Wilfried Zaha, Yannick Bolasie, Jason Puncheon, Andros Townsend and now, imminently, Christian Benteke. Crystal Palace are forming the sort of attack that are just as likely to put seven past Bayern Munich in a pre-season as they are to go on an 11 match scoring drought.
To put this into real terms, I’ve had a look at the goalscoring records of the above players. Zaha has on only four occasions scored in consecutive games. Bolasie and Townsend: three times. Puncheon, by depressing comparison, is a goalscoring wizard. He’s scored in two consecutive games a whopping SEVEN times, four goals in three games in the 13/14 season (all of which affected the result), and a positively mental four goals in four consecutive games for League Two Barnet in 07/08 (Barnet taking 1 from a possible 12 points in those games).
The remarkable stats don’t end there, however. Townsend has scored 6 of his 18 club goals in ‘consecutive game’ runs. A third of his goals have come in clumps of form; he’s consistently inconsistent. Bolasie and Zaha’s records are worryingly similar.
Bolasie and Zaha also have a nice shared stat: both have had a season (13/14 and 10/11 respectively) in which they’ve received more red cards than scored goals. Riveting stuff. Both also have enviable goal drought records; Bolasie didn’t score at Selhurst Park for almost three years. Zaha managed to go almost 2 years to the day without scoring at all. £15 million well spent by United. But as long as he’s fulfilling someone’s home grown players quota, who cares right?
Benteke, on the other hand, has a genuinely impressive goalscoring tally, with 51 Premier League goals in 96 appearances. Maybe not Aguero-esque, but impressive nonetheless. The problem comes with consistency, or lack thereof; yes, he’s a mercurial talent, capable of the astounding, but also of the infuriating. Yes, in 14/15 he had a 13 in 13 scoring run. And even this season, he started with two sets of scoring in consecutive games. But the former was preceded by 3 in 22. The latter was followed by a 13 game goal drought. If Palace are looking for a decent goal tally by an imposing striker, they need look no further than the Belgian. But if they’re looking to amend the form that saw them go 16 weeks without a win last season, Benteke might be a £32 million mistake.
And the big question is how on earth this sort of roster would line up. Four wingers and a no.9 will no doubt sound pleasing to all those who wish to see endless balls punted at a big man up top, but finding a system that utilises the attacking talents available to carve out chances of genuine quality will be tricky. Is Alan Pardew really the man to solve that sort of conundrum? Playing Zaha through the middle (it’s what Fergie would’ve wanted) may give you a good, cheap counter attacking team on FIFA Ultimate Team but everyone will end up hating you, and it probably won’t work in the Premier League anyway.
On the off chance they all come together on one day of the season and have THAT game they’re all capable of, Pardew will be hailed as a managerial and transfer guru. But for the second half of the season, as they slip from ‘Europa League hopefuls’ to relegation dodgers once more, it won’t be long before Pardew joins Sunderland and Townsend moves on to become to most cumulatively expensive player in England and no one knows how or why.
By Joe Cohen