Eberechi Eze is still some weeks away from rejoining first team activities at Crystal Palace, but the excitement of what he can offer is building with every passing week.
The youngster settled into life in Croydon, after signing from QPR under Roy Hodgson, and his Achilles injury couldn’t have happened at worst time.
Sign up to our LondonWorld Today newsletter
Eze had just been named in the original 33-man squad for the Euros, where England went all the way and only lost via penalty shoot-out to Italy in the final.
He has put in the work in the gym and has been training with the first team for a while now so it was refreshing to hear Vieira give an update that he came through 60 minutes unscathed with the U-23s.
- Up to £100 in Bet Credits for new customers at bet365Claim Offer
Min deposit £5. Bet Credits available for use upon settlement of bets to value of qualifying deposit. Min odds, bet and payment method exclusions apply. Returns exclude Bet Credits stake. Time limits and T&Cs apply.
Before the injury picked up in training that has ruled him out for almost five months, he scored four goals and assisted six in 34 Premier League games.
But his overall contribution was massive, with his ball juggling, dribbling and passing abilities creating space for the ever impressive Wilfred Zaha.
Eberechi Eze of Crystal Palace celebrates after scoring his team’s second goal during the Premier League (Photo by Rui Vieira – Pool/Getty Images)
Patrick Vieira said he was working hard and nearing a return, but stopped short of giving a time frame.
What Patrick Vieira said
Crystal Palace manager Patrick Vieira said: “He is doing well and he played 60 minutes with the U-23s and he is progressing.
“It’s still too early for us to be talking about him returning to playing in the first team.
“He needs to play in a 90-minute game, and then we can talk about taking him into the first team.
“To be honest, we haven’t put a time frame for his return, but we have to be very careful with him and follow the protocol.
“We know technically he is one of the best players and not just that, he brings the best out of the people he is playing with, so yeah I’m looking forward to him.
“With passing and his technique, he is one of the best with his skill set, but we all just have to take our time and follow the protocol to get him back to help us.”
Crystal Palace’s English midfielder Eberechi Eze celebrates after he scores his team’s second goal (Photo by PETER POWELL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
What will Eberechi Eze bring to the team
Patrick Vieira has favoured a 4-3-3 system since taking over at Palace, and the hard work of Conor Gallagher on the right and James McArthur on the left, sandwiched with the passing of Luka Milivojević, has been pivotal to the retention of ball and creating the angles that have served the team well so far.
Against Manchester City, when Vieira wanted more fight, he replaced Milivojević with the dependable Cheikhou Kouyaté and that did the trick.
But for all the work and will of both Milivojević and Kouyate, they don’t quite have the skill and passing range that Eberechi Eze possesses.
Eze is a quintessential playmarker, and has a unique ability to drop his shoulder and go past players.
He might not be the most physically engaging, but the protection of both Conor Gallagher and James McArthur should provide the platform that will free him, and get the best out of his unique gift.
Patrick Vieira was sacked by Palace in March. Sam Allardyce returned to Selhurst Park but was unable to keep the club in the top-flight.
A chance for tactical flexibility
Eze’s return also throws a curious challenge to Vieira on a tactical level, in that he could try the 4-4-2 system.
Playing Christian Benteke and Zaha as two complimentary forwards, and then a four-man midfield, with all his strong and skilful midfielders in the same starting 11.
This could be quite useful in games where manager Patrick Vieira wants to see off opposition, by controlling the tempo at which the game is played.
Having all four of them, and still being able to call on Kouyate if needs be, will be useful in a team like Palace, who are chasing a unique brand of football with a limited budget.