53/100 Premier League relegation favourites Crystal Palace face a hugely daunting task in trying to avoid the drop in 2013/14, with precious little yet done to even remedy their failings of last season.
The loss of Wilfried Zaha may be the headline-grabbing negative for Crystal Palace ahead of the new campaign, but a lack of reinforcements to the Eagles’ defence is arguably of even greater concern.
Zaha missed just four games for the Eagles last year, but tellingly none of those matches resulted in maximum points for his former side, with three losses incurred and only two goals registered.
After a 1-0 loss in the Glaziers’ final pre-season pipe-opener against Italian Cup winners Lazio, promotion-winning puppet master Ian Holloway lamented the fact that last season’s 4-2-3-1 style formation lacked the same effectiveness without the departed youth team product.
Despite the narrow nature of that defeat, Lazio had many more chances to register against a Palace defence that was only the 12th best in the second tier in 2012/13 and the lack of reinforcements in that area is arguably the most alarming no-development in the club’s pre-season – given only Peter Ramage and Danny Gabbidon have any top flight know-how whatsoever.
Uncertainties over the how to get the best out of his squad mark a strong contrast to Holloway’s previous assault on the Premier League with Blackpool, where he’d developed and honed the buccaneering attacking style they employed during their promotion campaign.
There’s no guarantee of goals either with Championship top-scorer Glenn Murray out injured until November at the earliest, as the goal-scoring onus will fall upon Dwight Gayle and Aaron Wilbraham, both untried at this level.
Early signs are far from promising given Gayle has yet to score in pre-season whilst Wilbraham managed to ruffle the net just once in 27 outings last season.
One of the few things in Palace’s favour ahead of the new campaign is their recent strength at Selhurst Park, where they lost just twice in 2012/13, but with the Arthur Waite stand still unavailable as recently as the Lazio friendly – as work to make the ground fit for the Premier League continues – even the heartening effect of their home support may be watered-down.