The term ‘one-man team’ can often cause offence.
It implies, apart from one standout star, the club in question have no other individuals of note.
That is certainly not the case with Crystal Palace.
But it might be fair to suggest the Eagles are more dependent on Wilfried Zaha than any other team are on a specific player in Europe’s top five leagues.
It is not a matter of Palace lacking Premier League standard players in other departments.
In Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Patrick van Aanholt, Roy Hodgson has one of the most dynamic full-back partnerships in the league, for example.
However, in terms of tactics, Palace rely almost completely in Zaha’s dribbling ability to cause problems going forward.
The Ivory Coast international is second only to Eden Hazard when it comes to take-ons completed in the last three seasons.
He commits multiple defenders every time he gets the ball and knows when to draw a foul for the good of the team.
Without him, Palace often look directionless when going forward and they find ball retention difficult.
This in turn invites wave after wave of attacks which puts their organised defence under pressure.
Few players play like Zaha and it’s his distinctive style which helped Palace avoid relegation after a disastrous start last season.
Since the start of last season, Palace have a win percentage of 39.4% when Zaha plays.
Without him, it’s 0%.
*all stats provided by OPTA*
While it may not seem favourable to be so reliant on one player, it’s a perfectly legitimate approach.
Hodgson understands the dynamics of his squad and has crafted a tactical approach that gets the best out of his resources.
And he’s done a pretty good job all things considered.
Are there any other players who mean as much to their team?
Some would argue Lionel Messi makes Barcelona what they are.
The Catalan giants boast Luis Suarez, Ousmane Dembele, Philippe Coutinho, Jordi Alba, Gerard Pique and several other players of notable talent.
But their legendary No10 makes them tick and it’s no coincidence their hopes of an undefeated season were dashed last term when Barca decided to rest Messi away to Levante.
The aforementioned Hazard raises Chelsea to another level.
Although you also wonder what they would be like without N’Golo Kante…
Papu Gomez is always at the heart of everything Atalanta do well.
For Premier League viewers though, Zaha is Palace and Palace is Zaha.
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