Jason Puncheon is a player that Palace fans absolutely adore, but also a character that few other clubs or pundits seem to pay much attention to. Sunday's game against Arsenal could be the game to really show how the Croydon-born midfielder has progressed, says Robert Sutherland.
Palace fans have been calling for Jason Puncheon to get more recognition. A player with a delightful first touch, a keen eye for a great pass, a wicked shot when he uses it, and a sensibility about his play that belies his reputation, there have been times when the fans have chanted for him to get an England call-up.
His performances have changed over the course of his time at Crystal Palace. Signed initially as a winger, Puncheon has excelled in a midfield system where, on occassion, Alan Pardew plays him in a central role. As his central role has become more prominent, so has his understanding of how to use the ball when in possession - gone are the stray passes or mistimed through-balls; here is a player who holds on to the ball when needed, and passes when ready.
A performance that didn't get the credit it deserved was in the oustanding, surprise win over Manchester City - a game in which he pulled the strings and, with an astounding free-kick, won the match. His goal won the plaudits, but it was his control in the attacking third of the field that really deserved credit. He outshone Yaya Toure, David Silva and Fernandinho with his control, temprament and accuracy.
His set-pieces are also worthy of mention - his free-kick against City deserved more credit, when much of the focus was on the way in which Toure ducked out of its path. He showed in the Liverpool game however that there is a stealthy intelligence to the way he executes his free-kicks - his work with Scott Dann proved that even an event as routine as a free-kick can be open to creativity.
It is, with these elements in mind, that Puncheon deserves to be highlighted as one of the key threats to Arsenal on Sunday. One of Palace's main strengths is set-pieces, and with Puncheon in the position to take them, there's a decent chance of them causing Arsenal considerable difficulty. Combined with his attacking prowess, Puncheon is a match-winner, and a good performance for him will be key to a great performance from the team.
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