2013/14 Season Preview: Holloway’s Eagles eager to fly high this season

Last season’s position: 5th  (Championship, W19 D15 L12 F73 A62)

Key man: Dwight Gayle

Predicted position: 19th

When, in May, Crystal Palace booked their ticket to the Premier League for the first time in eight seasons, they already knew they’ll be tackling the top-flight without their star player, Wilfried Zaha, who had already agreed to join Manchester United.

Zaha’s loss is a big blow for Palace, as is the knee injury that will keep Glenn Murray – last season Palace’s top scorer with 31 goals – out until January, but Ian Holloway isn’t the sort of manager who’s easily disheartened.

The former Blackpool manager had a troubled start to this summer’s transfer window, during which he stressed the need for the club to focus on realistic and viable targets, rather than be left scraping the barrel on deadline day.

Holloway hasn’t exactly embarked on a spending spree and while Palace further strengthening, particularly at the back, things are looking brighter for Eagles fans, who have shown an admirable amount of faith in their club, as season ticket sales topped 15,000.

The arrival of Marouane Chamakh from Arsenal on a free transfer might not have been met with huge enthusiasm but it’s easy to forget that, despite the last two abysmal seasons, the Morocco international netted 11 times in his debut season for the Gunners.

The former Arsenal striker was the third striker to join the club the season, after Kevin Phillips and Dwight Gayle.

The former, Palace’s matchwinner in last season’s play-off final against Watford, arrived from Blackpool on a permanent deal after spending the second half of  last season on loan at Selhurst Park and his experience could prove invaluable for Holloway’s men.

The latter, meanwhile, arrived from Peterborough for £4.5m, a rather expensive investment for a 22-year-old who was was playing for Bishop’s Stortford just over a year ago, but Gayle’s already shown an eye for goal and Palace hope he’ll develop into the kind of clinical finisher capable to spearhead the club towards safety.

Jerome Thomas, who arrived as a free agent, will bring Premier League experience to the side as will Elliot Grandin and Stephen Dobbie, both of whom played under Holloway at Blackpool, but arguably the club’s most exciting signing is José Campaña, captain of the Spain Under-20s side and twice a member of an Under-19s team which secured European Championship glory.

Having entered the last 12 months of his contract at Sevilla, Campaña only costed Palace £1.5m and while it might take time for him to settle in a different environment, he promises to be an exciting prospect.

The Spaniard, the sort of deep lying midfielder good on the ball which Holloway prefers, will bolster an engine room already featuring Jonathan Williams and Yannick Bolasie, both capable to deliver more than the odd flash of brilliance.

Palace’s back four, however, looks less solid and Holloway will again have to rely heavily on Mile Jedinak and Joel Ward to marshal the defence and offer adequate protection to Julian Speroni.

The Argentine, entering his nine season with the club, conceded the most out of the top six teams in the Championship last season, but rose to prominence as Palace kept three clean sheets in four play-offs matches.

Palace’s ability to shut down better sides will be crucial for their chances of survival, as will their form at Selhurst Park, where they lost only twice in the whole of last season, while Ian Holloway’s experience at Premier League level could ensure Palace follow in the footsteps of Southampton and Norwich, rather than Reading’s.

Will Palace manage to survive this season, despite a lack of big signings? Can Ian Holloway go one step better than he did with Blackpool? Let us know below or get in touch via our Facebook or Twitter

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