Why Crystal Palace should go back in the market for Dwight McNeil
Back in April, a report from the Daily Mail (h/t Lancashire Live) had mentioned Crystal Palace among the potential suitors for in-demand Burnley winger Dwight McNeil. Man United, Everton and Newcastle United were also understood to be running the rule over the youngster.
It was reported back then that Palace had made the 20-year-old their No.1 target to replace Wilfried Zaha amid widespread speculation over the Ivorian’s future. However, Zaha and McNeil both ended up staying put at their respective clubs before the summer deadline.
Dwight McNeil started his footballing education at Man United before joining Burnley’s youth system back in 2014. He signed a professional contract with the Clarets in April 2018 and made his senior debut against Bournemouth on the final day of the 2017-18 Premier League campaign.
The highly-rated youngster established himself as a key player for Burnley towards the second half of the following season, registering 3 goals and 5 assists in 21 league appearances. McNeil started all 38 fixtures for the Clarets last term and contributed with 2 goals and 6 assists to help Sean Dyche’s side to an impressive 10th-place finish in the Premier League.
McNeil has continued to feature as one of the mainstays of Dyche’s side in the ongoing campaign as well, starting each of Burley’s seven opening fixtures in the PL so far. The left-winger has also represented England at U-20 and U-21 levels but is yet to make his senior debut for the Three Lions.
McNeil would add more creativity to Palace’s attack
Crystal Palace roped in Eberechi Eze from QPR to bolster their creative cavalry in the summer while Michy Batshuayi also joined the ranks on a season-long loan deal from Chelsea. The Eagles, though, have continued to rely heavily on Zaha to deliver the goods in front of goal and the Ivorian has been in red-hot form so far, scoring 5 times in 8 league games.
Andros Townsend has also come back strongly with some top-quality performances this season after a lacklustre campaign last time around. However, the fact that Zaha himself has scored 5 out of the team’s 12 league goals so far clearly implies that they need more goal contributions from other players.
Palace aren’t really short of options out wide on the left, with new signing Eze and Jeffrey Schlupp both competing for places in the starting eleven. However, the Eagles can certainly do with another quality player in that department. That’s because Roy Hodgson has utilised Zaha further upfront as a part of his two-man attack while Eze is still getting used to life in the Premier League.
To that end, Palace should make a renewed attempt to sign Dwight McNeil when the transfer window reopens in January. The 20-year-old has proven his credentials for a struggling side in the top-flight and already has 67 PL appearances under his belt.
That, coupled with his promising track record of goals and assists mean that McNeil would walk straight into Palace’s starting eleven if a move to Selhurst Park does materialise in January.
Besides his obvious pedigree as a creative player, McNeil also excels with his work-rate. As evident from his heat map last season, the youngster not only gets himself into dangerous areas in the final third but also has the awareness and the tenacity to track back and help out his defenders. Those qualities should make him a perfect fit for Hodgson’s philosophy at Palace.
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Dwight McNeil is widely regarded as one of the hottest rising talents in English football and would undoubtedly add more creativity and cutting-edge to Crystal Palace’s attack. The 20-year-old is only going to get better with time and Palace can expect him to hit his prime in the next three to four years. That would make him an ideal successor to the likes of Townsend and Zaha at the club.
With Burnley’s top-flight credentials in serious jeopardy after a dismal start to the campaign, the Eagles should definitely fancy their chances of luring him away from Turf Moor in January.