Jason Puncheon epitomises Palace's rise under Tony Pulis

Tony Pulis Interview - 23/02/2014

The Eagles wideman has symbolised his club's rise from relegation favourites to relative mid-table safety under the former Stoke man's guidance.

Crystal Palace's elevation from the Premier League basement has been nothing short of remarkable.

The most surprising aspect to the aggrandisement of this Palace outfit has been their shortage of goals all season long, but it has hardly mattered, with Tony Pulis' arrival coinciding with a new-found resilience in defence that has formed the basis of their revival.

Under Ian Holloway, Palace were a mess. He departed at the tail end of October citing a lack of energy behind his reasons for leaving. 

Having secured just one win out of seven matches, the Eagles appeared to be in dire straits. They endured further misery while their prolonged pursuit of a new managerial appointment was in action but Pulis instilled solidity and confidence in a defence which had shipped 21 goals in 11 games prior to his unveiling.

To put his influence on the defence into some form of perspective, Palace have conceded just 18 goals in the 22 games since he was officially announced as Holloway's successor.

As previously alluded to, Palace's problems have stemmed from further up the field, where they have only struck 24 times this season, a tally which remains the lowest in the Premier League but that has not been for the want of trying on Jason Puncheon's part.

Puncheon has come to represent the physical embodiment of Palace's second-half renaissance this season and Pulis has reaped the rewards of giving the wide man a more prominent role in his new-look side.

The 27-year-old, of course, has enjoyed his own personal rise from rock bottom to far loftier heights after his shocking penalty miss against Tottenham midway through January which threatened to be the unravelling of one of Palace's best players.

Since that awful sliced spot-kick, however, things have only continued to look up for Puncheon, who has netted three times in his last two games, to give Palace not just hope but a genuine chance of preserving their Premier League status into a second season.

His latest strike, a clinical finish to down an increasingly relegation-haunted Aston Villa side, was the third occasion this season in which Puncheon has mustered a crucial winner and helped his side to win by the same 1-0 scoreline on each occasion against fellow struggles Hull and mid-table Stoke City.

It appears he has been liberated by Pulis' decision to go with a 4-3-3 formation which leans heavily on the defensive work of Mile Jedinak and Kagisho Dikgacoi in midfield, but also the industry and invention of both Puncheon and Yannick Bolasie, who has been equally instrumental in Palace's comeback.

Bolasie's contribution has not been as spectacular, having failed to score, but it should not be overlooked due to that. Indeed, much of his good work on the flanks is ultimately undone by an inconsistent end offering.

Puncheon pre-Pulis: 

  TeamPosGoal Assist / appsTotal Scoring Att / appsOntarget Scoring Att / appsTotal Cross / appsAccurate Cross / appsTotal Contest / appsWon Contest / appsTouches / appsAppsMins
Jason Puncheon Crystal Palace MF 0 1.63 0.25 2.13 0.63 3.38 1.75 53.13 8 565

Puncheon under Pulis:

  TeamPosGoal Assist / appsTotal Scoring Att / appsOntarget Scoring Att / appsTotal Cross / appsAccurate Cross / appsTotal Contest / appsWon Contest / appsTouches / appsAppsMins
Jason Puncheon Crystal Palace MF 0.05 2.50 1.15 4.70 1.35 3.30 1.60 45.20 20 1,509

The statistics largely underline what was perhaps already obvious to most, Puncheon has developed immensely under Pulis' tutelage.

His bravery to take shots on, reflected in his 2.5 per game under Pulis as opposed to 1.63 beforehand, has helped yield six league goals this season, all of which have come during the former Stoke City manager's reign.

The accuracy of his shooting has also improved tenfold, given that his early season performances produced a woeful 0.25 shots on target per appearance as opposed to the 1.15 each game since Pulis' arrival.

That marks quite a staggering revival in fortunes at Puncheon, representing a 30.7% swing in his favour across the two sets of statistics.

Puncheon has also helped to provide a marginal increase on assists too, having registered 0.05 a game since the managerial switch compared to a grand total of zero during the Holloway era.

He has also attempted more crosses per game, and completed more as a result, but his percentages do not make for quite as impressive reading in this particular area, having experienced a 29.6% success rate during the opening stages of the season and just 28.7%, a minor dip, under Pulis.

Likewise, Puncheon has suffered a dip in success when it comes to his overall contests against opposition full-backs. He recorded a success rate of 51.8% from his 3.38 per game while Palace struggled and, surprisingly, has only posted 48.5% from 3.3 per outing when his side and his personal performance has seemingly flourished.

He has also suffered a negative performance turn with regards to his touches in each performance, having seen 53.13 drop to 45.20 but the main numbers that count show Palace's Pulis-inspired surge up the league standings and Puncheon's goalscoring spree, neither of which were apparent during Holloway's ill-fated time in the Premier League.

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