Crystal Palace must learn to win without Zaha

Crystal Palace gave the football world one of the surprises of the weekend by beating Premier League champions Manchester City 3-2 when the two sides met at the Etihad Stadium. Yes, Pep Guardiola’s side was not at full strength as key players like Fernandinho and David Silva were missing due to injury while the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero were not in the starting line up. By the time the latter duo came unto the pitch in the second half the damage had already been done. Conceding three goals at home proved to be very costly as despite scoring twice, the comeback could not be completed.

Just the weekend before, the Eagles won a match for the first time in more than two years without their starman Wilfried Zaha. It was a 1-0 victory over Leicester at Selhurst Park. The previous win secured without the player featuring dates back to a 3-2 defeat of Sunderland in September 2016. Before the Leicester win, the club was in a precarious situation losing whenever the 26-year-old was not on the pitch. Just three wins out of 16 league games so far this season meant survival at the end of the campaign had become a concern.

But breaking that run brought renewed confidence as the side was a different beast at the home of the champions. Once again, Zaha was back in the starting XI and played a key role in holding up play and helping the other players get into advantageous positions to hurt the opponent. It worked perfectly for Roy Hodgson’s men as they hit City for three scoring two goals in … minutes.

Moving forward though, it is important the side learns how to win without the Ivory Coast international. Football is a team sport and an over-reliance on a single team member can be catastrophic. Zaha can be out of the team for different reasons. Injuries could occur, suspensions as was the case with the Leicester game can also happen. Worse still, the player could even leave the club. Learning to win in his absence has become vital.

Good as it sometimes is to build the team around a player, it can also be counter-productive. This is because in most cases, whenever he is sidelined, bad things can happen. Depending on him like a crutch could end up hurting the team. Other players must be made to take responsility to raise the game for the team.

There is a lot of quality in this squad and the former England boss will need to exploit these talents for the benefit of the the team as a whole. Captain Luka Milivojevic is proving very important to the team. Other players like Andros Townsend, Jeffrey Schlupp and Max Meyer are becoming more and more influential. In defence, Patrick van Aanholt, Tom Hopkins, Mamadou Sakho and youngster AaronWan-Bissaka are all putting in impressive performances.

Getting the best from them as a group is the best way forward. Zaha should become a bonus to the team rather than being made to seem indispensable to secure wins.

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Emmanuel Odey
Emmanuel is a freelance football journalist who lives and breathes the round leather game. He is a contributor on several platforms. You can connect with him on Twitter @emmanuelodeyibl

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