Squad Depth the Issue for Crystal Palace as Relegation Dog Fight Continues

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 31: Crystal Palace's Christian Benteke during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Liverpool at Selhurst Park on March 31, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Craig Mercer - CameraSport via Getty Images)

When Christian Benteke was being put through in the second half of Crystal Palace against Liverpool, the chance for redemption was there. In front of one of the most vocalised sets of supporters in the Premier League, against his former club, Benteke had the chance to rid the demons that had seen him miss 18 of the 20 ‘big chances’ he has faced this season and to put his side up 2-1. Instead, the big Belgian got his bearings horribly wrong. As soon as he picked the ball up, it was clear the striker did not fancy his chances. The forward horrifically spooned his shot wide of the onrushing Loris Karius, much to the despair of the Palace fans.

Sadly, this had become a typical outcome for Benteke, highlighting what a poor season he was having. The striker has scored just two goals all season, the same as the club’s left-back Patrick van Aanholt. However, if this was the story at another Premier League club, Benteke would have been dropped and placed in the reserves to build his confidence up. However, due to a severe lack of squad depth, Benteke currently finds himself as the club’s only fit striker. This highlights the lack of depth at the club. With just six games left to ensure Premier League survival and no competition for his spot, Benteke must step up to the plate.

Squad Depth the Issue for Crystal Palace as Relegation Dog Fight Continues

Shortage of Goals

With just one minute remaining of a pulsating Premier League game between Crystal Palace and Bournemouth in December, the score was tied at two apiece when Wilfred Zaha was brought down in the box and a penalty was awarded. Despite Luka Milivojevic, the club’s penalty taker, still being on the pitch, Christian Benteke was first to grab the ball. This was a striker extremely low on confidence having not scored all season. The forward never looked like scoring from the moment the ball left his foot. As a result, Palace dropped two huge points at the death, which may prove costly.

This could have been the turning point for the big centre-forward. Instead, he went through a painful period of four months which saw him score just twice, both away from home. With wingers like Zaha and Andros Townsend providing width, the service to the forward cannot be blamed, with balls constantly being fired in both in the air and on the ground. Benteke has to start dispatching them. For a striker that cost £30 million just the previous season, a total of just two goals scored is a massive issue. This will need rectifying as soon as possible, otherwise, Benteke may find himself searching for a new club come the summer.

Squad Depth

It can be argued that the poor form of Christian Benteke has seen the club dramatically struggle this season. However, the board, Steve Parish and sporting director Dougie Freedman must take some blame for their poor transfer activity. In the summer of 2017, Crystal Palace found themselves with three strikers at the club. One was suffering from a long-term injury, one was released and the other was Christian Benteke.

Instead of signing a new striker in the transfer window, the club had only signed one player on a permanent deal and two loanees before the last day of business when they spent £30,000,000 on defender Mamadou Sakho. In September, the inevitable happened and Benteke was sidelined with an injury. This meant the club played their next couple of games with no recognised forward. Andros Townsend and Wilfred Zaha were being played out of their usual position to fill this void.

For a Premier League club, in their fifth season in the division, this was unacceptable and poor from the board. The lack of squad depth at the club is inexcusable and new January signing Alexander Sorloth lasted just two months before he himself was also sidelined with injury meaning once again in April, the club have just one forward, a striker with just two goals to his name all year, and if the team are to stay up this season, a major reshuffle and player recruitment is required to sustain Premier League football in South London.

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