Guess who’s back? Make way for Pardew

By - Monday 12th January, 2015

As the Crystal Palace rollercoaster lurches into another heart-stopping drop, Nadim Lilani analyses the arrival of Selhurst Park old boy Alan Pardew

So Pardew and Palace are ready to dance again. And once more, it’s a do-or-die affair. Last time, it was an extra time header to take the South Londoners to the FA Cup final. Now Pardew must use his fabled bonce in a slightly different way:  to mastermind Premier League survival.

But cast aside the ‘Super Al’ narrative for a moment. Forget about the romantic cup run of 1990. There is no time for reminiscing, as Palace requires guts, nerve, tenacity – and all other fighting qualities thinkable – or else demotion to the Championship beckons.

Since September, most performances at Selhurst Park have been terribly tame. The Eagles have lost  their intensity, as well as some of the verve they showed under the tutelage of Tony Pulis. It is up to Pardew to try and recuperate this ferocity. There are many colossal frames in the squad – and they must use this as an advantage. It is time for the team to intimidate, bully, and breath down the opposition’s necks once more. Pardew – both as a player and a manager – has demonstrated an aggressive side: his troops have to replicate this demeanour.

Palace simply must stop conceding criminally poor goals from simple positions

While Palace’s attack has appeared blunt of late, there is actually not an excessive amount of work required to fix the back line. Scott Dann has recovered from the loss of form suffered early last month – his physical presence and experience will remain key over the coming months. One interesting point is the position of left-back. Will Pardew be able to sign a left-back? Or even 2 left-backs? Or is that being a bit too greedy, perhaps? What is clear is that Joel Ward’s footballing ability is not being done justice by his deployment in different defensive positions.

Whoever Pardew recruits to help shore up the Eagles rear guard, a crash course on how to defend set pieces would be a welcome add-on. Palace simply must stop conceding criminally poor goals from simple positions. It would be bad enough for a team wanting to make the top 10 to let cleans sheets escape them so easily. A team that’s trying to claw itself out of the bottom 3? Well, it’s just unthinkable.

The cornerstones are in place for Palace to succeed and finish outside the bottom three

‘Going back to basics’ is a term that is used a lot in football nowadays. But in the case of Palace, it is more apt than ever before. Under Tony Pulis, a regimented, united approach to defending allowed the team to soak up pressure and eliminate the possibility of individual mistakes occurring. It is imperative that this feature returns. This is perhaps why the transfer window may not have to be such a ‘wild card’ as those are making it out to be for Pardew.

The cornerstones are in place for Palace to succeed and finish outside the bottom three. This team is easy to berate, easy to rule out. Around 18 months ago, the majority of these players looked lost, destined for many an unwanted Premier League record – relegation seemed a mere formality. But Pulis managed to make the team gel, form a cohesive unit, and adapt to the rigours of the premier division. Given that Pardew achieved some remarkable runs with limited resources on Tyneside, there is no reason why he cannot do the same with a Palace team who find themselves in an 8-team relegation dogfight.

Palace has a chairman who likes to tailor to his manager’s needs

Looking at this season in particular, there are many struggling teams that have shown creative flair but are perhaps not as well-drilled as in recent seasons. Get the simple things right and Pardew could help the Selhurst Park outfit to stumble over the finish line in 17th. Get it all wrong, and he would still be a good bet to catapult the Eagles back to the Premiership again. There will be a very fine line between everything: something that Pardew knows all too well, having been subject to intense scrutiny as Newcastle manager.

There are some key differences here though – each of which could be telling. Palace has a group of players that know each other very well. They have a chairman who likes to tailor to his manager’s needs. They are backed by a vociferous support. Now, with the appointment of a manager who can create a well-drilled, organized side, they can dream of making a positive-looking long-term plan in 4 months’ time.

Nadim Lilani

Nadim Lilani

Nadim Lilani is a recent Hispanic Studies graduate from the University of Birmingham. A keen football fan and writer, he enjoys expressing his love for Croydon by documenting all things sport in south London.

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