Having suffered a 2-0 defeat at Molineux last time out, Crystal Palace would have wanted to bounce back at home to Leeds, and that they did.
Eagles’ fans will be the first to tell you that a 4-1 win is not something they are used to, but a dignified attacking display from Eberechi Eze highlighted that Roy Hodgson has the capabilities of instilling a creative framework for his team, with a number of young players showing bona fide potential.
Palace hounded Leeds from the first minute, and this set them up for a ruthless performance against a resilient Yorkshire side. Scott Dann opened the scoring with 12 minutes on the clock following an enticing cross from Eze.
Patrick Bamford retained his goalscoring form before he was ruled offside by VAR; what followed was an exquisite freekick that Eze won’t be forgetting for a while.
The Leeds striker did eventually find the net just before the half hour mark, but it turned out to be a consolation, as a Helder Costa own goal and Jordan Ayew finish left Leeds on the deck.
Eberechi Eze showing his worth
If anything was evident in Palace’s valiant performance, it was that the new man Eberechi Eze has potential to make a big difference for Hodgson’s side. Often neglected by the boss’s defensive outlook, which sees Jeffrey Schlupp being picked over him, Eze showed that he can bring cutting edge to Selhurst Park.
Being the architect for the first goal, the scorer of the second, and the composer of the Eagles’ creative display, the 22-year-old Englishman looked a breath of fresh air in midfield.
The free-kick in particular is something worth noting, as his manager explains to LondonNewsOnline:
“That was one of the most perfect free-kicks you can execute, he has looked at home ever since he has arrived.
“We’ve known there’s someone there we’ve bought who will stand the club in good stead for years, but he’s had to be patient.
“Apart from the free-kick, his whole performance was very good. I don’t think you could fault him in any way. I don’t think you could fault his defensive work- certainly couldn’t fault anything he done on the ball, and of course the goal for me was the icing on the cake.”
Eze started to show glimpses of his QPR form where, in the 2019/20 season, he contributed to 22 goals in the Championship. If the creative playmaker can reach these heights under the former England international manager, he could take the Eagles to the next level.
What Eze showed in his performance against Leeds was that Palace have a wide range of talent at their disposal, and Hodgson shouldn’t be afraid to switch things up from time to time to explore the plethora of his options.
Palace youth adds attacking potential
Wilfried Zaha was only involved directly with one goal in the contest that unfolded at Selhurst Park. This is thanks to creative displays from multiple areas of the play as Ayew, Jairo Riedewald, Eze, and Patrick Van Aanholt, who all looked potent on the front foot.
The performance was a far cry from the rigid Palace structure that is normally expected. Fluid build-up play with the means to make the most of every chance will be a relief for fans of the club, tired of dull affairs.
Unsurprisingly, Crystal Palace failed to score as many as three goals in the Premier League last season. The 4-1 victory at the weekend meant that the South London club has already achieved more than three goals in a game twice this time out.
Palace have created 12 big chances in the league campaign so far, which is astonishing when taking into account that last season they were only able to amass 33 big chances all season. They are also averaging 1.5 goals per game in comparison to last season’s 0.8.
The side have definitely looked more threatening in the final third, and this is more down to the players in the squad rather than a change of tactic. Whilst the Eagles have had an aging and experienced squad in recent seasons, this campaign has seen the emergence of younger prospects and their aptitude to bring fluidity to the fold.
Riedewald has looked at home in midfield, Tyrick Mitchell has added an injection of pace and vibrancy at full back, Eze is beginning to show Zaha-like traits, and the signing of Nathan Ferguson may prove to be salient too.
Having more youth amongst the ranks will provide Palace with players who are more willing to express themselves and show their worth. The veterans of the squad will still be vital in the bigger games, but the mix of old and young will give Hodgson a range of options at his disposal.
Set pieces are key to success
This weekend’s talking points, for Crystal Palace, are all about their attacking capacity. Eberechi Eze takes the plaudits once again for this talking point, as it was his set piece taking expertise that begs the question of the importance of dead ball situations for the Eagles.
The height that this squad possesses, accompanied by Eze’s set piece taking, could be a massive boost for Hodgson’s side going forward. Crystal Palace used to be very effective from dead ball situations, but the 2019/20 season showed that they could improve in recent years.
Scott Dann opened his account this weekend and he could get a lot more if Eze stays in the starting line-up. Palace will go into a lot of games this season where they are on the backfoot, against the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City. If Roy Hodgson focuses on set pieces in training, it could be these moments in the game that gain Palace valuable points across the season.
The extra impetus on dead ball importance could also lead to a revived role for the out of favour striker, Christian Benteke. Though a shadow of his former self, the once prolific goal scorer could relish the chances provided by Eze and others.