Crystal Palace work on transfer surprises but attack should not be the focus

Roy Hodgson could scarcely have been more complimentary about Crystal Palace’s recruitment strategy when lauding chairman Steve Parish and sporting director Dougie Freedman last week.

Tying Michael Olise down to a four-year contract was a major coup for the Eagles, and when asked whether he expects more good news before the transfer window closes, Hodgson again heaped praise on Parish and Freedman.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if they had some more [planned]”, he said, adding: “They’re good in those last weeks of the transfer window.”

But Palace fans will hope any new additions are not restricted to attacking reinforcements. Wilfried Zaha’s move to Galatasaray and Olise’s new deal have felt like distractions from an equally pressing matter further back.

The way centre-back pair Marc Guehi and Joachim Andersen kept Arsenal at bay from open play on Monday night was indicative of their excellence throughout much of last season, particularly in Palace’s inspired run-in under Hodgson.

What happens if one of them picks up an injury, though? And what if the club receive a very lucrative bid for either player before deadline day — one that would be daft to turn down? Guehi is of interest to many.

It is clear that neither, at the moment, need replacing. Guehi ranked 22nd and Andersen was 56th for tackles made in the defensive third among all Premier League players last season.

They were both in the league’s top 12 players for clearances made, with Andersen placing third. Tottenham’s interest in both players this summer points to the level at which both are operating.

It is also true that new signing Jefferson Lerma is already forming a formidable midfield partnership with the much-courted Cheick Doucoure, and full-backs Joel Ward and Tyrick Mitchell have shown themselves to be excellent defenders.

Yet Freedman must still look to strengthen at the heart of defence. Squad depth is just as important as having a strong starting XI.

Palace’s cover for Guehi and Andersen consists almost exclusively of James Tomkins, the 34-year-old who last month agreed, for the second successive summer, to stay on for another year.

United States international Chris Richards has not settled since joining from Hoffenheim in 2022, and Palace are willing to loan him out after making just nine league appearances so far.

Palace look set for another successful season, as their opening-weekend win at Sheffield United and Monday’s performance against Arsenal demonstrated.

Freedman and Parish must bolster Hodgson’s defensive reserves to ensure that is possible.