COLUMNIST and Crystal Palace fan ALISDAIR KEMP wonders whether Crystal Palace really needed to sign James McArthur...
James McArthur's signing – though mooted somewhat beforehand - was a real deadline day surprise for me.
Not only was it with a view to covering a position in which I felt we were already overly furnished; it calls into question the roles and opportunities that will now be afforded to Joe Ledley and Marouane Chamakh. Assuming McArthur is a starter that is: the reported price tag would suggest this is the case.
This column is certainly not intended as a melancholic critique of McArthur's talents. His technical ability and range of passing will be an asset, particularly as he looks to thread the ball forward quickly for us to break. A slight concern would be his lack of strength and pace; his positioning will have to be spot on to compensate for this. Moreover, one may question exactly why he was not picked up immediately following Wigan's relegation. However, a player of his ability can only enhance the team.
Anyway, with Joe Ledley, Mile Jedinak, Adlene Guedioura, Barry Bannan, Jonny Williams, Joel Ward and Stuart O'Keefe all capable of occupying one of the two holding midfield berths, signing an additional left-back and a striker whose presence in the squad could be more than just ceremonial, would have made more sense to me.
Ledley and Jedinak made the positions their own last season. Jedinak, being the captain, will naturally retain his place. This then begs the question of whether Neil Warnock sees McArthur in a deeper role (Ledley's) or a more advanced one – in which case Marouane Chamakh will be sweating over his involvement.
Omitting Chamakh would be to remove our sole creative presence through the middle, not to mention a proven goal threat and an ability to conjure a moment of magic from nothing.
Dispensing with Ledley would deprive us of a combative midfield presence and a player whom I would tip as a potential Player of the Year. He has shown but a glimpse thus far of the qualities he demonstrated while at Celtic – including in games in which he more than matched the likes of Xavi and Andres Iniesta. I hope to see more technical ability on his part this season and a more significant attacking contribution.
Irrespective of this selection conundrum, one might assume that for matches against more elite opposition, in which we look to stay compact and possession is at a premium, McArthur and Jedinak will play deep with Ledley in front of them behind the striker. Such a line-up fills me with more confidence than the alternative involving Chamakh, as McArthur will look to play it safe more often than not and allow us to retain possession at least briefly – as well as being more defensively astute.
McArthur's talents cannot be questioned – but his suitability for our line-up can. For my part, the box-to-box, inspirational input of Ledley and the edge-of-your-seat wizardry of Chamakh would better serve our needs at the moment.