Crystal Palace: What does Kouyate bring to Selhurst Park?

The former Iron becomes Roy Hodgson’s second signing of the summer.

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REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer

After a transfer window of frustration, Crystal Palace finally made the breakthrough and secured Cheikhou Kouyate for over £10 million. The Senegal international signed for the Hammers in 2014 and was a mainstay in the team as he played 147 games in four seasons.

This is the right time to move because I needed a new challenge. I have good memories of West Ham but I need to come here and give my best because I like the Crystal Palace project – Kouyate to Palace TV

He proved himself to be a solid Premier League midfielder, but needed to move on this summer if he wanted guaranteed first team football. Palace have signed him up, and the expectation will be that he plays every game for the club.

However, what have Crystal Palace signed in Kouyate?

Experience

Premier League clubs strive to sign players that are proven at this level and Kouyate ticks this box. He has played for a West Ham side that have been solid if unspectacular, even flirting with Champions League football in 2015/16.

He was, however, a part of last year’s side that dwelled in the doldrums of the bottom three until David Moyes steadied the ship.

A defensive midfielder by trade – he made 24 appearances in this position last season – his job isn’t necessarily to create, so his 12 goals across four seasons deserve some credit. It will provide a welcome eye for goal in midfield as Palace struggled to find the back of the net last season. Only Luka Milivojevic, also a central midfielder, got into double figures.

REUTERS/Alan Walter

Palace are also getting a player who is a proven defensive midfielder, something they have lacked since Mile Jedinak left the club a few seasons ago. Kouyate is solid in the air – he won the most aerial duels (122) of any Hammer – and takes a no-nonsense approach to defending, preferring to get the ball out efficiently rather than play it out with risky passes. 

His six foot two frame will be hugely important for Palace and will give them added threats in both boxes whether defending or attacking.

A great price

In this day and age, signing a player with a proven Premier League record at a prime age for less than £15 million is a good deal, especially given the likes of Richarlison, Marcos Rojo and Gylfi Sigurdsson are all moving for over £30 million. Palace have snapped up Kouyate for £10.6 million, comparatively an absolute snip.

However, Kouyate is now 28, which means he’s at the end of his peak years. Perhaps this is something West Ham realised in selling him this summer, wanting to get value out of the player whilst they still could. A solid signing now, but for how much longer?

Where will he fit in?

Clearly, Palace needed some changes from last season where they often looked quite soft in the centre of the park. Milivojevic, James McArthur and Yohan Cabaye – who has now left the club – comprised the Eagles’ options, so Kouyate instantly eases this dearth.

REUTERS/John Sibley

Upon his arrival, Hodgson ditched the blueprints left by predecessor Frank de Boer and reverted to a 4-4-2 formation, sometimes deploying a 4-3-3, though they only picked up one point from five games using a three-man midfield.

Given McArthur is 30 and there’s only space for two central midfielders, it seems likely that Kouyate will partner Milivojevic in the centre and provide a sturdier foundation for the team to attack from. He reinforces the midfield whilst providing a threat in the opposition box, typically fulfilling the role of ball-winner with Milivojevic the midfielder handling creativity.

Ultimately, Kouyate to the Eagles is a logical signing given their needs and has the potential to prove useful.

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