Crystal Palace’s current placement of 10th in the Premier League table perfectly reflects the results they have earned under new manager Patrick Vieira, with three wins, six draws and just two defeats to their name with 11 league matches played.
One player who has featured heavily for Palace this season is Cheikhou Kouyate, who has started in seven out of his nine Premier League appearances at this point in the campaign.
In those matches, Kouyate has proven how much of a physical defensive unit he is for the team from midfield after averaging 2.2 tackles, 1.7 interceptions and 1.4 clearances per game, as well as winning 59% of his duels according to SofaScore.
Despite being a useful defensive midfielder for Palace this season, Kouyate will turn 32 next month, and his contract is set to expire next summer.
With this in mind, Vieira could already have his perfect long-term replacement for the Senegal giant at the club in 21-year-old midfielder Nya Kirby.
Kirby also has some experience of playing senior football after spending two loan spells away from Selhurst Park, firstly with Blackpool back in 2019 and currently with Tranmere Rovers for this season.
During his time at Bloomfield Road, he scored one goal and provided three assists in 11 appearances, as well as being praised for a “terrific” performance against Charlton Athletic by former Blackpool boss Terry McPhillips. He said that Kirby “passes the ball nicely, does his defending and he’ll have a fight with a big lad,” proving that the youngster will not shy away from the physical aspects of the game, which could make him a great replacement for Kouyate given his physical and defensive capabilities.
If Kirby manages to make the most of his time at Tranmere throughout the rest of the season and if Kouyate ends up leaving Selhurst Park in the summer, the youngster could well be ready to break into Vieira’s starting XI and play regularly, having so far made just one senior appearance for Palace in a Carabao Cup clash against Bournemouth last year.