Crystal Palace suffer the same old problem without Wilfried Zaha

This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…

Crystal Palace suffered the same old problem without Wilfried Zaha in the 1-0 pre-season defeat against Nottingham Forest on Friday night, and it’s about time Roy Hodgson did something about it.

On the chalkboard

It is no secret that the Eagles aren’t the same attacking force on the pitch when they are without their talisman, and it proved to be the case again at The City Ground as the south London outfit were beaten 1-0 by their Championship counterparts.

With Zaha absent following his exploits for Ivory Coast at the 2019 African Cup of Nations, Max Meyer, Andros Townsend, Jeffrey Schlupp and Christian Benteke were the attacking players in a 4-4-1-1/4-2-3-1 system.

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The match ended without the Premier League team getting on the score-sheet however, and it isn’t the first time they have come up short when Zaha hasn’t been available – Palace failed to find the net in two of the four home top flight fixtures he missed in 2018/19, while they lost all nine of the league games he missed during the previous campaign, not scoring in seven of those.

What’s the solution?

Hodgson is known as being quite a cautious manager – just 20 points from 19 home Premier League matches is proof of that – but when the side are without Zaha in particular, he needs to take some more risks.

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Pre-season seems like the obvious time to do that, but it certainly wasn’t forthcoming against Forest on Friday evening where they didn’t commit as many bodies forward – at least not until the second 45 minutes – as they perhaps could have done against lower league opposition.

While the 26-year-old should be linking back up with the squad soon, it can’t be said that he will 100% be at Selhurst Park when the transfer window slams shut with him being targeted by Arsenal, and being keen on an exit, according to BBC Sport.

Him going would leave Hodgson with a huge headache given the Eagles’ record without him in general, and it’s about time the 71-year-old stood up to the plate and did better.

Yes, new signings are needed, but in Townsend and Meyer he has players that are capable of making a difference if given more freedom than they are getting there, and the former England boss needs to grant them that – whether Zaha stays or leaves.

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