FPL Preview: Crystal Palace

Palace

Crystal Palace once again needed a change of manager to give them the boost they needed to escape relegation. Two years ago it was survival specialist Tony Pulis, and this year it was club hero, Alan Pardew, who came in to save Palace. Pardew actually managed to drag them all the way up to 10th place with Palace nearly reaching 50 points.

This summer they started slowly before bursting into the transfer market, with the acquisition of Yohan Cabaye for a club record £10m. Cabaye should give them an experienced head in the middle of the park as well as a greater goal threat going forward. They have yet to sell anyone, but with the crowded midfield group they have they may soon be sellers in that department.

Early Fixtures Outlook: @ Norwich, vs Arsenal, vs Aston Villa, @ Chelsea, vs Man City, @ Tottenham

A really tough start for Palace who face four teams who finished in the top five within the first month and half. They will desperately want to cash in against Norwich and Villa because otherwise they could find themselves stranded low in the table with a mountain to climb. That start makes it hard to use any of the Palace options as goals and clean sheets should be scarce in the first six weeks. The first three games may be a chance to use a couple of the Palace options but there isn’t anyone so amazing that you would want them just for three weeks.

Goalkeeper Outlook: Julian Speroni (£4.5m)

Last season was decent for Speroni as he finished as the 10th ranked goalkeeper for fantasy with 115 points. However, Speroni had a much improved year two seasons ago with 144 points, as he kept double the clean sheets he managed to keep last season. He will struggle to reach the heights of the 2013/14 season, given that Pardew is a naturally more attacking manager than Tony Pulis, which will mean Speroni will likely struggle to reach double digit clean sheets this year. His save total should be in the 100 range once again so he should average just under a saves point per game, but the big points lie in the clean sheets.

Defence

Stud: Scott Dann (£5.0m)

Dann became a fixture at the heart of the Crystal Palace defence last season, and his 105 points was good enough to make him a top 25 defensive option, despite Palace keeping a measly six clean sheets whilst he was on the field. He averages over a goal per season, which isn’t massive, but its enough to just boost that value into draft-relevant levels. Dann is nothing to get excited over in salary cap leagues but he is the most relevant defender in a shallow group. In draft leagues he is a third/fourth defender who can be rotated based on match-ups.

Sleeper: Joel Ward (£4.5m)

Hopefully next year I can be writing about this guy in the section above, after he has a great year both in defence and going forward this season. His fantasy point total dropped dramatically last season due to a drop in assists (three to zero), and a drop of clean sheets (12 to seven). Whilst I don’t expect Palace to be as good defensively as they were two years ago under Pulis, I do expect Ward to get forward more with Pardew as manager, increasing his assist chances. With that should come a big increase in his fantasy value in crossing-rewarded formats and hopefully next year we can be talking about him as a potential top 15-20 guy, rather than 25-30.

Outside of these two the only guy who could have some fantasy relevance is Martin Kelly if he wins the left back job. If he can nail down that position then he will have the opportunity to get forward and potentially get some assists for standard scoring as well as getting some crosses in for other leagues. Delaney and Hangeland will compete for the other centre back job next to Dann and if Hangeland wins it then he may come into relevance as the season progresses.

Midfield

Stud: Jason Puncheon (£6.0m)

Puncheon has now scored over 100 points for the last three FPL seasons, and the last two he has found himself in the 130 range. Averaging six goals a year is a big part of his good fantasy returns, but he isn’t just a one trick pony as he can also provide assists. Puncheon just seems to keep doing the business for both Palace and fantasy owners, having finished as a top 20 option in midfield last season. For me he just tops Bolasie as their best fantasy option due to him having a greater goal scoring prowess.

Wilf Zaha

Sleeper: Wilfried Zaha (£5.5m)

Zaha returned to Crystal Palace last season after his horror year at Manchester United, and had a reasonably decent year with 91 fantasy points, thanks to four goals and three assists. Zaha is likely to open the season competing with Dwight Gayle for the other attacking midfield option next to Puncheon and Bolasie. Zaha is an incredibly talented footballer who could provide both goals and assists if he can nail down the starting job. Hopefully either him or Gayle nails the job down so we don’t have to suffer through the constant rotation of the two which wll damage both players values. Zaha top 20 potential and in draft leagues is worth a late round flyer as a fifth midfielder with upside.

Bolasie and Cabaye are the other two obvious must-start midfielders alongside Puncheon. Both should be functional but I don’t expect either to be significantly better than Puncheon. Therefore, in salary cap leagues I would take Puncheon over either if I desperately wanted a Palace midfielder. And in draft leagues I would wait until one of the three go off the board before considering the other two, as I expect similar returns from each. Bolasie does have a slight advantage in leagues rewarding points for crosses. As for the other central spot; I expect Ledley to win the battle but whoever it is is unlikely to have a lot of fantasy value as they will be the holding guy who will let Cabaye roam. They are ownable in any format due to their role and the potential competition between four of them.

Strikers

Stud: Glenn Murray (£6.0m)

This is tough for me because I think Chamakh starts the first day but Murray was so clinical last year I struggle to see how they don’t turn to him fairly quickly. Across his time with Palace and his loan spell Murray scored 15 goals in 27 starts (35 appearances total). Averaging 2.2 shots per game in the EPL allowed Murray to score in seven of his 17 PL appearances and he also chipped in with three assists. Personally I think Palace sign someone with Ulloa and Remy both rumoured and then almost immediately they will leap frog the whole group but for now Murray is begrudgingly the striker I would take very very late in draft leagues.

Dwight Gayle

Sleeper: Dwight Gayle (£5.5m)

Gayle is one of the most promising young footballers in the Premier League and it frustrates me so much that Crystal Palace do not seem to want to use him properly. In two seasons now Gayle has scored 12 Premier League goals in the equivalent of 22 full games for Palace. Yet they seem hesitant to let him start seemingly content to use him as an impact player from the bench. I think Gayle breaks out this year but when you can get him for the same price as Jermain Defoe he doesn’t stand a chance of being owned in salary cap formats. In draft leagues this is a man to draft late with the potential to be a top 20 if he can start regularly,

This striking group really leaves a lot to be desired with Chamakh and Campbell the other two options currently available to Alan Pardew. Chamakh has the best shot to be the opening day guy but I cannot see him being effective enough to keep the job especially if Murray is making an impact off the bench. Campbell looks to be third choice among the centre forwards and fourth choice among the players registered as strikers for fantasy but if he can battle his way through their may be some mid-season pick-up value.

Predicted Strongest Line-up/Opening day line-up:

GK: Julian Speroni

RB: Joel Ward

DC: Scott Dann

DC: Brede Hangeland

LB: Martin Kelly

CM: Yohan Cabaye

CM: Joe Ledley

RW: Yannick Bolasie

LW: Wilfried Zaha

CAM: Jason Puncheon

STR: Marouane Chamakh

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