Crystal Palace huff and puff without Wilfried Zaha as Michy Batshuayi’s struggles continue

Jack Rosser
·3 min read
<p>Huff and puff: Michy Batshuayi</p> (AP)

Huff and puff: Michy Batshuayi

(AP)

Crystal Palace were given a taste of their own medicine at Turf Moor on Monday night.

After Cheikhou Kouyate’s early mistake handed Burnley the lead after just eight minutes - the first goal Sean Dyche’s side have managed at home this season - the hosts sat deep and frustrated as Palace looked to pepper the box, only for everything to be knocked back.

It is a routine Palace themselves are well versed in under Hodgson, but simply don’t have the codes to crack when the tables are turned, especially without Wilfried Zaha.

Palace have added depth and quality this season, but the Ivorian is still their main man. Zaha had been involved in Palace’s last 59 Premier League games before Monday night and rarely have to cope without their talisman. When he’s not there, things tend to fall away. The Eagles have lost 20 of their 28 Premier League games without the 28-year-old.

Eberechi Eze tried his damndest to bring some life to a stodgy Palace side, but without players - like Zaha - on the same creative wavelength the playmaker struggled to get the visitors clicking.

Hodgson has always preferred sides which err on the side of caution instead of throwing everything forward, but against a side as deep and well-drilled as Burnley, more creative licence was needed.

Newcastle later this week may offer Palace some more space to get things going, but after the feeling ahead of the game was that - with the likes of Eze and Michy Batshuayi - Palace’s reliance on Zaha had dwindled, his absence only proved a reminder of his importance.

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Kouyate exposed at the back after stellar run

Kouyate has been one of Crystal Palace’s standout players this season.

Since being called upon to drop into the back four due to an early defensive injury crisis, the former West Ham man has excelled. However, faced with one of the Premier League’s most physical forward lines at Burnley on Monday night, Kouyate showed signs of struggling.

The 30-year-old was at fault for handing Burnley the opener - their first home goal of this Premier League season - when his woeful header clear fell straight to Jay Rodriguez who, via the back of Scott Dann, was able to feed Wood to score.

Kouyate recovered well enough, but with Gary Cahill sat in the stands you wonder whether Hodgson will be tempted to go back to a more natural option for the visit of Newcastle on Friday night.

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Getty Images

Batshuayi struggles continue

The Belgian striker was a fine addition to Hodgson’s side when he was brought in for six months at the end of the 2018-19 season.

It made perfect sense to bring Batshuayi back from Chelsea at the start of this season, but things are taking a little longer to get going.

The 27-year-old is working tirelessly and getting into good positions, but just seems to be lacking confidence and conviction in the final third.

A driving first half run had the Burnley back four caught out for a rare moment, only for Batshuayi to fire narrowly wide - and he failed to take advantage of a Dwight McNeil back pass which he raced onto but was not quick enough to finish past Nick Pope. It may just take one goal to get the ball rolling once more, everyone will be hoping that comes sooner rather than later.