Monday 22 January 2018

James Tomkins hails 'brilliant' Benteke and Mandanda

James Tomkins was impressed by his fellow Crystal Palace newcomers
James Tomkins was impressed by his fellow Crystal Palace newcomers

James Tomkins has praised the impact new signings Christian Benteke and Steve Mandanda have already made at Crystal Palace.

The duo made their debuts in Tuesday's comfortable 2-0 EFL Cup second-round defeat of Blackpool, when Tomkins also started for the club for the first time.

He spoke of goalkeeper Mandanda's confidence in possession and of £27m club-record signing Benteke providing a goal threat when it has consistently been missing.

Manager Alan Pardew refused to commit to Benteke starting Saturday's Premier League fixture with Bournemouth, given he has had so little match practice. Tomkins, however, appears likely to retain his place in central defence alongside Scott Dann.

"It was a nice test to get through 90 minutes," said the 27-year-old. "I am raring to go. I want to play. I feel ready. My injury is behind me.

"(Mandanda's) brilliant. As a defender it relieves a lot of pressure knowing someone is going to get the ball. Not just that, but he is good with his feet as well and playing out.

"He is composed, laid-back and that is what you want to see from a goalkeeper.

"It is a great statement (to sign Benteke). Hopefully he can hit the ground running. I know we have been struggling to score goals. He is a presence.

"I have played against him a few times and he can be a handful. Hopefully he adds to the team and gets goals early on."

Much of Palace's play in the first half concentrated on targeting the striker with crosses, in the same way Aston Villa once did when he produced his finest form.

"If you provide him with the balls he wants in the box, getting crosses in like Andros (Townsend) and Wilf (Zaha) can, he will score goals," Tomkins said.

"He is brilliant in the air. One of the best I have played against. Not just that, but he has got ability on the floor. The lads tried to get the ball to him as much as they can.

"I do not think he has played many games so it was just nice for him to get some minutes in. It is just match fitness for him now. I am sure he will do brilliant for us.

"We can beat any team at this place with the fans behind us. Hopefully we can get the win (against Bournemouth on Saturday). Both teams have not got any points so it is a big game."

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