Change is in the air at Crystal Palace and a summer of transition is on the cards.
The Eagles have an ageing squad and a number of players will be out of contact at the end of the season, while boss Roy Hodgson’s future also up in the air.
With that in mind, it is fair to say the South London side have never wrapped up a Premier League campaign amid such uncertainty.
As Palace get set to lock horns with Leicester tonight — a club who are the masters of intelligent recruitment — can they emulate the Foxes’ success in the transfer market over the coming months?
Who is set to leave?
Incredibly, 13 first-team players are out of contract this summer at Selhurst Park — meaning only 14 senior professionals have deals that run into next season.
Wayne Hennessey, Stephen Henderson, Nathaniel Clyne, Joel Ward, Gary Cahill, Scott Dann, Mamadou Sakho, Patrick van Aanholt, James McCarthy, Jeffrey Schlupp, Andros Townsend, Christian Benteke and Connor Wickham all face uncertain futures.
While several of those appear surplus to requirements, eight have made more than 10 Premier League appearances this season and seven have featured in over 50% of Palace’s games.
Which areas need strengthening?
The short answer? Everywhere.
A lack of options in defence is a particular issue that will need to be addressed, with just three centre-backs and a left-back under contract beyond the summer.
In the past, Palace have picked up the likes of Vicente Guaita, Clyne and Cahill for free, so the club hierarchy could be interested in players such as Matthew Lowton (Burnley), Danny Rose (Tottenham), Olivier Giroud (Chelsea) and Josh King (Everton), who will all be free agents this summer.
The Eagles have been frugal in the market over recent seasons but the signing of former QPR star Eberechi Eze has been their finest bit of business for quite some time.
Raiding the Championship again this summer could be a successful strategy, with Josh Dasilva (Brentford), Michael Olise (Reading), David Brooks (Bournemouth) and Adam Armstrong (Blackburn) all linked with moves to the top flight.
For Palace, it is about spending money wisely in the upcoming window — looking for bargains and free transfers, while also accepting they need to invest heavily in the squad.
What about the manager?
Hodgson’s contract is set to expire iand with the Palace boss turning 74 in August, it seems highly likely this will be his last season in management.
The former England manager has refused to be drawn on speculation surrounding his future, heightening suspicion he may well be about to leave the club.
Discussing the issue earlier this month, he said: “Basically, I think we all have our own ideas of what our plans are, but we are more than happy to wait a little bit longer before announcing those plans.”
Who could replace him?
Reports have suggested that Sean Dyche, Eddie Howe and Frank Lampard are among those being considered for the position.
From the Championship, Swansea manager Steve Cooper has been linked — as has Valerien Ismael, who briefly played for Palace in 1998 and has impressively guided Barnsley to the Championship play-offs.
Another candidate believed to be under consideration is former Arsenal captain Patrick Vieira, while Steven Gerrard, John Terry, Lee Johnson and Roma manager Paulo Fonseca have also had their names touted for the potential vacancy.
Some of those appear far more realistic than others.
A big summer in South London
Whatever happens over the next few months, it seems certain there will be plenty of new faces through the door before the start of next season.
First and foremost, Palace need to address which players are departing and sort out their truly remarkable contract situation.
Identifying new players and a manager is also supremely important, with any wrong decisions set to have potentially devastating effects on their 2021-22 campaign.
Watford, Stoke and Swansea have all paid the ultimate price for poor recruitment in recent years — Palace will need to make some savvy choices to avoid any risk of a relegation battle next term.