How Sam Allardyce gave Crystal Palace hope of surviving the Premier League's toughest run-in

Ed Malyon
The Independent
Allardyce has improved Palace since replacing Pardew: Getty
Allardyce has improved Palace since replacing Pardew: Getty

Sam Allardyce has now, without any doubt, turned Crystal Palace around.

While the surprise win at Chelsea on Saturday, inspired by Wilfried Zaha and then secured by a valiant back five, only leaves them four points clear of relegation, there is a renewed confidence in their safety despite the most difficult run-in in the division.

Under Alan Pardew there were people within his own backroom staff who questioned with increasing openness during the autumn whether the silver-haired former West Ham, Charlton and Newcastle boss was capable of reviving Palace. He was afforded ample time but only succeeded in further destroying morale.

Allardyce has had to pick up a squad shorn of many of its leaders, rebuild their confidence and instill some semblance of a tactical plan.

Palace are vastly improved under Allardyce (Getty)
Palace are vastly improved under Allardyce (Getty)

The latter has been the easy part, and there is no doubt that the Eagles play with far more defined roles under their new coach. Set pieces, the biggest weakness of the Pardew regime, have become a strength and tactically Allardyce has outshone his predecessor – even if sometimes that has meant a more conservative playing style.

When it brings results like that at Stamford Bridge, the fans care not a jot. Exploding with noise, some of their own making and the rest with pyrotechnic assistance, the Palace support in the Shed End backed their manager switching to a back five and using all of his substitutions on the hour mark.

Part of that is simply because it was decisive and impactful, something that could rarely be said of Pardew’s in-game switches.

But when asked about what he has changed at the club, Allardyce does not mention the extra time spent on set pieces or, really, anything to do with the players.

Instead the focus is on his staff, who he repeatedly states have been given more responsibility to do their jobs and, in turn, make those players better.

The former England manager has handed more responsibility to his staff (Getty)
The former England manager has handed more responsibility to his staff (Getty)

“It’s not just me, although I’m obviously head of the football department, but I choose certain members of staff to come and work with me and some of the original members of staff that stayed on were empowered to do their job better by me and use their qualifications and their experience, and make sure they make the players better in their department, and then for me to oversee and guide everybody forward to try and achieve results.

“You start by setting standards and start setting out basic responsibilities on what you need to do to win a game of football. And sometimes that’s not just about how well you do in possession, it’s about what you do out of possession.

“And there’s no doubt the transfer market has been a massive influence. Our selection of players, as you saw today, have done exceptionally good, and that’s made a difference as well.”

Milivojevic has impressed since moving to south west London (Getty)
Milivojevic has impressed since moving to south west London (Getty)

Three Allardyce signings played at Stamford Bridge. A fourth, Patrick van Aanholt, could reasonably have expected to had he been fit.

Luka Milivojevic has been an upgrade on Mile Jedinak, the Eagles captain marginalised and then sold by Pardew. Mamadou Sakho, who has won all four games he has played for Crystal Palace, may turn out to be the best buy by any club in the January transfer window. Jeffrey Schlupp’s energy was essential in shutting down Chelsea on Saturday.

Those signings, a new confidence and more focused training performed by newly-empowered coaches have all helped fix Crystal Palace’s sinking ship. This is a club revived.

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