Crystal Palace's star man has clinched his switch to Manchester United. Now to find his form again. Can Liverpool target, Blackpool's Tom Ince do the same?
Since December, two of the best players in the Championship have had a rapid decline in form. George Sessions looks at their struggles and whether they can recapture their early season performances and lead their teams to success.
The two players I am talking about are Wilfried Zaha and Thomas Ince.
He’s just too good for you
Looking at Wilfried first, who has sealed a transfer to Manchester United. After months of speculation his destination has been announced but he will not be joining Sir Alex Ferguson and co just yet.
His £15 million transfer has been agreed, and he will instantly be loaned back to Crystal Palace until the end of the season, instead of linking up with his new teammates at Old Trafford.
Zaha’s form has declined since he made his England debut in November, and around this time speculation over whether he would leave Palace in January gathered pace.
Before his England debut Zaha had scored four goals and picked up four assists in 17 matches this season. A modest total, although he was displaying his skills and trickery on a regular basis at Selhurst Park.
In the 14 matches he has played in since, Wilfried has only contributed a single goal and assist for Crystal Palace, and they have only won three times in that period. His form and Palace’s has definitely taken a dip.
Moving onto Thomas Ince. He has attracted interest from former club Liverpool, with talk throughout Janaury that Brendan Rodgers would be bringing the winger back to Anfield.
Liverpool released Ince in July 2011 and he joined Blackpool after compensation was agreed between the two clubs. Since joining the Seasiders he has displayed all his talents, and this season in particular he has showed how good he can be.
In 30 appearances, Thomas has 15 goals and 10 assists, an exceptional tally for the soon to be 21-year-old winger. He is a direct speedy player, who can play on the left or behind the main striker.
Like Zaha, his form has declined with transfer speculation circulating. His last 10 matches, prior to the weekend match against Wolves had resulted in just one assist, as Blackpool had only won once.
On Saturday though, he rediscovered his goalscoring touch, finding the net twice to help Blackpool defeat Wolves 2-1. This may be because speculation over him leaving has quietened down recently.
Zaha and Ince had been the talk of the Championship earlier in the season when their form reached dizzy heights. Their drop in performances could be down to Blackpool and Crystal Palace changing managers but it is more likely due to the transfer speculation that surrounded both players.
With less than a week remaining in the transfer window, it seems Ince will stay at Blackpool until the end of the season and now we know that Zaha’s future is resolved can both players help their sides end the season successfully?
Successful season end
Zaha thinks he can, “I will always love the club and I want to help them (Crystal Palace) back to the Premier League, my focus for the next five months will be solely at Crystal Palace.”
He will do all he can to get Palace promoted and they’re in a decent position to do so. Currently 5th but just two points off Leicester City in 2nd who have 50 points.
If Zaha can recapture his early season form, and start dribbling around defenders again, it will go a long way to helping Ian Holloway get the Eagles back in the top flight.
The Palace fans will be hoping to sing Zaha’s chant “He’s just too good for you” as they celebrate promotion at the end of the season.
Blackpool’s promotion aims?
Thomas Ince’s target will be to get Blackpool into the play-offs, although without a manager still, it will be incredibly difficult. They’re 14th, on 37 points and ten points off Middlesbrough in 6th position.
Ince scored twice to help Blackpool win at the weekend, if he can keep scoring goals between now and the end of the season he can propel the Seasiders up the table and sneak them into the play-off’s.
Ince can easily go past the twenty-goal mark, assuming he now stays at Blackpool until the end of the season, and if he does Blackpool will have a chance.
Can Zaha and Ince fire Palace and Blackpool to promotion?
image: © jamesboyes