14 August 2014

Why not pluck this pugnacious player from under Pulis's nose?

We have unfinished business. Scores to settle. Teams to beat. Trophies to win. As I write, a Prem season full of promise is set to open little more than two days away. As we size up our opponents—and assess our needs—why not go after someone like Mile Jedinak? It may sound ludicrous, but would such a transfer make any more or less sense than, say, Kim Källström? His arrival and departure were largely unnoted and unheralded, but Jedinak, spine intact, might actually make a few vital contributions where we sorely need them. At a risk of looking past Palace and towards the rest of the Prem, we could use a physical presence in the midfield, and Jedinak, available at a pittance, could provide that.

A potential bromance...
One might ask, "why sign a 30-year old when we already have a 32-year old Arteta and 30-year old Flamini? None of the three impresses with his pace, to put it mildly. However, Jedinak towers over them, standing 189cm, leaving Arteta (183cm) and Flamini (178cm) to peer up at him. What's more, Jedinak offers more tenacity and physicality in the midfield without sacrificing too much at the technical end. One might even call him a destroyer, but that might be a bit much. Suffice it to say that he has something to offer. If nothing else, what he has to offer would be available at a bargain—£4m, perhaps. Hired goons usually cost more.

He's hardly brainless brawn, however. As captain of both club and country, he's well-nigh unflappable. Having guided Crystal Palace to 11th place in the Prem, he also led the Socceroos in one of the World Cup's most-difficult groups (facing Netherlands, Spain, and Chile). Yes, Australia lost every single match, but they very nearly nicked one against Netherlands after Jedinak slotted home a spot-kick to seize a lead. He didn't celebrate despite the enormity of the occasion, displaying a calm demeanor while his compatriots celebrated wildly around him. He later called it "probably the biggest penalty I've ever taken". One might expect a bit more of a celebration after such a momentous goal. Not from Jedinak, it seems. To call him even-keeled seems to flatter keels.

The man is as tough as nails, a comparison that again flatters the latter. He played every single minute of Palace's matches—right up until the 58th minute of the final match of the seaon against Fulham after suffering a groin injury. Three thousand, three-hundred fifty-two minutes of hard-nosed football, playing for one of the Prem's most-tenacious managers and overmatched squads, and he only comes up lame with 32 minutes left in the season? Yes, please. He out-tackles Arteta (3.5 to 3.4) and Flamini (1.4) While we're looking at stats, he wins more aerial duels (4.4) than Giroud (4.1), and he makes more interceptions per game (3.7) than Koscielny (2.8). Let's be clear, though: he faces more opportunities to pad his stats than do any of our players do, so take those stats with a grain of salt. Still, he throws himself into the mix in a way that might add something to our squad that we don't currently have.

I don't offer him as someone who will vault us to the top of the Prem. However, as we look at our available options in front of the back four, it seems clear that we need someone who can shield them. A destroyer like Jedinak might at least offer us an option, contributing some much-needed physicality without sacrificing too much on the technical side and without emptying the transfer-kitty. He's somewhere a cut above a free transfer, much like Flamini, but has the ability to offer quite a bit more.

Looking ahead to Saturday's clash, I'm inclined to see Jedinak's performance as a sub-plot, perhaps even an audition of sorts. Why not?