If the 2013/14 season had been counted from when Tony Pulis took over, Palace would have finished 8th. If last season had been counted from when Alan Pardew took over, then Palace would have finished 6th.
Consistency must be the name of the game for the Eagles this season, after a summer in which they have shown great ambition in the transfer market.
The foundations were already there when Pardew took over. Julian Speroni was a reliable, if ageing figure in goal, and a decent defence was shielded by an incredibly industrious midfield, featuring Mile Jedinak, James McArthur and Joe Ledley. Ahead of them was a talented if inconsistent and unpredictable forward line.
What Alan Pardew managed to do was to restore the solidity instilled under Pulis, whilst coaxing end products out of Yannick Bolasie, Wlifried Zaha and Jason Puncheon. The result was a blisteringly effective counter attacking team, led by the intelligent movement and aerial prowess of Glenn Murray.
That will still be Plan A for Palace this season, with Bakary Sako bolstering their options out wide, and Connor Wickham and Patrick Bamford offering more mobile alternatives to Glenn Murray or Marouane Chamakh.
Supplying this new and improved forward line will be club record signing Yohan Cabaye. A real coup from PSG, Cabaye will be looking to feed Palace’s flying wingers on the counter attack, but also offers Pardew’s side the option to take a more measured approach and attempt to control possession more.
It is further back that Palace are weakest. Scott Dann signing a new contract was vital, as he is by far the London club’s most commanding presence in defence. Ward, Delaney and Kelly complete a very competent backline, but the full backs offer little going forward and there isn’t much strength in depth.
Mariappa can sometimes look out of his depth at this level and Fryers has seen little game time since signing from Tottenham.
An injury at the back would be a worry for Palace, and for that reason the club have been linked with several centre backs this summer. Despite that, Pardew has announced that Palace’s transfer dealings are done.
Key Player: Yohan Cabaye could be the player to take Palace to the next level, but without additions, it will be the form and fitness of Scott Dann that prove crucial to the club’s ambitions this term.
If Dann can replicate last season’s solid displays, Palace’s flair players will be able to bomb forward with confidence.
One to watch: Sullay Kaikai should see more game time this season, and it will be interesting to see how Bamford makes the step up from the Championship, or if Wickham can finally deliver on his obvious potential, but the player who must really impress this term is Zaha.
Touted as one of the best English players of his age during his first spell at Palace, Zaha floundered at Manchester United, his career stalling amid questions surrounding his attitude.
Zaha found form and confidence under Pardew last season though. Strong and fast, he must now add consistent end product to his game, especially if he is to live up to the early hype.
Prediction: Finally able to look up instead of down, Palace could really impress this season.
There are still question marks next to their depth in defence, but Palace possess the attacking potency to blow teams away this term.
They will have to tussle it out with a mini-league of clubs including Swansea, Stoke and Southampton to make the top ten, but finishing 8th this year is definitely within Palace’s reach.