Souare Lay Off Highlights Defensive Needs
Ahead of the visit of struggling Stoke to Selhurst, Palace are facing up to the reality that injuries are again depriving Alan Pardew of some key players.
With Pape Souare ruled out for up to six months following a horrific car accident last week, the question of who will play left-back is a headache Palace could have done without.
Thoughts, of course, are with the Senegalese left back who has the quick response of emergency services to thank that his injuries weren’t more calamitous, or worse, fatal. It is in circumstances like this that football becomes obsolete, and there is no doubt that support for Pape and his long road to recovery will be vociferously reciprocated by the Palace faithful at Selhurst.
As focus shifts back to the football pitch today, focus will wander to the options available to deputise. There is a question that will be on people’s lips – how is it that after spending close to £60million on transfers, Palace find themselves in a position to afford Zeki Fryers a fleeting Premier League career? At the very least between here and January, until a more accomplished replacement will no doubt be signed.
This column, like many Palace pages over recent months, has found it increasingly hard to be positive about what has unfolded over the last six months.
The dire run of form, poor decision making, lack of a clear team philosophy on how Palace should play football, and the at times spineless performances, all contributed to one horrific six month period, the fleeting FA Cup moments aside. In spite of a natural inclination to look towards the negatives, perhaps the concerns about who is going to play left back are not as much of a catastrophe as first feared.
Firstly, to get one thing clear, the fact that Fryers is recognised as the next choice left back after Pape is frankly, ridiculous. Without bashing and belittling another human being on the basis of their complete lack of competency at the job they get paid to do, it was clear all summer that Palace needed realistic competition for Souare on the left.
Again, this is not to belittle Fryers in any way. It’s merely highlighting the point that everyone at Palace knows – that Fryers is not up to it. He wasn’t up to it when Warnock was here. He wasn’t up to it when Pardew came. I hardly expect he’s up to it now.
However, in spite of Pardew’s claims to the contrary, I still find it inconceivable that we will see too much of Fryers this season.
What is likely is that Martin Kelly will deputise on the left initially. A competent defender inclined to get forward (albeit it not as frequently as Souare in full flight), Kelly should be relatively at pace with affairs. A rookie he certainly is not, and injuries aside he has at least experience of playing top flight football.
Versatility is an increasingly vital trait in Premier League football, particularly with the rules surrounding twenty-five man squads. Being adaptable across a number of positions gives players a far better chance of playing time in the event of multiple injuries or absences.
Is versatility, then, something that points to another transfer window decision of Pardew’s that raised emotions, as well as a few eyebrows?
The departure of Mile Jedinak over other squad members, for example, may have been rooted in his lack of alternative roles in the eyes of Pardew. Granted, he has filled in at centre back on a number of occasions but the arrival of James Tomkins made that obsolete.
Elsewhere, Joe Ledley was deployed as a full back by Tony Pulis at Palace on a number of occasions, as was post-Jedinak arrival Mathieu Flamini during his early Arsenal days. Between those two and Kelly, it seems even more unlikely that Pardew’s trust of Fryers extends beyond little more than lip service to deflect questions about his lack of foresight at signing cover during the window. With Kelly, Ledley and Flamini to choose from, maybe it’s not as catastrophic as it seems to be on the surface.
Souare is a huge loss. Make no mistake. His marauding forays forward are vital in providing a link between defence and attack on the flanks, and his crosses from deep regularly cause fear in opposition boxes.
However, there are options available to Pardew. They may not be the most ideal options, and will struggle to bring the same dynamism to attack that Pape does, but they may be enough to deprive us the chance of seeing just how Premier League ready Zeki Fryers really is.
Get well soon Pape!