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October 26 2020 9.21pm

Can Wilf and Andros remain up front?

October 20 2017

Andros Townsend

Andros Townsend

They may have finished 14th last season with just one point more than the hailed 40-point safety mark, but teams hated playing against Crystal Palace, writes Mark Toomey.

One of the main reasons for this was the big Belgian in attack, Benteke, who was a real menace in the box – especially when an aerial ball was floated in.

But Benteke is expected to be out until the start of November at the very earliest, and his most natural replacement, Wickham, is still dealing with his knee injury. So, with his back against the wall, new manager Roy Hodgson opted to put his two most creative players up top against the reigning Premier League champs Chelsea.

The move raised a few eyebrows, but with Ladapo having only 16 minutes as a Crystal Palace player under his belt, and 19-year-old Lokilo seemingly not quite ready to start in the Premier League, Hodgson was left with few options.

Luckily for the new boss and Eagles fans, the new arrangement worked a charm. Zaha and Townsend absolutely terrorised the Chelsea backline that was without the protection of N’Golo Kante, with the Ivory Coast international winger netting what would be the winner on the stroke of half-time.

Speroni was also exemplary to help Palace seal the win. The question now is whether Palace keep their two midfield magicians up top, or will more changes need to be made?

New combo giving them a chance

Prior to the Chelsea game, Palace didn’t have a single point or a single goal through seven games, so naturally, they were quite heavily favoured to get relegated. Roy Hodgson coming in helped their hopes of survival, and the win against Chelsea appears to have given the Eagles a much greater chance of staying up in the bookies’ eyes.

Hodgson's pragmatic approach paid dividends against Chelsea, with statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com confirming the fact that while last season's champions were individually superior to Palace, it was the Eagles that performed to a sum better than their parts and stunned the betting market.

The ex-England's manager has a habit of doing just this, so much so that a side that was roundly viewed as sure-fire relegation fodder before the international break has been revitalised, and with their newfound unpredictability, many bettors will be thinking a little harder about lumping against them over the next few weeks.

Now that the team has a win and a manager willing to get 'down and dirty' in the pursuit of safety, Palace are marginally less likely to get relegated, according to the odds.

While they still sit bottom of the Premier League it remains to be seen whether the Chelsea result is a flash in the pan, but with odds still weighted against them, many bettors will be tempted by the lure of a free bet from the likes of The Bookies Offers for Palace to avoid relegation.

Both Townsend and Zaha boast incredible pace, flair, great dribbling skills, and a wicked shot. As a two-man strike force – which has been missed in the Premier League in recent years – they could prove to be rather potent. They certainly did enough to make the bookies rethink Palace’s Premier League credentials.

The crafty duo should be enough to get the goals rolling in, with Hodgson’s traditionally conservative but structural tactics on the rest of the pitch taking care of the defensive side of the ball. However, regardless of how many goals are scored – realistically, that is – when Benteke returns, he should take the striking role with Townsend and Zaha once again being his creative playmakers on the wings.

Then again, if Schlupp, Sako, Lee, or even Kaikai impress with time on either wing, then there’s always the possibility of playing either Zaha or Townsend off of a stand-up target-man striker in Benteke.

In any case, Palace look to be on track now and certainly have a team with enough calibre to beat the drop. Zaha and Townsend could be a deadly duo that defences will fear until Benteke returns.

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