Will Crystal Palace suffer second season syndrome?
A couple of months ago you could forgive a Crystal Palace fan for being confident about the new Premier League season. The “Pulis Revolution” had completely transformed a club set to be relegated at Christmas, propelling them to an impressive 14th place at the end of the season. Under Holloway, rival Premier League teams did not have a hard time finding the back of the net, but Pulis tightened things up at the back and improved team chemistry, with an undefeated streak and memorable games against Chelsea and Liverpool. But then the worst happened, Pulis resigning 48 hours before the first game of the season, leaving Palace fans unsure about the new season.
“Second season syndrome” has become a common phrase in football and is used to describe a dramatic downfall in fortunes two seasons after promotion. It happened to QPR in 2013, Birmingham in 2011 and famously to Ipswich in 2002, who finished 5th in their first season in the Premier League but were relegated a year later. With the departure of Pulis it is fair to suggest that Palace are going to be involved in the relegation drama to come but whether they will actually suffer second season syndrome is a tougher question to answer.
Palace had a quiet transfer window in contrast to other Premier League clubs, who splashed the cash and smashed transfer records for fun. But overall, Palace played the transfer window quite well. Defensively, Martin Kelly and Ezekiel Fryers are good additions to an area that Palace were weak in and they both have time to develop. Brede Hangeland, whilst definitely past his prime, was nevertheless a useful signing and has been a surprising goalscorer. Record signing James McArthur has the potential to form a great partnership with captain Jedinak to keep things ticking in midfield. And with three goals already, Fraizer Campbell is a natural finisher and a bargain for £900,000.
Then of course, the return of club legends Andrew Johnson and Wilifred Zaha was a fillip for the team. Whilst Zaha did not have the dream season he hoped to have at Manchester United, this season is his chance to find his form again. With a goal and assist already, he certainly has the potential to do that. The only disappointing decision was the loaning of Glenn Murray to Reading and then replacing him with Kevin Doyle, who could only manage 3 goals in 23 League 1 appearances last season. Yet there is a chance that Murray will find his shooting boots again and return to Palace for a prolific second half of the season.
Manager-wise, Palace have also chosen well. Whilst his first tenure at the club was far from great, Warnock has shown so far that he has what it takes to keep Palace up, with only one defeat to Chelsea, and you can’t expect any points from a game against them with the squad that they have this season. In fact, he seems to be getting the players to attack better than Pulis could, although defensively, Pulis was probably better. Conceding from set pieces has been disappointing, considering that it rarely happened under Pulis. But Warnock was definitely the right man to succeed Pulis and it is heartening to watch the team playing with confidence. Also, rumours are afoot at the moment that Philadelphia 76ers owner Josh Harris, who is worth over $2 billion, is interested in taking over the club. If that comes true then the flood of cash at Warnock’s disposal could be spent sensibly in January to further cement Palace’s Premier League place.
Overall, it is impossible to rule out second season syndrome, but if the team maintains its current level of performance it should be easily avoided. There are certainly teams as weaker than Palace on paper and in performance so as long as the Eagles can stay a few points ahead of them, a third Premier League season will be in the bag.