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Talking Tactics

Why Milivojevic is central to Palace's hopes

Adrian Clarke 25 Mar 2018
Luka Milivojevic, Crystal Palace

Adrian Clarke analyses the platform that the combative midfielder provides to the Eagles' attacking players

Adrian Clarke looks at six players who could be instrumental to their side’s hopes of staying in the Premier League.

Luka Milivojevic  

Wilfried Zaha is understandably lauded as Crystal Palace’s most valuable player, but Luka Milivojevic runs him very close.

The Serb provides Zaha and his fellow front men with a significantly stronger platform upon which to construct their attacks.

His ability to cover vast amounts of ground, turning possession over, allows Palace manager Roy Hodgson the option of fielding two natural wingers.

Hodgson is happy to deploy a bold 4-4-2 for certain matches because he knows Milivojevic will firm up his midfield.

No Palace player runs further or at a higher average speed than him.

2017/18 Palace running stats
Midfielder  Km covered/90  Ave speed km/h
 Luka Milivojevic 12.0 7.43
 James McArthur 11.9 7.41
 Yohan Cabaye 11.4 7.14

Always looking to pounce on the second ball or engage in physical contact with his opponents, Milivojevic’s primary role is to recycle possession for his team-mates. He does it incredibly well. 

No Palace player wins the ball as much as him, and only three other central midfielders, Nemanja Matic, Wilfred Ndidi and Idrissa Gueye, have done so on more occasions.

Cabaye partnership

Milivojevic has also made the fourth-highest number of interceptions in the Premier League. However, here, his total of 57 falls two behind his midfield partner, Yohan Cabaye.

The two Palace central midfielders are outstanding at picking off loose passes.

Milivojevic has caught the eye with eight goals this season, of which six have come from the penalty spot. But his main function is to reclaim the ball and release it quickly to Palace's forwards.

Milivojevic in 2017/18
   Milivojevic  Nearest team-mate
 Possession won defensive third  103 84 Van Aanholt
 Possession won middle third  98 73 McArthur
 Tackles  73 57 Schlupp
 Ball recoveries  215 145 Cabaye
 Accurate long balls  93 59 Tomkins

Over the closing stretch of their campaign Milivojevic will be pivotal to Palace's objective of staying in the Premier League.

Also in this series

Part 1: Tadic creativity key to Saints' destiny
Part 2: Assured Mawson Swansea's shining light
Part 4: Unfamiliar role adds to value of Cresswell
Part 5: How Shelvey can help Newcastle hit their target
Part 6: Schindler has strength for Huddersfield's tests ahead

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