Crystal Palace: Will Sakho or Tomkins be able to dislodge Cahill and Kelly?

Last season, if someone had said that Mamadou Sakho or James Tomkins would face a battle to get into Roy Hodgson’s starting XI, most Crystal Palace fans would have presumably given them a funny look – the pair helped contribute to what was the 6th best defence in the Premier League last term.

However, that is the reality we now find ourselves in.

In Tomkins’ case, the former West Ham man has been out of action since the 1-0 win over Newcastle at St James’ Park last season after picking up an injury that required surgery, and is yet to play a single minute of first-team football this term.

With Sakho, the France international has made three Premier League appearances in the current campaign, but is injured once again – the pair’s absence has allowed Martin Kelly and Gary Cahill to form a formidable partnership.

Some Palace fans on Twitter sung the duo’s praises after the 2-0 win over Norwich, while both Cahill and Kelly have contributed heavily to an impressive run of form recently, which has seen the Eagles sit 6th.

So, will Sakho or Tomkins be able to dislodge the impressive pair of England internationals?

We asked Football FanCast’s writers what they think…

Billy Meyers

“I think it would be extremely harsh on Cahill and Kelly if Roy Hodgson chooses to bring Tomkins and Sakho straight back in upon their return to full fitness. The England pair have worked well together and there is simply no reason for anything to change right now. The Eagles have conceded just one goal per game in the league this term on average, and Kelly in particular has been performing at a fantastic level – he also grabbed the assist for Jordan Ayew’s late winner over West Ham. If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it – that much is especially true of the current centre-back partnership at Selhurst Park.”

Kealan Hughes

“The Eagles are enjoying a great run of form currently, particularly from a defensive point of view, and therefore any changes to the back four by Hodgson would bring a needless disruption to the team. Cahill has slotted in seamlessly and his experience has had a positive influence on Kelly. Together, they have been key in clearing the ball when necessary, both making 5.2 clearances per league game, which is key to a side like Palace who often find themselves without the ball – they average 46% possession per game.
“Hodgson is somewhat spoilt for choice with Sakho and Tomkins also available, and the advantage of Sakho’s interceptions – he averages 1.7 per game this term – could tempt him to drop Kelly. However, doing so could knock his confidence and instead he would be better off waiting for his performances to take a downturn before he considers a change.”

Vijievan Jeevathayalan

Whatever Roy Hodgson has been doing at Selhurst Park this season, their league position proves he’s getting it spot on with both his tactics and team selection. Cahill and Kelly have marshalled the defence superbly, helping the Eagles concede just eight goals in the Premier League – only three other sides have let in less.

“Therefore, why on earth would Palace consider making unnecessary changes now? Sakho and Tomkins will simply have to wait patiently on the side-lines until this roller-coaster ride that Palace are on comes to an end.”

Charles Jones

“I think that Sakho could dislodge Kelly, but I’d be surprised if Tomkins is given much of a sniff. Hodgson has always been fantastic at organising a defence, and a centre-back pairing that includes a former Chelsea captain and a former Liverpool player should be a mouth-watering prospect for Palace supporters in terms of pedigree.
“Cahill has shown that he still has a lot to offer in this division with his exceptional performances that led to him winning the club’s Player of the Month award. Either way, it’s a nice problem to have for Hodgson – he has a number of top centre-backs at his disposal.”