Crystal Palace’s upturn in fortunes after the most inauspicious of starts that all but condemned the South Londoners as early-season relegation favourites is all the more remarkable for their lack of dependence on a reliable, out-and-out striker during the 2017/18 Premier League season.
With Bakary Sako and expensive flop Christian Benteke contributing a mere 20% of the Eagles’ top-flight goals, goal scoring responsibilities fell to surely their player of the season, dead-ball specialist Luka Milivojevic, and the freewheeling enigma Wilfried Zaha, with telling contributions from the unlikely pairing of Patrick van Aanholt and James McArthur. Benteke’s paltry return of 3 goals was aptly summed up in the first weeks of the season by a glaring miss at Anfield against former employer Liverpool, a game which also heralded the beginning of the end to Frank de Boer’s brief but hapless rein at Selhurst Park.
Local boy Roy Hodgson instilled his well-worn pragmatism and organisation into a team short on confidence and form; four wins out of the last five saw Palace finish the season with aplomb. Keeping hold of Zaha and ably replacing Benteke could though be the 70-year old’s greatest challenge yet.