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A selection headache for Hodgson
There’s no getting away from the fact that Crystal Palace are looking short across the park this weekend, with key absentees making our slim chances of a result slimmer still. Timothy Fosu-Mensah, one of the few players to have made a real impression this season, is ineligible to play against his parent team and it may come just too soon for Zaha to feature, at least for the whole game.
Both of those will be big misses, particularly Zaha with his ability to conjure something on the break but the elephant in the room is the absence of Christian Benteke. Our biggest fear has materialised with the full extent of the injury revealing he looks set to miss 6 weeks. This gives a potential return date in the middle of November during what could prove to be a decisive run of games – Brighton & Stoke are lined up in the second half of the month before December sees us play sides like Watford, West Brom & Bournemouth.
Is the loss of Christian Benteke as significant as it appears?
I should be angry at Benteke’s injury, angry that the short-sightedness of transfer policy this summer has deepened our woes at a time when we can seldom afford another centimetre. I’m loathsome of the policy that caused us to have one senior striker, but am I disappointed he’s out? I’m not sure.
He is the best striker at the club and has been since he arrived, I think few would disagree with that. He netted 20 times in all competitions last season and if you glance across the remainder of the squad it’s hard to see where 20 goals will come from between them, let alone from just a single one of them.
But, just for a minute, let’s consider how effective he has been this campaign and in patches since he joined. He’s failed to hit the net a single time this season, even given straightforward chances on numerous occasions. This isn’t new ground either, let’s not forget that last year under Pardew weeks passed without a goal in the league.
Does he hold the ball up well enough? No. Is he a real handful for defenders? Not often enough. Is he too one-dimensional? Perhaps. Overall then, is he a luxury that Crystal Palace can’t really afford? Part of me can’t help but feel that a hard working Troy Deeney or Jamie Vardy figure may be of more value than the marquee signing of Benteke, especially given the figure that it took to bring him into the club and the one-striker predicament we find ourselves in at this moment in time.
One thing I am sure of, though. Carlton Cole is not the answer.
Manchester United’s injury list gives Crystal Palace hope
If you really look hard, there are reasons not to feel completely hopeless going into the weekend. The first of these is that United are not the same kind of side as Manchester City, there isn’t as much pace, movement and inventiveness in the Manchester United ranks as there was on display last weekend and as such it’ll be a very different encounter. Powerful, pragmatic and punishing – that is United but beautiful & expansive they are not, at least not in the same way as City are and we have to believe that a strong defensive play could stymie them.
United also find themselves compromised by injuries. Jones, Fellaini and Carrick all missed the midweek trip to Russia and are likely to be missing this weekend also. Paul Pogba is a long-term absentee and Anthony Martial hobbled off on Wednesday evening also, throwing into doubt his availability for Crystal Palace’s trip. They still have an inordinate amount of talent that will step onto the pitch