Crystal Palace have become overly and almost completely reliant on the brilliance of Wilfried Zaha in recent seasons, and something needs to change if the Eagles have genuine ambitions of preserving their Premier League status.
That notion was illuminated last season by Palace’s failure to collect a single point in the 8 fixtures in which Zaha was absent through injury. Whether he was deployed on the left-wing, as an inside-forward or at the focal point of Palace’s attack, practically any positive interplay in the final-third arrived as a result of his flair.
To credit Zaha with single-handedly keeping Palace in the top-flight would not be an exaggeration, even if that opinion serves to undermine the brilliant work of Roy Hodgson who managed to get the best out of him during the business end of the season.
But unless Palace strengthen their attack and reduce the responsibility on Zaha’s shoulders in the near future relegation will become inevitable. With that in mind, Hodgson needs to begin scouting the market for a talent who could genuinely ease the pressure on the Ivory Coast international and bring a fresh dynamic to the attack.
One player who fits the aforementioned description is Hertha Berlin’s Valentino Lazaro – a player whom Hertha acquired for just £5.85 million during the summer.
The 22-year-old Austrian winger is one of the rising stars in Bundesliga football and he has been widely tipped for a glowing future in the game. Close control, flair and dazzling dribbling are three characteristics which sum up his style of play.
Unlike plenty of modern day wingers he is not overly reliant on pace for success in the final-third – he is certainly no slouch but it’s his technical ability and balance rather than his speed which allow him to ghost past defenders in the final-third.
The fact he only managed to score 2 goals and provide 5 assists from 26 Bundesliga appearances last season does not make for startling viewing for Palace supporters, but it must be considered that it was his first season in the German top-flight and he is still only a young player at 22.
Lazaro has already started the season in promising form with an assist in Hertha’s 1-0 opening day victory over Nuremberg. With another season of Bundesliga football under his belt he should be ready to make the transition to Premier League football next summer.
By that time he will certainly be worth considerably more than the £5.85m Hertha paid to sign him this summer, but the prospect of making a healthy profit on their initial investment would certainly tempt the Bundesliga outfit into agreeing a deal.
Palace need to bring a new attacking midfielder to the club in order to transform their attack and Lazaro looks like an ideal candidate to inject some magic at Selhurst Park.
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