He’s eligible to make his Crystal Palace debut on Saturday, which will be music to the ears of Roy Hodgson heading into Saturday’s Premier League clash with Wolves.
Visa issues have kept Jean-Philippe Mateta waiting for a highly-anticipated Premier League debut, but he may now get the chance to show what he can do after Hodgson confirmed he will be available for selection.
“He’ll train with us on Thursday and Friday,” Hodgson said. “He now has his visa which was a slight problem we needed to sort out but he now has that. He will certainly be in the squad for Saturday and I’ll make a decision whether he starts or not.”
The target man, 23, has scored 10 goals in 17 games in all competitions this season, including seven in the Bundesliga and a hat-trick against Freiburg in November.
Hodgson could not hide his delight at the opportunity to work with Mateta, saying: “we’re very pleased to have him here, we’ve chased him for a period of time and luckily the club have been able to strike a deal with Mainz and we have him now for the next 18 months on loan at least, which is fantastic.”
The loan signing, therefore, must come straight into the starting line-up on Saturday as he could be the man to hit Wolves where it hurts the most.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s men just haven’t looked the same without Raul Jimenez as they find themselves in 14th place, level with Palace on 23 points apiece, albeit with a game in-hand over Hodgson’s side.
The Eagles can climb above them with a victory and Mateta could prove he can be Palace’s main man by helping them pick up all three points.
You only have to look at the numbers to understand why Steve Parish parted ways with £2.5m for his signature – seven goals in 15 top-flight appearances, taking his total goal contributions for the season to eleven if you count the solitary assist as well, as per Transfermarkt.
He’s already bettered his slight tally of three goals from last season and racked up nearly the same amount of minutes.
Whilst Michy Batshuayi recently ended his goal drought stretching back to Chelsea’s 1-0 win over Ajax in the Champions League two years ago, it was a case of far too little, too late from the Belgian striker, who has been nothing short of disappointing since he returned to Selhurst Park from Stamford Bridge.
With Palace’s lack of an effective frontman upfront, Mateta should be deployed as the lone striker as he has shown he can hold up play and bring others into the game. On average, he wins 1.8 aerial duels and 1.7 ground duels per game, winning 3.5 duels overall, which is at least double that of Batshuayi (1.3), per SofaScore.
In layman’s terms, this means that he is both good in the air and good with the ball at his feet, whilst he add a natural goal threat through the middle of the pitch, as he takes 1.9 shots per game, via WhoScored. For context, this would place him third on the leaderboard topped by a certain Wilfried Zaha himself.
It’s this kind of work rate that could make the £9m-rated ace such a valuable asset for Hodgson’s side, given their struggles in front of goal this season.
Zaha has worked very hard, with nine goals in 18 games, but he can’t be expected to shoulder the burden by himself. Even he could benefit from playing alongside a striker like Mateta as part of a front two, as the pair could combine to cause Wolves all sorts of problems at the back.
There’s no doubting the fact that Mateta, who is still unproven in the Premier League, should be one of the first names on the team sheet.
AND in other news, Crystal Palace can sign their next Scott Dann in Stoke City’s Nathan Collins…