Saturday 18 November 2017

Focus on Wilfried Zaha

Wilfried Zaha was Crystal Palace's main threat against Spurs
Wilfried Zaha was Crystal Palace's main threat against Spurs

Wilfried Zaha's return to fitness has been as influential on Crystal Palace's improved form as Roy Hodgson's appointment as manager.

Here, Press Association Sport examines his latest performance in the 1-0 defeat by Tottenham at Wembley.

Attacking contribution

In the absence of the injured Christian Benteke, Palace's only senior recognised striker, there is even greater pressure on the 24-year-old Zaha to make the difference in the final third. Hodgson has consistently selected him to start in his front two, which is arguably where he will be most effective given the defensive responsibility the manager usually places on those selected in midfield. That Palace had so little possession made it difficult for him to stretch Spurs' defence as he would like, but his power and belief meant he remained the visitors' most consistent attacking threat when he broke at speed. In the 57th minute, he rounded Spurs goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga but, from a difficult position, struck just wide when presented with an open goal. He was unlikely to be gifted a superior chance but even if his athleticism had created it, at 0-0 it could have led to Palace taking all three points.

Defensive discipline

There was little question that, before kick-off, Palace's priorities would have been to secure a draw and a clean sheet. Even if Zaha was most regularly the player furthest forward, that ambition meant he also had to chase back. If in the past his work-rate has been questioned, that was not the case on Sunday. He may not have made any crucial challenges or interceptions, but the additional defender at times prevented Spurs creating the overlap they so often succeed with and pursue through wing-backs Serge Aurier and Danny Rose.

Overall influence

Zaha plays with a belief and intent that Palace so obviously need when so many of his team-mates' confidence remains so fragile following their decline over the past two years. That he does so lifts both those team-mates and the club's supporters, and he remained Palace's greatest threat even at 1-0 down. There is regardless no escaping the fact he missed a fine chance at 0-0 and that, when Palace could have been celebrating three vital points, because of that miss they instead suffered their latest defeat.

Press Association

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