'He Comes From Serbia...': The Impact of Luka Milivojevic & How He Stepped Into Mile Jedinak's Shoes

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There were many aspects of Alan Pardew's reign that contributed to his downfall at Selhurst Park; the catastrophic signings on astronomical wages, the unacceptable results, not to mention the unrest behind the scenes that he caused. 

Specifically, the latter point was Pardew's biggest undoing. His undermining of club legend Julian Speroni, as well as his decision to sell the likes of Glenn Murray, Dwight Gayle and Yannick Bolasie - who were all key players on and off the pitch - resulted in a backlash against the former Newcastle boss from many of his senior players. 

One senior player had such a colossal impact around the entirety of the club that his presence inadvertently challenged Pardew's ego and his desire to be the alpha male at the club - the man in question being none other than the imperious Mile Jedinak. 

The hard hitting Australian led by example for the duration of his time in south London after arriving from Turkish club Gençlerbirliği, dragging the club from the depths of the Championship to dine at England's top table in the space of five years, doing so whilst proudly donning the captain's armband. 

However, the Aussie was slowly outed by Pardew. Jedinak was stripped of the captaincy and shipped off to Aston Villa, and all in all was inexplicably disrespected by Pardew. This decision came back to bite the boss on the backside as he saw his team capitulate without their midfield anchor, as a trio of Jason Puncheon, Yohan Cabaye and James McArthur looked lost and outfought in the middle of the park consistently. 


The Eagles became unstuck without their talismanic figure, and for all the intricacies of the aforementioned trio, the defence looked open and unprotected without Jedinak. Pardew's reckless decision consequently cost him his job and left the south Londoners staring relegation in the face, until the notorious survival fighter Sam Allardyce rocked up at Selhurst Park.

Allardyce quickly became aware of the need for an anchorman in the middle of the park, and set about searching for a plug to the hole in his midfield in the January transfer window just weeks after his appointment. 30 days had passed without an answer to the problem, with only two signings made in the shape of Jeffrey Schlupp and Patrick van Aanholt. 

At 21:54 on the 31st January, however, Palace finally found a replacement for Jedinak in the shape of the Serbian international Luka Milivojević, signed from Olympiakos for a fee of around £13m. 

It was clear from the off that Milivojević had the defensive brain of Jedinak that the Eagles had so desperately missed, whilst also possessing a composure and effectiveness on the ball that the Australian did not, and his inclusion in the starting eleven unsurprisingly sparked an upturn in results. 

By watching the Serbian closely week in week out, it was clear that his impact stretched further than just improving the role that he occupied. Safe in the knowledge that 'Luka' was behind them, the form of Yohan Cabaye and Jason Puncheon improved drastically, the Frenchman in particular grabbing some vital goals and assists as the Eagles dispatched of Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool to survive.  

Additionally, whether it be van Aanholt or Schlupp at left back pushing further forward to join the attack, spectators who watch the game and not the ball would've been aware of the former Olympiakos man's positional awareness, as he could be seen slotting into the spaces left deserted by his adventurous teammates.  

Every team needs a player like Milivojević. Manchester United have Nemanja Matic. Chelsea have N'Golo Kante. Manchester City have Fernandinho, and so on. These unselfish players allow the rest of the team to express themselves and gives the side a base, a platform to build on, and are a crucial aspect of any successful side. 

Furthermore, in terms of stepping into Jedinak's shoes, Milivojević has become a useful asset from set pieces for Palace having been appointed penalty taker after Christian Benteke's inconsistencies, scoring all three of his penalties since arriving in England. The Serbian is also a decent free kick taker, scoring one versus West Brom in pre-season, but is yet to notch one competitively for the Eagles. 

Nonetheless, Milivojević is the industrious midfielder that Palace have been crying out for ever since Jedinak's departure, and after a porous six-month period without the Aussie or a player of his ilk, the 26-year-old has wasted no time in asserting his authority on the Premier League side.