For many Crystal Palace fans Tuesday night’s loss to Brighton highlighted the lack of a quality striker, but a closer look into how the team is set up to play shows that the Eagles forwards are becoming victims of a system that does not play to their strengths.
Crystal Palace travelled to the Amex on Tuesday night in high spirits after drawing comparisons to Brazil in their 2-0 win over Burnley at the weekend but, instead, the Eagles looked more like Macclesfield as they slumped to a 3-1 loss against bitter rivals Brighton – to make matters worse, the Seagulls were playing with 10 men for much of the clash after Shane Duffy was sent off in the first half.
Goals have been hard to come by for the south London outfit this season, indeed, none of their natural strikers have netted in the league despite proving in previous seasons – with different clubs – that they are more than capable of putting the ball in the back of the net pretty regularly.
Alexander Sorloth and Jordan Ayew have taken most of the flack in Christian Benteke’s absence through injury, with the former coming on in the latter stages once the game was effectively lost and being ripped to pieces on social media for his lack of contribution thereafter.
To most, the aforementioned hitmen look far from the quality required to compete in the Premier League, but it isn’t that simple.
Roy Hodgson’s lack of faith in his strike-force manifests in his frequent decision to deploy wingers Andros Townsend and Wilfried Zaha as an unorthodox partnership up front, but both are somewhat nullified in these roles as their strengths lie in in being able to run at full-backs and get balls into the box.
When fresh legs are required, none of the options off the bench are able to provide any impetus and this is down to the shortcomings of the system and not of the players – the Selhurst Park outfit have around £40m worth of strikers (Transfermarkt) on the books and it shouldn’t be assumed that they are all useless.
Hodgson’s style of play comprises triangles aplenty and low cutbacks to find players rushing on at the near post, neither of which complement any of the strikers the former England boss has at his disposal, and so the likes of Sorloth and Benteke are doomed to fail.
If these target men continue to be shoehorned into the attack then they will never be successful and their confidence will only get worse. Palace must bring in a goalscorer who can offer pace, crucially, up front as, try as they might, the current crop are square pegs in round holes – it’s either that or make a change in management.