Tuesday evening saw confirmation that Yohan Cabaye had left Crystal Palace with the Frenchman opting for a new challenge with Dubai-based outfit Al Nasr. Now, questions loom over how Palace will look to address the hole his exit has created in their midfield.
There can be no debate over the fact that the former Newcastle man played a key role in Roy Hodgson’s first-team plans throughout the 2017/18 season but it would be short-sighted to suggest that signs of fatigue weren’t starting to show in his game. Whilst he was able to patch himself up well enough to start most Premier League games throughout the campaign, he was rarely on the pitch when the final whistle sounded; a fact which left the Eagles hierarchy with no option but to offer him a reduction in his previous high weekly wage.
A very small minority have suggested that the central midfielder has “sold out” by heading to the desert but I for one don’t blame him for jumping at the chance of one last big payday in the sun. Could he have done a job in the top flight for another year or two? Absolutely. Should he feel obligated to put his body through hell after the career he’s had to date? Not in my book.
My initial reaction to his departure was one of rather frantic concern, given the regularity with which he’s been used by Hodgson since September but the longer I’ve had to digest the news, the calmer I’m becoming. Plenty have already suggested that Dutchman Jairo Riedewald is now primed and ready to step into Yohan’s shoes, having shown signs of his potential throughout his debut campaign in SE25 whilst one or two others have implored the gaffer to show faith in young England starlet Nya Kirby.
I’ll be the first to admit that the prospect of an academy lad making the step up into the first-team is incredibly exciting but at the level we operate, Roy will have to be 100% sure of Kirby’s abilities before throwing him in. In these heady days of summer it sounds like a wonderful idea to pass the baton on to a youngster but once the season gets underway, results will be all that matter to most, leaving little to no room for error from those that Roy selects to play.
Whilst we didn’t receive any transfer fee for Cabaye, his move does free up a sizeable chunk of money within the wage budget. At first glance, it seems obvious that we’ll be looking to source a like-for-like replacement but with McArthur, Milivojevic, Puncheon, Riedewald and Kirby already on the books, not to mention the endless discussion over a possible return to Selhurst for Ruben Loftus-Cheek, you wonder if Hodgson will opt to stick or twist in terms of recruitment.
Are other areas of the squad a more pressing concern? It’s almost impossible to know how the gaffer is viewing things but I wouldn’t rule out Kirby being backed to play an active role in the senior side between now and May. Of course it’s a daunting prospect but until now, the youngster has passed every test thrown his way with flying colours, what’s to say he won’t do it again?