GW14 – Burnley (h) – Won 2-0
GW15 – Brighton (a) – Lost 3-1
GW16 – West Ham (a) – Lost 3-2
GW17 – Leicester (h) – Won 1-0
GW18 – Man City (a) – Won 3-2
GW19 – Cardiff (h) – Drew 0-0
GW20 – Chelsea (h) – Lost 1-0
Well, 2018 has finally come to a close with the busy festive period now behind us, and Palace looking slightly better coming out of December than they did going in to it. Again though, it was another rollercoaster ride for the fans in terms of results, with some crushing defeats, but also a couple of excellent wins and a truly memorable victory in Manchester. The Eagles amounted 10 points from the 21 available, moving them away from immediate relegation troubles, but with the upturn in form from the likes of Southampton and Burnley, they could find themselves dragged back in if results turn against them again. The month started out with the best team performance, up until then, in the win over Burnley, where the Eagles had over 30 shots on goal, and some even said it was like watching Barcelona. Yeah, I know, that wouldn’t last, followed by back-to-back defeats to rivals Brighton and West Ham, conceding 6 in the process, it looked like it was going to be another bleak winter in South London. Santa came early though with back-to-back wins, including a famous 3-2 victory over Manchester City at the Etihad, with a volley that is no doubt a Goal of the Season frontrunner from Andros Townsend, to help Palace achieve something they hadn’t done for 28 years, to the very day. However, they could not capitalize on the bonus 3 points, as they played out a nil-nil draw with Cardiff on Boxing Day, and suffered a narrow loss to London rivals Chelsea.
Total Combined Points – December (Season)
Keepers – 27 (82)
Defence – 119 (304)
Midfield – 153 (296)
Forwards – 21 (97)
Total – 320 (779)
It was certainly the midfield’s month, as the main three, Townsend, Milivojević, and McArthur, all contributed double figure points hauls, as the goals started to fly in for the Eagles. The defence had its ups and downs, ranging from zeros and ones, to sevens and eights. It was such a bumper month for points, that the FPL points amassed over Christmas amount to 41% of the total Crystal Palace FPL points this season.
Top FPL Points Scorers of the Month
Luka Milivojević – 40
Andros Townsend – 38
James McArthur – 33
Mamadou Sakho – 26
Patrick van Aanholt – 25
Aaron Wan-Bissaka – 25
Player of the Month
Although Luka Milivojević is the Player of the Month in terms of FPL points, outscoring Townsend by 2 points, Andros is definitely the player that has lit up the festive period at Selhurst Park. He scored the second goal against Burnley which sealed the victory, finally breaking through the Clarets’ stubborn defence after McArthur had opened the scoring in the first half (thanks to a Townsend assist). He grabbed another assist a few games later, presenting the ball to Milivojević to score the only goal in the home game against Leicester. But, it was the game in Manchester where his moment of the season came. When a corner was cleared in his direction, and the ball dropped on to his left foot. He volleyed it, screaming into the top right-hand corner of Ederson’s goal, sending the Etihad stadium in to a state of disbelief as Palace took a shock lead, thanks to Schlupp’s equaliser two minutes beforehand. It will take some beating when the votes for Goal of the Season roll around in May.
December has seen the emergence of something that’s really getting the FPL community’s tongues wagging (or fingers tapping nowadays), and that’s a super budget player who’s a starter for their club. Whether it be a super cheap forward like Success at Watford, a £4.5m midfielder who will get you 2 points every week, or like Palace’s own Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who has been the real bargain of the season with the starting price of £4.0m in August. So, when Hennessey dropped out of the squad with back spasms after the defeat to West Ham, all eyes were on replacement Vincente Guaita as he stepped in between the post at the handsome price of £4.2m. Since gaining the No.1 shirt from Wayne, he hasn’t given it up since. With 3 clean sheets out of his 5 games, only conceding goals to Man City and Chelsea, he has been thrusted into the spotlight for FPL managers trying to find those cheap enablers in attempts to save up those spare pennies. There hasn’t been a mad rush of managers signing him up yet, with under 40,000 buying him in over the five gameweeks, but with Hennessey now back from injury and finding himself only on the bench, all eyes will now turn to the Spaniard as an alternative to underperformers like Fabiański.
Fixtures in January
GW21 – Wolves (a)
GW22 – Watford (h)
GW23 – Liverpool (a)
GW24 – Southampton (a)
With a win over Wolves not long after Big Ben’s New Year chimes had finished, Palace have started 2019 in the best possible way. A customary penalty from Milivojević, and a first goal for loanee Jordan Ayew helped the Eagles move 6 points away from the drop zone. With a couple of winnable games (on paper at least), and an away trip to a stadium they’ve done well at in recent years, hopefully it will be more than 6 points by the time the transfer window closes. Between gameweeks 2 and 4, Palace lost to all three of their January opponents they have after the FA Cup game with Grimsby; Watford, Liverpool, and Southampton earlier this season, conceding 2 goals against each team, and only getting the 1 goal in reply against the Hornets. Palace have scored 3 of the last 4 times they have made the trip north to Anfield, only losing the latest one last season by the single Sadio Mané goal.
Players to Watch Out for in January – The Shopping List
There is not a whole lot of business that needs to be done during January for the Eagles. The defence looks solid enough, especially with the return of Scott Dann as support to the starting four, and the keepers are good competition for each other. So, it’s really only a couple of trouble areas where Hodgson needs to improve his squad, to make sure the second half of the season is more profitable points wise, than the first.
A Striker…or Two
There were reports that Liverpool’s Dominic Solanke had completed a medical with Palace at the turn of the year, and although it was confirmed he had, the club did not take up the deal as they wanted a striker that would be ready to play straight away, whereas Dominic is currently getting over an injury, and is not making his debut for new club Bournemouth until February. So, the search continues. Jermain Defoe was another name linked with a January move to South London, making way for the incoming Solanke, but it was nothing but rumours as the striker met up with former England international teammate Steven Gerrard at Rangers. A name that is probably not familiar to most is that of Sunderland’s Josh Maja, a 20-year-old striker who has been heavily linked with a move to Palace in this window after refusing a new contract at the Stadium of Light. Well, that was until Roy Hodgson said that he doesn’t follow Sunderland games, and knew nothing about the so-called ‘target’. More recently it was said that Roy was hunting for a ‘rare pearl’ in the free agent market, an apparent top priority that is good enough to “make us better, who at the same time for some reason is being released by their club”. Which probably means nobody will come in, but we can be positive right? Having a look on TransferMarkt.com at who are available on a free, and there are familiar names like Lacina Traoré, Victor Anichebe, and even Dimitar Berbatov. Maybe a return to the Premier League for the Bulgarian? A more attractive sounding rumour is that of Michy Batshuayi, and although the Belgian has only scored 3 goals in 20 appearances for Valencia this season, a loan deal till the end of the season should definitely be something the Palace hierarchy are looking at.
Some Wide Men
A knock-on effect of the lack of options in the striker position, is that the likes of Zaha and Townsend have to play as makeshift strikers, leaving a distinct lack of pace on the wings. Where there would normally be Wilf and Andros helping counter attacks by bursting down each side of the pitch, and providing crosses for the striker, it’s falling to players like James McArthur and Max Meyer to fill in those empty spaces, and for all the quality and talent they possess, pace is not one of them. It has meant that even though there are usually four across the midfield, they are very narrow, leaving the flanks open for opposition wingers and full-backs to launch attacks against Wan-Bissaka and van Aanholt. One name mentioned a lot by fans is Palace academy graduate Victor Moses, who has only played less than half an hour of Premier League football for Chelsea this year, having seen his place on the right flank under Conte usurped by Azpilicueta’s return to right-back under Sarri. It was only really some back trouble in late November and early December that has prevented Moses from being selected by the Italian, so it seems that he is just out of favour at Stamford Bridge, and at the age of 28 when a player should be hitting their prime, he needs to be playing games. A return to his boyhood club could be just what the talented Nigerian needs to rejuvenate his career, after it’s staled in the last couple of seasons after helping the Blues win the Premier League, and it could be for as cheap as £15-£20 million.
It’s been one of those months for the Eagles, made up of amazing highs, crushing lows, and some disappointing somewhats in between. However, with the new year now upon us, and the opportunity to sort out some of the issues currently facing the squad in the transfer window, hopefully they can push on up the league, and give their fans some hope for a good second half of the season.
C – Defeats to Brighton and West Ham hurt, and a missed chance at home to Cardiff was disappointing, but it’ll be hard to top that away win at the Champions any time soon.