Alan Pardew was waxing lyrical about Crystal Palace’s chances of making it into Europe just four months ago, now he’s currently sat holed up in Selhurst Park, desperately trying to find a way to win a football match in the Premier League. Something his side have not done in 2015.
Much has been made of the Eagles inability to grab three points. Indeed, it is now 13 matches without a win, with a harrowing nine of those ending in defeat. It’s all gone wrong since the manager opted to go for a drink with the supporters around Christmas.
To put it in to perspective, on Boxing Day, Palace had 30 points, just two less than Tottenham Hotspur. That was four more points than West Ham and a whioe 10 more than West Brom.
Fast forward and the south Londoners have added a mere three points to that tally and have plummeted 11 places. In comparison, Spurs are second in the division with 61 points, the Hammers are fifth with 50 points and the Baggies are six points clear of Pardew’s men in 13th on 39 points. Those cold hard facts make for the grimmest of grim reading for Palace fans.
Nevertheless, you cannot dampen Pardew’s spirits, well his ego at least. Instead of fronting up to the potentially cataclysmic slide his side are currently on, the ex-Newcastle boss has instead decided that fate and luck is more to blame than himself.
His managerial programme notes ahead of game with Leicester, in which he insinuated the current leaders were lucky to be in the position they find themselves and that his team could have replicated that if it wasn’t for unfortunate events, read like the scribblings on an inebriated maniac.
In that same piece, the Selhurst legend also took a pop at Jamie Carragher. Ironically taking about how ‘loyalty can blur opinions’, it is the manager’s loyalty to himself that his blurring his own opinion of his team’s fortunes. Simply put, the fault lies at Pardew’s door.
Surely the faith from the supporters and the board cannot go on for much longer? It is understandable that a club legend is to be given time, after all he had the team flying at one point this term, but 13 games without a victory is not down to luck.
The manager is living off a reputation forged as a player and in his first 12 months as the club’s boss, alongside an uncanny ability to keep winning in the FA Cup – something Pardew has failed to transfer to league fixtures.
After 19 games Palace had scored 23 goals and conceded just 16, in the 11 games since then they have scored just seven times and been breached on 24 occasions. Not only are they not picking up points but they’ve stopped scoring and started conceding. If he was at any other club, he’d be gone.
Pardew has been found out, and he knows it. He’s holding on, hoping that his team can scrape together enough points to avoid relegation, but he shouldn’t be overly confident about that supposed formality.
Maybe it is too late to sack him, clearly the board are happy with their lot, but a glance at Palace’s fixtures should send a shiver down both their manager’s and their supporter’s spines.
Somehow the Eagles must find a win from somewhere. The problem is, where?
West Ham – Away
Quite possibly Palace’s hardest game of the run-in comes this weekend. The Hammers have their eyes firmly fixed on a place in the Champions League, and on current form they might just get it.
Slaven Bilic’s men have not lost at Upton Park since August and In Dimitri Payet have one of the most in-form players on the planet. Lose this, which Palace should, and a win for one or two of the chasing pack and even Pards will be sweating.
Norwich – Home
This is the game that the Eagles will be targeting. Nevertheless, the Canaries are a totally different proposition to what they were three weeks ago after a pair of clean sheets and four points in their last two games.
They face Newcastle this weekend, and a win there could leave them breathing down the necks of the south Londoners. This could be the game where things start to get ugly at Selhurst Park.
Everton – Home
The Toffees haven’t been amazing this season by all means but they do have Romelu Lukaku, a brute of striker who has put many a defence to the sword in the last seven months.
Roberto Martinez’s men are much better on their travels, harbouring the fourth best away record in the division, having lost just once away from Goodison. Three points here looks massively unlikely.
Arsenal – Away
The Gunners refuse to believe they are out of the title race and if Spurs and Leicester stumble in any manner, Arsenal do have a fairly favourable end to the campaign. With the pressure off, expect them to thrive, not good news for Palace.
The Selhurst Park side haven’t beaten Arsenal since 1994 and only Man United have conceded fewer goals on their own patch than Arsene Wenger’s men at present.
Man United – Away
The Red Devils have been a bit dreary but, at home at least, they’ve been pretty effective. They have conceded just seven goals at Old Trafford and have been impressive in the league of late.
Louis van Gaal’s men are right in the hunt for the top four and they will not be in any mood to take the foot off the gas at this stage.
Newcastle – Away
Rafa Benitez has got the Toon looking a little more compact and you imagine that this game could be pivotal in both teams’ fight against the drop.
It almost seems scripted that Pardew should return to St James’ Park and either relegate the Geordies or see his own club plunged into danger. Could this be the game where they drop into the bottom three?
Stoke – Home
The Potters aren’t likely to have much to play for here but Mark Hughes is determined for the club to register their highest finish in the Premier League and that could be enough against a hapless Palace side, who coudl very easily still be without a win.
Nevertheless, the Eagles have already beaten Stoke twice this term. One can’t help but feel they may have to make it three times to secure their top-flight status.
Southampton – Away
On their day Saints can beat anyone in this division. It’s just one loss in 11 for Ronald Koeman’s side at the time of writing and they look set for an extremely strong finish to the campaign.
Palace’s last win at Selhurst came against the south coast club but if they go to St Mary’s needing a win, or even on a draw on the last day. It’s hard to see them getting it.
Even if Crystal Palace and Pardew do come through this period, you fear for the club next season. It will be interesting to see if the powers that be are willing to keep their current boss at the wheel for another campaign.