Crystal Palace are in a nightmare scenario ahead of their trip to Arsenal.
In my team-by-team season preview last week I said Palace would comfortably avoid relegation from the Premier League – but Tony Pulis’ sensational exit on the eve of the new season has completely changed my opinion.
All of a sudden, when you look at the squad which punched so much above their weight last year and which Pulis took from dead-and-buried to their highest ever Premier League finish, you realise they’re not that good and it’s going to be very hard for them without him.
It’s such a shame for the players he’s gone, but especially for the fans who could be facing a really tough season now.
It really is an incredible development.
Having worked with Tony as a player at Bournemouth I know how much he demands of people and the sort of character he is. He’s so passionate and determined that if he feels people aren’t pulling in his direction then he won’t accept it. And that’s what happened here.
Of course, all managers want certain players in but clubs can’t always accommodate that. If the chairman doesn’t think the valuation of a player is right, or doesn’t think signing someone is right for the club, then they have to say ‘no’. So, I do have sympathy for both sides here.
And clearly when you get to the position where the chairman and manager can't even be in the same room as each other and talk things out, the situation becomes untenable.
But what I will say is, it seemed Palace were in a position where they could have kicked on this summer. If they’d maybe got one or two top players in they could have – like Stoke – established themselves in the Premier League for the next 10 years.
Now, all of a sudden you look at them and think they’re going to have a real struggle this year. Perhaps they’ll regret not trusting Pulis to go out and buy the players he believed would take the club forward.
All this bodes well for Arsene Wenger’s side – I bet they couldn’t believe their luck when they saw all this playing out in front of them. But this would have been a very difficult Saturday Night Football fixture for Palace even with Pulis in charge.
I’m looking forward to watching Arsenal this year. Last season they surprised everybody by winning the FA Cup and with the performances they produced at the start of the season. They just ran out of steam in the league – but this year they have so many great options.
Aaron Ramsey, in particular, is a player I’m excited to see. He is going from strength to strength and can be Arsenal’s Frank Lampard, scoring 15-20 goals a year, as long as he keeps himself fit. He’s got over those insecurities he had when Arsenal fans were criticising him when he gave ball away and now he knows he’s Arsenal’s main man – and that’s so important for any player.
They finally ended their trophy drought last season and by beating – an albeit weakened - Man City in the Community Shield they have given themselves some belief they can match the best in the division this term.
Their record against the top sides was so poor last season but make no mistake, if they can address their defensive problems against the best teams - and they may need another defender in to replace Thomas Vermaelen - they will be genuine title contenders.
Aston Villa shocked Arsenal 3-1 at the Emirates on the opening day of 2013/14 but I can’t see anything like that happening again, given what’s going on at Palace and the optimistic mood at Arsenal.
Palace will have been preparing for this game for weeks but the players would have gone into training on Friday morning feeling like their heads were in a tumble dryer. This will have shaken them all up.
I’m predicting a comfortable 3-0 win for Arsenal – another confidence booster for Wenger’s talented side, and an example of the scale of the task Palace face without Pulis.
Jamie Redknapp will be in the studio for Saturday Night Football - Arsenal v Crystal Palace - from 4.45pm on Sky Sports 1
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