, Hull and Norwich. The games against Hull and Norwich, although away, are the two games Palace will hope to win. So the games against Arsenal, Everton and West Brom can be used by the new manager to feel their way into the job. Any points gained in this current period will be seen as a bonus, but as is the case with the Premier League, a new manager often brings a lift to any club.