A big January window is needed and Freddie Jennings is here to pinpoint what is needed.
In recent weeks, early season optimism has subsided for a rather disappointing perception of reality as Palace have fallen to four defeats in our last five, beginning to lose sight of the teams in the top half. Whatever the recent slide can be attributed to this worrying run of games has highlighted certain areas where Palace need to address in order to reverse the damage of recent weeks.
For the first time since last summer, discontent is starting to swell around the Eagles’ fanbase, with audible boo’s being echoed around Selhurst Park today, following a demoralising 2-1 defeat at home to Southampton in the third round of the FA cup, knocking Palace out of a cup we did so well in last season on our unforgettable journey to Wembley. The performance itself wasn’t nearly as poor as a shambolic second half showing against Tottenham just 3 days earlier, where we were humbled by a Harry Kane inspired blitz.
Perhaps in months to come we look back on this period and say this was the point where we addressed any final cracks in Vieira’s side as we pushed for a top half finish, and in order to make the next step, it looks as if some home truths need to be highlighted first and the January transfer window acts as a good chance to work on this.
The first position which requires improvement could be one of several in all honesty. However, given the attacking quality we have through the likes of Wilfred Zaha, Eberechi Eze and Michael Olise it doesn’t feel just for those assets to be producing for strikers who ultimately haven’t got the credentials to be prolific scorers, but rather can still be utilised as impact substitutions. Hence, we come back to the classic Palace conundrum of having an impressive attacking team without a recognised goal scorer.
Not since Glen Murray have Palace had a guaranteed source of goals over a whole season, it proved that Christian Benteke’s 17 goal season in the 2016/17 campaign was not a true indicator of the form he was about to embark on. Despite a promising start last season, our Celtic signing Odsonne Edouard hasn’t been able to sustain a consistent run of form and his odd goal once every couple of months hasn’t justified his price tag. Similarly, Jean Phillipe Mateta has not been able to rekindle the form that he displayed from January to April last season, with vital goals against Millwall and Everton on the march to the FA cup Semi-Final.
A lack of game time has hampered his performances as he has had to settle for limited cameo appearances of the bench, without much time to make a telling impact. Between them, the pair have 4 Premier League goals this season and instead our top scorer has once again been Wilfred Zaha with 6 strikes, whereas he should be putting his primary efforts into creating for someone whose job is to consistently convert.
Positively, Palace’s track record in recent windows has been positive, particularly last summer where the board made a string of impressive signings from the championship with young, hungry and ambitious purchases. The same parameters ought to be applied this January with Middlesbrough’s Chuba Akpom and Coventry City’s Victor Gyokeres appearing to be promising talents with a proven track record in the second tier.
The equation for Premier league success appears fairly simple this year with both Brentford and Fulham having excellent strikers in the form of Ivan Toney and Aleksandar Mitrovic who have driven their team success whilst the poor form of Chelsea has largely been attributed to a lack of firepower with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang being scapegoated as simply no longer good enough for the Premier League. Our team clearly have a range of promising talents and our intricate build up play ought to be rewarded with that elusive final touch.
However, it seems as if the spending should not stop there. Chairman Steve Parish has cited that loans will be the only source of additions this window which may fill in a temporary gap, yet ultimately, we will be having this exact same discussion next year. One of last seasons loan purchases in the form of Conor Gallagher would be an excellent addition given the poor form of Jeffrey Schlupp and apparent lack of incision from midfield. His drive and energy gave us a different, more aggressive dimension from midfield and his lack of game time with London rivals Chelsea suggests that he could be available. Maybe even Ruben Loftus-cheek, a similarly imperious player from the same club who we had on loan for the 2017/18 season, could be a positive addition given the competition for midfield places in Graham Potter’s side.
Another area which the recent run of form has highlighted as an outstanding weakness is the full back positions where the team have failed to recover since Tyrick Mitchell’s Boxing day red card against Fulham. Joel Ward has since been deployed at Left Back showing a lack of trust in Dutchman Jairo Riedewald whilst Nathaniel Clyne has operated in his usual right back position.
A pair of miserable performances from each of them indicates that better cover is needed. Once again, Max Aarons from the championship appears to be a proven talent with Premier League experience and a youthful presence is certainly a requirement, but the manner in which we crumbled against both Fulham and Tottenham implies that a stronger backbone is needed with greater premier league experience in the central defensive areas being a potential option in order to navigate a tough set of upcoming fixtures in the next couple of months.