Whilst a return of 22 points in our last 15 games is extremely impressive, the turnaround in fortunes Bakary Sako has enjoyed under the guidance of Roy Hodgson is up there with the most impressive elements of the 70-year-old’s four-month stint in charge at Selhurst Park.
Since October 28th, Bakary Sako has played 141 minutes over 9 games.
During that time we have outscored our opponents 7-1. Difference maker.
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— Devin (@mendy_9) January 3, 2018
With only one fit out-and-out striker on our books in the shape of Christian Benteke, Roy has been forced to get creative with the tools at his disposal, prompting him to use the aforementioned Sako as a deep-lying frontman rather than a winger; a change which has generated a dramatic upturn in the Mali international’s form.
Having arrived from Wolves two-and-a-half years ago, the 29-year-old was practically out of the first-team loop altogether until Hodgson arrived. Low on confidence and struggling for minutes, plenty of Palace fans felt his days in red and blue were numbered but as the man himself has said in recent weeks, Roy has provoked a seismic change in his confidence, attitude and general work-rate since taking up the reins in September.
From the moment he was introduced to the game at St Mary’s last night, Palace were in the ascendancy, just as they were after a similarly turgid display against Watford was livened up by his presence a few weeks ago. Given his size, power and willingness to run at defenders, he can cause chaos when he sets his mind to it, with the above statistic highlighting exactly why he’s quickly becoming known as the club’s “super sub”.
When you are in the midst of a relegation battle, it’s hugely important to have game-changers available from the bench as matches tick onto the hour mark. Whilst I wouldn’t necessarily begrudge Bakary a start against Brighton in the FA Cup next Monday, there is a great deal to be said for the general sense of panic he can create when being thrown into a game when the opposition defenders have already got heavy legs.
Thankfully, after an absolutely exhausting festive period, we have now got six days to recover until the clash with the Seagulls and a further five until we play our next Premier League match at home to Burnley on the 13th of January. Should Sako make a tangible impact in one of both of those ties, his cult status amongst the Eagles faithful is sure to reach previously unseen levels.
Who’d have thought it?