It’s been a busy past couple of weeks for Crystal Palace, hasn’t it?
First of all, Palace chairman Steve Parish completed the signing of Jean-Philippe Mateta from Mainz 05 for £2.5m on an initial 18-month loan with the option to buy.
Secondly, Roy Hodgson has been nothing but ruthless in clearing out the deadwood, with Max Meyer leaving the club by mutual consent. It seems like Christian Benteke may be about to follow suit, with West Brom boss Sam Allardyce in hot pursuit of the Belgian striker before the transfer window closes tomorrow.
But, if there’s one criticism that can be directed at the Palace chairman, it’s the club’s failure so far to sign a short-term replacement to provide immediate cover for the injured Jeffrey Schlupp, who is expected to be out until at least March at the earliest having suffered a hamstring injury in the 2-0 win over Sheffield United at Selhurst Park.
However, they missed out on the chance to sign a player who could’ve done precisely just that – former England youth international Demarai Gray.
Reports in recent times revealed Palace were eyeing a move for the former Leicester City winger, with Hodgson confirming the club’s interest, but a move failed to materialise and he ultimately signed for Bayer Leverkusen on Sunday.
With the benefit of hindsight, this could come to be one of Parish’s biggest regrets in the January transfer window. Eberechi Eze operated in his favoured position as a central No. 10 and Jordan Ayew played out-of-position on the right-hand side of the attack against Wolves.
Unfortunately, it didn’t go quite as planned, as Ayew largely struggled on the right wing – against Wolves, he was rated as one of the worst Palace players on the pitch in the 1-0 win at Selhurst Park with a low 6.8 match rating by SofaScore. He failed to register a single shot on target in the entire game and was fortunate to pick up an assist following Eze’s individual moment of brilliance.
Hodgson finds himself short of options out wide after Schlupp’s latest setback, with Ayew – a forward by trade – and Andros Townsend battling to bag the spot, but there are question marks over each.
Gray, who earned around £55,000-per-week at the King Power Stadium, could’ve been the man to fill the void left by Schlupp. For context, he averaged more shots per game (1.1) than Townsend himself has managed in the current campaign, per WhoScored, which suggests that he may have been able to offer more in the final third.
When talking about the 24-year-old, his former manager Brendan Rodgers once said: “He was excellent. He has been training very well. He is a big talent and he showed that when he came in.
“Some players can sulk and fall out with themselves,” Rodgers added. “But he has worked very, very hard and he made a great impact in the game.”
This kind of attitude would have been most welcome in south London, especially considering Townsend’s unwelcome distractions, and to be able to nab a versatile winger capable of playing second-fiddle to the likes of Eze and Schlupp for little more than £3m would have been a shrewd bit of business.
AND in other news, Crystal Palace can’t afford to lose Christian Benteke amid West Brom interest…