Patience is a virtue. It also wears thin – and right now, Palace fans are feeling just a little bit nervous about the striker situation at the club.
It’s OK to be frustrated. After a flurry of activity earlier in the season, and with promises last season that Palace would look to recruit (and later reiterations from Alan Pardew that one or two strikers from five are being targeted) with just days until the season kicks off, the apparent lack of activity is concerning.
Palace currently only have Connor Wickham to call upon as a centre-forward option, and the back-up choices are either untested (Keshi Anderson, Kewsi Appiah, Freddie Ladapo) or uninspiring. Wickham had a decent game against Valencia, scoring two – but an injury to him could make life very difficult for Palace.
Pardew has attempted to play Yannick Bolasie in the striking role, and bar the most unlikely of hat-tricks away at Sunderland a couple of seasons ago, it’s not the ideal position for a player who is at his most effective on the wing. And while it’s great that Palace gained a significant fee from the sale of Dwight Gayle – a move likely needed in order to trigger the transfer of Andros Townsend – the further weakening of Palace’s attacking options without a definite replacement coming in is problematic.
It should be emphasised that the majority of Palace fans are patient, and can see the long-term aims of the club. The signings of Steve Mandanda, James Tomkins and Townsend are all indicative of a club looking to progress on the field. But the need for a striker is the most prominent of issues, while there’s also a case to be made for further quality signings in defence and midfield.
Palace struggled immeasurably last season thanks to injuries in key areas – exposing what seems a chronic lack of depth – and it seems unfathomable that the club would be weaker in attack with the season’s start just a week away - a position that lacked so little depth last season that the only way to remedy it was to sign a disruptive influence like Emanuel Adebayor.
The club have been consistently linked with Christian Benteke and Saido Berahino – two players that would improve Pardew’s attacking options – but in typical form, these have both been drawn-out affairs. Liverpool have made it clear the player is available. The player’s agent has made it clear he wants a move away from the club. The media have made it clear that Palace are interested. The question is, where are things falling down?
Saturday’s game is just the start of a long, tough season. It’s not imperative that Palace start with a new striker option – but the longer it takes, the longer it will take whoever is signed to assimilate and integrate with the squad. There’s a reason why the three signings arriving early in the window was pleasing – it showed intent. The lack of action in recruiting attacking depth is concerning for exactly the opposite reason – it suggests a lack of a plan.
Last season should have been a lesson to the club. This delay in signing a striker suggests that lesson hasn’t yet been learnt.