BY SAM SMITH
A lack of a traditional centre forward has led to Crystal Palace switching to a 4-4-2 shape in their pre-season fixtures, according to Roy Hodgson.
The Eagles played a 4-3-3 shape for most of last season with Wilfried Zaha and Jordan Ayew flanking Christian Benteke.
But Benteke’s absence due to a broken foot has led to Hodgson using two of Zaha, Ayew and Jeffrey Schlupp in a front two. It has worked well for the South Londoners, who have won all three friendlies so far.
“The two true centre forward-type players we have at the club, Christian Benteke and Connor Wickham, are both injured so we have to find other players who can play up front,” Hodgson told Palace TV after today’s 1-0 victory over Millwall.
“They (Zaha, Ayew and Schlupp) aren’t particularly centre-forwards by trade. We have to be certain that when we get the ball we play a lot through midfield because we have not got that option of the longer ball up to a target player to hold it up for us.”
Palace have used a lopsided 4-4-2 in pre-season, with two strikers being supported by one of the wide midfielders playing higher up. The opposite wide player has been tucked in and more aligned with the central midfielders.
Max Meyer played the latter role at The Den and scored the only goal of the game. Ayew supported strikers Schlupp and Zaha from the right.
“Having two up there has been very useful, it definitely makes us look much more of a goal threat. Fortunately, due to the fact we have been keeping the ball so well and because we are working very hard to get back into shape and keep our discipline defensively, we aren’t looking like we are going to concede a lot of goals either.”
Hodgson felt his side should have beaten their South London rivals by more goals. Meyer netted slightly prior to half-time but Schlupp and Zaha, in particular, both squandered good scoring opportunities.
“We had an awful lot of possession, we well and truly restricted them to very few sights of our goal – let alone goal chances. The only disappointment is that we did create three golden opportunities to make the score bigger than the 1-0 victory. It was a definite test, like the other two tests.”
PICTURES: KEITH GILLARD
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