Connect in the back of the net

Sunderland’s relegation was expected long before it became official and as such the discussion surrounding the future of Jermain Defoe has been going on since January.

It is clear the veteran striker has an embedded release clause in his contract on Wearside which becomes active upon the club’s relegation from the Premier League.

This clause will allow the former Tottenham Hotspur star to leave the club for free and several Premier League clubs are hoping they can tempt the 34-year-old despite the fact Bournemouth have made much of the early running in the race.

One such latecomer to the battle for Defoe’s signature is Crystal Palace, now coached by Sam Allardyce, with the team having just mathematically secured their place in England’s top flight with a string of good results culminating in a 4-0 victory which condemned Marco Silva’s Hull City to the Championship.

 

Recruitment switched on

With safety assured Allardyce can now begin to press on with his recruitment plans, a phase which many Sunderland supporters will be frustrated didn’t happen at their club last summer when the former Bolton Wanderers boss left to take charge of the national team.

Goals haven’t been hard to come by for the Eagles with their tally of 50 thus far actually ranking them as the top goalscoring team in the bottom half of the table, just two shy of Manchester United’s meagre total of 52.

Christian Benteke has contributed 15 of these goals in his debut season at Selhurst Park but you can’t help but feeling the Belgian needs some help going forward.

Yannick Bolasie was never properly replaced and one of the issues Palace have had, particularly at the beginning of the campaign, was an over-reliance on Wilfried Zaha and the former Liverpool forward.

 

Guaranteed goalscorer

Jermain Defoe is a guaranteed goalscorer and with Allardyce’s known preference for two up top, reuniting with his former coach could be a perfect fit this summer.

Defoe left White Hart Lane for Toronto FC in the MLS in 2014 as a player who was deemed finished at the very top level. In both of his full seasons back in England’s top division since then, he has netted 15 goals in either campaign.

Age isn’t a defining factor in the former West Ham academy graduate’s style of play with his area of work very much within the opposition penalty area. He can look to get in behind but it is his poacher’s instinct which is helping him find the goal on Wearside.

The service from Sunderland’s creative players has been woeful for a while now and it is difficult to say the same about the South-East London club, especially with Zaha set to commit to the club for a further five years with a contract extension set to run until June 2022.

It is no secret that the era of prominent striking partnerships has passed with most team’s using a solitary forward up front in the Premier League at this moment.

Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth has somewhat broken the mould with their attempts at using two strikers and Allardyce could look to do the same thing should he secure Defoe’s signature.

 

Potential potent partnership with Benteke

There would be few partnerships as striking as a potential Benteke/Defoe strike-force with both players bringing very different skills to the table.

Benteke is a dominant figure with an unbelievable physical presence. His work in aerial duels and his ability to hold the ball up have been a wonderful asset to the team this season.

Defoe on the other hand is the definition of a box-player; he sniffs out chances and lives off knockdowns from others.

Defensively, Palace are much more resolute under the former England coach with Mamadou Sakho and Luka Milivojevic both key arrivals who have done much to increase solidity through the spine of the team.

Keeping Sakho at the club will be the priority this summer, especially with it looking like the former Paris Saint-Germain captain has burnt his bridges at Anfield, yet boosting the attacking line will also be a requisite step in the right direction to avoid another relegation battle.

You’re going to get service from Andros Townsend, Zaha and Jason Puncheon will contribute as well.

The key is making best use of this creativity and a pairing of Benteke and Defoe up front will hand the Eagles opportunities to overwhelm teams.

Two clinical forwards in the same team make the penalty area a very dangerous place, any mistake will be punished and this is often something that can make a world of difference at the wrong end of the league table.

 

A perfectly timed reunion?

It doesn’t need to be a major summer at Selhurst Park with the team having actually performed well below their collective abilities this term.

However, the squad does need improving in certain areas and with Allardyce already knowing exactly how to get the best out of an ageing Defoe, it could well be a perfectly timed reunion for the pair.

 

Written by Chris Winterburn

Follow Chris on Twitter @Chriswin4

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