Quick. Guess where Crystal Palace are in the Premier League.
Yep. You are right. 12th. The position that feels so Crystal Palace that Julian Speroni and Andy Johnson might as well permanently tattoo their names onto that portion of the Premier League table.
In all the predictions ahead of the season, Patrick Vieria’s men were rarely out of that spot. The Eagles were never in any danger of going down and although they could dream, they were never likely to trouble the European spots. Statistically Opta gave them the highest chance of finishing 12th in January, and over the last nine seasons, their average finish is 12th. It’s simply meant to be.
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Since 2015-16, once they had established themselves in the top flight after promotion, the level of consistency has been remarkable. Their league finishes read 15th, 14th, 11th, 12th, 14th, 14th, 12th. They’ve won between 11 and 14 games every league season since they were promoted.
If you won exactly one third of your Premier League games in a 38 game season, it would work out as 12.66 wins. Palace have almost exactly followed that trajectory, but not across one or two seasons - this is their tenth season of winning once every three matches.
Despite all the changes over the time, the club has barely deviated from that form. It’s a span that goes from Dwight Gayle and Crystalbul right through to the present day, where Ebere Eze and Michael Olise light up Selhurst Park. Club legend Wilfied Zaha has starred, briefly left for Manchester United and then returned in that time - but the club he sees now, despite all the changes, is pretty much the same one he left seven years ago.
It’s even more incredible when you consider the amount of managerial changes and different philosophies the club has embraced. Ian Hollaway, Tony Pulis and Neil Warnock got the wheels moving with varying success in the Premier League before Alan Pardew took them all the way to the FA Cup final - then he started dancing.
Sam Allardyce came and went before the club took a big gamble that backfired on Frank de Boer. Then club legend Roy Hodgson returned to steady the ship before current incumbent Patrick Vieira took the hot seat. They’ve had different squads, a varied level of investment and vastly different styles of play. How all of those names have pretty much managed to replicate exactly the same seasons over the past decade is nothing short of remarkable.
Crystal Palace are simply the 12th best team in England. And this is not at all meant to come across as derisory. Clubs that have spent far more than them in the Premier League would love to have the solidity that Palace have stumbled upon, while just being in the top flight with no worry of relegation is a huge success for the south Londoners.
There’s also a huge number of clubs spending big in the Football League who dream of being in Palace’s position. 12th in the Premier League is something clubs that have formerly graced the top flight can only dream of. Ipswich Town, Sheffield Wednesday, Sunderland, Coventry City and Blackburn Rovers among others would love to play the big guns every single season, with the financial benefits that the Premier League brings.
But there is a question of where Palace will go next. Are their fans now bored of 12th? They’ve tried and tried different managers, but without huge investment, it seems like this is their glass ceiling. They may even slide down the table over the next few years as the likes of Newcastle, Everton and Aston Villa re-assert themselves in the top half of the table.
So, Palace fans should enjoy this security, without getting complacent. They get to watch some brilliant individual footballers week in week out, and are the envy of a whole heap of Football League clubs. So what if they finish 12th every season?