Upon moving to the Premier League back in 2015, when he joined Aston Villa, Jordan Ayew suffered relegation with the club. Few would have thought that the years that followed would have seen the Ghanaian become a prolific Premier League striker after making the move to Selhurst Park in 2018.
Although the 28-year-old endured a tricky start to life with the Eagles, scoring just one goal in 20 appearances, his 2019-20 form would see him become an established top-flight goalscorer. So, is Ayew the most underrated striker in the top tier of English football?
- Spearheading Palace’s Top-Half Challenge
Since signing a three-year deal with Roy Hodgson’s team, the Ghana international has, alongside Wilfried Zaha, become a focal point of Palace’s attack. Fundamentally, it’s hardly surprising that the center forward has begun to find his feet at the domestic level given his record in front of goal for Ghana. At the time of writing, the six-foot striker has found the net 16 times in 58 appearances for his national team.
Although Ayew is highly unlikely to claim the Premier League’s golden boot for the 2019-20 campaign, from an individual standpoint, he has reached a record number of goals. Despite the fact that he did not score when the Eagles lost to Leicester City at the King Power Stadium, the 28-year-old remains as the highest goal scorer for the South-London based club. At present, Ayew is currently amongst the top goal scorers this season, having scored more than Alexandre Lacazette, Roberto Firmino, and Son Heung-Min.
- Integral to Palace
While Palace’s hunt for a European place appears to be over following a poor run of form since the restart, Ayew continues to spearhead the Eagle’s hunt for a top-half finish. Crucially, the Ghanaian’s participation percentage regarding the South London side’s goalscoring prowess demonstrates how pivotal he is to Hodgson’s team. He boasts a goal involvement of over 30 per cent, highlighting his importance in the attacking third.
Because of his integral role within the English manager’s hard-to-beat Palace side, it’s resulted in Ayew receiving high praise from the former Liverpool boss. In a recent interview, Hodgson labeled the 28-year-old as a “phenomenon” because of his impressive availability. This is reflected in his injury history, having noted no absences through injury during Ayew’s time with the Eagles.
- How Does He Compare to the League’s Other Forwards?
In developing into an established top-flight striker, Ayew has, in the process, broken records along the way. After scoring at the Vitality Stadium in Palace’s 2-0 win over Bournemouth back in June, the 28-year-old became the highest-scoring Ghanaian in Premier League history with 25 goals. This total surpassed the previous record held by Tony Yeboah, who scored found the net on 24 occasions during his time with Leeds United at Elland Road.
After 32 league games, Ayew is outperforming his expected goals for the season, according to Understat. Moreover, despite Zaha often being considered as the catalyst for Palace’s on-field victories, the Ghanaian boasts a higher xG90 (expected goals per 90 minutes) than the Ivorian. Furthermore, although he is not in a title-winning side, the Marseille-born attacker only offers the Eagles approximately 0.5 shots per game less than Firmino manages at Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool.
Of course, to compare Ayew to the likes of Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy, and Sergio Aguero, for example, wouldn’t provide a fair reflection of his abilities. While other Premier League strikers, including Danny Ings, have shown that they are perhaps more prolific in front of goal, that doesn’t detract from the 28-year-old's abilities.
As of July 7th, Palace are 11.00 in the football betting at Betway to finish in the top half of the table come the end of the existing campaign. Importantly, if they are to secure such a position, then they’ll need Ayew to continue his impressive form.
- Out to Prove Himself
Crucially, having fallen short of showing his best form while at Aston Villa and Swansea earlier in his English football career, the 28-year-old has been out to prove himself throughout the 2019-20 season. Ultimately, few can argue that Ayew isn't, relative to his team, one of the Premier League’s most important players. With a goal involvement rate of over 30 percent for the Eagles, there can be no doubts that he is underrated by many top-flight spectators.