Crystal Palace shocked their fans by rewarding crocked forward Connor Wickham with a contract extension earlier this week, with the 26-year-old having made a mere 42 appearances for the club since signing in 2015.
The number 21 is seemingly stealing a living at Selhurst Park and, given his apparent inability to remain fit, Palace fans can be forgiven for thinking he’ll maybe make a handful of appearances while playing third string to two much more capable strikers; if recent reports are anything to go by, he could be more than that.
Well, with Michy Batshuayi and Jordan Ayew set to return to Chelsea and Swansea respectively and deals for either uncertain, Palace will be lacking options up front next season even without the potential departures of Christian Benteke and Alexander Sorloth, both of whom could face the axe this summer according to The Times (subscription required).
Benteke is a £15m target for Chinese outfit Shandong Luneng Taisan, while Sorloth is seen as surplus to requirements after a disappointing 2018 at Selhurst Park and a marginally-improved loan spell at Gent.
That’s four strikers who Palace fans may have seen the last of in red and blue and it’s unlikely that Steve Parish and co will bring in as many replacements, meaning Wickham has a vital role to play in being backup to whichever centre-forward Palace sign to lead their line for the foreseeable future.
The former Sunderland man surely won’t be relied on as first choice number 9 next term, with Palace having been linked with a plethora of targets and the longstanding need for a clinical finisher certain to be addressed in the coming months.
At 6 ft 3, Wickham presents a problem to defenders who aren’t ready to jump into a physical battle and he will make it difficult for teams off the bench – but only off the bench.
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Palace are crying out for a mobile striker but, if the aforementioned target men are set to leave this summer, the Eagles will need a big man in the wings to offer them the direct approach that brought them success under the likes of Alan Pardew and Sam Allardyce, should Roy Hodgson need it.
Wickham might not be the glamorous bit of business Palace fans are hoping for this summer, but he’s essential if Benteke and Sorloth are as good as gone.