History gives still pointless Crystal Palace a chance at top-flight survival
Before Liverpool face Manchester United at Anfield on Saturday, in the 199th competitive meeting between English football's two most successful clubs, it is worth a brief history lesson about the changing face of a title-winning team.
Back in the 1980-81 season, Aston Villa ended the campaign as champions after using just 14 players during a 42-game top flight season, and seven of those played in every game.
When Liverpool last won the title in 1990, manager Kenny Dalglish used 21 players during a 38-game league season -- although that included one game for himself and just two-apiece for Mike Marsh and John Aldridge, who was sold to Real Sociedad a month into the campaign.
United's last title, in 2012-13, saw Sir Alex Ferguson select 25 players for first-team duty in the Premier League; while 24 players turned out for Chelsea on their way to the trophy last season, despite Antonio Conte not having to worry about European football draining the resources of his squad.
Villa's ability to win the league in 1981 using just 14 players is a feat that is unlikely ever to be matched again due to the sizes of Premier League squads and the demands placed on players in the modern game. But the increasing reliance on additional manpower emphasises the importance of strength in depth for any team with aspirations of emerging as champions.
And with United travelling to Liverpool on Saturday, the two clubs will collide at Anfield with injuries to key players raising questions over their respective ability to cope with the strain.
The true test of a title-winning team is no longer the best starting XI that a manager can put onto the pitch, it is the quality and reliability of those players asked to fill the gaps which ultimately decides who ends up on top.
If Jurgen Klopp was able to name a full-strength team this weekend, it would be difficult to argue against Liverpool being favourites, even if Jose Mourinho also had the luxury of putting out his best team.
Liverpool's 4-0 victory against Arsenal in August came with Klopp fielding his strongest team of the season -- though Philippe Coutinho was not being considered at that point because of his back problem and uncertainty over his future at the club -- and the home side produced a performance which had many tipping them for the title.
But since then, injuries and suspensions to key players have seen the wheels fall off for Liverpool, with the team recording just one win in seven games in all competitions since.
After getting a red card against Manchester City, Sadio Mane missed three games through suspension -- with Liverpool winning just one of those -- and the Senegal forward now faces six weeks out with a hamstring injury sustained on international duty.
Adam Lallana's ongoing absence also hurts Liverpool, with £35 million arrival Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain doing little to suggest he can be an adequate replacement, and Klopp's team continue to look shaky at right-back without long-term absentee Nathaniel Clyne.
It is a simple truth that Klopp's squad lacks the depth required to challenge for the title. The same was true last season and not enough was done during the summer to resolve that recurring fault.
But it is a different story at United, who now appear a much more formidable outfit than the one that turned up at Anfield almost a year ago last October and produced an ultra-defensive performance to escape with a 0-0 draw.
Despite heading to Anfield with four senior players unavailable -- Paul Pogba, Marouane Fellaini, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marcos Rojo -- and doubts over Phil Jones and Michael Carrick, United's summer recruitment, and the improvement of several players under Mourinho, has esnured their squad is now able to cope with the loss of key men.
Where Liverpool have no obvious replacement for Mane or Lallana, United can draft in Ander Herrera for Pogba, move Daley Blind into midfield in a defensive role in place of Fellaini or alter their formation to incorporate the likes of Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata or Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
At the back, Chris Smalling or Victor Lindelof can make up for the absence of Rojo and possible loss of Jones, while Marcus Rashford's ability to play as a central striker would at least soften the blow, if not completely make up for, any injury or suspension ruling out Romelu Lukaku.
Mourinho argued this week that his squad is now able to win without key players -- "We trust every player" -- and that is the key to challenging for the title.
Pep Guardiola can also claim the same confidence and belief in his squad at Manchester City, but Conte is discovering that his Chelsea squad is now worryingly shallow following injuries to Alvaro Morata and N'Golo Kante.
Klopp cannot boast the same number of options and alternatives as Mourinho or Guardiola and that is why, most likely, he will be unable to end Liverpool's lengthy title drought this season.
Liverpool simply do not have depth required. United do and, with both squads afflicted by injuries ahead of this weekend's clash, Mourinho's men appear most capable of riding out the storm to come out on top, not just on Saturday, but over the course of the whole season.
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_
While most of those watching the heroic exploits of Lionel Messi were transfixed, at least one member of the audience for Argentina's World Cup-salvaging win over Ecuador struggled to maintain interest.
That man was Tottenham manager (and former Albiceleste international) Mauricio Pochettino, who has admitted that he "fell asleep" before Messi scored a match-winning hat trick to haul his country from the brink of elimination and into the hat for Russia 2018.
Still, the prospect of Argentina's do-or-die clash in Quito wasn't enough to stop Poch from slipping away to the land of nod.
"If I'm honest, I fell asleep," the Spurs boss told radio station Cadena Cope.
"My wife was angry because my children were watching the game in the room next door, shouting and waking me up.
"I then put the radio on. I didn't know anything about the first goal [for Ecuador] but did hear about the equaliser.
"I watched the highlights the next day."
Despite missing the action, Pochettino admitted he was "delighted" for Messi and for Argentinian football in general.
He also revealed that he had a fairly good excuse for not managing to stay awake to witness the drama unfold.
"I'm a minimum of 12 hours a day in the training centre," the 45-year-old explained.
"I usually get there around 7am and I leave at 7pm or 8pm depending on the day. It's a long day."
Fair enough. The poor guy was absolutely exhausted after a gruelling shift at work.
We can certainly sympathise!
Chris covers the funny side of the game for ESPN FC in the Toe Poke blog.
Tottenham Hotspur could break the 10-year-old Premier League attendance record when they host Bournemouth at Wembley on Saturday.
Club sources have told ESPN FC that ticket sales are progressing well and they are closing in on the previous record of 76,098 -- set when Manchester United beat Blackburn 4-1 at Old Trafford in March 2007.
Spurs came close to the record for the 2-1 defeat to Chelsea in their first league match at Wembley in August, watched by 73,587, when tickets were on restricted general sale.
Saturday's match is on general sale to the public and the club is still yet to make all sections of the national stadium available.
The frustrating home draws against Burnley (67,862) and Swansea (65,366) were also on general sale but attracted fewer than 70,000 supporters, with club sources saying attendances are often low in August and September due to holidays.
Liverpool's visit in the league on Oct. 22 will also be on restricted general sale -- following advice from the safety advisory group, made up of the club, Brent Council and the police, ambulance and fire services -- meaning only Spurs fans with a history of buying from the club will be able to purchase tickets.
Saturday's attendance is unlikely to surpass the club record of 85,512, set at Wembley against Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League last season, which is also a record attendance for a British club playing a home fixture.
Spurs have confirmed that Wembley's top tier will be closed for the EFL Cup fourth-round match against West Ham on Oct. 25, so the capacity will be limited to 70,000 for the London derby.
Long-term absentees Erik Lamela and Danny Rose, both of whom featured in full training on Wednesday, could return against the Hammers but club sources told ESPN FC that an early November comeback is more realistic for the pair.
Lamela has not played for nearly 12 months due to hip problems and left-back Rose has been out since January with a knee injury.
Spurs host Real Madrid on Nov. 1 and Crystal Palace four days later before another international break, after which they will visit local rivals Arsenal on Nov. 18.
Dan is ESPN FC's Tottenham correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Dan_KP.
Marcos Alonso knows he must continue making headlines at Chelsea to boost his chances of representing Spain at the 2018 World Cup.
The left-back has had a strong start to the campaign with the Blues, scoring two goals in seven league starts.
"It would be a dream come true to play for Spain and help them do well at the World Cup next year," Alonso told Cadena Ser radio. "I've been doing the right things for some time and the news from Chelsea eventually gets there [to Spain]."
Alonso, 26, was a key player for coach Antonio Conte last season, his first year with the Blues, scoring six goals and setting up three more in 31 league starts as Chelsea won the Premier League.
Spain coach Julen Lopetegui has not selected him, though, much to the surprise of the local press, with Marca even asking in a headline back in August: "What does Marcos Alonso have to do more to get a chance to play for Spain?"
Lopetegui admitted last month ahead of Spain's final World Cup qualifiers against Albania and Israel that Alonso was "playing at a high level" but said Spain were covered with Jordi Alba and Nacho Monreal in that position.
"Spain have great players and I hope great things happen next summer," Alonso said. "I haven't spoken to him [Lopetegui] but I believe he is monitoring me.
"I'm just focusing on doing what I have to do on the pitch. The call-up will come or maybe not. The best way to make a name for yourself is to do well on the pitch. My only focus is to give my all on the pitch and do the best thing possible."
Alonso, who joined Chelsea from Fiorentina last summer, says he is making the most of playing for Conte.
"From the moment I arrived here, I have felt great playing as a starter," he said. "We had a great season and we deserved the Premier league title.
"I've continued my development at Chelsea and I have to continue to work in order to improve."
Alonso added that his team is ready for the challenge of defending the Premier League.
"It's not going to be easy to win the Premier League again," he said. "There are many teams that can opt for the title. We saw it two years ago that even a team like Leicester can compete and win the league.
"The two Manchester teams have strengthened their sides very well. Tottenham have a solid group that has worked together for some time, Liverpool have a strong side. We will fight in each game to give ourselves a chance to be there in the battle."
A youth product of Real Madrid, Alonso is under contract at Stamford Bridge until June 2021.
"I'm very happy at Chelsea but I would like to return to play in Spain one day," he said.
"Obviously, before I retire I would like to play in La Liga because I haven't played much there.
"But I'm very happy in London. All I think about is Saturday's game against Crystal Palace. I really like the Premier League and to have the opportunity to play for Chelsea and win titles."
Adriana Garcia is a Valencia-based football writer who covers La Liga for ESPN FC.
Filipe Luis has suggested that Antoine Griezmann's summer link with Manchester United was about getting a pay rise from Atletico Madrid, while adding that the France international is now settled at the club.
Griezmann had appeared close to joining United for €100 million, but eventually signed a new contract with Atletico in June, saying he could not leave the club when they were unable to sign a replacement due to a FIFA transfer ban.
Diego Costa's subsequent return to Atletico from Chelsea means Diego Simeone's side are now well stocked with forwards, and sources have told ESPN FC that United remain interested in signing Griezmann next summer.
But Filipe told El Mundo that once everyone moved on from the summer saga, it was clear that Griezmann could stay at Atletico for "much longer."
"[Griezmann] is a kid who speaks very clearly," Filipe said. "Often players talk when they feel they are not being valued as they deserve. Then they get more attention. He would have had many offers from many teams. A player of his size wants to be up with the biggest in terms of contract and value. And that is fair -- as Griezmann is doing great here.
"In the end, for all the talk about other clubs, he always wanted to stay here and he is still here, happy and liking it. For sure, he can stay much longer. We hope the fans understand this and everything gets back to normal, although he has been scoring goals, and goals cure everything."
Former Chelsea defender Filipe was also positive about Costa's return, saying the Spain international is his favourite player he has lined up alongside.
"[Costa] is the best I have played with," he said. "I have seen [Juan Carlos] Valeron do things nobody could do. Neymar and [Eden] Hazard are amazing talents, but the player who gave me most trophies was Diego Costa. He always scores the opening goal. Because it is one thing to score 30 goals with hat tricks in easy wins, and another that 20 of those 30 goals are enough to win 1-0. Nobody does that as well as Diego Costa."
There was also praise for Lionel Messi ahead of Barcelona's visit to the Wanda Metropolitano on Saturday.
"Messi is so good that he can win La Liga even with a mediocre team, which is not the case," he said. "Barca remain up top every year because of him. Because Barca have this way of easily creating internal debates, it seems they like it. But Messi is so good, so good that he holds up what is around him."
Filipe also spoke about his run-ins over the years with Messi -- who has 27 goals in 34 games against Atletico -- including a red card at the Camp Nou in 2016.
"I'm always in the 'butcher' role," he said. "But the only way to stop Messi one-on-one is to foul him. Otherwise, if I'm alone, I'll only get the ball one in 20 times. I have to use other weapons, I know the best way to stop him. I know he does not like playing with his back to goal, you must be right on top of him when he gets the ball. If he feels comfortable, you're dead.
"I feel I do pretty well against him when we play, although he always scores against us. And even with me being the bad guy when we meet, he never reproaches me, always shakes my hand after the game."
In a wide-ranging interview in which the Brazil international also discussed his interest in astrophysics and religion, he said he respected the recent stance of Barcelona defender Gerard Pique, currently unpopular in some parts of Spain due to his views on Catalonia's right to vote on its future.
"I'm a fan of Pique, although often I do not agree with what he says," he said. "But at least he dares to say things. Like [ex-Real Madrid full-back] Alvaro Arbeloa, they are not afraid to say what they think, do not hide behind their fame. 'Ole' for them. I wish more players were like them."
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan
Sergio Aguero has said he would "love" Lionel Messi to join him at Manchester City but acknowledged that it would be difficult for his compatriot to leave Barcelona.
Messi has yet to sign a new contract at the Camp Nou despite reportedly agreeing terms on a three-year extension in the summer.
City chief executive Ferran Soriano has said he would "open the doors" to Messi if he ever decided to leave, but manager Pep Guardiola believes he will finish his career at Barca.
Aguero told TyC Sports: "Let's be honest, money is not an issue here. But Leo, just like other players like [Cristiano] Ronaldo, are symbols of their clubs and it's difficult to leave not just to City but to other clubs that also have the money.
"I would love to [see Messi join] -- who wouldn't love to have Leo in his team? -- but he's a symbol of his club and I think it would be rather difficult."
Aguero spoke to Messi after his hat trick for Argentina secured qualification for the World Cup.
The City striker missed the game as he continues his recovery from a fractured rib suffered in a car crash in Amsterdam.
"I watched the game with my mother," he said. "I was very nervous but I screamed for joy. I'm delighted.
"I spoke to Leo and congratulated him. We are a group and we speak a lot, we all wish the best to everyone. I thanked him for what he is doing for the World Cup."
Aguero returned to training with City on Wednesday and could potentially be back for the Premier League clash with Stoke City on Saturday.
"I don't know yet. I trained alone without the ball," he said. "On Thursday I will train with the group and see if I'm comfortable.
"It depends how I feel, it's not the same training as playing a football game. I want to be certain and not have pain. I don't want to play and then have a knock that keeps me out for another week."
Meanwhile, Aguero dismissed reports that he is set to join AC Milan, with City said to be chasing Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez.
"I'm not quite sure who they've done the deal with, perhaps my double," he added. "I know nothing. I saw the news and read that and I was surprised."
Jonathan is ESPN FC's Manchester City correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @jonnysmiffy.
LONDON -- Arsenal centre-back Shkodran Mustafi has been ruled out until the next international break, while Laurent Koscielny faces a late fitness test ahead of Saturday's game at Watford.
Arsenal could face a defensive crisis if Koscielny is unable to play at Watford as it would leave Arsene Wenger without his two top centre-backs.
Mustafi suffered a muscle tear in his thigh while playing for Germany during the recent international break and Wenger said he will be out for at least four weeks.
"I don't think he'll be available before the next international break [in November]," Wenger said.
Koscielny, meanwhile, is still struggling with a flare-up of his chronic Achilles problem but could play on Saturday if he comes through a fitness test on Friday.
"Koscielny has a definite final test tomorrow. At the moment, he's not available," Wenger said. "He trained on his own and the first signs are positive, so we decided to give him a test tomorrow."
If Koscielny cannot play, Wenger could stick with a back three by playing Per Mertesacker and Rob Holding together with Nacho Monreal -- or he might be tempted to revert to a four-man defence.
The Arsenal boss said that the injuries could force him to make some tough decisions.
"I think about sorting out the problem, but overall I will completely decide what I do tomorrow because Koscielny will have a test then," he said. "He worked quite hard physically, he looks like he is capable of playing if he survives the test. If he has no pain on his Achilles tendon, he can play. I will decide that tomorrow."
Mesut Ozil and Danny Welbeck are both available again after recovering from injury problems, while Alexis Sanchez and Aaron Ramsey will be assessed after returning from a disappointing international break where Chile and Wales both missed out on the World Cup.
Wenger also addressed the possibility of Arsenal's Dec. 23 fixture against Liverpool being moved to Christmas Eve for TV purposes, saying that a late kickoff would be unacceptable on that date.
The proposal to move the game -- possibly to a 4 p.m. GMT kickoff -- has angered fans from both clubs, but especially Liverpool supporters who would struggle to travel back home on public transport that evening.
"I know that we have to adapt to the schedule dictated by the television, but overall I would say if that happens personally I think it should not be played after 2 p.m. latest on Christmas Eve," Wenger said. "I would say if we had to play we should not play after 2 p.m.
"Personally I would prefer to be at my home on Christmas night and celebrate Christmas, but I still feel that could happen if we played early on the day. What you wouldn't like to sacrifice is the evening with the family for people, but overall we go towards a society where religion isn't considered anymore in any decision and where people want as well to watch football in the Christmas period."
Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.
This article was first published on Oct. 12, 2016
Arsene Wenger's first game in charge of Arsenal was a fairly routine 2-0 victory at struggling Blackburn Rovers on Oct. 12, 1996. But it heralded a new era at the London club, and was the first step toward an unprecedented period of success for the Gunners.
On the 21st anniversary of that match, ESPN FC looks back at the victory and its significance.
Former Nancy, Monaco and Nagoya Grampus Eight boss Wenger had famously come in as a largely unknown manager in England, with the Arsenal players sceptical about the new methods he was bringing in from abroad. And Wenger stunned the team by calling them into the hotel ballroom at 8:30 a.m. on the morning of the match for a warmup and stretching session -- unheard of in those days.
Striker Ian Wright said later: "We were all thinking, 'What is going on here?' It took some time to get used to it because you are talking about a complete left turn when you have been used to straight lines."
Wenger's first team was largely inherited from predecessors Bruce Rioch and George Graham, but one name stuck out as a symbol of things to come. Patrick Vieira was handed just his third league start, having been signed by Arsenal that summer on the advice of Wenger, before the Frenchman was officially in charge of the club. Vieira was the only foreign player in the team that day, aside from Welshman John Hartson, with Dennis Bergkamp not in the squad. The midfielder was the first of many bright foreign talents -- especially French -- brought in by Wenger, and the days of overwhelmingly English teams were soon over.
Lineup: David Seaman, Lee Dixon, Tony Adams, Steve Bould, Martin Keown, Nigel Winterburn, Paul Merson, David Platt, Patrick Vieira, John Hartson, Ian Wright.
Wright showed Wenger he could still be a key player at the age of 32 by scoring both goals to put the hosts away. The first came after just three minutes as the striker took one touch in the area to go around a defender before finishing confidently with his other foot into the far corner. Vieira created the second, starting a counterattack by pushing up the field with that long stride that would soon become so familiar to Arsenal fans before sending a long ball up toward Wright. The striker used a delicate touch to take the ball in his stride before sliding forward to chip the ball into the net.
The postmatch protest
The win certainly helped Wenger erase some of the doubts his players had about their new boss, although he still had to deal with one minor insurrection after the game. As part of his new strict dietary regime, Wenger had banned chocolate bars from the team's prematch snacks and the players made sure he knew they were upset about it.
"At half-time, I asked my physio Gary Lewin, 'Nobody is talking, what's wrong with them?' He replied, 'They're hungry' -- I hadn't given them their chocolate before the game. It was funny," Wenger said a couple of years ago.
And on the bus home after the game, the players staged what became known as "the Mars bars revolution," as Wenger recalled: "The players were chanting, 'We want our Mars bars!'"
While the chocolate remained banned, the victories kept coming.
Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.
LONDON -- Arsene Wenger says Arsenal could cash in on Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez by selling them in January if there has not been a breakthrough in contract talks before then.
Sanchez and Ozil have both entered the final year of their contracts and Wenger told his news conference on Thursday morning it is "possible" they could be sold during the winter transfer window.
When asked whether he would contemplate a January sale, Wenger said: "Once you're in our kind of situation, you envisage every solution, yes. It's possible."
Sources told ESPN FC last month that Manchester City would consider reviving their interest in Sanchez in January, while a source told ESPN FC this week that Arsenal have yet to reopen talks over a contract extension with Ozil, although the Germany international remains open to a stay.
Wenger confirmed that the club is nowhere close to a deal with Ozil but remained hopeful that both he and Sanchez will still sign extensions.
"I always said that the fact that we didn't find an agreement last year doesn't mean that the player will necessarily leave -- because both players look happy here," he said. "Overall I hope that the situation can be turned around."
Ozil is back in team training this week after a knee inflammation and is available for Saturday's Premier League game at Watford, while Sanchez will not be back at the club until Friday after returning late from Chile's World Cup qualifier against Brazil.
Sanchez will be dealing with both fatigue and the disappointment of missing out on next summer's tournament in Russia, and Wenger said he will have to gauge the player's physical and mental state before deciding whether to play him at Watford.
"I will have to speak to him," Wenger said. "It was a very physical game [against Brazil]. Mentally I will have to assess the situation when he comes back tomorrow."
But Wenger said that Sanchez's disappointment will not have a long-term effect on his commitment to Arsenal this season.
"I don't think [it will]. I believe that he, like [Wales'] Aaron Ramsey, they are winners. They want to focus on winning things," Wenger said. "The World Cup is a stimulant, I don't deny that, but when you don't have it you focus on your club and what you can achieve with your club."
Wenger also said he hopes Jack Wilshere does not push for a January move amid speculation that the midfielder could leave to seek more playing time in order to make England's World Cup squad.
Wilshere has yet to make a Premier League appearance this season after recovering from a broken ankle but has played well in the Europa League and Carabao Cup.
Wenger said that the midfielder will get more games soon, and does not have to leave Arsenal to be in contention for England.
"I don't think [he does need to leave]. I believe that Jack at the moment is in the best form I've seen him in for a long time," Wenger said. "He's very close now to being considered like anybody else.
"Overall I believe he doesn't necessarily have to leave Arsenal to reach the World Cup. If he keeps going like he's going at the moment, he will go to the World Cup, I'm sure. I don't see Jack being fully fit and not going to the World Cup."
England qualified comfortably for next summer's tournament in Russia but the team were criticised for a lack of creativity in their last two games.
Wenger agreed that Wilshere could be the perfect solution for Gareth Southgate's side.
"Jack is certainly one of the players who has that more than anybody else," he said. "[England] have plenty of good players but he is maybe more of a No. 10 than any other player. He can open spaces, can play in tight areas, can get out of tight areas as well."
Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.
Kenny Dalglish expects Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho to adopt a similar defensive approach to last season when they play Liverpool on Saturday.
Mourinho's first encounter with Liverpool as United boss was a 0-0 draw at Anfield nearly 12 months ago, with the visitors having just 35 percent of possession -- at the time their lowest in a Premier League match since Opta began recording the data in 2003-04.
Former Liverpool player and manager Dalglish is predicting another close-fought encounter this weekend, with Jurgen Klopp's side expected to take the game to United.
"You would always expect Liverpool vs. Manchester United to be a tight game," he is quoted as saying by the Liverpool Echo. "Last year, when United came to Liverpool, Jose Mourinho parked the bus. But it wasn't just the one bus, I think it was a couple of double-deckers he put there. That's not to give him stick in any way. It was very difficult for Liverpool and [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic nearly got a late winner.
"I think United will come and set up quite defensively, but at the same time they have fantastic frontmen in Marcus Rashford, Romelu Lukaku and Anthony Martial. I think Jose will try to make sure the pressure is on Liverpool, but the pressure is on everyone when it comes to a game like that."
Liverpool have made an indifferent start to the season and lie seventh in the Premier League table -- seven points adrift of leaders Manchester City and United.
Earlier this week marked two years since Klopp took charge of the Merseyside club, and Dalglish is still predicting the former Borussia Dortmund boss to deliver success.
"I think he's a perfect fit for the football club," he said. "I think he can relate brilliantly to the fans and the fans can relate to him. I think we're moving forwards and upwards since he's come in. He may be criticised for the goals he concedes but his philosophy has always been to score more goals than the opposition so I think that's what the fans want to see.
"Between now and May I think there will be a lot more smiles than there will be disappointments. They finished fourth [last season] so I think they'll be expecting to finish a bit higher this year. United and City are both stronger so that is a bit unfortunate. Chelsea got off to a bad start, but they've picked up and Tottenham are also looking strong.
"It's going to be a difficult task to get higher than fourth but hopefully they can do it and I think they've got the best person in charge to do that."
Glenn is ESPN FC's Liverpool correspondent. You can follow him on Twitter: @GlennPrice94.
How do you recover from losing your first seven games of a Premier League season? Crystal Palace spent the international break considering their wreckage of a season so far, and they did so in the knowledge that this is the worst start to a campaign in Premier League history.
Plenty of other teams have reached this point without winning a game -- one other has even lost all seven too -- but nobody has managed quite this level of calamity, completing seven fixtures without so much as a goal to their name.
First, the good news. Of the 22 other teams who haven't registered a win in the first seven games of a Premier League season, 12 have survived. Some of them have even gone on to record some very respectable league positions: Tottenham in 2008-09 finished eighth, Norwich in 2012-13 came 11th, Sheffield Wednesday in 1993-94 ended up in seventh. Some of those teams had a few draws to their name and all of them had at least scored a goal, but it does at least provide some encouragement for Roy Hodgson and any other despairing Palace fans.
The bad news is that the only other team to lose all seven games was Portsmouth in 2009-10. They picked up their first victory in their eighth game, a 1-0 win over Wolves, but lost 17 of their remaining 31 fixtures and didn't rise from the bottom of the table all season.
"At the time, we didn't give up, or think relegation was inevitable," Richard Hughes, part of that Portsmouth team, tells ESPN FC. "But it was panic stations from pretty early on. Looking back on it now, we should have seen that the writing was on the wall from that first run of games."
But with that Portsmouth season, there are caveats. Colossal ones. That was the year that Portsmouth essentially collapsed as a football club, years of financial mismanagement building up and dogging the team all season. That summer they sold half a team, as Sol Campbell, Glen Johnson, Niko Kranjcar, Sylvain Distin and Peter Crouch all departed. They were replaced with what you might charitably call an eclectic collection of free transfers and cast-offs, thrown together at the last minute and asked to keep the team up while the club crumbled around them. "We didn't really try to make excuses: we just weren't good enough," says Hughes.
Over the course of the season Portsmouth had four owners: Sacha Gaydamak sold to Sulaiman Al-Fahim, who then sold 90 percent of his holding to Ali Al-Faraj (nicknamed "Al Mirage" due to him not exactly being a regular at Fratton Park), who then lost his stake in the club after being unable to repay part of a loan, to Balram Chainrai. No club could perform with any degree of freedom in those circumstances, not least because players were paid late at least three times that season.
"We tried not to let that affect us, because we sort of assume that we'd be paid eventually," says Hughes. "But it was all part of the circus."
They went into administration in January and were docked nine points, but even without that penalty they would have been seven points shy of safety. A bizarre cherry on a profoundly curious cake of a season was that they still managed to reach the FA Cup final, losing to Chelsea. "I guess we treated those cup games as a way to prove a point, that we weren't actually that bad," adds Hughes.
All of which is to say that season was such an outlier of multi-faceted calamity that it can't really be compared to Palace. For all their problems in the transfer market and the curtailed Frank de Boer experiment, they do at least resemble a functioning football club.
A more apposite -- and indeed encouraging -- comparison might be the next team on the list. Southampton started the 1998-99 season with just two points from their opening nine games, the first five of which they lost: that included a 5-0 defeat to Charlton, a 4-0 hammering from Newcastle and a home defeat to Nottingham Forest, who wouldn't win another game until the end of January and finished bottom of the table.
And yet, they survived. Results began to pick up around October, slowly at first, but eventually a flurry of wins towards the end of the season kept them up. It was a similar story the year before: they lost six of their first nine but ended up finishing 12th.
The key, it seems, was to prevent the bad run from getting into their heads, as far as possible.
"You're not going to win a football match every week," Carlton Palmer, who played in both of those Southampton teams, tells ESPN FC. "You go through bad spells. We changed the mindset in terms of training, in terms of playing and winning. If you get one bad apple in the dressing room it can create a problem, but if you get one good one it can manifest itself and transfers to the rest of the players."
One of the reasons for Southampton's struggles in 1998-99 was the influx of new players: manager Dave Jones brought in seven signings, who would inevitably take some time to settle.
"The new players gradually started bedding in and finding their feet," Jones wrote in his autobiography. "I knew the process of assimilating all the new players would take a while and was prepared for a short-term blip for the longer term gain."
If Palace wish to take a "glass half-full" attitude to things, from that perspective their lack of summer transfer movement could be spun as a positive.
Continuity helped in the dugout too, and Palmer suggests that Palace may have already made their mistake in that respect. How could they know that De Boer wasn't going to win people round if he wasn't going to be given the time?
"If you go to a big company and they put a CEO in place, when do you ever see them change within a short period of time? It doesn't happen," says Palmer, who has just released his own autobiography 'It Is What It Is.' "You interview them, put them in place, give them time to do the job -- it's as simple as that. It's detrimental to the game."
Palace can certainly learn from years past, and stories like Portsmouth and Southampton, but perhaps the fundamental point is that even with this historically bad start, all is not lost. Hodgson is a manager whose success relies on functional repetition and it will take a while for him to have an impact. Their fixture list so far has been extremely tough. And, depending on how much faith you put in these things, their expected goals metric suggests they haven't been playing as badly as their results suggests: they're creating chances, just not converting them yet.
Of course Palace need to find results quickly -- even Portsmouth won their eighth game -- but they still have hope, however faint it might appear now with the defending champions Chelsea next on the agenda.
Nick Miller is a writer for ESPN FC, covering Premier League and European football. Follow him on Twitter @NickMiller79.