Crystal Palace’s players get post-season grades – with no shock over star pupil

Crystal Palace’s 2017-18 Premier League season was the very definition of a rollercoaster – pointless after seven games and without netting a goal only to stabilise massively following Roy Hodgson’s appointment. SAM SMITH grades the Eagles squad which secured an 11th-place finish.

 

WAYNE HENNESSEY

Goalkeeper                        Games: 27           Clean sheets: 7

The Wales international epitomised Palace’s improvement in the second half of the season, claiming the number one role following a poor start to the campaign and a hard-fought battle with Julian Speroni in the early matches under Hodgson. A couple of wonderful saves in the victory against Brighton stand out as his highlights of the season.

Grade: B

Crystal Palace v Brighton & Hove Albion, Premier League, Selhurst Park, 14 April 2018.
Image by Keith Gillard

JULIAN SPERONI

Goalkeeper                        Games: 11           Clean sheets: 2

Initially regained his place in goal after Hennessey’s poor form, making his first Premier League appearance in over two years in October’s win against Chelsea. Failed to appear after December 28 due to the resurgence of the former Wolves man and several injuries.

GRADE: C+

 

JOEL WARD

Right-back                           Games: 19           Goals: 0

Unconvincing at wing-back under Frank de Boer but rekindled last season’s impressive form upon Hodgson’s arrival and subsequently impressed. Injury limited the former Portsmouth man to five appearances after December 2.

GRADE: B

Crystal Palace v Everton, Premier League, Selhurst Park, 18 November 2017.
Image by Keith Gillard

AARON WAN-BISSAKA

Right-back           Games: 7             Goals: 0

The academy graduate was thrown into the first team against Tottenham due to the injury crisis at the start of 2018. Impressed significantly and was faultless for the next five games, but a mistake against Bournemouth on April 7 meant he would make just one more appearance. Won Palace’s Young Player of the Year award and will feature far more next season.

GRADE: B+

Crystal Palace v Liverpool, Premier League, Selhurst Park, 31 March 2018.
Image by Keith Gillard

JAMES TOMKINS

Centre-back       Games: 28           Goals: 3

A contender for Player of the Year with some outstanding defensive displays. Formed a formidable partnership with Mamadou Sakho that saw the pair go unbeaten in their 10 Premier League appearances together.

GRADE: A-

 

MAMADOU SAKHO

Centre-back       Games: 19           Goals: 1

Injury meant he played just half of the Eagles’ Premier League fixtures but the South Londoners defended significantly better when he was in the team. Provides an assurance to the back line with his composure when in possession.

GRADE: B+

Crystal Palace v Liverpool, Premier League, Selhurst Park, 31 March 2018.
Image by Keith Gillard

SCOTT DANN

Centre-back       Games: 17           Goals: 1

A cruciate ligament injury suffered in December’s draw with Manchester City unfortunately cut short his campaign prematurely. Dann impressed under Hodgson after the wobble with De Boer.

GRADE: B

 

MARTIN KELLY

Centre-back                       Games: 15           Goals: 0

Deputised well for the regular centre-backs when called upon. A versatile back-up option who does not receive enough credit.

GRADE: C+

 

PATRICK VAN AANHOLT

Left-back                             Games: 27           Goals: 5

A fantastic final few months to the season saw the Dutchman net five goals. One of Palace’s best performers after winning back his place post-January following Jeffrey Schlupp’s injury.

GRADE: B+

Crystal Palace v Liverpool, Premier League, Selhurst Park, 31 March 2018.
Image by Keith Gillard

JEFFREY SCHLUPP

Left-back                             Games: 24           Goals: 0

The versatile wideman was excellent as Palace’s first choice left-back when Hodgson replaced De Boer. A knee injury suffered in January’s FA Cup defeat against Brighton meant the Ghanaian made only five more appearances.

GRADE: B

 

LUKA MILIVOJEVIC

Central midfielder           Games: 36           Goals: 10

Another contender for Player of the Year having consistently performed incredibly well all season in defensive midfield. Surprisingly the club’s highest scorer with 10 goals, albeit seven were penalties, and his curling long-distance strike against Southampton won Goal of the Season.

GRADE: A-

JAMES MCARTHUR

Central midfielder           Games: 33           Goals: 5

Provided Palace several important goals, limitless energy and ended the campaign impressing in an unnatural right-midfield position. Highlight has to be the added-time winner at home to Watford and the Scot deserves credit for his good form having struggled to find a place in Sam Allardyce’s team the season before.

GRADE: B

 

YOHAN CABAYE

Central midfielder            Games: 31           Goals: 0

Key to Palace’s success during the latter stages of the season and formed a fruitful relationship with Milivojevic. The Eagles keep possession far better with the out-of-contract Frenchman in the side and it is imperative that he is retained for next season.

GRADE: B+

Crystal Palace v Chelsea, Premier League, Selhurst Park, 14 October 2017.
Image by Keith Gillard

RUBEN LOFTUS-CHEEK

Central midfielder            Games: 24           Goals: 2

Injury limited the 22-year-old to just 24 league appearances but Palace were markedly better when the on-loan Chelsea man played and could have finished much higher had he featured more. Deployed in a left midfield position for the final months of the season, Loftus-Cheek’s performances were impressive enough to earn him a place in the England World Cup squad.

GRADE: B+

 

JASON PUNCHEON

Central midfielder           Games: 10           Goals: 0

The club captain failed to make an impact before a cruciate ligament injury unfortunately ended his campaign prematurely on New Year’s Eve.

GRADE: C

JAIRO RIEDEWALD

Central midfielder           Games: 12           Goals: 0

Signed from Ajax as part of De Boer’s Dutch revolution. Initially began the season on the left of a back three but his lack of height worried Hodgson who moved him into midfield. Marked Kevin de Bruyne out of the 0-0 draw with Manchester City on December 31 and it seemed he would be given further opportunities to impress. Started just twice more due to Hodgson’s preference of Cabaye and Milivojevic – deserves more game time next season.

GRADE: B-

 

 

ANDROS TOWNSEND

Right-midfielder               Games: 36           Goals: 2

An impressive season for the wideman who ended the campaign playing in a makeshift but effective strike partnership with fellow winger Wilfried Zaha. Provided seven assists – a club-high – and the only gripe is that he should certainly contribute more goals. Played the most league minutes – 3,129.

GRADE: B

Crystal Palace v Brighton & Hove Albion, Premier League, Selhurst Park, 14 April 2018.
Image by Keith Gillard

CHRISTIAN BENTEKE

Striker   Games: 31           Goals: 3

He tried but nothing came off. His 15 goals the season before arguably kept Palace in the Premier League but a mere three goals this time around simply wasn’t good enough and he eventually lost his place in the side to the Townsend-Zaha strike partnership. Notched five assists – second only to Townsend – and produced a couple of effective cameo appearances in the final few matches. Must improve next season.

GRADE: C

ALEXANDER SORLOTH

Striker   Games: 4             Goals: 0

The January signing made just four appearances following his move from Midtjylland but produced enough to suggest he deserved more game time. A hard-working and purposeful centre-forward who – at 22 – has his best days in a Palace shirt ahead of him. Unlucky to have his first Eagles goal chalked off at Chelsea for an alleged foul by Riedewald.

GRADE: B-

 

BAKARY SAKO

Striker   Games: 16           Goals: 3

Kickstarted a Palace career that appeared to be dead and buried last summer. Stepped in as a centre-forward when Palace had no fit strikers towards the end of 2017 and netted six goals across all competitions – including a stunning right-footed drive in the FA Cup defeat at Brighton.

GRADE: B

 

WILFRIED ZAHA

Striker   Games: 29           Goals: 9

The Ivorian’s impact at Selhurst Park is epitomised by the fact that the Eagles lost all nine games that he missed. Naturally a winger but deployed as a striker for the majority of the season, Zaha has excelled under Hodgson and has taken his performances to greater heights – adding the end product that was previously a maligned feature of his game. Will attract interest from several elite clubs this summer but it is in Palace’s best interests to keep him, even if bids exceed £60 million.

GRADE: A+

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