Can Remy and Benteke fire Crystal Palace into the top ten?
Crystal Palace struggled for goals last season and their top scorer in the league was jointly awarded to four players sitting on a pitiful five apiece. They lacked a regular source of goals and their fall down the league was a consequence of that. It was important that they addressed their striking options this summer to avoid being involved in a relegation fight.
As a result, The Eagles have brought in Loic Remy and Christian Benteke to strengthen their attack, providing a much needed boost after a poor start to the 2016/17 campaign. On paper, their squad is good enough to finish in the top half of the Premier League, but the emphasis is now on Alan Pardew to take them there.
The first thing on his agenda is to work out how best to deploy his two front-line strikers. There will be calls for him to start them together as a pair, but Pardew will have reservations about doing so. Although he speaks about being an attack-minded manager, his sides are usually set up around counter-attacking and focus first on being solid at the back.
He favours a 4-2-3-1 formation with quick wingers and a creator in the number ten role. Ideally, he will want to use that at Palace this season with an attacking trio of Andros Townsend, Wilfried Zaha and Yohan Cabaye behind a lone striker. However, this will force him to leave either Benteke or Remy out, which will not be received well by the fans.
Unlike last term, Pardew now has options in attack and has the opportunity to field a front two, something that he is likely to do at some point during the season, even if it is not his go-to system.
The two strikers have different styles and could build a fruitful partnership at Selhurst Park. Benteke is a powerful striker who dominates in the air, while Remy is more mobile and better with the ball at his feet. It could be a good move to play with the two of them together, especially at home in matches where Palace are expected to have the majority of possession.
In their last match against Bournemouth, they dominated the play, but didn’t have any cutting edge in the final third. This wouldn’t be the case if they had both Remy and Benteke on the pitch. Having two proven strikers like these doesn’t only increase the goal threat, but it creates space for midfielders to exploit. Palace have an excellent array of attacking midfielders and they should thrive in the space created by Benteke and Remy.
It wouldn’t be a traditional 4-4-2 either, as Remy likes to drop deep and influence the play, or even pull away into the wider areas. He has a good eye for a pass and is capable of running with the ball. Palace have lacked a direct runner like him in central areas during recent campaigns. They have traditionally played target men in the striking role, which has been effective, but Remy offers a different threat and that will be welcomed.
The Frenchman is a strong finisher, with an impressive strike rate since arriving in England. Benteke is similar in terms of his strike rate, but he is much better aerially, while Remy scores more with his feet.
Their differing styles will allow them to mesh together well. Benteke will dominate aerial tussles, while the former Chelsea man will buzz around him, looking for opportunities to feed off the Belgian’s knock downs. After underwhelming spells at bigger clubs, both players will be coming to Selhurst Park with a point to prove, which will benefit Palace hugely.
After the signing of Benteke, Palace fans wouldn’t have been expecting another quality forward to arrive, but depth was needed. Although Pardew will field one striker in most matches, the option to start with a front two is a weapon that makes Palace more flexible tactically. Their horrific run in 2016 was caused by their predictability and they have learned from that. They now have two proven goal-scorers at Premier League level and their partnership could fire Palace to the top ten.
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