With the news that key midfielder Eberechi Eze is set to be sidelined for up to eight months with an Achilles injury, it’s now more important than ever that Crystal Palace keep hold of Wilfried Zaha.
The Ivory Coast international has been linked with a move away from Selhurst Park for the last two seasons now, and at one stage, his departure seemed almost inevitable, but the capital club must do all they can to retain his services this summer.
Zaha’s influence over his boyhood club has arguably never been greater. The 28-year-old has already recorded his best-ever Premier League goal return, bagging 11 efforts with one game of the season remaining.
The arrival of Eze following a £16m move from Queens Park Rangers last summer appeared to free up the talented Zaha, taking some of the creative burden away from talented forward and allowing him more time and space on the ball as opponents could no longer solely focus on stopping his progress.
After a slow start to life in the top-flight, Eze soon found his feet in south London, recording three assists and one goal in the five games preceding his injury setback.
Losing the 22-year-old is bad enough, but the possible departure of Zaha as well would be a disaster waiting to happen for the Eagles.
With current manager Roy Hodgson announced his upcoming departure earlier in the week and over a dozen players set to become free agents over the coming months, it’s set to be a summer of upheaval at Selhurst Park.
Whoever succeeds the former England boss will have a tough rebuilding job on their hands, and the absence of Eze for at least the first half of the campaign will be a bitter blow for Steve Parish and co.
The former England Under-21 international and Zaha were amongst Palace’s top three for goals, shots per game, key passes, dribbles, and were the two most fouled first-team players before news of Eze’s Achilles issue surfaced (as per WhoScored).
In the past, Hodgson has openly outlined Zaha’s importance to the Eagles, stating: “We think very highly of him both as a person and a player, and he’s got even a talismanic quality, being from this part of the world and starting his career at Crystal Palace.”
But the Palace talisman has never been needed at Palace more than he is right now. Without their two most productive attacking outlets next season it’s likely to be a long and arduous season for the Selhurst Park outfit and turn an already difficult job into an almost impossible one for any new manager.