Crystal Palace, after its historically awful start, charges out of the relegation zone

FC Yahoo

Remember when Crystal Palace still hadn’t scored a 2017-18 Premier League goal? And still hadn’t secured its first point of the season?

You probably do, because it was only a little over two months ago.

The Premier League season is now around four months old. Crystal Palace spent two of those four months – half of the season so far – without anything to show for its efforts. Its season had featured infinitely more managerial changes than goals.

And yet two months on from the hysteria, doom and gloom of the historically awful start, Palace … uh … might actually be good? Or at least decent?

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The Eagles certainly aren’t relegation-caliber, and on Saturday morning, for the first time, they assertively distanced themselves from the bottom three with a 3-0 victory at previously-surging Leicester City. They’re up into 14th, at least momentarily.

<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/soccer/players/christian-benteke/" data-ylk="slk:Christian Benteke">Christian Benteke</a> and <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/soccer/players/wilfried-zaha/" data-ylk="slk:Wilfried Zaha">Wilfried Zaha</a> both scored in Crystal Palace’s win at Leicester City on Saturday. (Getty)
Christian Benteke and Wilfried Zaha both scored in Crystal Palace’s win at Leicester City on Saturday. (Getty)

Christian Benteke ended his prolonged scoring drought with a first-half goal. If the Belgian striker can re-find his form, he could represent the final stage of Palace’s resurgence:

The traveling Palace fans sung his name after the match. But those songs were part of a salute to the entire team. There were also choruses of olé late in the second half. All this for a team that at one point was, statistically, the worst English football’s top flight had ever seen, against a Leicester side that had won four in a row.

Palace is now unbeaten in its past seven Premier League matches, since a hard-fought 1-0 defeat at Tottenham. In 11 since the horrid seven-game start, Palace has won four, drawn five and lost just two. And even in the matches where the Eagles aren’t securing three points, they’ve often been the better team:


In fact, they were often the better team, or at least not definitively the worst team, as they slumped to early defeats to Huddersfield, Liverpool, Swansea, Burnley and Southampton. Their quick resurgence is a win for the numbers – and for the rationalists – which cautioned against freak-outs during the goalless run. Luck has evened itself out, calamitous finishing has regressed to the mean, and Palace not only looks like it might avoid relegation, it looks like it’ll do so comfortably.

It is also playing better. Much better. The Wilfried Zaha breakout campaign is finally happening. He’s been one of the top attackers in the league over the past two months, and got Palace’s second goal Saturday:

Leicester’s comeback hopes were foiled by a Wilfred Ndidi red card. Bakary Sako entered from the bench to cap off a surprising away win in style in the fourth minute of stoppage time.

With Palace sitting on zero points, zero goals for and 17 conceded, relegation wasn’t just expected, it was almost assumed. Those assumptions are now a lesson in small sample sizes and overreactions. Rational analysis suggested Palace wasn’t as bad as early results did. As it turns out, Palace might actually be better than even that analysis indicated. And if it keeps playing like it did on Saturday, the possibility of relegation might soon become an afterthought.

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Henry Bushnell covers global soccer, and occasionally other ball games, for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at henrydbushnell@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell.

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