After playing a central role in recent impressive showings from Crystal Palace, we take a look at Eberechi Eze’s game and where the summer might take him.

Football is seldom linear.

Just because a team looks like they’ve never had a training session – let alone progressed to becoming Premier League players over several years – one week, doesn’t mean they can’t look like world beaters just a few weeks later.

Crystal Palace were a mess in their 5-0 humbling at Arsenal in January. They looked like they would concede from every set-piece, couldn’t hold on to the ball for more than a few seconds at a time, and the two late goals from Gabriel Martinelli didn’t make the scoreline look harsher, but made it look more reflective of a wholly one-sided contest.

A sombre Roy Hodgson looked over at the fans, who’d had enough as they held up a banner criticising the direction of the club.

Hodgson was replaced by Oliver Glasner in February, and though there wasn’t an immediate turnaround, Palace’s performances in the last two weeks in particular are completely unrecognisable from that timid loss at the Emirates Stadium.

They secured a 1-0 win at Liverpool, becoming the first visiting team to win there in the Premier League since October 2022, before thrashing West Ham 5-2 on Sunday in an electric first-half showing at Selhurst Park that saw them race into a 4-0 lead after just 31 minutes.

At the centre of both of those performances was Eberechi Eze. The 25-year-old has been a key figure in almost everything good Crystal Palace have done in recent years, and after scoring the winner at Anfield, last Sunday against David Moyes’ Hammers may have been his finest performance yet.

Eze reacted to Lukasz Fabianski deflecting a Jean-Philippe Mateta shot up into the air, deciding an extravagant bicycle kick was what was called for, which was fair enough as the ball flew into the roof of the net to give Palace a 2-0 lead.

Overall, Eze attempted seven shots and four crosses (both three more than any teammate), completed four of seven dribbles, and completed 84.2% of his 19 passes in the final third.

His assist for Mateta’s strike in the second half may have been even better than his goal, though, escaping James Ward-Prowse before sending Kurt Zouma one way and then the other, finally nutmegging the French defender to set up Mateta.

He wasn’t the only star of the show. As usual when they both feature, Eze was joined by the equally impressive Michael Olise, who also ended the game with a goal and an assist.

The difference in Palace’s Premier League potency this season when they have both available is stark. Due to the injury issues Eze and Olise have suffered in 2023-24, they have only been able to start six of Palace’s 33 league games together. The Eagles have won four of those six games (L2), averaging 2.3 goals per game. In the 27 games where at least one has been missing, they have won just five (D9 L13), averaging 1.0 goals per game.

Just looking at Palace with and without Eze, though, it appears his presence makes a pretty big difference on its own. Of the 23 Premier League games in which Eze has featured this season, Palace have won eight (D6 L9), averaging 1.4 goals per game. In the 10 games he has missed through injury, Palace have won just one (D3 L6), averaging only 0.9 goals per game.

Crystal Palace with-without Eze 23-24

As those numbers suggest, he’s had his injury issues once again this season. He was only been able to feature in 13 Premier League games in 2021-22, though he did manage to play in all 38 league games last season.

Having played for managers as varied as Hodgson, Patrick Vieira and Glasner, it’s somewhat tricky to get a read on Eze’s numbers and how reflective they are of his potential output in a more consistent side. There is still some interesting data to glean, though.

Prior to Wednesday’s home game with Newcastle United, Eze is well out in front for open-play attacking sequence involvements for Crystal Palace in the Premier League this season, with 107. He’s both attempted more shots (56) and created more chances (28) than any of his teammates.

Crystal Palace attacking sequence involvement

His goals per 90 were just 0.14 and 0.15 in his first two years at Selhurst Park, but that went up to 0.34 when he scored 10 league goals last season, and his eight strikes so far this season have come at 0.42 per 90.

Eze’s creativity in open play has also progressed in the last two seasons, going up from 1.12 chances created per 90 in 2020-21 and 1.05 in his disrupted 2021-22 to 1.40 in 2022-23 and 1.46 this season. His big chances created per 90 has also reached a Premier League career high of 0.26 this season.

As his assist for Mateta against West Ham showcased well, Eze’s excellent dribbling ability is up there with his best attributes. Only Mohammed Kudus (180), Jérémy Doku (143), Dejan Kulusevski (114) and Raheem Sterling (113) have attempted more dribbles than Eze’s 112 in the Premier League this season, with his success rate of 50.0% better than both Kulusevski (41.2%) and Sterling (35.4%).

Eberechi Eze attacking carries

The increased volume of dribbles has signalled a change in Eze’s approach, though. He averaged 3.9 dribbles per 90 across his first three Premier League seasons, but that has gone up to 5.9 this season. His success rate last season was an impressive 62.9%, though despite that dropping to 50.0% this season, the higher number of attempts means he has already beaten his total number of dribbles completed from last season. There is also a good chance that Eze’s unsuccessful dribble attempts have on occasion opened up space for others, so may still have caused mischief for Palace’s opponents.

The overall improvement in Palace’s recent performances will understandably be credited to Glasner’s impact, and Eze has been one of the players to thrive under the Austrian’s tutelage. He has predominantly played from the left all season, but since Glasner arrived he has stayed out there more often – as the below heat maps show – helping provide more width while also meaning Eze doesn’t have to drift away from where he causes danger as often as he used to.

Eberechi Eze Heat Map 23-24 Under Hodgson
Eberechi Eze Heat Map 23-24 Under Glasner

Palace fans won’t have been happy to hear Match of the Day pundit Danny Murphy suggest on Sunday that Eze will leave the club in the summer, saying he should be playing for a “Champions League club”. The player signed a new deal in November until 2027, but while that will protect his value, it doesn’t mean Eze won’t attract attention at the end of the season.

He has previously been linked with Manchester City, while you could see him fitting in on the left of Arsenal or Liverpool’s attack. Aston Villa will want to keep moving forward under Unai Emery and the likes of Ollie Watkins and Leon Bailey could enjoy playing with Eze, while Tottenham have also been talked about as a possible destination should the player wish to stay in London.

That Eze seems to raise his game when playing with Olise suggests there could be extra gears for him to go up to when surrounded by players more on his level, though if Palace’s recent upturn in form is anything to go by, perhaps that could yet be at Selhurst Park in the long term.

Transfer talk might not be the only thing to make Eze’s summer interesting, though. With squads at Euro 2024 allowed to include 26 names, could his be among those making Gareth Southgate’s list?

It’s easy to forget that Eze was a part of Southgate’s initial 33-man squad for the re-arranged Euro 2020 tournament, but suffered a knee injury in training before the final squad was confirmed.

He finally made his England senior debut last June in the 4-0 win in Malta in qualifying for the Euros, playing the final 20 minutes. Southgate said about him on his call-up last year: “We’ve liked him for a long time… Everyone I speak to talks brilliantly about him as a person.” He also came off the bench for another 19 minutes in the 3-1 friendly win at Scotland in September.

Given Eze is thriving on the left of a front three, where Southgate hasn’t really nailed down a preferred option, could he come into the manager’s thinking for the plane to Germany? None of Jack Grealish, Marcus Rashford or Phil Foden have made that spot their own yet, so perhaps the former Queens Park Rangers man could be in for a busy summer with England.

Whether with the Three Lions, in the Champions League, or with Crystal Palace, Eze looks like someone whose star will continue to rise.

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