With the departure of young right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka confirmed, this summer is already proving eventful for Crystal Palace.
Having spent just £10 million across the last two transfer windows, Palace possess a thin (albeit solid) squad. However, with £50m on its way in thanks to Manchester United and the FFP cycle working in their favour, circumstances suggest that there may be a fair few players on their way to the sunny streets of SE25.
Reports this week have also been linking starman Wilfried Zaha with a move across London to Arsenal; however, Arsenal’s budget is said to amount to approximately £45m, a long way off Palace’s £80m valuation of the Ivorian attacker. With one bright talent already packing his bags, it seems unlikely Steve Parish will let Zaha depart as well unless an extraordinary sum of money is offered. Now that the Eagles have some cash to splash, we looked at three possible ways Hodgson could line them up next season.
Dream: Re-invest the Wan-Bissaka money and more
Palace fans have been eager to see the club spend big on the squad as they haven’t really done so since the summer of 2016, when the club bought the likes of Christian Benteke, Andros Townsend and James Tomkins. Fortunately, with what is nearly a world record fee for a full-back in their hands, the Eagles finally have some money to play with.
Firstly, they must look to replace Wan-Bissaka. Young full-back Max Aarons was outstanding for Norwich in their title charge last season and was even scouted by United as a potential Wan-Bissaka back-up should the deal fall through. It is thought Norwich would ask for approximately £20m for the 19-year-old defender, who provided six assists and two goals for the Canaries last campaign. He would offer a more attacking option than Wan-Bissaka, and is similar to the full-back playing on the other side in Patrick van Aanholt, thus providing some attacking balance to the Palace XI.
Since coming up, Palace have been renowned for their exciting, counter-attacking style with players such as Zaha and Bolasie lighting up the flanks up and down the country. With very limited depth on the wings, Allan Saint-Maximin has emerged as a target for the Eagles as well as a host of other Premier League clubs. With dazzling trickery and an even more dazzling Gucci headband, Saint-Maximin seems to fit the Selhurst mould perfectly. Nice are after £25m for the 22-year-old French winger, who could potentially replace Wilfried Zaha in the future if he seeks pastures new.
But the position Palace will surely look to strengthen in first is up front. Current club strikers Christian Benteke, Alexander Sorloth and Connor Wickham scored just one league goal between them last season, with captain Luka Milivojevic and Zaha taking on the responsibility in front of goal. Michy Batshuayi scored five goals in 11 games on loan from Chelsea in the second half of 2018/19 and is a very popular choice to take the no.9 shirt at Selhurst Park. Whether Chelsea would be willing to let the Belgian go is a different matter, unfortunately, given their transfer ban. If they are, he is likely to set Palace back £35m. However, he would be worth the investment: Palace were third in the Premier League form table during Batshuayi’s spell at the club.
Realistic: Spend wisely and save money for stadium redevelopment
Palace announced at the end of 2017 that their main stand was going to be totally redeveloped into a state of the art cornerstone for Selhurst Park. Whether they like it or not, this is going to cost them money. They already have a good squad with good players, and it is likely that a large chunk of the money they receive will go straight towards to construction of the new stand.
Liverpool right-back Nathaniel Clyne has become something of a forgotten man at Anfield after the emergence of Trent Alexander-Arnold and is reportedly keen on a return to Palace, where he began his career. Clyne spent the second half of last season on loan at Bournemouth, so would likely be available at a reasonable price. Still well liked by Palace fans, the 28-year-old will be eager to reinvigorate his career. Palace could provide the perfect foundations to do so.
An alternative and more cost-effective option up front instead of Batshuayi would be Brentford’s Ollie Watkins. Watkins broke into the Exeter first-team in 2017 before moving to Brentford, where he scored 10 goals and recorded eight assists in his first season. Last season was disrupted by injury, but Palace and Southampton are both rumoured to be keen on the forward. Watkins can play anywhere across the front three and is not a conventional no.9 as such but, at just 23 years of age, it is thought that Palace view him as a potential star in the making as an out-and-out striker. He would likely cost half of what Batshuayi would, too, and would represent a far more diverse option for Roy Hodgson.
Watkins would likely get pushed very hard by Christian Benteke for the lone striker position, but we’ve given him the nod in our line-up.
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Wildcard: Sell Zaha too and commence spending spree
Zaha’s wish to play Champions League football is one that Palace are highly unlikely to be able to fulfil. It seems very improbable that Zaha will remain in South London for the rest of his career, but his huge price tag is deterring many of his potential suitors. However, if Arsenal, Spurs or Liverpool can make some money through player sales, we could see the maverick attacker on the move this window.
If he does go, Palace will have approximately £125m to work with should they choose to reinvest it all in the squad. With that kind of money, they could entirely reinvent their side.
Reece James was outstanding for Wigan Athletic on loan from Chelsea and the Blues are notorious for failing to give their young players a chance. James would slot in at right-back to replace Wan-Bissaka and would certainly be a wise business move too since his value is surely only going to increase as his career progresses.
Fulham spent big on Jean-Michael Seri last summer, but the Ivorian flattered to deceive during his time at the club. Regardless, he won’t want to play in the Championship next season, and his high energy and creative spark would compliment the tough-tackling style of Luka Milivojevic. Fulham will not be able to recoup the full £25m that they spent on the midfielder, so Palace could potentially get the 27-year-old at a cut price.
Up front, Everton’s Ademola Lookman is an attacking target whom Palace should seriously consider. The promising young attacker’s game-time at Everton has been severely limited and, with Marco Silva reportedly in the market for another winger, Lookman may seek a move sooner rather than later. The 21-year-old hails from South London and fits the dynamic, skilful image of a Palace attacker that many have sculpted after watching the Eagles since their promotion in 2013. Young, English and from the Premier League, Lookman wouldn’t come cheap, but his likely eagerness to move combined with his huge potential means it could be a risk worth taking.
Lookman is similar to Zaha in his dynamism and versatility when it comes to playing across the front three, perfectly complimenting potential partner Michy Batshuayi if the two were to start up front together. If the Eagles could fit the pair into a starting XI, they would cause any defence in the land problems.