Since taking charge at Selhurst Park in November last year, 55-year-old Tony Pulis' record at Crystal Palace reads W5 D1 L5.

Prior to his arrival, Palace's record was W2 D1 L9. Going from a 75% defeat ratio to at 45% win ratio is some turnaround for a club who looked destined for relegation under previous boss Ian Holloway.

Some may argue the Bristol-born Holloway was a little unfortunate at times, and that Palace often were left with results they did not deserve, but few can argue that Pulis is masterminding a turnaround.

Palace were never afraid to come forward under Holloway, and players like Jason Puncheon, Jon Williams, and Yannick Bolasie could make any defence worry.

But Pulis now has the team so drilled and determined defensively that as well as being a threat, attacking with pace and precision. Palace are now very difficult to break down and thus to beat.

The key to their surge up the table is undoubtedly their massive defensive improvements, with Pulis instantly coming in and ingraining his typically organised and gritty defensive fashion into the Eagles.

They have become experts at holding off their opponents at arms reach and grinding out results. However, it has also been down to Pulis being able to get the best out of some key players.

Since his takeover, Palace have conceded an average of one goal per game (10 in 10 fixtures), whereas before his arrival they had let in 21 goals in 12 fixtures - close to two goals a game.

Pulis has put a stop to the leaky Palace defence and transformed a team who so often capitulated and gave up into dogged fighters.

Obviously there has been a change in mentality - these are the same players Pulis is working with - with players now fighting and working harder defensively.

But the most important change has been in their defensive shape. When Palace don't have the ball they get back behind the opposition very quickly, and close up the middle of the park, forcing teams wide and inviting them to try and break down their shape. 

The linchpin in making this shape work is Mile Jedinak, who Pulis entrusts with ensuring that their defensive shape maintains its solidity in the face of the opposition.

The Australian was always the shining light in the Palace side even when they were on a run of seven straight losses under Holloway.

Patrolling the middle of the park putting in big tackles and setting up offensive moves with quick balls out to the wings, he was a player of stand out class in a side which otherwise looked way out of their depth.

In Pulis' system he sits even deeper than previously, operating almost as a fifth defender, dropping from midfield - a traditional 'half back'.

Julian Speroni too has had a surge in form under Pulis - the Argentine 'keeper's statistics have sky-rocketed since the Welshman took managerial control.

Speroni has gone from making an average of 1.24 saves per game to 2.2, and from two clean sheets in 12 games to five in ten.

He is noticably calmer and more confident between the sticks, which is a welcome sight for Palace fans who have a great affinity to one of the clubs longest serving and best players.

Going forwards, Puncheon has been making everything happen for Pulis (the awful penalty vs Tottenham aside), springing forwards from the defensive shape when the ball is won, and making a menace of himself during offensive set pieces.

The man on loan from Southampton has scored three goals and provided 20 goal-scoring chances in his ten games under Pulis, having gone ten games previously without contributing a single goal, and only creating ten chances.

What Pulis has done at Palace is a mixture of stamping his trademark defensive organisation, discipline, and belief into his new side, and convincing Palace's big name players to put in the performances that win them games. Stoke fans, now looking up at Crystal Palace in the table, surely must be missing him.

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Topics:
#Premier League
#Crystal Palace
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