How Crystal Palace maximised the EFL talent pool to spring Liverpool upset


After a shock 1-0 victory over Liverpool on Sunday, Crystal Palace can look forward to another season of Premier League football in 2024/25. Eight points clear of the relegation zone, it would take a catastrophic collapse for Oliver Glasner's side to finish below the dreaded dotted line from here. 


It is hard to pick out a standout individual from Palace’s terrific collective performance at Anfield. Joachim Andersen marshalled the backline brilliantly, while Tyrick Mitchell gave his best performance of the season at left wing-back. Dean Henderson stood tall in goal, Jean-Philippe Mateta led the line well, and Ebere Eze provided several moments of quality - including a cool finish for the match-winning goal. 


On just his ninth Premier League appearance, Adam Wharton was also superb. The 20-year-old midfielder, signed from Blackburn Rovers in January, looks like he has been playing at the highest level for years. 


Wharton played a key role on both sides of the ball. In possession he completed 88% of his passes, even in the face of strong Liverpool pressure. Wharton specialises in punching one-touch passes through the lines, as he did twice in the build-up to Eze’s strike. 



The Palace midfielder also made six tackles, more than any of his teammates. He is a tenacious operator in the engine room, getting in opponents’ faces and regularly regaining the ball for his side. 


Wharton has made a magnificent start to life in the top tier and there have even been calls for him to be included in England’s squad for Euro 2024. The tournament in Germany will surely come too soon for a player with only one under-21 cap to his name, but it will not be long before Wharton appears on Gareth Southgate’s radar. 


The 20-year-old is part of a group of players that should give Palace fans excitement for next season. A core that contains Andersen, Marc Guehi, Cheick Doucoure, Wharton, Eze and Michael Olise gives Glasner something to build around. The Austrian will hope that there is money to spend in the summer too. 


Palace may need to sell before they can buy, however. Wharton will not be departing after six months in south London, but one of Eze, Olise or Guehi could be sacrificed in order to generate much-needed funds. 


Palace signed all four of those players following successful stints in the Championship; Guehi came from Chelsea but had previously been on loan at Swansea City. Under sporting director Dougie Freedman, they have made themselves the go-to destination for young, talented players from the second flight. 


Eze cost £17m and Palace demanded £70m to sell him last summer. Olise was acquired for just £8m and reportedly has a release clause of £60m. Guehi, an England international, is worth far more than the £18m Palace paid three years ago. And the £22m the Eagles shelled out for Wharton already looks like a bargain. 


All of which raises the question: should the Premier League’s bigger clubs do more of their shopping in the Championship? At least one member of the division’s elite is likely to submit a sizable bid for one of Eze, Olise or Guehi in the summer. They could have saved themselves tens of millions had they taken a punt a few years earlier... or, in Chelsea’s case, simply kept hold of Guehi.  


The so-called big six do not buy directly from the Championship very often at all, especially if we exclude reserve goalkeepers (Scott Carson) and signings made immediately after a team was relegated from the Premier League (Andy Robertson).  


You have to go all the way back to 2016 for the last time Arsenal bought a first-team player from a club that had played in the Championship the previous season - Rob Holding from Bolton Wanderers.  


Five years have passed since Manchester United brought in Dan James from Leeds United. It has been even longer since Manchester City signed Fulham forward Patrick Roberts in 2015. Fabio Carvalho is the sole Liverpool signing who meets the above criteria in the last nine years, while Chelsea’s most recent addition from the second tier was Michael Hector, also in 2015. 


Tottenham have been more willing to look to the Championship, acquiring the likes of Joe Rodon, Ashley Phillips and Djed Spence in recent years, but they are the exception in this grouping. 


Yet perhaps the experience of the players mentioned above shows precisely why the Premier League’s big boys are wary of buying directly from the Championship. None of the names mentioned here could be called unqualified successes at their respective top-flight clubs, although Holding was definitely worth the £2m Arsenal paid for his signature. 


All of which is good news for Palace, who have made themselves an attractive destination for ambitious Championship starlets. The Eagles may have to sell themselves as a potential stepping stone to such players, but possessing talents like Eze and Olise for a few years before moving them on for a substantial profit makes for a fantastic deal overall.

How Crystal Palace maximised the EFL talent pool to spring Liverpool upset