The Chalkboard: Patrick van Aanholt is key to Wilfried Zaha and Palace’s attacking play

With all the attacking talent at Roy Hodgson’s disposal, Crystal Palace somehow find themselves reliant on a player slightly further back on the field of play to ensure that their forward play ticks, and that their star player in Wilfried Zaha is as effective as can be.

Who makes them tick?

Hodgson has Zaha, Andros Townsend, Michy Batshuayi, Max Meyer and Christian Benteke at his disposal, but it is the Dutch international Patrick van Aanholt who intriguingly knits the play together in the final third, and is pivotal to helping Zaha in particular make the most of his time on the ball.

The former Chelsea man is admittedly suspect defensively, and can be culpable for giving the ball away and making promising attacks break down with silly pot-shots, but his consistent overlapping and movement is unique for a full-back.

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In doing that, van Aanholt takes the extra man who the opposition have selected to double up on Zaha out of the game, and if that man doesn’t track his overlap, then the Ivorian can play his Dutch teammate in the clear where a simple ball across can lead to a goal.

Defensive liability? 

With these constant overlaps, van Aanholt does leave his fellow defenders isolated at the back, and it must also be said that Jeffrey Schlupp is a far more disciplined option at left-back in terms of positional play, albeit less attack-minded.

Hodgson could solve this imbalance by playing the Ghanaian there in away games where the opposition is likely to see the bulk of the ball, and save the 28-year-old exclusively for home games where Palace have often struggled to break the opposition down and put the ball in the net.

It could even be this fact, in which van Aanholt plays 90 minutes every week, that sees him reluctant to get forward sometimes through fatigue, which in turn leaves Zaha doubled up on and lacking space to work his magic.

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