Why Crystal Palace should make a move for Hiroki Sakai in January
According to a report from the Evening Standard, Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson wants reinforcements in January as he eyes a top-six finish. The veteran tactician is targeting a striker and two new full-backs when the transfer window opens.
After a slow start to the new Premier League season, Crystal Palace have garnered some momentum and are placed sixth in the table, above the likes of Tottenham, Wolves and Manchester United. They headed into the international break after enjoying a 2-1 success over West Ham at the London Stadium on Saturday.
A vast improvement in performances and results has seen Roy Hodgson now aspiring for a top-six finish but wants a couple of new additions to achieve it. A striker is an absolute must considering the Eagles have again struggled for goals. Jordan Ayew has three goals in seven games but he needs a partner to play up top with him.
Christian Benteke has been a pale shadow of his former self, while Wilfried Zaha’s future remains in doubt.
Palace would do a sensible job by signing a centre-forward in January. As far as the right-back area is concerned, Hodgson failed to bring in a player to fill the void left by Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who joined Manchester United during the summer transfer window.
Wan-Bissaka’s departure has left the Palace boss with Joel Ward and Martin Kelly as the only options at right-back. While Ward has done well so far this season, signing a right-back as a replacement for Wan-Bissaka stands as a no-brainer and the Eagles must revive their interest in Marseille’s Hiroki Sakai.
Hiroki Sakai, 29, joined Marseille in 2016 from Bundesliga outfit Hannover on a free transfer. He played 32 games last season, netting one and assisting five. The Japanese international has made close to 130 appearances for Marseille, establishing himself as one of the most consistent players at the club.
The 29-year-old, who was linked to Crystal Palace last year, would certainly bolster Palace’s defensive ranks. Predominantly a right-back, Sakai is capable of playing anywhere across the backline, featuring at left-back and at centre-back for his clubs and his country throughout his career.
He is a technically sound, physically strong defender who never gives less than 100% on the pitch.
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The Japanese’s defensive qualities allow him to track back and make recovery runs to cut out the attacks, while his ability to time his tackles to perfection makes him a valuable player to the backline. His volumes of European experience would make him an asset for the Eagles.
All in all, there’s no doubt in saying that Sakai has the required qualities to flourish in the fast-paced nature of the Premier League. Thus, Palace should go all out to sign him.