Crystal Palace may have been struggling at the wrong end of the table throughout the 2017-18 Premier League season but in terms of willing dribblers, statistics prove that there is no team better than the Eagles.
— Bill Edgar (@BillEdgarTimes) December 12, 2017
With the notable exception of the always fantastic Eden Hazard, the trio of Andros Townsend, Wilfried Zaha and Ruben Loftus-Cheek make up the second, third and fourth most proficient dribblers in the top flight so far this term, leaving plenty to no doubt wonder how we are still without a single league goal to our names since May.
Whilst Townsend can point towards his solid working relationship with Roy Hodgson as a catalyst for his willingness to run at defences, Ruben and Wilf have both defied the odds somewhat is occupying a lofty position in the dribbling league table.
It’s easy to say now but back in August, no one was quite sure of Loftus-Cheek’s credentials, given the sparse game-time he’d been afforded at Stamford Bridge. Now looked upon as an almost guaranteed starter in Roy Hodgson’s mind, it is a testament to the midfielder’s talent and work-rate that he is flourishing in SE25. Strong, fast and skilful, it’s little wonder he’s such an adept runner with the ball; leaving me to hope that he can get a few goals to his name between now and May as a reward for his regularly impressive displays in the Palace midfield.
For Zaha, this season has been something of a war of attrition. Kicked to within an inch of his life on the opening day against Huddersfield, Palace’s talisman was forced to watch the next six games from the sidelines, making his appearance in the league’s top four dribblers after 17 games all the more impressive. When you add to that his deployment as a stand-in striker whilst Christian Benteke was out of the side through injury, alongside Hodgson’s continued use of him through the middle rather than on the flanks in the weeks since, it’s a minor miracle to see him so high on the list.
You could be forgiven for wondering how Palace aren’t at least in mid-table at this stage, given the attacking weapons they have at their disposal but with lone striker Christian Benteke without a goal to his name since May, it’s not hard to see where the roadblock lies. Hopefully, things will click into place at the King Power Stadium this Saturday and the boys will get their first away goals of the campaign to take us to seven games unbeaten.
We live in hope.