As the longest Premier League season of all time comes to a close, it’s been yet another stale and mediocre campaign for Crystal Palace.
Since the Eagles promotion from the Championship seven years ago, the club have failed to break into the top nine of the Premier League, yet they have never truly been threatened by the prospect of relegation. Fans are beginning to feel unrest, especially with the constant transfer whirlwind surrounding the talented Wilfried Zaha every single transfer window, and the bore tactics of former England boss Roy Hodgson leaving fans feeling more underwhelmed than on the edge of their seats, it’s a bit of an awkward time to be a Crystal Palace fan.
Of course, they can’t really complain about consecutive Premier League seasons and establishing themselves as a regular in the greatest league in the world, and they do have their moments such as defeating Manchester United 2-1 this season and that memorable 3-3 stalemate with Liverpool back in 2014 which is now remembered as ‘Crystanbul’, as Palace overturned a 3-0 deficit to put a hinder into the Reds title race, leaving it down to goal difference, the Eagles time in the Premier League hasn’t exactly been uneventful.
Nevertheless, as the South London side’s 2019/20 season ends with the Eagles placed in a careful 14th place, fans are beginning to look at their current squad and ask the question – what is the club currently lacking that is holding them back from a top ten table finish?
In the recent end of season awards ceremony at Selhurst Park, leading marksman Jordan Ayew collected the Players’ Player of the Season, the Goal of the Season and Player of the Season award which felt well deserved, as Palace’s hitman had scored nine goals this season and earned the club 14 points, 10 man of the match awards, 2 player of the month awards, and was the club’s top scorer in what has been a fantastic season for Ayew and, despite all the awards, I see him as a bit of an underrated Premier League player. But at the age of 28, Ayew is beginning to enter his golden years and an injection of youth looks to be needed in the squad.
In fact, throughout the entirety of the 2019/20 season, not a single player under the age of 26 scored for Crystal Palace. The percentage of goals scored was 0% during the entire campaign, something which needs to be altered if Hodgson wants to really push his squad to their limits and make the fans leave Selhurst Park with a sense of pride and joy, rather than the usual content feeling buzzing around the ground. Palace didn’t even do a young player of the season award, as the club physically have such a lack of promising youngsters within their arsenal.
Thankfully, the Eagles have already began work to rectify this huge factor towards moving forward as a club, being close to signing Reading wonderkid Danny Loader, linked with Queens Park Rangers stalwart Eberechi Eze, and having confirmed the services of highly-rated West Ham prospect Jake Giddings, next season will surely see an implementation of youth which is badly needed at Selhurst Park, and whilst fans will also be wanting a big name, experienced, statement of a signing to help carry the club forward, perhaps a new approach could help Hodgson’s men to rebuild the club and carry them from the rut of a forgettable mid-table finish to an ecstatic top ten ending to the season.
Another way that Crystal Palace could move forward as a club is to finally end the transfer merry-go-round circling Zaha and allow the African to move onto bigger and better things. Whilst it’s undeniable that Hodgson would be losing his most silky and gifted footballer, the funds generated from Zaha’s departure could be the boost that Palace need to build a stronger, more competitive squad. Zaha’s exit would leave a gap up front alongside Ayew, which could lead Hodgson down a number of avenues as to how he wants his side to attack. The smartest way to play would be to use Ayew to his strengths and play the Ghanian in his preferred role up front, whether if its a poacher or a target man, and then bring in a player who is best suited to Ayew’s expertise and play style. As Ayew is usually more comfortable playing as an advanced forward, he could potentially work well alongside a target man such as Aleksandar Mitrovic. Yes, Mitrovic would be costly, but that money would be raised from the egress of Zaha and at the age of 25 Mitrovic is hungry, just entering his prime and familiar to the rough and tumble of the Premier League, having played in it with Newcastle United and Fulham in the past.
If Fulham were to lose in the play-off final, Mitrovic would most likely be eager to move away from Craven Cottage to find a healthier pay check and top flight football in England which will both be enticing to the Serbian. Another player who could fit the agenda as a target man could be Senagalese striker Habib Diallo. Diallo currently plies his trade in Ligue 1 for Metz, and he helped his side to stay well clear of relegation as the only real threat within their squad. Diallo netted 12 goals and 3 assists, more than Mauro Icardi and Memphis Depay, as a target man for the French side, at 6″1 he could be the ideal replacement to feed off of Ayew and win the headers which Ayew may struggle with.
Whilst its a risky strategy to sell Zaha, I think it would also be wise to look at the calibre of players relegated with the likes of Norwich City, Watford and Bournemouth. Palace’s midfield is mid-table quality, and I’m not saying relegated players will help that, but some of those who were relegated deserve a second chance in the Premier League such as Watford’s Will Hughes. Hughes has proven himself to Hornet fans and is backed to be the club’s new captain ahead of their return to the Championship, showing he has the flair and leadership qualities to perhaps play alongside Luka Milivojevic or James McCarthy, as well as the work rate of a stallion. He’s good when it comes to defending and good when it comes to moving the attack forward as a box-to-box midfielder, and at the age of 25 the best is yet to come for Hughes. Watford’s Gerard Deulofeu could also be a notable shout, as a quick, Spanish winger with plenty of flair and consistency, the playmaker is again a leader like Hughes, having apparently rallied the troops before they were relegated. He is also linked with European giants A.C Milan, so is Palace want to be sending out a statement, Deulofeu could be ideal. The same could be said for ex-Bournemouth hero Ryan Fraser, who controversially departed the club, but was linked with top six clubs, however as his situation appears to quieten down could Fraser be tempted to make a move to South London to help get the Eagles soaring once more?
What do you make of these thoughts? Let us know in the comments below!