With the spectacular signing of Yohan Cabaye completed last month, Crystal Palace FC added a marquee name to a squad that has racked up some impressive victories over the past two seasons. The deal broke Palace’s previous transfer fee record and was an impressive combination of three factors: the new TV money empowering mid-table Premier League teams, the lure of London and Palace’s clear ambitions.
The Frenchman’s skill and creativity will complement the talent already found in the heart of the Eagles midfield. The introduction of such a technically gifted player to the center of the park will also enable Palace to switch play reliably, spreading the ball wide to the club’s excellent corps of wingers. This still misses a key area of the pitch however, an area that Palace has been glaringly lacking in since their promotion in 2013, the penalty area.
For all their dazzling wing play and despite signing Connor Wickham this week, Palace still need to find a reliable striker to lead the line. Since returning to the Premier League, the club has seen its top league scorer finish with a grand total of seven goals. Dwight Gayle and Jason Puncheon shared the dubious honor in the 2013-14 season and Glenn Murray managed his seven in the following season. Given that Palace enjoys the services of some of the Premier League’s best true wingers, it makes sense that the club has continued to hunt around for a decent target man, Murray fits the bill in size and skill but has been hampered by injuries and is 31 years old. Marouane Chamakh is definitely not good enough for the Premier League, while Wickham can be too selfish in front of goals at times.
To fill the void in the penalty box, Palace need look no further than west London. Queens Park Rangers forward Charlie Austin has entered the last year of his contract and is currently rejecting Rangers’ offer of a new deal. Palace would not be the only club in the hunt for Austin’s signature. Aston Villa, Newcastle United and West Ham United are all circling in the hopes of driving down QPR’s £15 million valuation. For a promising striker entering the prime of his career, Crystal Palace is definitely the best of the potential moves on offer. Though perhaps lacking the reputation of more established Premier League clubs, the Eagles are one of the few sides that have managed to maintain a consistently upward trajectory. They have a stable and ambitious chairman, a manager who may be arrogant but has delivered consistent results and are enhancing their squad rather than reconfiguring to the style of a new manager.
For his part, Austin made much out of mediocre service at Loftus Road last season. Over his entire career, spanning non-league to Premier League, he has maintained a slightly better than 1-in-2 goal scoring average. Beyond his penalty box prowess the relentless athleticism that dragged defenses apart last season would benefit the likes of Yannick Bolasie, Wilfred Zaha and Jason Puncheon. Likewise Austin, excellent in the air and as a poacher, would fill his boots off the service of a midfield that loves to drive to the end line. With Charlie Austin leading the line Crystal Palace could easily find themselves lifting a cup or preparing for European football in 2016.
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