Talking Tactics

Move up front makes Zaha a striking force

By Adrian Clarke 20 Apr 2018
Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend celebrate the late equaliser against West Ham

Ahead of Saturday's trip to Watford, Adrian Clarke on why forward role offers Crystal Palace more threat

Related Articles
Zaha “buzzing” after crucial win External Link
The Palace squad's stickers: Then and now External Link
How Hegazi can thwart Salah at Hawthorns

When he plays as a striker Wilfried Zaha offers more threat for Crystal Palace.

Having played out wide in seven of his previous nine appearances, Zaha joined Andros Townsend up front for the 2-2 draw at AFC Bournemouth and 3-2 home win over Brighton & Hove Albion and excelled.

Forward progress

He scored three times from 10 shots in those two matches. Six of those shots were on target. He also created four chances.

At AFC Bournemouth, for example, Zaha touched the ball 20 times in the final 18 yards of the pitch, including 11 inside the box.

Zaha’s best role 

Palace have yet to pick up a point without Zaha in the starting line-up this season, so he is indispensable to Roy Hodgson.

Zaha has only scored seven goals, but when you analyse his impact, Palace clearly perform better with him up top.

He is comfortable partnering Christian Benteke, but his ultra-mobile combination with Townsend generates more goals and points.

So expect Hodgson to stick with that pairing for the trip to Watford on Saturday.

Zaha's influence on Palace
  Pts/match Goals/match
Zaha + Townsend 1.44 1.55
Zaha + Benteke 1.37 1.37
Zaha wide 1.25 1.00
No Zaha 0 0.33

*includes 45min appearance v Chelsea with Benteke

Townsend understanding

Zaha’s record as a forward is markedly improved when he plays alongside Townsend.

Although he is well suited to playing off Benteke, the speed, athleticism and unpredictable movement of the Zaha-Townsend axis is more difficult for opponents to contain.

This means he enjoys more opportunities to shoot at goal.

Zaha's attacking threat
  With Townsend With Benteke Wide
Apps 9 8 8
Goals 6 1 0
Shots 27 20 9
Shots on target 13 5 4
Key passes 15 18 11
Loftus-Cheek boost

The return to fitness of Ruben Loftus-Cheek is another bonus for Palace's trip to Vicarage Road.

Most of Zaha’s appearances as a striker have come when Loftus-Cheek has been available to start in midfield.

Loftus-Cheek is comfortable operating on the left, which frees up Zaha to play in attack.

They combine down that side of the pitch, a relationship that is reflected in results.

Palace have lost only three of 13 matches when Zaha and Loftus-Cheek are in the same starting XI, earning 1.46 points per match.

If that were their season’s average Palace would be eighth in the table and not 16th.

With Hodgson blessed with a full complement of attackers, Watford’s defence will have their hands full in Saturday’s 15:00 BST kick-off.

Also in this series

Part 1: McClean energy can help shackle Liverpool
Part 2: How Hegazi can thwart Salah at Hawthorns
Part 4: Wood and Barnes thriving as Burnley double act

Latest Videos

More Videos