Sometimes with Palace, you just have to wonder.
The summer was not an easy one for us. Going into it, we already needed strengthening in depth. With Sako leaving on a free, we had only two wingers on our books in Wilf and Andros. Michy returning to Chelsea left us with Benteke, Sorloth and Wickham up top. On top of that, our first choice centre back pairing of James Tomkins and Mamadou Sakho were out with long term injuries, and question marks surrounded the defensive side of PVA’s game. Major work was required. The need became even greater, when Sorlothwas loaned out to Turkey, and AWB was sold early on to Man United. Plus, we had the Zaha saga, which nearly saw his departure also. Our lack of numbers, gave Roy very little options during the pre-season fixtures.
Now, as we all know, some fresh faces did come into SE25. The first of those, was Stephen Henderson, purely to replace Jules as our experienced third choice ‘keeper. Jordan Ayewmade his loan permanent, and has since became a revelation, a cult hero with us Palace fans. On top of that, Gary Cahill joined on a free transfer, and has shone in our backline, deservedly earning plaudits week after week. We also picked up James McCarthy cheap, and as the West Ham game showed, we have a good player there too. The incomings ended there, right? Well, if you go by the season so far, it would be very easy to think that. However, one more player came through the doors. In a deal that seemed to take some haggling to finalise, Victor Camarasa joined on a season long loan from Real Betis.
When the link with him first emerged, I must say, I was quite keen to see us get the deal done. Cardiff fans couldn’t speak highly enough of him. In a season of struggles and emotional loss, that ultimately saw them relegated from the Premier League, Camarasa had very much been one of their plus points. From what I could gather, while he lacked somewhat defensively, his attacking ability was very exciting and he could create chances. To be honest, he sounded like something we needed, perhaps that player that could unlock a defence with a bit of magic. He sounded like nothing but a positive move, and I was glad when we got it completed. The thing is, since then, he has become the forgotten man of Selhurst Park. He made one appearance for our U-23s, and played in the Colchester League Cup penalty defeat. In terms of the Premier League, I think he occupied a seat on the bench once, maybe twice, but that has been it. So the big question is, in a team that doesn’t score much, how has Victor not only failed to get a single minute of Premier League action, but doesn’t even make the bench?
It is possible, but highly unlikely, that Roy and Ray feel he isn’t ready yet. It wouldn’t be the first time this has happened, as it is very much the case with Max Meyer. For all the ability he does have, he just doesn’t seem cut for the Premier League. However, an instant argument against this, would be the fact that Victor played for Cardiff in the Premier League last season, so is no stranger to it. Although, a counter argument to that, is that Cardiff’s need was far different to ours, and I would take Roy’s judgement over Warnock’s any day of the week. Even so, I do not feel this is the reason.
So, if it isn’t a case of him not being ready, perhaps it is the simple fact, that he just isn’t good enough. Given how well both Ayew and Cahill are currently working out, with McCarthy looking promising too, making four successful signings wasn’t going to happen, was it? If we are honest, Dougie and his team, don’t exactly instil confidence in us fans any more, if ever at all. Couple that, with the fact that with Roy, I believe he has a high bar set for the very specific things he wants from his players. If you don’t meet it, then he will happily leave you in the cold. We saw it two seasons ago, when the January window delivered us Sorloth, Jach and Rakip. Alex was given a few games, until injury took him out of the running, and then lack of ability in this league has kept him out. Failing to take his few chances, Roy chose more unlikely options over him, and now he is out on loan for a second time. Jach and Rakip never made a single first team appearance. Rakip returned to Benfica, where he also failed to make a single appearance, before being sold on. Jach, continues to spend his Palace career on loan elsewhere, struggling in lower league Eastern European sides. I would imagine that many fans had forgotten that we even have Jachon our books still. Realistically, this was a shocking window. There is a player in Alex, as is currently being shown in Turkey, but with us, it just does not work. However, both Jachand Rakip were simply awful signings, ones you really have to question our scouting team for. They were so bad, that when Roy had so many injured players, he still wouldn’t play them. Is it possible, that Camarasa is another of these? I have heard that he hasn’t been impressing in training, but no idea how true that actually is. In our bid to keep money spending to a minimum, have we made a move because we could, and not necessarily because we should?
It is possible, we have form for it. Yet, his positive performances for Cardiff would make you question it. However, I do feel that this season, given the fact we failed to strengthen any of our vulnerable areas in the summer, Roy is setting us up to keep tight, and battle for points. It is why Schlupp gets the nod over Andros, and why we effectively play with three holding midfielders (although they do all like to push forward). Roy is covering for our weaknesses, going for workman over flair, and if Victor is weak defensively, he would not fill the bill. Even then though, you could argue that Victor should at least make the bench. The fact that he didn’t on Saturday, despite injuries enabling another forgotten man in Jairo Riedeweld to make the bench, speaks volumes for where Victor stands currently.
It could also be, that he is injured or lacking fitness. We signed him late in the window, so he had no preseason with us. In his U-23s appearance, he hobbled off at half time and was expected to not come back out. Yet 15 minutes later, he hobbled back out and carried on playing. It is possible that he has a niggling injury, one that he can’t currently shift, or has picked up a new one since then. This would not be surprising, as this season has seen Wickham out injured again, Sakho rushed back, and both Dann and now Kelly and Guaita pick up injuries in training. So, it could be injury keeping him out of the team.
There is one more reason that could explain his absence. It is a reason that would be more fitting on an episode of the X Files, given that it is a conspiracy theory, but I am mentioning it anyway. It is said that as part of his deal, if he plays 15-20 games(not sure how the range works), then we automatically have to pay in the region of £13million to sign him permanently. Now, a lot of reports in the build up to his announcement, implied the hold-up was because they added this in last minute, when we didn’t really want it. How true this is, I do not know, but it would not surprise me. If there is one thing we do know, is that we are not flush with cash. I think the AWB money has more balanced the books than anything else. We can’t do big money deals anymore, and would be hesitant anyway, given how our hands have been burned by the Benteke deal. We are penny pinchers, there is no doubt about it. If we do a deal, it is because the player is deemed worth it(by someone), and the cost is low. So, given the fact we still need a right back, a left back and two strikers, we will not want to have to spend £13million on Camarasa, especially if we don’t deem him worthy of a place in the team, or at least not worthy of that fee. The only way around this, is to simply not play him. If he isn’t on the pitch, he can’t use up games and get closer to that fee. If he isn’t on the bench, then we can’t be tempted to chuck him on, and us fans can’t question why he wasn’t used. If he played games now, it would mean he isn’t available for the second half of the season, including a possible FA Cup run. This would be made even more of a mess, if he was playing well, and then vanished from the team for no obvious reason. It would be easier to do it this way, and imply there was some reason he didn’t get involved in the first half of the season, and then use him for the second half. Is this farfetched? Yes. Is it possibly the case? Yes!! I honestly would not put it passed us, in order to save some money.
In reality, we don’t know the reason, and can only guess. If I had to put my money on it, I would say we are avoiding paying the fee, but that is the cynic in me! At the same time, when Roy pushed for Sako to be brought back last January, only to then not play him, it is possible that Roy simply sees 18 other players more deserving on match day then Victor currently. One thing that does stand out to me, is that Victor doesn’t seem to be complaining. There are no stories of him being upset. No rumours of his agent trying to force our hand. Not even a sniff of the loan being terminated. There must be a reason for it.
All we can currently do, is wait and see. Will Camarasaemerge from the shadows, or will he join the Jach and RakipHall of Shame? We can only guess, but personally, I look forward to him scoring a 30 yard screamer at Wembley to win us the FA Cup!!
Only at the Palace!!