Crystal Palace secured their first win under new manager Patrick Vieira last time out, seeing off Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 after putting in an impressive performance at Selhurst Park.
The Eagles will be hoping to pull off back-to-back upsets when they take on Liverpool over the weekend, and some added reinforcement in the centre of the pitch could improve their chances of doing just that.
A midfield comprising Conor Gallagher, James McArthur and Cheikhou Kouyate started against Spurs, but all three of the Eagles’ goals came after Luka Milivojevic entered the fray in place of Kouyate.
His impact will have come as little surprise to Palace supporters who have seen the £7.2m-rated beast become a pivotal part of the club’s engine room since his arrival at Selhurst Park back in January 2017.
Milivojevic’s instant impact earned praise from former Eagles manager Roy Hodgson, who lauded his reliability and consistency after joining from Greek giants Olympiacos.
“From the moment I stepped through the door here he’s been absolutely excellent in every respect – outstanding,” said Hodgson (as relayed by the Daily Mail).
“Reliability and consistency of performance are two factors in a football player that I praise unbelievably highly. The reader might say ‘Shouldn’t all players be like that? Shouldn’t they all be consistent and have the ability to recover from injury and get out on the field again?’ But they can’t all do that. Luka can.”
His underlying numbers from last season perfectly illustrate his importance to the Palace midfield. As per WhoScored, the Serbian averaged 2.1 tackles, 1.1 tackles and 0.7 key passes per league game. Of all the other central midfielders on the Eagles’ books, only McArthur put up better figures.
The return of Palace’s leader and key holding midfielder couldn’t have come at a better time for Vieira as he prepares to take his side to Anfield. The 45-year-old must unleash him at Anfield, providing the attack-minded Gallagher with cover and a solid foundation behind him, allowing the youngster the freedom to roam forward.