Opposition Season Preview – Part One: Crystal Palace and Liverpool

As part of a new series looking ahead to the new season, we’ve spoken to fans of the 19 other Premier League clubs to get their views on their clubs’ chances next season, as well as what they think of us.

This week, we have Palace blog Red N Blue Army, and Henry Jackson from Liverpool site This is Anfield.

CRYSTAL PALACE

After Pardew and Allardyce, is de Boer the right man to make Palace a real force in the Premier League?

Let’s go back to the season that Palace were promoted to the Premier League. Dougie Freedman had built a team based on a solid defence that could counter attack at pace. The team thrived and flew to the top of the Championship. Ian Holloway came in and tried to implement an attacking, possession dominant style of play. Palace slipped to 5th, only confirmed a Play Off place on the last day and, credit where it is due, got us promoted. We then lost 8 of 9 in the Premier League as he continued with this style and he was out the door.

In came Tony Pulis. He went back to basics and installed a solid defensive unit that could hit on the counter with pace. That ship then sailed and in came Neil Warnock and I am unsure that he even knew what he was doing before getting the sack in the December. Alan Pardew came into Palace, went back to basics, with a team that could defend and hit fast on the counter and produced a quite stunning series of results at the start of his managerial reign in South London.

Pardew then decided to move towards a more expansive style of football and results deserted us. In came Sam Allardyce, who went back to basics… do you see the pattern?

This is not me saying that Frank de Boer is not the man to make Palace a force in the Premier League. He might be. Pre-season has already revealed that Palace will revert to 3-4-3 and there will be a concerted effort to enjoy more possession than the opposition, which is not the mindset of a team that expect to battle relegation. However, trying to play this way is exactly where we have failed in the past seasons and ended in relegation battles. With the signings of Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Jairo Riedewald, de Boer is at least addressing the deficiencies that the current playing squad have when trying to implement a more expansive style. Holloway and Pardew merely attempted to put round pegs in square holes.

Will it work? That remains to be seen. Counter-attacking football is ingrained into the psyche of the Palace natives. It will not be easy winning them over. Especially when we inevitably concede a goal when attempting to pass out from the back.

On paper, you’ve got a decent side with a few really exciting players – why have Palace struggled in the last couple of seasons?

We were “Pardewed”. While trying to transform our style of play was the right thing to do, he went about it the wrong way. He tried too much too soon, isolated half of his squad with his antics (see stripping Mile Jedinak of the captaincy) and ended up with the dressing room collapsing around his ears.

Allardyce came in and did well and gave the Premier League a sneak preview of what we are capable of with wins over Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal toward the back end of last season.

How would you rate your transfer window so far? Is a bigger overhaul needed?

A good start with more to come. Loftus-Cheek and Riedewald, on paper, look like great additions for what we expect de Boer is going to try and achieve with the playing style.

A bigger overhaul is needed, but there are so many gaps in the current squad the overhaul can be achieved by simply filling these gaps. Christian Benteke and Connor Wickham (still recovering from his latest ACL injury) are the only two proven strikers on the book, so recruitment is needed there. Joe Ledley needs replacing having departed on a free and with Jordon Mutch, Chung-Yong Lee and James McArthur all expected to depart we will see more new faces come in.

There is also room at the back for one or two more. In an ideal World, we get Mamadou Sakho back in, but Liverpool’s asking price, for a player that no one else seems to want, is laughable. Then, Bruno Martins Indi doesn’t look bad…

You beat us 4-1 at your place last season under Pardew… how?

If you throw enough shit at a wall, some of it will stick?

That game was the first really good game that Andros Townsend had for Palace. He then didn’t have another one until Allardyce arrived in December. It was clear that Townsend and Pardew had fallen out and the player simply did not put in the miles. Quite literally. Townsend went from averaging 8km’s running per game under Pardew to 11km’s per game under Allardyce. His performances and Palace’s improved as a result.

This is your 5th consecutive season in the Premier League, do you see yourself as fully established now?

Ha! Never. Relegation is always just around the corner. It is going to take at least another decade for me to shift that mindset.

What do you make of Stoke? Does/did it surprise you to learn that fans wanted Hughes out last season?

Stoke are the quintessential mid table Premier League team. After years of being there, it is only fair that fans want a bit more. The hard fact is that Hughes is delivering no more, or less, than his predecessor and therefore doesn’t appear to be fitting the bill of moving the team on. However, teams do need to be careful what they wish for. See Leeds, Charlton etc…

Predictions for the where Palace and Stoke will finish this season?

12th and 13th. Either way around.

palsto

LIVERPOOL

Back in the Champions League, exciting new signings and Jurgen Klopp….just how excited are Liverpool fans getting about this season?

I’m very excited, but a lot rests on whether we sign Virgil van Dijk and Naby Keita, and keep hold of Philippe Coutinho. Van Dijk is the key signing without a doubt, with our defence so poor and the Dutchman on the verge of being world-class, and it’s looking as Keita will stay as RB Leipzig (as we speak). Coutinho must stay, but I’m getting worried about him joining Barcelona.

If one or two of these things go against Liverpool, the fanbase will fume at owners FSG, and it will be a hugely disappointing summer after a really positive season.

What would represent a successful season for Liverpool? 4th again or do you have your sights set on trophies and titles?

We have to target the title – simple as that. You have no idea how much we all want it! Last season showed that we’re as good as anyone on our day, when our best team is fit and available. Lack of squad depth was always the issue, which is being addressed this summer. Realistically, third or fourth in the Premier League, the knockout stages of the Champions League and a domestic cup would definitely represent a good season.

Where are the weaknesses in the Liverpool side, and do you think Klopp will have adressed them by the end of the window?

Our defence, without question.

The goalkeepers are not perfect but are improving, there is heaps of quality in midfield, as well out wide and in attack, but we just ship goals. This is why Van Dijk is so key, and I think we’ll get him. Andy Robertson is also a good buy from Hull City, and will provide good competition at left-back for James Milner. 

Trent Alexander-Arnold is one to watch at right-back, with many tipping him to usurp Nathaniel Clyne at times. More is needed from the England international this season.

If we can sort our defence out, most noticeably our inability to deal with set-pieces, anything is possible.

You beat us fairly handily at your place, and overcame us at the bet365 – have Stoke lost the edge they used to have at home against the big clubs?

I think so, yes. I used to despise coming to play you under Tony Pulis – he just ruined the game as an entertaining contest (from our point of view) and it was really effective. Bloody Rory Delap!

Your ground feels like a nicer play to go now, especially with that corner filled in to stop the wind, although I still always see it is a tough place to go. How we beat you there last season I’ll never know.

Why didn’t Joe Allen work out at Liverpool?

I really liked Joe Allen, but he just wasn’t going to get the regular football he craved. He’s not quite at the level of players like Jordan Henderson, Emre Can and Gini Wijnaldum, but I would still love to have him as a squad player. On his day, he’s a lovely player to watch, if you look closely enough. He’s subtle in his excellence.

We’ve got a couple of other former Liverpool men in the shape of Charlie Adam and Peter Crouch, how are those two regarded in Merseyside?

Very differently!

Peter Crouch remains very popular – who doesn’t like him? – and he recovered from an appalling start to become a cult hero at Anfield. He was also a really good player at his peak, most importantly.

Charlie Adam, on the other hand, is seen as a woeful buy. He never looked after himself and was simply never good enough to play for Liverpool. His penalty miss in the 2012 League Cup final summed up his Reds career.

Another ex-Red, Glen Johnson, is somewhere between the two.

Any Stoke players you’d have in the Liverpool starting XI?

In all honestly, no, but that’s not to say you don’t have talent there.

The likes of Xherdan Shaqiri and Bojan have shown their class in the past, but they do look like luxury players to me. I’ve always rated Ryan Shawcross, despite his crude style, while Jack Butland remains a goalkeeper of real promise.

Finally, a prediction for where we’ll both finish this season?

I’d be surprised if we weren’t in the top-four again, so I’ll go with third place for us. We must nail our summer business though, in order to challenge across four different competitions.

I think Stoke will once again be clear of relegation, although they may dip a little. I’ll say 14th, but you could easily finish as high as ninth.

livsto

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