For a team that are only four points above the relegation zone and averaging just over a point won every game, Crystal Palace shouldn’t be too disheartened with their current situation. Rather, they should feel confident that they won’t severely be threatened by teams at the foot of the Premier League table as we approach the business end of the season.
To their credit the Eagles flaunt a very respectable defensive record, having only conceded 33 goals in 25 league games. For context, their defensive record is superior to the likes of Arsenal, Manchester United and Everton, while their lower league rivals such as Southampton, Burnley, Cardiff and Huddersfield have all conceded over 40.
With this in mind, and by watching Palace games, it’s apparent that their issues do not lie with their defensive work; instead, their attacking output requires significant improvement. Roy Hodgson’s side have only scored 26 goals in 25 fixtures, an average of just more than a goal every game, and while it denotes an improvement of three goals in comparison to the same stage in the previous season, it’s still insufficient if they’re to fulfil their aspirations.
One noticeable difference has been the dip in Wilfried Zaha’s statistical output. In 29 league appearances last season, the Ivorian contributed towards 14 goals (scoring nine and providing five assists), whereas he has only contributed towards nine league goals this term in 23 league games (scoring four and registering five assists).
Despite the lessened statistical influence of Palace’s star man, the extent of their attacking pedigree will likely separate them from their divisional rivals, all of whom are vying to extend their stay in England’s top-flight. Shrewd transfer business and more effective deployment of creative players could lead to a very purposeful second half of the season for the South London side.
The surprising deadline day acquisition of Michy Batshuayi on loan from Chelsea could prove to be a pivotal moment in Palace’s season. Fellow countryman Christian Benteke has been limited to just six Premier League appearances this season, due to a knee injury. Similarly, Townsend, Zaha and Ayew have only scored nine Premier League goals between them this season, a further indication of their attacking woes.
However, we cannot view Palace’s attack solely in terms of goals scored. Palace have been mightily unfortunate in front of goal this campaign, hitting the woodwork on 13 occasions in the Premier League this season – only Chelsea (17) have done so with greater regularity. Furthermore, Roy Hodgson’s side have the seventh highest total of shots in the division with 323, which outlines the importance of more ruthlessness and improved application in the final third.
Much to the delight of Crystal Palace supporters, the presence of Batshuayi should help enormously in this regard. Apart from Valencia, the Belgian international has succeeded to score a healthy amount of goals at each club he has represented. Despite mainly being an understudy at Chelsea, the 25-year-old scored total of 19 goals in 53 appearances with the Blues. His time at Borussia Dortmund was prematurely concluded by injury, yet he still totalled nine goals in 14 appearances for the German side. In the simplest of terms, the Belgian forward guarantees goals.
While it’s right to acknowledge his goal-scoring pedigree, the presence of Batshuayi could significantly impact the creative output of Townsend and Zaha too. Through having a recognised striker, capable of continually finding the back of the net in their midst, it could alleviate the pressure that the pair shoulder to score goals for Palace, allowing them to channel their focus on chance creation.
Batshuayi isn’t the most complete forward regarding his ability to contribute to general play or aid in the transitional phase, but he’s a clinical striker who is unrelenting in the penalty area. If given sufficient service, the Belgian will convert, and considering the creativity provided by the likes of Townsend, Zaha and Max Meyer, he could prove to become an indispensable figure for the Eagles.