Over the next five days, we’ll be reviewing the season so far for five of Crystal Palace’s most influential players, explaining their role in the last 29 matches and what to expect from them in the upcoming nine. To start, Jordan Ayew…
Jordan Ayew’s role has been indisputable for the Eagles this season. The Palace frontman has gone from bagging twice on loan in 2018/19 to netting eight times before the ‘19/20 season has even finished.
Speaking in December, manager Roy Hodgson praised Ayew’s involvement, saying: “He’s got ability. I don’t think anyone’s ever doubted that and we certainly never doubted it.
“We knew all along that he’s got the capability of scoring those goals. I think his game’s improved, I think his confidence has improved as it should do - he deserves to be confident. He’s played a vital part for us this year."
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But what does that “vital part” actually look like?
Ayew’s goal tally itself is impressive for the season, with the Ghanain bagging just over a third of the team’s league total. However, his involvement becomes perhaps more crucial when considering the points it has earned Palace.
Ayew is teetering on the edge of breaking a seasonal club record. Having earned the Eagles 14 points from eight goals this season, Ayew sits just one point behind Andrew Johnson’s contribution in 2004/05. No single player has collected Palace more points in Premier League history.
Beyond goalscoring, though, the No.9 is a constant terror in offensive areas. His dogged drive keeps opposition defences alert, creating the time and space for creative wide players such as Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend to thrive, or the likes of Christian Benteke, Connor Wickham and Cenk Tosun time to find threatening positions for direct attacks.
He leads the way statistically for several offensive attributes, notching the most shots (46) and shots on target (21), and has the second highest shot conversion rate (17.4%) with the joint-third highest shooting accuracy (58.3%).
Perhaps above everything he does so well in his prescribed position, however, Ayew still possesses the stats of a determined defensive midfielder, winning the fifth most tackles of anyone in the squad.
The 28-year-old can regularly be seen running to exhaustion in the middle of the park after 90 minutes, and his heat map reflects this commitment to the team’s cause.
Dividing the pitch lengthways into nine, Ayew’s most inhabited areas by far are the sixth and seventh bands (between the centre circle and penalty area).
In fact, he spends 43.9% of matches in the final third but 46.4% in the middle. For context, centre-midfielder James McArthur spends 52.3% of his time in the middle third and winger Wilfried Zaha spends 38.5% there.
That Ayew spends similar or greater amounts of time in the middle of the pitch compared with his midfield teammates speaks volumes about how deep the striker sits and is willing to defend or collect the ball.
Highlights so far
Ayew’s highlights reel for the season so far is lengthy and dramatic, but standout moments include two 90th-minute winners over West Ham United, with the home goal being a remarkable solo effort currently on course for Goal of the Season.
The frontman also bagged against rivals Brighton & Hove Albion before making it back-to-back goals by defeating Watford. He has also struck past Arsenal (twice) and Manchester United, amongst others.
Look out for…
Aston Villa are the Premier League’s most leaky side so far this season (conceding 56 times from 28 games), and Palace face them in their fourth-last match. Ayew netted against the Villans in a 1-0 home win in August, and this clash poses a golden opportunity for him to strike again.
Tomorrow (Friday, 12th), we'll be delving into Gary Cahill's role at the heart of Palace's defence on cpfc.co.uk and the official Palace app!