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October 22 2018 10.58am

Kouyate is perhaps Hodgson's biggest coup

August 8 2018

Cheikhou Kouyate

Cheikhou Kouyate

This summer has seen a fairly successful transfer window for Crystal Palace and the Eagles' pre-season campaign has also shown signs of promise, writes Alex Jones.

Roy Hodgson appears to be assembling a team which may turn out to be dark horses for a top-six finish. The Eagles announced the acquisition of Cheikhou Kouyate from West Ham United recently, and Hodgson admitted that he was surprised the Irons agreed to sell.

The Senegal midfielder will bring power and resilience to the centre of the park and could turn out to be a serious coup for the side that spent much of last season flirting with relegation.

The history

Kouyate earned his professional footballing stripes in the Belgian First Division A with Anderlecht in 2007, after being discovered by FC Brussels a year before.

The midfielder spent six years with the Purple & White and made 153 appearances for the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium club. His performances there earned him the attention of his country’s national team, and he went on to represent Senegal in the 2012 Olympics in London.

His side made it through to the knockout stage of the tournament but they were eliminated by Mexico in a 4-2 defeat in the quarter-finals. Ever since then, the Dakar-born player has been ever-present in the national side.

When Sam Allardyce signed Kouyate to West Ham in 2014, the former England manager compared his new signing to Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira.

The ex-France international was also born in Senegal, and played in a similar position to Kouyate. Vieira was known for his power, physical, and technical attributes. These are all traits that Kouyate also has in his locker, though he has yet to reach the same heights as the 1998 World Cup winner.

While there have been a few changes in management during Kouyate’s West Ham tenure, the player has managed to find himself at the centre of each tactician’s plans.

That was until former Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini stepped in and deemed the player surplus to requirement in his squad. The Chilean has overseen a big overhaul at the London Stadium, and the Hammers could also be ones to watch in the season ahead. In fact, they can be backed at 9/1 for a top-six finish. They will need to bring in a replacement for Kouyate, however.

What Will Kouyate bring to the team?

Kouyate will add some much-needed steel to the centre of the park, and should allow Hodgson’s attack-minded players more freedom to roam forward. The 28-year-old joined for a fee of around £10 million, which could turn out to be an excellent bit of business if he can hit the ground running at Selhurst Park.

With the top six getting harder to break into each season, Hodgson’s side are firm outsiders to finish in the European positions. A quick look at the odds and available markets shows that they are at around 25/1 to end the campaign in the top six. And, after last season’s topsy turvy season, the Eagles are only at 2/1 for a top-half finish.

But the clever acquisition of Kouyate could turn Palace into dark horses for a challenge at the top end of the table. The league tends to throw up a few surprises, such as Burnley finishing in seventh-place last term, or Manchester United ending in a lowly sixth-place the year before.

And nobody can forget the most unlikely title challenge in Premier League history in 2015-16, when Leicester City prevailed. After ending the 2017/18 campaign on a strong note, Palace are poised to enter the new season with fresh impetus to challenge at a higher level.

Kouyate is a formidable force in the centre of the park, and will hopefully strike up a strong partnership with Luka Milivojevic. The 6ft 2in Senegal captain will also bring vital experience to Hodgson’s side.

He has made 42 appearances for his country, while also clocking 129 top flight showings for West Ham between 2014 and 2018. Kouyate will be expected to help shield the Palace defence, which conceded 55 goals last term.

Excitement for the aeason ahead

After a fairly disappointing campaign last time out, there are reasons for Palace fans to be enthusiastic this season. There is no doubt that the acquisition of Kouyate will help provide better cover for the defence, which could see some of the more creative players such as Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend offered more freedom.

Hodgson has also sealed the deal for one of the most exciting young talents in Europe on a free transfer. Max Meyer was a free agent this summer after allowing his contract at Schalke to run down due to a fall out with the German outfit. He attracted the interest of many clubs across the continent, but it was Palace who managed to secure his services on a three-year deal.

The 22-year-old has been compared to Lionel Messi, and with Kouyate providing rigidity in the centre of the park, the new singing could be given the freedom to run riot.

Signing Meyer alone wouldn’t have been enough to help Palace challenge in the top half of the table. But bringing in the solidity of Kouyate in the core of the Eagles squad could turn out to be a piece of genius, as it will allow the new attacking midfielder the opportunity to shine. Shrewd bettors may be wise to stake some money on Palace upsetting the hierarchy at the top of the table this time out.

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