Following their recent 4-0 defeat at the hands of Man City, Alan Pardew has now seen his Crystal Palace side suffer three defeats in a row. Perhaps even more alarming is the team’s failure to even score a goal in their last five outings.
Just prior to Christmas, the Eagles were riding high in the table in sixth, only outside a Champions League spot on goal difference. But a five-game win-less and goalless streak now see’s them down in 8th, a full eight points behind Spurs in 4th.
And while lying in eighth at this stage of the season is far from a disaster for a relatively small club like Palace, their downturn in fortunes must surely be of concern to the manager, players and fans.
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With only one league goal between the clubs four main “strikers” (I use that term loosely) – Connor Wickham, Marouane Chamakh, Dwight Gayle and Frazier Campbell – it’s pretty obvious where the focus of Alan Pardew’s attention will, or at least should be this January transfer window. Former loanee Patrick Bamford also failed to impress, recently cutting short his spell at the club without a league start let alone a goal.
Sure, strikers are at a premium, particularly those who either suit or even better have experience of the Premier League. And having just seen Charlie Austin move to Southampton for a snip at £4m, it’s clearly possible to find good value when shopping for a striker.
In fact, Palace were said to be interested in Austin right at the start of the window, but somehow things never materialised, and they will now have to look on as fellow mid-table rivals Southampton promise to reap the rewards of the prolific front-man.
The side from Selhurst Park have a excellent array of attacking midfielders, the likes of Bolasie, Cabaye and Zaha giving the side plenty of pace, trickery and creativity but with that lack of a quality focal point (no offence Marouane!) to finish moves, their effectiveness is limited.
So what next for ‘Pards’ and the Eagles? A season that promised so much could just fade away into mid-table mediocrity if they don’t sort out their goal-scoring options soon. The manager has already re-iterated his desire to bring in a striker, a fact that’s hardly surprising given their recent woes. Former Arsenal, Man City and Spurs striker Emmanuel Adebayor has been touted and would offer a short-term fix, but he clearly comes with obvious baggage and no-doubt hefty wage demands to boot.
Looking around the Premier League, a number of similarly-sized clubs in and around Palace have a good array of striking options, from the red hot Deeney and Ighalo at Watford to Sakho and Valencia at West Ham. And with Austin now teaming up with Pelle and co. on the South coast and an emerging Joselu adding to Stoke’s array of forwards, the Eagles could soon find themselves being left behind in the goal-stakes and slipping further down the table.
Would the Eagles consider a move for a striker from one of their rivals? It seems unlikely that a striker like Ighalo would move ‘sideways’, with bigger clubs like Arsenal rumoured to be sniffing around. Southampton have already rejected a bid from Liverpool for Shane Long, so Palace could step in with an offer if the player has become unsettled, but the Irish hit-man is far from prolific.
Perhaps they can ‘do a Leicester’ and find the next Jamie Vardy in the lower leagues? Or maybe, like many desperate Premier League clubs have done in the past, they will turn to an unfamiliar, unproven foreigner – a huge boom-or-bust strategy.
Only West Brom, Swansea and bottom club Aston Villa have scored fewer league goals this season and if Palace still harbour hopes of a European place, or even just a top-half finish, then Pardew and Chairman Steve Parish must find a solution to the problem sooner rather than later.