Towards the end of November Crystal Palace were 19th in the table, kept off the bottom by a marginally better goal difference than Sunderland and with just two wins to their name. They were so bad the traders in Power Tower priced them up at 1/14 to be relegated, and even the most patriotic Palace fan was contemplating life back in the second tier of English football.
Enter Tony Pulis.
Less than five months later and the Eagles are sat in 12th, closer to a top half finish than the drop and appear so certain to be playing Premier League football next season Paddy Power haven’t even priced them up to avoid relegation because they’d be so short. A remarkable turnaround, and a brilliant excuse to Photoshop Pulis’ into a Champions League winning picture.
If the table read from November 23, when Pulis took over, to now, Crystal Palace would be sat in eighth spot, with 30 points from 21 games. They would be just six points off Arsenal in seventh and would have lost just two more games than Manchester United or Spurs.
Palace under Pulis are averaging 1.43 points per game in the top flight, which is only marginally less than United in the last five months. David Moyes’ men have racked up 1.68 points a game and would be just seven points above the Eagles having played a game more. Maybe ‘The Chosen One’ would benefit from wearing a baseball cap every now and again…
Pulis is priced up as the second-favourite for the LMA Manager of the Year award at 11/2, but bar Brendan Rodgers coming out and throwing his own faeces at the assembled media before his next game, the Liverpool manager has that prize pretty nailed on. It doesn’t take anything away from the job Pulis has done at Palace however.
Although they don’t score many, Pulis has made Crystal Palace’s defence tighter than Andy Reid’s waistband. Since he took charge only Chelsea have a better defensive record in the top flight. Pulis’ side have conceded just 18 goals in his 21 games, the same number as Everton in the same time, two less than Man City and 11 less than league-leaders Liverpool.
The Palace gaffer has kept clean sheets in 43 per cent of his matches since taking over at the club and has won a massive 38 per cent of his top flight games without conceding. An incredible achievement considering his squad’s gulf in class compared to others in the Premier League – we’re talking more Vincent Kompany, less Kolo Toure.
This weekend Palace head to Upton Park to face West Ham, with both teams eyeing up a potential top half finish. Although not an easy place to go this season, Palace will have their supporters at 12/5 and the price of 9/2 for the Eagles to win to nil makes a bit of an appeal. It’s 5/2 for Palace to keep yet another clean sheet in the league under Pulis, and after conceding just two goals in their last four away games, that might be one of the weekends’ top bets.