All three of Crystal Palace’s centre-forwards have had their moments in 2022/23.
Christian Benteke roasted Gabriel Magalhaes like a plump Christmas turkey en route to a brilliant individual strike away at Arsenal in October. Odsonne Edouard marked his Premier League debut with two goals in six minutes in a 3-0 dismantling of London neighbours Tottenham Hotspur.
Jean-Philippe Mateta, meanwhile, was the toast of Selhurst Park as Everton were ripped limb from sorry limb in the FA Cup quarter-finals.
Those isolated ‘moments’ of quality, however, have not translated into consistency. Between them, Benteke, Edouard and Mateta have scored just 16 league goals in 2021/22.
Wilfried Zaha is the top scoring player under Patrick Vieira’s stewardship. Chelsea loanee Conor Gallagher comes in second. And with Gallagher almost certain to return to Stamford Bridge – and with The Mail suggesting that Palace could finally be willing to free Zaha from his Selhurst shackles – it almost goes without saying that Vieira will need more from his centre-forwards next season.
Or, failing that, an entirely new number nine.
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But while no one is any the wiser about who may be leading the line for Crystal Palace in 2022/23, it’s surely time to draw a big thick line in indelible ink through Randy Nteka’s name.
L’Equipe reported in January that the Eagles are keeping close tabs on Rayo Vallecano’s 6ft 2ins Frenchman.
He hasn’t found the net since then. In fact, it’s over six months since Nteka scored the most recent of his three La Liga goals, in a valiant 3-2 defeat to newly-crowned Copa del Rey winners Real Betis. A run of 19 barren games, totalling nearly 700 minutes of action.
Nteka wasn’t exactly prolific in the second tier either, netting eight times in 40 games for Fuenlabrada before joining Rayo over the summer.
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Stylistically speaking, Nteka is a striker with plenty in common with Benteke and Mateta. He’s tall, strong with his back to goal and works exceedingly hard to bring his team-mates into play.
But if Palace are to progress under Vieira – potentially without Galagher and/or Zaha – then they probably need better than Mateta and Benteke. And certainly better than Nteka.
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