It has been another busy summer as Marcel Brands continues to unpick the mess caused by previous regimes and mould a leaner, stronger and more balanced squad. While Marco Silva begins his second season in charge looking to build on last season’s eighth-place finish and maintain the form generated by their fine end to the campaign which saw only Manchester City and Liverpool collect more points in the final 11 games.
Seven first-team players have arrived (including last season’s loanee Andre Gomes) while six have departed, with Idrissa Gueye the only regular player from last season to head through the exit door. As a result, there is little doubt that the team is stronger than last campaign with greater depth in key positions.
The only area of concern is in the centre of defence, with Brands failing to bring in a replacement for Phil Jagielka. It leaves us short on numbers and relying on first-choice pairing Michael Keane and Yerry Mina to both perform and stay fit. But it would be churlish to suggest it has been a poor window given the signings made elsewhere. It was always going to take 2-3 windows for Brands to build the squad he wants, particularly as it is proving tough to move on a number of unwanted players due to their high wages. But things are moving in the right direction.
You can’t really talk about Crystal Palace this summer without starting with Wilfried Zaha. The Ivory Coast forward was reportedly furious at the club’s refusal to sell him to Everton before the deadline, even if the number of official bids made by the Toffees is disputed.
Having been on the other side of such a transfer saga before, Everton fans can appreciate Palace’s stance. After selling Aaron Wan-Bissaka for £50m they were under no financial pressure to sell and with four years left on his contract Zaha’s value is not going to dip anytime soon. They were right to demand a sky-high fee for their prized asset and in the end Everton were right to walk away, especially as Alex Iwobi was recruited for less than a third of what Palace were demanding for Zaha.
Though obviously delighted at keeping hold of Zaha the saga did overshadow Palace’s preparations for the new season and the challenge now is to try and ensure he is fully motivated and focused on the season ahead as he is vital to their fortunes.
Despite the Wan-Bissaka windfall Roy Hodgson has not spent big this window, only bringing in Jordan Ayew, Victor Camarasa, Gary Cahill and James McCarthy as he looks to improve on last season’s 12th place finish. Hodgson perhaps doesn’t always get the credit he deserves for keeping Palace up after the disastrous start they made to the 2017-18 season under Frank de Boer before keeping them in the relative safety of mid-table last year.
A lot of that is perhaps down to his style. He has his side well organised and tough to break down but goals are again likely to be an issue, with midfielder (and penalty taker) Luka Milivojevic their top scorer in the past two seasons with 10 and 12 goals respectively.
Selhurst Park is again likely to be its usual boisterous self for the season opener. Though curiously, despite the atmosphere generated by their own fans, Palace actually had a better record on the road last season, picking up 29 of their 49 points away from south London including that famous win over champions Manchester City.
That is likely to be the first area targeted for improvement this season.
Crystal Palace 0-0 Everton - April 27 2019 ( Match report)
A frustrating afternoon for in-form Everton who, just a week after thrashing Man Utd 4-0, dominated the possession and had the greater opportunities but couldn’t find a way through a stubborn Palace backline.
- Kariobangi Sharks (a) Drew 1-1 (Kariobangi won 4-3 on pens)
- Sion (a) Drew 0-0
- Monaco (a) Won 0-1
- Wigan (a) Drew 0-0
- Sevilla (a) Lost 1-0 / Mainz 05 Lost 3-1 (60-minute games)
- Werder Bremen (a) Drew 0-0
- FC Luzern (a) Drew 1-1 (Palace won 5-6 on pens)
- Young Boys (a) Lost 2-0
- Barnet (a) Lost 6-2
- Nott’m Forest (a) Lost 1-0
- Bromley (a) Lost 1-0
- Bristol City (a) Won 5-0
- AFC Wimbledon (a) Drew 2-2
- Hertha Berlin (h) Lost 4-0
What they said
Everton boss Marco Silva: “It’s out of my control. Of course, like you know, it was not just us who were interested in Zaha. He’s a very good player, but he’s Crystal Palace’s player.
“Whether he will play against us or not is for Roy [Hodgson, manager] to decide. It will be a tough, tough game for us, with or without him.”
Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson: They’ve had a good window. They’ve signed good players and had a good season last season. I’m pretty certain they’ll be hunting for a higher place and will be feeling confident with the way they’ve improved. It will be a tough game.”
Marco Silva has confirmed new signing Fabian Delph is ruled out of the season opener through injury while Leighton Baines is doubtful.
Fellow new arrivals Moise Kean and Jean-Philippe Gbamin are available but it remains to be seen whether they will be ready to start. Deadline day signing Alex Iwobi misses out as he was not registered in time this game.
Palace will be without James Tomkins, Mamadou Sakho and Jeffrey Schlupp but the three players who were given extended breaks due to the Africa Cup of Nations - Cheikhou Kouyate, Wilfried Zaha and Jordan Ayew – are in the squad.
Five out of Everton’s last six season openers have ended in draws while the Toffees have begun the campaign with a point 11 times since the formation of the Premier league, more than any other side.
Another draw cannot be ruled out here given the slightly fragmented nature of Silva’s squad. He is still tying to integrate new signings into the team, some of whom have only been here for a matter of days, while injuries and late arrivals due to summer tournaments means it won’t be Silva’s strongest side that takes to the field on Saturday. They do have a good recent record against Palace though, winning four and drawing five of the last nine meetings. It would be great to kick-off the season with a win for just the third time in 12 seasons.