This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…
It isn’t a little-known fact that Crystal Palace struggle to score goals.
The south Londoners currently find themselves as the Premier League’s second-lowest scorers with 14 goals in 16 outings, with only 20th-placed Watford netting on fewer occasions than Roy Hodgson’s men.
Also, the Eagles’ xG (expected goals) statistics make for poor reading too, as the figures state that Palace should only have scored 14.51 goals, 0.51 more than they actually have – from that, you can’t even argue that many chances are being created as a consolation.
Given that news, surely the club’s priority is to sign a new goalscoring striker, right?
Well, not quite. The Athletic have revealed that Steve Parish and Dougie Freedman are prioritising young full-backs who will help to deepen the squad, rather than a new forward.
“Hodgson may end up seeing his forward ranks supplemented via a loan deal next month, if Palace’s recruitment department can unearth this season’s Michy Batshuayi — who scored five in his 11 league appearances after being borrowed from Chelsea last January — with the priority being to secure young full-backs to deepen the squad.”
That may seem confusing given all the damning evidence about how bad Palace’s attack is, but in fact, Parish and Freedman are correct to prioritise the full-back areas.
As of now, the wide defensive positions are a bit messy.
After Aaron Wan-Bissaka departed for Manchester United in the summer and wasn’t replaced, Joel Ward – who recently entered his thirties – is the club’s only recognised natural right-back.
On the other side, Patrick van Aanholt is the only recognised senior left-back, with Jeffrey Schlupp available to cover there if need be – Jairo Riedewald, who can play at centre-back and defensive-midfield, can also cover at left-back.
However, the former Ajax man hasn’t started a league game since a 1-0 defeat to Tottenham on February 25th 2018, while Schlupp is currently facing three months on the sidelines and Van Aanholt is also struggling.
Ward is also currently injured, meaning that Martin Kelly – who is far more comfortable at centre-back – has had to fill in.
The saying ‘square pegs in round holes’ is extremely applicable to Palace’s current full-back situation, and with Ward now in his thirties and Van Aanholt turning 30 next year, there is a significant need to freshen up that area – as a result, Parish and Freedman are correct to prioritise what is becoming a problematic area with little depth.
In other news, see what these Crystal Palace fans had to say after a club stepped up their interest in Wilfried Zaha ahead of the January transfer window…