Quick, shout out something you know about Crystal Palace at the moment.
If your answer did not in any way involve Wilfried Zaha, you are probably either lying or a Palace supporter.
You may have heard that Palace’s 20-year-old ‘starlet’ has been sold to no fewer than 15 different clubs in the past year and a half or so. Since the start of the 2011/2012 season, he has been linked with clubs from the high-horses (Manchester United, Arsenal, Real Madrid) to the relegation scrappers looking for a youthful boost (West Ham, Reading). Seemingly every week, we get a new report saying that a successful transfer bid has finally been reached with *insert club here*, and Zaha will be gone any day now. Heck, we’ve actually gotten to the point where media outlets are so desperate for Zaha news that they’re posting photoshopped fake tweets ‘from his account”.
From what you’ve heard around the papers and the blogosphere, there isn’t much to Crystal Palace’s existence at the moment except for the Zaha saga. But as any Palace supporter would tell you, there is far more to the story, and Palace can’t afford to let themselves get swept up in the gusts of the transfer tomfoolery. There is a fine squad playing weekly at Selhurst Park, and they have shown plenty of quality to get up to the top places in the Championship. (Their run through the first chunk of the season was so impressive that even with one win in their last eight games, they’ve managed to stay in fourth.)
The point here is, the season will likely not be decided by where Zaha is or isn’t going. Guys like Andre Moritz, Glenn Murray and Yannick Bolasie have put together enough of an attacking push every game that even when Zaha has disappeared for stretches of several games at a time – and make no mistake, Zaha has most definitely disappeared for several games at a time more than once this year – the points have continued to come for the Eagles. The defence Dougie Freedman built is still solid if not spectacular, Julian Speroni remains one of the top ‘keepers in the league and they have more midfield depth than they know what to do with.
What I’m saying is that Palace is not a squad that will drop down to the lower mid-table like they did last season after the Carling Cup run drained every last iota of energy out of the depleted and injured squad, they’ve simply got too much quality this time around to do so. What I’m not saying is that they’re completely ready for that run to the Premier League quite yet. That’s why focusing on Zaha, even if they do eventually agree to a sell-and-loan sort of deal that would see him come back to the team for the final stretch of the season, would be a foolhardy move by Ian Holloway and the Palace staff. There’s far more to be done during the transfer window.
The lack of finishing during the recent winless stretch has proven that the team needs another goal threat up top to pair with Glenn Murray on the days when he gets cold or gets smothered by multiple defenders. (Indeed, the ‘Hack-A-Murray’ method of defending, to borrow a Basketball term, seems to have gotten popular in recent weeks.) Defensive lapses by the oft-injured back four has proven that the team very much needs extra depth at the back. If there are any hopes about getting back into the automatic promotion spots, these are moves that will need to be made. Thus-far, we’ve seen nothing of that sort with every news piece about Palace fixating on Zaha. Palace’s current problems are prevalent even with Zaha playing every match, they won’t cease simply because he has been kept or brought in on loan. The transfer window is going to slam shut sooner rather than later if they can’t keep their minds off of the wonderkid.
Fortunately for everyone, Ian Holloway seems up to the challenge. At least, his scathing comments to journalists asking about Zaha week-in and week-out certainly makes it seem like he does. Hopefully, he can add a few new names to the Palace squad first, and worry about a big sale for England’s favorite transfer target later.
Written by Chris White, We Are Going Up’s Crystal Palace blogger
Chris tweets at @uzworm