The Ghana star’s luckless run in front of goal now stands at 31 games, and there’s a resignation that Liverpool will extend this drought to 32 matches
The sound of Jonathan Moss’ whistle at Selhurst Park was met with an excitement that hadn’t been felt at Crystal Palace in months, following their 3-0 success over Tottenham Hotspur.
Red card to Japhet Tanganga aside, the Eagles were the more ambitious team before the young defender’s dismissal just before the hour and merited maximum points on the balance of play. Aside from a couple of FA Cup wins over the North London outfit in 2016 and 2019, this is a fixture that tends to end with Spurs on the winning side.
This was Palace’s first Premier League win against Tottenham in 13 attempts, ending a six-year wait since that 2-1 win over their cross-town rivals since January 2015. Only three players from that 18-man squad remain, including Wilfried Zaha who thrived in Saturday’s triumph.
It was Patrick Vieira’s first win in South London and it was thoroughly deserved after weeks of improvement following that disjointed opening day defeat at Chelsea.
If you’re a glass-half-full person, you’re bound to look at the positives from that incredible showing at Selhurst Park. If you see the glass as half-empty, then Jordan Ayew’s extended goal drought will be a nagging worry.
In a sense, the latter statement will be derided by optimists in South London.
Zaha, the club’s talisman scored and assisted, new signing Odsonne Edouard had a dream debut, on-loan Chelsea midfielder Connor Gallagher continues to impress and Michael Olise finally featured for the Eagles.
The latter was even involved in the move leading up to Edouard’s second for the club, and observers are already predicting he’d supplant Ayew in the XI in no time.
While that claim remains to be seen, the Ghana star’s blank last time out extended an unbelievable run that’s lasted 31 matches without finding the back of the net.
The 10-month drought began in November last year following a 4-1 hammering of Leeds United and it’ll be a surprise if it doesn’t extend to 32 with Vieira’s men to visit Liverpool on Saturday.
A notable facet of the West African’s play in the box last week was the lack of conviction in his two shots, perhaps indicative of a player currently low on confidence and one who hasn’t netted in almost a year.
Admittedly, neither shot came from a clear-cut chance — and the fact both shots amounted to 0.1xG reflects this — but a player in form may have converted either opportunity.
The first came immediately after Tanganga’s dismissal but the Ghana international couldn’t direct his shot on target following Gallagher’s delivery. The forward’s reaction showed his irritation.
Six minutes later, Ayew should have opened the scoring. After Zaha got the better of Emerson Royal and sent a cross into the box to his West African teammate who smartly held his run at the far post, the Black Star’s lack of conviction was evident in the execution of the eventual shot blocked by Dele Alli.
Despite firing blanks yet again, though, the 30-year-old attacker was involved for his side until his 86th-minute withdrawal.
Only two players outdid his four shot-creating actions (defined as passes, dribbles or fouls drawn directly leading to a shot), he ranked third for successful dribbles for Palace and was second to Zaha for progressive carries (10-7).
Furthermore, his four tackles plus interceptions tally was outdone by James McArthur and Tyrick Mitchell’s five, a tally he could have surpassed if he finished the game.
Having said that, Ayew needs to start scoring again if he’s to retain his place in the team, particularly after the summer arrivals of Edouard and Olise.
In a slight defence of the Ghanaian, though, he hasn’t missed chance after chance in the last 10 months. Ayew’s non-penalty expected goals of 2.4 last term (resulting in one goal) was rather low and the fact he failed to tuck away only one opportunity that fell into the big chance category further highlights this claim.
Roy Hodgson’s men ranked 18th for clear-cut chances created last year, suggesting the former Lorient striker was hamstrung by his former manager’s conservative nature.
It feels a long time ago that Ayew seemed to rise to a role as co-talisman along with Zaha pre-lockdown in 2029/20, where he eventually scored nine Premier League goals, notably from 6.5xG.
The ongoing drought began following the league’s resumption and the 30-year-old’s goals drying up is a concern.
Vieira praised his team’s Spurs showing in Friday’s press conference but has called on them to produce a repeat performance against one of Europe’s best sides on Saturday.
“We just have to go on the field to perform and give them problems, because there are also sides we can exploit,” the Frenchman told reporters on Friday. “To exploit it we must be brave and go there thinking we can get something from the game. If we go there thinking about defending for 90 minutes, they will score goals because they can do that.
“We had a good game (against Tottenham), yes, but can we repeat this kind of performance? This is our challenge.”
Liverpool have won the last nine encounters between the clubs, with the last three matches finishing 4-0, 7-0 and 2-0 to the Reds. Having ended a six-year wait against Spurs last time out, another top showing at Anfield will demonstrate the growth of this Palace side since a disappointing opening day performance at Stamford Bridge.
If Ayew scores in the process, perhaps those people seeing a glass-half-empty will wear a robe of positivity and optimism and start to believe in Vieira’s Eagles rebuild.