Crystal Palace are moving ever closer to securing their Premier League status for next season, with Patrick Vieira getting his team playing some impressive football while developing some of the club’s younger talent.
Only Wilfried Zaha has scored more goals than Conor Gallagher, who has eight for the season after joining on loan from Everton at the start of the season. Notably, neither of those are centre-forwards.
Eagles fans would surely have been hoping for more from Odsonne Edouard, who signed for £14m from Celtic last August with big expectations, but having only scored six Premier League goals so far, he still hasn’t nailed down a regular starting spot.
Jean-Philippe Mateta has also struggled to become a regular for Palace since signing permanently from Bundesliga club Mainz for £8m, but Vieira still is putting his faith in the Frenchman.
The former Nice and New York City FC manager said: “Since he’s been at this football club, he’s not had that much chance to play. Since I arrived, with Christian [Benteke] and [Odsonne] Edouard arriving, he had less time.
“But every time the team needed him to perform, he gave his best. He was rewarded by a couple of goals he scored, so he’s there, he’s with us, part of the team and the squad.
“He’s available, as anybody else, and after I have to make a decision, but he’s working really well every single day and making it really difficult for me to choose the front players.”
Standing at 6 foot 4, Mateta has the potential to become a leading Premier League striker due to his athleticism combined with his size. This season, he has scored just three Premier League goals, but has a scoring frequency of one every 197 minutes – working out at just under one goal for every two 90-minute games.
Interestingly, the 24-year-old ranks in the top 1% of strikers in Europe’s top five leagues and continental competitions for percentage of shots on target per 90 (64.7%). That suggests that, when presented a chance, he is more likely than not to make the goalkeeper work.
Despite his height, Mateta has also demonstrated that he is a competent dribbler, ranking in the top 12% for both dribbles completed per 90 (1.69) and percentage of dribbles completed per 90 (63.2%).
There is definitely a player there who can be moulded into a top striker, but for now it’s just important for him to receive more minutes in order to gain confidence and improve in all areas for him to become a key figure for Palace.