The Chalkboard: Bakary Sako should make his debut vs Fulham after Wilfried Zaha’s dismissal

After leaving West Brom to rejoin Crystal Palace on a free transfer (as per the BBC), Bakary Sako mustn’t have expected to make his debut from the first whistle having appeared to be a signing made to strengthen the Eagles’ depth.

However, following Wilfried Zaha’s red card against Southampton, the 30-year-old may have to step in sooner than expected…

What’s the word, then?

Ivory Coast international Zaha received his marching orders late on against the Saints after being wound up by James Ward-Prowse, and then clapping sarcastically in the face of referee Andre Marriner, which has left Palace in a spot of bother.

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The Eagles were already thin in attack, especially on the wings, and will be gutted to have lost Zaha for what is a crucial game against Fulham this weekend – things could get worse for Palace and Zaha, as the FA have charged him for improper conduct.

Andros Townsend already plays every game, whilst Jeffrey Schlupp – who can be used on the wing – is preferred in central midfield or as an impact sub by Roy Hodgson, so the attack-minded Sako could get an early debut.

What can Sako bring to the table?

This debut won’t be one that the Selhurst Park faithful keep a close eye on, as they already know what the Malian international can do.

Sako is a powerful, bullish forward, although his size does tend to make him appear sluggish at times. What he is good at, however, is shooting on sight and to some effect. Both Christian Benteke and Connor Wickham are fit again now, and one of them must play if Sako is to have an effective debut.

He lacks aerial prowess and the ability to hold the ball up himself, but performs best when hanging close to the target man and picking the ball up in little pockets of space vacated by defenders who have been drawn to the ball.

If Palace can get him in those areas, against what is statistically the worst defence in the Premier League so far this season (Fulham have shipped 53 goals), then Zaha’s absence won’t hit the south Londoners so hard.