In the final Premier League game of 2015, Crystal Palace earned a point in a 0-0 draw with Swansea that maintained their slender advantage over Manchester United for fifth place. The stalemate also kept them within reach of the Champions League places.
Little did the Eagles know back then what was to lie ahead.
Two points from 10 league outings during 2016 has seen the Londoners plummet 10 places down the table towards the increasingly realistic possibility of relegation.
The tension of the situation was clear to see during Alan Pardew’s latest post-match interview.
An inquisitive Geoff Shreeves bore the brunt of the silver-topped manager’s frustrations following the 2-1 defeat to Liverpool. If the eyes are the window to the soul, then Pardew’s screamed panic.
Similarly, a football manager’s demeanour provides a reliable snapshot to his team’s state. It’s not a coincidence, for example, that Chelsea’s fortunes drastically improved once Jose Mourinho and his great big cloud of doom departed the scene.
If Pardew is feeling the pressure, then Palace are too. And the bad news for the Selhurst Park club is, things look likely to get a whole lot worse before they get better.
In the Eagles’ remaining nine league games, they have to play four of the current top six in Leicester, Arsenal, West Ham and Manchester United. They’ve collected exactly one point against those sides in the preceding fixtures this season.
Stoke, Southampton and Everton make up a fearsome trio from the middle band of the division, while potentially pivotal outings against fellow strugglers Norwich and Newcastle could determine what league Palace play in next term.
Of that crucial pair of six-pointers, the Canaries crop up first. But that comes after a potentially spirit-sapping run of three games against the Red Devils, Foxes and Hammers. By then, Pardew’s squad could be well and truly sucked into the mire.
At the moment, Ladbrokes’ relegation market doesn’t really rate Palace as a relegation candidate, at 22/1. Should they lose the three games that precede the Norwich clash though, they’ll be far shorter than that. So pile on now.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.