Championship

Eberechi Eze: Not the finished article, but an incredible talent

The playmaker has chosen Crystal Palace as his stepping stone and if he refines his game he could be a huge star

 
9:00am on Saturday 29th August 2020
By
Paul Macdonald
22 yrs - AM (LC) - QPR
72
Defending
Creative
Passing
Attacking
Shooting
Decisive
Aerials
Physical
JavaScript chart by amChartsLDefendingCreativePassingAttackingShootingDecisiveAerialsPhysical10-10-5051015100%
4063
Played matches
46
14
8
Shots P90
2.22
Dribbles P90
2.88
Final third passes
16.04
Duels won P90
6.91

Eze in brief

London-born Eze came through the ranks at Millwall before joining QPR in 2017. After spending an impressive five months on loan at Wycombe, where he was part of the team that achieved promotion, he was including in the QPR starting line-up for the remainder of the 2017-18 season.

In 2018-19 he made a healthy 42 appearances, 37 of them as starts, scoring four goals and providing three assists. But in 2019-20 he has taken his performances to a whole other level, starting every single game. In a side expected to struggle he has taken responsibility and his displays have allowed QPR to confound their status as among the relegation favourites and remain mid-table.

What have Crystal Palace signed him?

Unorthodox, erratic, but supremely talented, Eze caught everyone's eye and it doesn't take a scouting report to see why. Eze's close control and technique retains balance while moving at pace, and even when you think you've got him, he just drifts into the distance. When he's 'on it', he's unplayable.

And that's just the problem - he hasn't always been 'on it', and it makes the unbridled potential all the more irritating. Eze has it all and has done for some time but this season, in a QPR team that some observers had finishing rock bottom of the division, he is bringing it all together in a single package.

Fourteen goals and eight assists (though the goal total is boosted by scoring four penalties) is an impressive return for an attacking midfielder, building most of his movements from the left flank and drifting infield, or wherever he likes, when necessary.

His 16 Big Chances created is one of the best in the Championship, his 2.9 completed dribbles P90 is also in the top five, while no other wide player wins as many duels, suggesting he has the physicality to cope with the step up in class.

He gets the ball, moves the team forward but isn't a ball hog like some of his contemporaries. He chooses the option that works best for the team and that is the most refreshing element of his play. There's skillsets that players have which are transferable and adaptable, but ultimately can be learned. Eze's talent is natural.

Boss Mark Warburton, who was keenly involved in the modern analytics process of selecting players when manager of Brentford, knows what he has, and knows he will lose him. But he also knows the areas of his game that he needs to improve.

He said: "There are no limits for Eze. It is down to him and how hard he works. He is a tremendous talent, I want him to enjoy his football and he has got to understand how much hard work is required to maximise the talent that he has.

“You see Eze’s quality with the ball and I want to keep working on his quality without the ball. To play at the very highest level, you have to make sure you have that.”

Eze to Crystal Palace

Palace won the race for Eze and he has shown that even in a team that lacks quality he is able to make a significant attacking impact. There remains consistency issues - he has been somewhat off the boil post-lockdown, with just two goal contributions in nine matches.

And as Warburton refers to, top teams need every member of the team contributing to the tactical approach in order to be successful and can't afford to carry passengers. Whether Eze can make that step immediately in terms of discipline remains key.

Roy Hodgson is a coach that has always erred on the side of caution but pairing Eze with Wilfried Zaha could give a new lease of life to the winger, whose numbers stagnated in 2019-20 and will enjoy sharing the creative load with someone of Eze's skillset.

With him operating as the #10, with Zaha on one side and the potential for Ryan Fraser to arrive on the right, Palace could be setting themselves up as an excellent counterattacking unit.

There's no doubt that when he has the ball, Eze can make things happen. But whether Palace's inherent focus on compact defending hinders him, and whether he can evolve his skills to become a more complete package, remains to be seen.

View Eberechi Eze's full profile

Watch Eze's brilliant individual display against Hull City this season (YouTube)

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