After suffering a defensive crisis at the start of the season, Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson finally has options at the back once again, after Gary Cahill, James Tomkins, Joel Ward and Tyrick Mitchell returned to training following the international break.
Cahill has played just 135 minutes of football in total so far this season with most of those minutes coming in the Premier League. The former England international suffered a nasty injury during the draw with Brighton after Lewis Dunk lunged in with a dangerous tackle, with the Seagulls captain subsequently sent off for foul play.
With Cheikhou Kouyate, Scott Dann and Mamadou Sakho struggling for consistency this season – as Palace have so far failed to keep a clean sheet since the 1-0 victory over Southampton at St Mary’s at the start of the season – surely Hodgson must start Cahill against Burnley on Monday night.
Speaking after Steve Parish signed the free agent on a two-year deal in 2019, Hodgson said: “I’m delighted that Gary has joined us. He’s a fantastic footballer who brings a wealth of international and Premier League experience. Having worked alongside Gary during my time as England manager, I know that he is going to be a valuable asset and I’m so happy to be working with him again.”
The Palace chairman added: “Gary is an exceptional professional and a fine addition to our squad. Adding a former England captain and a proven winner at the highest possible level to our ranks will definitely boost everyone at the club and add greater depth to our talented squad.
“I’m sure that Gary will also provide great leadership within Roy’s squad as we prepare for another competitive season in the top flight.”
It’s this kind of leadership that could be a real game-changer for Hodgson, whilst the 34-year-old could disrupt teams like Burnley who often rely on their physicality up front, as the powerhouse has strong levels of concentration and is comfortable blocking the ball.
Furthermore, Cahill boasts a decent record against the Clarets, having won four out of eight games in the Premier League so far, via Transfermarkt.
In 25 games in the Premier League last season, the former Chelsea centre-back picked up an assist, whilst he averaged 4.4 clearances per game, via WhoScored. Cahill is averaging two tackles per game in the top flight this term, which is more than either Dann (0.5) or Sakho (0.8) have managed, despite the fact his two teammates have made more appearances.
With the games coming thick and fast between now and the winter break, now is surely the best time for Hodgson to unleash one of Palace’s most reliable assets at the back to strengthen their position in the top half of the table.
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