A look at how Premier League teams have been affected by absence of key players

Wilfried Zaha, top (PA Wire)
11:00am, Fri 12 Feb 2021
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Wilfried Zaha’s continued injury absence leaves Crystal Palace without their main source of goals – but the Eagles are not alone in missing a key man.

Over the last four seasons, including the current campaign, Zaha has missed 19 Premier League starts – the equivalent of half a season. Palace are almost a point per game worse off without Zaha in their line-up, the biggest difference for any player to have missed that many games.

Here, the PA news agency analyses the top five on the list, including several current or recent absentees, as well as one player who is on track to join them.

Wilfried Zaha, Crystal Palace

Starting: P 118, W 42, D 32, L 44, 1.34 PPGNot in XI: P 19, W 2, D 1, L 16, 0.37 PPGPoints difference per game: 0.97

Just two wins in 19 without Zaha in the starting line-up tells a clear story, and a team on only a 51-point pace for the season when he plays can ill afford to be without him.

Their goals scored also drops from 1.25 per game with Zaha to 0.37 without him, and their goal difference from -15 in 118 games to -28 in 19.

Jack O’Connell, Sheffield United

Jack O’Connell (PA Archive)

Starting: P 34, W 13, D 10, L 11, 1.44 PPGNot in XI: P 27, W 4, D 4, L 19, 0.59 PPGPoints difference per game: 0.85

The Blades have been unable to back up last season’s successful return to the top flight, and playing without O’Connell since September may have a lot to do with that.

The defender has played just twice this season and has missed 27 games in total across the two campaigns, with United managing just four wins and 16 points in those games – conceding more goals (45) than in their 34 games with him (31).

Allan Saint-Maximin, Newcastle

Starting: P 32, W 14, D 7, L 11, 1.53 PPGNot in XI: P 29, W 4, D 8, L 17, 0.69 PPGPoints difference per game: 0.84

Manager Steve Bruce welcomed the recent recovery of the flying French winger after a spell sidelined by coronavirus, and Saint-Maximin marked his return to the starting line-up with first-half assists for Joe Willock and Miguel Almiron in a 3-2 win over Southampton.

Newcastle’s win percentage drops all the way from 44 per cent to 14 without Saint-Maximin in their line-up, emphasising his importance.

Virgil Van Dijk, Liverpool

Virgil Van Dijk (PA Wire)

Starting: P 95, W 72, D 15, L 8, 2.43 PPGNot in XI: P 19, W 9, D 6, L 4, 1.74 PPGPoints difference per game: 0.69

The Liverpool defender is one of this season’s highest-profile absentees, having played such a key role in last season’s title triumph.

Without him, and several other injured centre-backs, the Reds lie fourth and trail leaders Manchester City by 10 points having played a game more – though interestingly, the main difference in their statistics is at the other end of the field, scoring 2.25 goals per game when Van Dijk starts and 1.79 when he does not, with their goals against almost unchanged.

Hugo Lloris, Tottenham

Starting: P 112, W 64, D 21, L 27, 1.90 PPGNot in XI: P 24, W 8, D 6, L 10, 1.25 PPGPoints difference per game: 0.65

Lloris was labelled “a weak link” and “chocolate wrists” by ex-Spurs players turned talkSPORT pundits Jason Cundy and Jamie O’Hara after his errors against Everton in Wednesday night’s FA Cup defeat, with Cundy adding: “He’s got to move on”.

Be careful what you wish for. Spurs have won over half their league games with Lloris in the side in the last four seasons, compared to just one in three without him, and he concedes 1.01 goals per game compared to 1.29 for his replacements.

Honourable mention: Raul Jimenez, Wolves

Starting: P 83, W 35, D 25, L 23, 1.57 PPGNot in XI: P 16, W 3, D 4, L 9, 0.81 PPGPoints difference per game: 0.75

The striker’s long absence with a fractured skull is currently three games short of our half-season threshold.

Were he to qualify, though, he would rank ahead of Van Dijk in fourth as it stands with Wolves’ goals per game figure dropping almost a third, from 1.29 to 0.88, without the talismanic Mexican leading the line.

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