During the last international break, I distinctly remember pushing to the back of my mind the possibility of reaching this exact point in time without a single point. Much has changed in the past few weeks – a new manager, marquee signing and formation – but the one thing that remains stoically fixed is our points tally. So where has it all gone wrong for Crystal Palace this season?
It all started way back in June, as Dutchman Frank de Boer was appointed as Crystal Palace manager. In terms of pedigree, it was a coup. Irrespective of the fact he arrived unproven in the Premier League as both a manager and player, he came laden with silverware, unprecedented at our club. In his first interview he set out his stall, it was going to be a pragmatic total football revolution that would finally deliver Steve Parish’s vision.
Fast forward two months and the marriage between ambitious Premier League club and exciting young manager eager to prove himself in England was not a happy one. Since his departure, rumours have emerged of player discontent, particularly among senior players. Harsh words, being shown up in training by a retired 47-year-old and discontent with his tactical approach have all been mentioned but whatever the truth, there is no escaping the fact that his sacking was not entirely, or even mostly, to do with what happened on a Saturday afternoon.
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The transfer business
As we headed into the first international break with no points on the board, I thought we needed to do some strong business. As it turns out, the decision to dispense with Frank de Boer’s services had already been made and there’s no telling the impact that had on the decision making in the final few days of the summer window.
As for the players we did bring in, well they’ve left us a little lop-sided. Jairo Riedewald was undeniably a “de Boer buy” and after featuring during pre-season has played just under two hours of football since and you have to wonder about his future at the club. The only other permanent arrival was Mamadou Sakho and while he is a fantastic player, there are question marks over the nature of his arrival.
The first was the time-frame: we wanted him, Liverpool wanted him gone and I think Mama wanted to be here, so why it took until deadline day to get the deal over the line is beyond me.
The second is the strength of the defence relative to the rest of the squad. Jairo and Timothy Fosu-Mensah had already been brought in to complement Dann, Tomkins and Delaney – we’d gone from having too few centre-halves to too many.
There isn’t a magic money tree, I think we all understand that.
However, to enter the season with one senior striker and no improvement on a problem area in goal is simply unforgivable. In the interim, the Chairman has said that “we didn’t want to buy a striker just for the sake of it” – hollow words now Benteke is missing. It certainly makes you look again at the use of £26 million on Sakho, however well he performed last season.
In isolation it’s a quality signing, I’m not trying to shade his ability or the work in acquiring him – in any other situation it would have rightly been lauded. Sadly the story is not the same when we were crying out for another striker as well as a goalkeeper to replace the temperamental one we currently have between the sticks, all the while marooned on zero points partially for those very reasons.
Two deals to plug those gaps fell through on transfer deadline day and you can’t help but feel that our whole situation could have a very different tone had we acquired both.
Read more: Eagles flatter to deceive on deadline day
On the pitch
For all of the problems we’ve had behind the scenes, we have not delivered on the pitch and that is our ultimate failing so far this season. We can whine about transfer dealings all we like, but the fact of the matter is that we have the 20th most expensively assembled squad in the world. Do we look it? Absolutely not.
There’s a whole host of mitigating factors but the reality is inescapable: individually and collectively the team has not delivered when they’ve stepped out onto the field. Few teams will pick up points against the pace-setting Manchester sides but plenty will at home to Huddersfield and Swansea. We failed to do that and have paid for it as a result.
Had we picked up six points, it would put us 17th, we may not be having this crisis of confidence and given our recent run of games, that wouldn’t be a bad return from our opening seven games. Better than pointless and goalless at any rate.