Eberechi Eze lit up the Premier League in his inaugural season with a mix of flair, control and maturity. In May, news broke out that the 23-year-old had picked up an Achilles injury in training, forcing him to the sidelines for what was expected to be until the new year.
If the injury wasn’t already enough for Eze, upon returning to the changing rooms, he received some bittersweet news. He found a message on his phone that notified him that he was included in Gareth Southgate’s 33-man England squad for the Euros, which could have been a huge opportunity for him.
A mix of the severity of his injury, the timing of his injury and things changing behind the scenes at Palace made for a tough period in Ebere’s career.
Remarkably, he has made a quicker-than-expected recovery and can be seen in Palace’s latest first-team training sessions. To recover from an Achilles injury that quickly comes with delight, as well as an aspect of worry.
Palace will be boosted by his return but will be worried not to rush him back into action, with risk of further injury. Palace manager, Patrick Vieira, will also have a headache when trying to fit him into a team that is showing very bright signs early into the season.
Fans have been discussing how Ebere slots into the first team. With Palace’s midfield being arguably their strongest point in the squad, who does Eze replace?
The most common trio that has been seen this season consists of Luka Milivojevic, Conor Gallagher, and James McArthur. Milivojevic provides the most defence out of the three, sitting just in front of the back four, while Gallagher has shown the most attacking threat out of the midfielders. James McArthur provides a brilliant balance between attack and defence, with some outstanding performances in both areas so far.
Whilst at the time, this may have been frustrating for fans to see him playing so defensively, knowing the attacking threat he possesses, it may have been a blessing in disguise.
Under new management, the style of football has dramatically changed. Palace now play in a more expansive and balanced fluidity. Combining this with Eze’s recently learnt defensive ability, he could slot in seamlessly to replace either James McArthur or Conor Gallagher.
In no way would he be expected to sit back and defend, but if needed, he can showcase some of the skills that Roy Hodgson taught him.
Taking it slow
The next dilemma is whether Eze comes into the team as soon as possible. The midfield has been working well as of late, and Vieira will not be wanting to alter a system that is working so well at the moment, especially not at the start of games.
During the next few game weeks, we should expect to see Eze’s name floating around the team sheet, whether that is as a substitute or as a starter, should Vieira feel it is necessary.
Eze’s return is sure to give the Palace squad, and fans alike, a huge lift considering their positive start to the season. With the Vieira era in full force, attentions turn to Arsenal as their next fixture - a club close to Vieira and Eze.
Whilst it is uncertain whether Eze will feature at all, Vieira will be looking to overcome his former club from his playing career.