Opinion: Vicente Guaita has become Crystal Palace's most influential player 
(Photo by Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images)

This season, goalkeeper, Vicente Guaita, has taken his game to the next level and, in the process, he has claimed the title of 'Crystal Palace's most influential player'.

Arriving on a free transfer from Spanish side Getafe in the summer of 2018, Guaita has cemented by a mile his position not only as the starting goalkeeper but also his importance to the side. This season has elevated him to be compared to the whimsical Wilfried Zaha, on par with his unique ability and the confidence that he breathes through the side.

Guaita's absence from the side that took on Premier League winners, Liverpool, highlighted just how vital the goalkeeper is in keeping the Crystal Palace team functioning.

Becoming a crucial part of the jigsaw

After making his debut against Leicester City in December of last season, where pulling off a breath-taking save to deny Jamie Vardy a guaranteed goal, allowed Guaita to endear himself to the Palace faithful and more importantly to Roy Hodgson, becoming number one between the sticks as a consequence of his game-saving performance.

Wayne Hennessy was the first choice under Hodgson for the start of his reign as Palace manager. However, Hennessy found it hard to become a regular starter in the eyes of Palace fans, with the Wales international on a number of occasions showing that he is vulnerable when it comes to long shots and stunning free kicks.

Since claiming the starting spot, Guaita has become a player that Roy Hodgson's side has called upon on countless occasions. Guaita's performances have not only helped to cement him as the best goalkeeper at Crystal Palace but also as one of the best and most consistent in the Premier League.

His impressive season

This season, Guaita has performed above and beyond expectations, establishing himself as one of Crystal Palace's most influential stars.

Guaita's stats do the talking; he ranks 8th in most saves, joint 3rd in clean sheets and he had been awarded these impressive stats prior to the enforced break which puts into perspective how integral he is to the side.

A key part of the Spanish goalkeepers' style is his punching. This season, Guaita leads the way in the League with successful punches and has cleared the danger 21 times.

Whereas Manchester United's David De Gea, his potential national team rival, has only completed 9 punches, and freshly crowned Premier League winner, Liverpool's man between the posts, Allison, has only 3 clearances via a punch to his name.

Guaita's confidence to the side

Guaita's most valuable asset is without question the steely nerve that his presence brings to the side. Guaita is the backbone of Crystal Palace and he brings an aura to the team that glows with reassurance.

When the team sheet was announced prior to kick off on Wednesday evening, Guaita's absence created fear and panic about the damage Liverpool would inflict on Palace's goal difference; the Eagles would go on to concede 4 for a second time this season.

Guaita instils calm and composure into the squad and provides a solid foundation for the side. The 33-year-old has become a true asset to Palace and the Eagles look considerably more comfortable when the Spanish goalkeeper is in-between the sticks.

Yes, Wilfired Zaha has been the go-to man for Palace when the outlook is bleak; he does provide the spark of inspiration that takes the side up a gear. However, Guaita keeps Palace in the game, allowing that opportunity to arise.

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