The Premier League table is taking shape and enough matches have been played to get a good sense of where each side is headed this season.
The mid-winter break is over and Crystal Palace only have one domestic competition to focus on - after a 1-0 loss to Wolves in the FA Cup Third Round.
This could favour Roy Hodgson's side; who will be battling to avoid another season of mid-table mediocrity. Here, VAVEL Crystal Palace hand out a mid-season report card to the Eagles of South London.
Crystal Palace: The season so far
Their league campaign got off to a flyer, with a 1-0 home win against Southampton, thanks to a smart volley from starman Wilfried Zaha at Selhurst Park.
Troubles in cup competitions continued for the Eagles, following a stalemate that ended with an 11-10 loss on penalties to AFC Bournemouth in the Carabao Cup. Wayne Hennessey's penalty would prove the decisive action in the shootout.
The next trip on the road was to Old Trafford, to face Manchester United. The Eagles shocked the league with an impressive 3-1 win. An Andros Townsend finish and a Zaha double dampened a confident United team in the Red Devils' season opener.
The Eagles started to fall off the pace with lacklustre displays against Everton, Chelsea and fierce rivals, Brighton & Hove Albion, only picking up a point out of a possible nine available.
Palace were in and out of form. Hodgson's side were winning one week, then losing the next, with teams who reside in the bottom half of the Premier League table their Achilles heel.
The more favourable results were against newly-promoted sides, such as Fulham and Leeds United. Jairo Riedewald scored his first goal for the club at Craven Cottage. Whereas Eberechi Eze, showed his class with a wonderfully curled free-kick at Selhurst Park.
Poor results against Wolves, Burnley and Newcastle United heaped the pressure on Hodgson, who was struggling to get a tune of the players until they travel to the Hawthorns to face newly-promoted West Brom.
Fortune started to return to the Eagles, as they thumped the Baggies 5-1, thanks to a masterclass from Zaha, Eze and Christian Benteke - who has started to get his confidence back.
Palace were then greeted by the return of home fans with government restrictions on COVID-19 eased for reduced capacities of 2,000 fans. The faithful were treated to a late Jeffrey Schlupp equaliser against Tottenham Hotspur, with the famous Selhurst Park atmosphere coming close to recreation.
The inconsistent performances continued. The Eagles struggled to build on from their displays against the likes of Spurs, West Brom and Leeds.
An away draw with West Ham was followed by a humiliating 7-0 home defeat to reigning champions Liverpool. Which was then met by an equally embarrassing away performance against Aston Villa.
Hodgson was again under pressure but he galvanised the players for a 1-1 draw at home to 2nd-placed Leicester City, and a comfortable 2-0 home win against struggling Sheffield United.
The recent league form wasn't continued as Palace blew their last chance of a domestic cup campaign. Adama Traore condemned the Eagles to an FA Cup exit with a wonderful strike.
It is now two consecutive seasons for Palace without progressing past their first cup fixture in both domestic competitions - losing to Colchester United and Derby County last season.
Their recent stalemate against Arsenal secured consecutive clean sheets for the first time this season, whilst also allowing zero big chances in their last two league games. A vast improvement on the 10 they allowed in their preceding two.
Summer transfer business
Crystal Palace summer transfer in
The signings of Eze and Clyne have proved to be bargains; with Eze lighting up the Premier League with his talent over the last few months.
Clyne has proved to be a solid acquisition in that right-back role with Joel Ward failing to consistently perform when called upon. The former England international has provided pace, solidity and an attacking presence on the right-hand side. It's like he never left.
|Nathan Ferguson||West Brom||Free|
|Eberechi Eze||QPR||£16m with £4m add-ons|
|Michy Batshuayi||Chelsea||On Loan|
|Nathaniel Clyne||No club||Free|
|Jack Butland||Stoke City||£1m|
Michy Batshuayi is yet to prove why Hodgson opted to bring him back to South London on loan. The Belgian has been disappointing since his arrival.
Butland proved his worth as Palace's number two in goal against Wolves in the FA Cup. Key saves and a strong presence when commanding his area will do the former England keeper no harm.
Ferguson is yet to feature for the Eagles, as his injury troubles from West Brom are still weighing him down. It will be tough for him to replace Clyne when he is back to full fitness.
Crystal Palace summer departures
Jaroslaw Jach failed to get going at Palace and has once again been loaned out to get some valuable first-team experience. Ryan Inniss has also left Palace to join local rivals, Charlton, after falling out-of-favour at Selhurst Park.
|Alexander Sorloth||Red Bull Leipzig||£18m|
|Jaroslaw Jach||Rakow Czestochowa||On Loan|
|Ryan Inniss||Charlton Athletic||Free|
|Jason Lokilo||Doncaster Rovers||Free|
|Dion-Curtis Henry||Billericay Town||Free|
|Joe Tupper||Havant& Waterlooville||Free|
Norwegian international Sorloth impressed on his loan spell with Trabzonspor last season, scoring 29 goals. He also became their top-scoring foreign player in a single season.
Those statistics impressed Bundesliga outfit, RB Leipzig, and he will be hungry to continue his good form over in Germany.
There is a sense of frustration in the air with Palace as they do not seem to know where their long-term expectations lie.
The board seem to be happy with a mid-table finish every year with the club avoiding relegation. Fans are increasingly annoyed with this, as they feel that they have not progressed since their promotion back to the Premier League in 2013.
However, if fans were to predict where the club would be after Christmas, then they would be right so far. The Eagles are right where they have been projected. The Eagles have stagnated.
One thing they do have, is a marksman, in the shape of their talismanic forward Zaha. The Ivorian has been scoring goals this season which is something he did not do much last season.
If Palace were to lose him at any point, then goals would be hard to come by. Their defence have struggled to keep the ball out of the net this season. The Eagles will avoid the drop, but they really should be doing better this season considering the talent they have in their disposal.
Crystal Palace: Grade C+
This is the most that Hodgson's side are going to get and anything higher would be generous.
The summer window was their best window since January 2017; when they signed Patrick Van Aanholt, Jeffrey Schlupp, Luka Milivojevic and Mamadou Sakho, in a bid to avoid relegation.
Zaha has been in great form, but does not make up for the fact that this side should be doing better than they are currently. Defensive-minded performances against bottom-half teams and failing to go for the jugular in recent games, has nullified the threat upfront.
The biggest problem for Palace is inconsistency. The team seem to be comfortable with ambling by instead of trying to become more than just a mid-table team.
Early signs of a predatory attacking force was there to see earlier in the season, but the ambition seems to remain low and Hodgson will have to spend wisely in the January window.
Those who take a large chunk of the wage bill, whilst not featuring a massive amount need to be replaced, or Palace face the reality of another flat campaign without the drive to exceed the pre-season expectations of them.