Crystal Palace were subject to a frustrating afternoon in the Midlands on Saturday as Aston Villa stole all three points in stoppage time.
Roy Hodgson was unfortunately absent from the game due to illness, although he was still in charge of naming the lineup, and opted to leave Jean-Philippe Mateta out once again.
That was despite the Frenchman’s heroic actions in the 3-2 win over Wolves, in which he impressively grabbed two assists in just 19 minutes to secure all three points.
What’s the story?
Well, Crystal Palace fans love a trier who never gives in.
After a difficult 2022/23 campaign and doubts over his future at Selhurst Park this summer, Mateta has responded brilliantly to register three goals and three assists in just 193 minutes of action across all competitions this season.
That equates to a goal involvement roughly every 32 minutes, which is an excellent return – to say the least.
Mateta was again involved as he assisted Odsonne Edouard at Villa Park, and if Hodgson fails to reward the 26-year-old for his efforts with a start against Fulham, the Crystal Palace No.14 would have every right to be upset.
Crystal Palace must replace Jeffrey Schlupp with Jean-Philippe Mateta
We don’t like to single out any Crystal Palace player, as football is a team game.
However, it is becoming increasingly obvious that we can upgrade on Jeffrey Schlupp.
After five Premier League games so far, the 30-year-old has been the weak link, and he no longer deserves to start when Mateta is grabbing his limited opportunities with both hands.
Of course, that would require a slight tactical tweak.
In our view, Hodgson should consider a 4-4-2 against Fulham, with Jefferson Lerma and Cheick Doucoure providing a foundation in midfield for Eberechi Eze and Jordan Ayew to push forward on the wings, supporting a strike partnership of Edouard and Mateta.
Of course, Eze is not a winger – as shown under Patrick Vieira – but the England international is smart enough to drift inside in something of a free role. Until Michael Olise and Matheus Franca are fit, this is the shape we would use.
Hopefully, the £9m Mateta is rewarded for his superb attitude with a first Premier League start of the season on Saturday.