Premier League

Solanke could save Palace... and his Liverpool career

 • by Harry Gray
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Crystal Palace’s failure to find the net on a regular basis this season is somewhat of an open secret.

The Selhurst Park club have netted just 14 Premier League goals, making them the top flight’s third-least productive side in terms of scoring and leaving them firmly embroiled in the relegation conversation.

January, though, brings with it the transfer window and the chance for Roy Hodgson to strengthen his armoury and add all-important goals to his ranks.

In Dominic Solanke, who has been linked with a loan move from Liverpool, Palace may have found a slightly left-field answer to their needs.

The 21-year-old made the switch to Anfield from Chelsea in the summer of 2017 in search of regular first-team football and, despite playing 21 times in the Premier League in 2017/18, has been unable to work his way up the pecking order on Merseyside.

With Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah, Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi all seemingly favoured ahead of Solanke by Jürgen Klopp, a short-term departure from Merseyside may be just what the forward needs.

More than meets the eye

At first inspection, there is little to suggest Solanke, a scorer of one top-flight goal last season and without a first-team appearance this term, can provide the goals to propel Palace away from danger.

However, a deeper dive into the figures behind Solanke’s form last term shows he has plenty of strings to his bow and can be a threat given regular opportunities.

His 583 minutes of Premier League football in 2017/18 came with only five starts, but limited time on the pitch didn’t prevent Solanke from being involved in his side’s attacking endeavours; he created 0.61 big chances per 90 minutes.

The forward, who has a fine record of 35 goals from 67 games for England’s various youth levels and a solitary senior cap, also boasted an expected goals value of 0.58 per 90 minutes, adding to the belief he can make an impact where it counts.

Solanke also managed to muster 3.39 attempts on goal per 90 minutes and is frequently involved with link-up play, producing 2.16 key passes for every full game played.

Simply put, if Solanke can produce similar numbers on a consistent basis, his goal and assist output should increase.

The competition

Furthermore, a quick look at Palace’s scorers this term makes their need for firepower all the more evident and they lack an attacker in any kind of form.

Luka Milivojević is out on his own with four top-flight goals this season, three of which have come from the penalty spot, and Palace only have seven scorers across all competitions.

The signing of Alexander Sørloth hasn’t worked and then there is the Christian Benteke problem. 

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Having netted 17 times in all competitions in his first season at Palace during 2016/17, the striker appears a husk of the player who convinced the South London club to part with £27million to secure his services from Liverpool.

Fitness issues haven’t helped the big Belgian – he has played just 328 minutes in the league this season – but he is nearing a return after picking up an injury four games into the campaign.

Benteke does have a record of 0.62 expected goals per 90 to his name this season, yet a look at his stats from last term make for far more illuminating viewing.

A return of three league goals came from 2,236 minutes of action, a goalscoring figure which should have been greater considering Benteke ended the campaign with an expected goal output of 10.4.

Solanke, a player seven years Benteke’s junior, would arrive looking to prove to the powers that be on Merseyside he has what it takes to prosper. He may represent the better option.

And given Solanke was likened to Zlatan Ibrahimović during a previous loan spell, which saw him score seven times in 21 starts for Vitesse Arnhem, the reward may just outway the risk for Palace were they to pursue a loan next month.

Solanke would certainly benefit from regular game time and Liverpool could even get a glimpse of the player the youngster can develop into.

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