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Crystal Palace have risked relegation after denying Wilfried Zaha his big move

In a summer of moving and shaking, Crystal Palace stood still.

Hellbent on keeping their most prized asset and talisman, the Eagles are staring down the barrel of a crippling relegation scrap if mood in the camp doesn’t improve.

Wilfried Zaha is Crystal Palace. Crystal Palace is Wilfried Zaha.

They’re so intrinsically linked they make Mark Noble and West Ham look like chalk and cheese.


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Zaha has cut a dejected figure

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Zaha has cut a dejected figure

But Zaha thought he would be somewhere rosier by now, somewhere to match his talent and ambition.

Selhurt Park, consequently, is hardly one big happy family right now.

Just one point from their opening two games and no goals to show for it, their start has really shed light on their attacking shortcomings.

You and us both, Wilf

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You and us both, Wilf

It comes as no shock that Palace have looked toothless because Zaha has been a periphery in both games.

They are more reliant on him than ever – but how can you rely on someone who seemingly wants to be anywhere else right now?

The stats don’t lie.

According to Opta, since August 2017 Palace have won 35.4% of their league games with Zaha but just 15.4% without him.

That’s genuine relegation form.

‘You win the penalty, I score the penalty, that’s our only option’

Reuters
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‘You win the penalty, I score the penalty, that’s our only option’

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Pricing Zaha out of a move was seen as a statement of intent by the Palace board this summer, especially after losing Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

Instead of galvanising Zaha and those around him it has created an uneasy atmosphere, with reports of emergency meetings.

Essentially in a bid to placate their key individual – which has backfired – Palace have managed to damage collective spirits too.

There was a feeling that, despite his local ties and commitment to the club, he was playing out of his skin last season in the knowledge a shiny move awaited him in the summer.

Awkward handshake of the season

AFP or licensors
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Awkward handshake of the season

That hasn’t materialised and Palace, knowing Zaha was staying, opted not to strengthen too.

They have no Plan B when his mind is elsewhere and unless Luka Miliovojevic slots away a penalty every weekend, they can’t buy a goal.

Zaha must look at the hapless Christian Benteke and ask what might have been.

Benteke has four goals in two years

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Benteke has four goals in two years

The duo, shouldered with Palace’s goalscoring burden this season, mustered just one successful pass between them in the defeat to Sheffield United on Sunday.

While he can’t do it all himself Zaha is definitely guilty of trying to at times, much to the frustration of his team-mates.

Keeping him was a gamble and the early signs suggest it was a naive one.

Relying on Zaha’s individual brilliance over and over again was never going to be sustainable, so reinvesting the fees amassed from his and Wan Bissaka’s sales made much more long-term sense.

What will Woy do?

Reuters
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What will Woy do?

You’re looking at £125m there – three high class players even in this current market.

Hindsight is a powerful thing.

But denying Zaha a move he has clearly earned was always going to upset him and, consequently, squad harmony.

Roy Hodgson is the master of escape acts, the last of his generation in that regard.

But even this might challenge might be beyond him if the first two games have anything to show by.