Opinion: Crystal Palace are not over-reliant on Wilfried Zaha anymore
- Zaha has been Palace's main man over the past few years, but Hodgson's men have found other sources of inspiration.
- Ayew leads the goal-scoring charts, with only 3 goals and 3 assists to Zaha's name in the Premier League so far.
Crystal Palace have had an above-average season thus far. They stand eleventh in the Premier League table, having garnered 39 points, with 10 wins, 9 draws and 9 defeats. They have a goal difference of -6, which means that they have conceded 6 more goals than they have scored. In all, they have scored 26 goals this season, with an average of around ten shots on target per game.
The Roy Hodgson-managed side have done well enough to remain close to the top half of the Premier League table, but unlike Wolves and Sheffield, haven't shown enough to challenge the teams in the upper echelons of the table.
The Eagles, in the recent past, have relied heavily on their talisman Wilfried Zaha to provide them with goals or set others up. However, this has not been the case this season. Their leading goal scorer this season is Jordan Ayew, who has 8 goals in 28 appearances in the Premier League. He also has 1 assist to his name.
Zaha, on the other hand, has scored three goals and assisted three times this season. The rise of Ayew in the goal-scoring charts shows that Palace's over-reliance on Zaha to provide attacking returns every game has greatly decreased.
The Ivory Coast international, who had a fabulous season last year with 10 goals and 5 assists, has been found wanting this time around. A lot was expected of him at the start of the season, but such depressions in form must also be accounted for, given the consistency he has shown at Palace over the past few years.
Along with Ayew, defender Patrick van Aanholt and winger Jeffrey Schlupp have scored 3 and 2 goals respectively, although the latter has started in only 9 games. For van Aanholt, that is an impressive statistic.
Defending-wise, Palace have been above average with central midfielder James McCarthy leading the tackles chart with an average of 2.6 per game. Centre-backs James Tomkins and Gary Cahill are high on the clearance charts, with both having an average of around 5 per game.
Midfielders James McArthur and Luka Milivojevic have made close to 2 interceptions on average per game and their contribution to the team's cause has been remarkable. Palace are very good at protecting their lead once they are ahead, and that is possible only because of a strong back line. Joel Ward, Martin Kelly and van Aanholt have all ensured that it has remained that way.
The Eagles don't have a big issue with discipline either, and there has been only red card against them so far. Milivojevic has the highest number of yellow cards issued against him, with 9. McCarthy is next on the list with 6, but others are far below in the queue.
However, Hodgson's side have an average possession of only 46 per cent, and only 75 per cent of the passes they make are accurate, and this is something that they all need to work upon. In the highly competitive Premier League, passing and possession make all the difference against the top sides.
Despite Ayew repaying Hodgson's faith in him, other strikers such as Christian Benteke and Andros Townsend need to show their mettle in the limited opportunities that they are presented with. They need to give Zaha some breathing space so that he can come into his own and lead the side from the front again.
While the team still looks to their star winger for inspiration when the going gets tough, and Zaha and Ayew attempt a very high number of dribbles per game, it must be said that Palace's over-reliance of Wilfried Zaha has decreased.Published 22 Mar 2020, 21:20 IST