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Five things we have learned from Crystal Palace’s pre-season so far

Crystal Palace fans have had little to shout about this summer, with star defender Aaron Wan-Bissaka securing a big-money move to Manchester United and their pre-season fixtures doing enough to be a cause for concern.

The Eagles succumbed to a 6-2 defeat at Barnet before being edged out by Nottingham Forest in a 1-0 loss next time out. They’ve even drawn with Wimbledon.

There have been no major signings worth shouting about, while the uncertainty regarding Wilfried Zaha’s status as a Palace player continues.

The Eagles have just one pre-season fixture remaining as they welcome Hertha Berlin before their campaign begins at home to Everton – by which time Roy Hodgson will have had ample time to assess and prepare his side.

The former England boss will have been keeping a keen eye on his squad for the past month or so and so have we.

Here’s five things we’ve learned so far…

Palace will struggle without Zaha, £80m or not

Another transfer window means more rumours and reports regarding Zaha’s future at Selhurst Park, although this time the winger added fuel to the fire when he stated his desire to leave SE25 back in May.  The speedy number 11 hasn’t featured in red and blue since the final-day thriller, having been on AFCON duty with Ivory Coast, and Palace fans may have seen the last of him.

Sky Sports understand that the 26-year-old reaffirmed his plans to leave upon returning from international duty and that Arsenal could return with an improved offer soon, although Palace, who value the player at £80m, are under no pressure to sell.

Should the Eagles talisman indeed find a way to the Emirates Stadium this summer, it’s even clearer now that Palace will miss him dearly – the clunky combos of Alexander Sorloth, Connor Wickham and Christian Benteke have offered Hodgson little up front in pre-season, netting just twice between them.

Zaha is pivotal to Palace’s success and his exit would demand a complete reconfiguration of both personnel and system thereafter – they lack pace and flair on the counter, where they are at their best, without him.

Hodgson's in-game inflexibility

Hodgson at Brighton game

Last term, the 72-year-old’s unwillingness to make substitutions – positive or negative – until it was too late often cost Palace, with it taking too long for the Eagles to stage their typical, late comeback.

Surely this can’t be a concern in pre-season, when managers are most inclined to rotate and give some of the fringe players a chance, right?

Well, the Premier League’s oldest boss declined to make a single change in the loss to Nottingham Forest, despite promising forward James Daly, Jairo Riedewald and Wickham being sat on the bench.

Of course, Hodgson isn’t exactly getting the investment into the team he would surely like but making zero subs in any game which you are losing is inexcusable.

Defensive reinforcements needed

Wan-Bissaka’s departure has undoubtedly shot a hole in Palace’s defence although the fact that the Eagles have kept just one clean clean sheet and conceded 12 goals in six games cannot be put down to one sale, solely.

Martin Kelly and Scott Dann look shaky and Patrick van Aanholt’s ineptitude on the back foot has long been apparent. Hodgson bemoaned a lack of defensive options in his post-Barnet interview and with good reason it would seem.

With James Tomkins and Mamadou Sakho both working their way back to fitness, Palace’s back-line is looking far, far weaker with around two weeks of the summer transfer window left. Will Hodgson get the signings he’s after?

Max Meyer means business

Max Meyer v Huddersfield

The diminutive German signed for the Eagles last summer and managed just 15 league starts in his maiden Premier League campaign, with Hodgson largely preferring James McArthur in midfield, although he is hoping to stake a real claim in the side in 2019/20.

The 23-year-old told Palace’s official website:

“Last season was my first season in a new country and league, and I think the second year will be even better. I hope so: more goals, more assists, more points as a team.”

Having chalked up just two goals and two assists in all competitions last term, the nippy number 7 is targeting an improvement in both tallies this season and the signs that he will do just that have been there in pre-season.

He teed up Benteke for the opener against Luzern, beating his man with a tidy bit of skill before deftly crossing to his big teammate at the back stick, who, for once, couldn’t miss.

Finishing still a problem

Batshuayi celebrates for Palace

Last term, the Eagles often created enough chances to bury teams but would fail to take any, before their opponents got the ball down the other end and scored a winner – the January arrival of Michy Batshuayi solved the lack of a clinical forward, with the Belgian netting five league goals in nine starts.

The former Marseille man has returned to Stamford Bridge now, though, leaving Dougie Freedman and Steve Parish with the task of finding another top goalscorer, with the shortcomings of the current striker crop being exposed in the defeat to Forest.

Centre-back Dann was frustrated by the side’s inability to put away the plethora of chances they had in the second half, telling Palace’s official website:

“That second half, I thought we were much better. To create so many chances in the second half and not put them away is probably the most disappointing thing.”

Bringing Batshuayi back to Selhurst Park or finding another number 9 capable of shouldering the goalscoring burden is a priority, although the clock is ticking.


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Article title: Five things we have learned from Crystal Palace’s pre-season so far

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