Eagles feel at home in Premier League
16 August ~ After Crystal Palace's season-opening win at Norwich Alan Pardew quipped that he was initially worried he might have picked the wrong team. Pards' studied self-depreciation certainly isn't to everyone's taste, but his comment was revealing nonetheless. Transfer activity over the summer has strengthened the Selhurst playing staff and, where once new arrivals would always be matched by departures, this time around there’s a sense of consolidation and, with it, progress.
This is comfortably the strongest squad Palace have ever had. Pardew suddenly has options, a luxury always denied his predecessors during inevitably short-lived Premier League campaigns. Yohan Cabaye is the club’s biggest signing since Attilio Lombardo, nearly 20 years ago. The Frenchman was more holding midfielder than playmaker on his debut at Carrow Road.
A bit of oomph in the middle isn’t something we’ve been particularly short on, with Mile Jedinak, James McArthur and Joe Ledley all capable of doing the hurly-burly stuff but, pleasingly, Cabaye’s performance suggested he can still create from a deeper role. He may well need to over the coming weeks. Palace play with a zippy pace up front, particularly away from home, but still appear to be one Scott Dann injury away from a brittle back line.
Most supporters were hoping for reinforcements in defence and grumbles can be found on fan forums in among the upbeat reactions to last weekend’s win. Keeping hold of Dann, in the face of strong interest from hometown club Everton, was potentially just as important as signing Cabaye.
A tricky run of games – Chelsea away, Manchester City at home, Tottenham away – begins with the visit of Arsenal. Palace’s two previous Premier League starts were absolutely rotten, so any kind of points tally against that quartet (and Aston Villa at home next weekend) would be a major plus point as the club look to build on last season’s tenth place.
Can we get a result against the north Londoners? Palace have momentum, confidence, a bit of luck; all the things Arsenal seemed to be lacking in their defeat to West Ham. They also score a lot of goals from set pieces, which could be one possible way past Petr Cech.
Doubtless a bristling Arsenal side will be keen to right the wrongs of last Sunday. And there’s every chance that they will. But the Eagles have a different mindset from previous years and are more assured and assertive in their dealings with the elite clubs. There’s a strong sense of belonging, one that’s going to take some shaking. This is a fine old time to be a Crystal Palace fan. Matthew Barker