It has been four seasons since a new era for Crystal Palace started. That chapter lasted just four games, as the infamous experiment with Frank de Boer went horrendously wrong.
However, the South Londoners are now back in that state of unfamiliar territory; they will begin the 2020/21 season with a new manager and potentially a new-look squad, as Roy Hodgson and several first-team members look set to depart.
Are there concerns? Of course, especially when this season was arguably the most stable and uneventful in the Hodgson era. The 73-year-old has guided them through another Premier League campaign with relative ease, but ultimately, it is time for something new.
The Start of a New Era for Crystal Palace
Uneventful and Unspectacular
There is little to talk about this season for Crystal Palace, as very little of note actually happened. There was no run in either the FA Cup or Carabao Cup, and the lowest they have been this season is 15th. Any concern of relegation was soon dashed midway through the season, leading to an Alan Partridge style shrug of the shoulders from fans watching behind their screens.
Hodgson has stuck to a trusted pool of players, and although he has tried to make his side more expansive and attacking this season, it has ultimately failed to work. Yes, they have scored more than the 31 they did last season, but that has been compromised by having one of the worst defences in the division.
In a season that was largely uneventful, there are two standout moments for the Eagles: defeating Manchester United 3-1 at Old Trafford and their sensational 2-1 win away to rivals Brighton & Hove Albion. The former gave hope for what could come, as they more than held their own against a tired United. However, it was the latter that will be the standout moment of the season, as a Christian Benteke volley in the last minute of the game sealed a smash and grab win.
There were horror moments too – a 7-0 thrashing at the hands of Liverpool came as a shock, but shipping a combined eight goals to Chelsea and another six to Manchester City also left a sour taste in the mouths of Palace fans.
However, regardless of that, Palace will be playing Premier League again next season. It might not have been appeasing to the eye at times, but those in the stands and the boardroom will not mind.
Is There a Player of the Season for the Palace?
The end of the season means that awards are given out for the best Player of the Season and similar noteworthy achievements.
However, with no standout options or players to pick from, it makes picking the 2020/21 candidate a lot harder. Wilfried Zaha is the obvious choice – his goals during the first half of the campaign effectively sealed Palace’s survival. However, he endured a much tougher second 19 games, with only inconsistent glimpses of his talent on show.
Christian Benteke’s redemption after a torrid last two seasons has certainly been pleasing, and if you look at his overall contribution to games, he is certainly a worthy contender.
The same can be said for Vicente Guiata. Although he has not been up to the standard he created for himself last season, the Spaniard has produced match-winning saves on numerous occasions this season. However, they have been coupled with mistakes too, much to the surprise of fans.
All three are the most notable contenders for the Player of the Season, but choosing between them is going to be the sticking point for those who fill these stands at Selhurst Park.
Moment of the Season?
There is one obvious memory of this season that will stick in the memory of fans for a lifetime.
Winning at Brighton always has a huge meaning for Palace fans – it is one over your rivals in their own stadium. However, a 95th minute makes it all the more sweeter.
Pitchside microphones picked up right-back Joel Ward describing the win as a ‘smash and grab’ and it was exactly that. A cross into the box late on found Christian Benteke peeling off towards the back post before volleying home first time into the opposite corner.
The moment was poetic – while there was heartbreak for the Seagulls, the Eagles soared into the nights sky.
A New Era and a New Season
For the first time in four years, Palace are in uncharted territory. They will start the season with a new manager and, with several players from this season’s squad out of contract, potentially a new look squad.
It is an opportunity that chairman Steve Parish and the Crystal Palace board need to seize. There is an opportunity for change and a fresh start, after the club and arguably become stale under Hodgson.
There are risks to it, of course – changing identity to0 soon can lead to dire consequences. However, risks have to be taken, and risks can pay off.
Regardless of who is in charge in SE25 next season, it will be a new era for the club.
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