Crystal Palace midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate proves he could solve defensive crisis

This article is part of Football FanCast’s In Numbers series, which takes a statistical look at performances, season-long form and reported transfer targets…

Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson suggested after the 6-2 pre-season defeat against Barnet on Tuesday that the Eagles have something of a defensive crisis right now, but they may already have one solution to the issue in the form of Cheikhou Kouyate.

The former England boss seem wholly concerned with his comments following the loss against the National League club, saying via Sky Sports: “We’ve got enormous problems at the back at the moment.

“We really don’t have any defenders, to speak of. Aaron’s gone and we’ve got three others injured.”

That isn’t exactly what you want to hear with just over three weeks until the new Premier League season gets underway – especially as the south London outfit have been perennial poor starters having taken just 13 points in total from their opening 12 top flight fixtures in both 2017/18 and 2018/19.

A signing to replace Aaron Wan-Bissaka looks like a must, but it is the issues at the heart of the backline that are perhaps most worrying for the Selhurst Park faithful.

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Mamadou Sakho and James Tomkins have formed a strong partnership there previously, and it looked as though positive news could be on the horizon when the duo were named in the travelling party for the pre-season trip to Switzerland having both been injured at the end of the previous campaign.

However, neither made the matchday squad for the matches against FC Luzern or Young Boys, which suggests they are the injured defenders Hodgson mentioned.

Meanwhile, Kouyate has been representing Senegal at the 2019 African Cup of Nations, helping them reach the final where they will face Algeria on Friday night.

The 29-year-old didn’t actually start the opening group match against Tanzania, but an early injury to Salif Sane means that he has played every minute since – all at centre-back.

And while it may not be a completely alien position to him, he has impressed with the Lions of Teranga only conceding one goal – ironically against Algeria in the group stage – on their way to the final.

As you can see from the graphic above, the former West Ham United man has recorded some impressive defensive stats along the way, including making 1.5 tackles per game as well as winning an average of 2.5 aerial duels, as per WhoScored.

Those numbers show that he could do a job at centre-half in the Premier League for Crystal Palace if Sakho and Tomkins aren’t fit anytime soon, and one other number in particular sticks out.

In the video below, find out which Chelsea academy prospect is reportedly being lined up to replace Aaron Wan-Bissaka at Crystal Palace…

Sakho has become well known for his ability to bring the ball out of defence and play long balls – 2.2 per game in the top flight in 2018/19 – which is crucial when you have the pace that the Eagles do in attack with the likes of Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend.

The fact that Kouyate has averaged 3 per game at the AFCON suggests he has the same ability in his locker, and is just another reason why he could help solve the club’s defensive crisis effectively when he returns from his extended break.

Article title: Crystal Palace midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate proves he could solve defensive crisis

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