THE VIERA REVOLUTION: WHAT'S THE REASON FOR CRYSTAL PALACE'S GOOD FORM?
When Patrick Vieira was initially appointed Crystal Palace manager in July, many people were apprehensive and thought that the Eagles might struggle to retain their Premier League status under the Frenchman. Mainly due to Vieira's limited managerial experience of just a couple of two-year stints in America and France. As well as the worries around the London side's aging squad.
However, Palace backed Vieira in the summer, the club spent upwards of £60 million to revamp the side - more than the previous three years of transfer windows combined. The additions included centre backs Marc Guehi and Joachim Andersen, as well as Michael Olise and Odsonne Edouard. Furthermore, they brought in 21-year-old Conor Gallagher on loan from Chelsea for the season, who has shone for the Eagles so far. All of these summer signings are 25 and under, which shows the belief in a long-term plan for Viera.
Palace clearly recognised that their aging squad was an issue, and consequently shifted seven of their first team squad that were all aged 30 and over and out of contract. Including some key members in Patrick Van Aanholt, James McCarthy, Mamadou Sakho and Andros Townsend.
A tricky start to the season saw a trip to London rivals Chelsea, where a rampant display from Thomas Tuchel’s side saw them come away 3-0 winners – not the start that Vieira would’ve wanted. Palace’s first home game of the season was against newly promoted Brentford, which ended in a lacklustre 0-0 draw. Followed by a 1-0 defeat to Watford in the EFL Cup. But with a bulk of new players and a new style of play, it was always likely that it might take a while for the side to gel.
The Eagles scored their first goals under their new manager in a 2-2 draw at West Ham, after coming behind twice thanks to a Conor Gallacher brace. Despite not having recorded a victory in the Ex-Arsenal legends first four games in charge, what was evident was a new playing style. A more front foot approach was being taken, compared to Roy Hodgson’s more defensive approach of staying in games and trying to steal a goal late on – which in fairness was effective in Hodgson’s time at Selhurst Park.
The turning point for Vieira’s side was a 3-0 home victory against Tottenham, where a dominant display saw Palace record 63% possession and have 18 attempts at goal compared to Tottenham’s two. Summer signing Edouard was the star of the show, having come on with six minutes remaining he netted a brace to secure Palace’s first three points of the season.
Despite having suffered a comprehensive defeat at Anfield next, the Londoner’s still managed 13 attempts on Liverpool’s goal – five more than their last two league meetings to Anfield combined. Another positive sign. A 1-1 draw at home to Brighton in the M23 derby followed, courtesy of a last gasp equaliser from the Seagulls’ Neil Maupay to deny Palace their second victory in three matches.
The grit that Vieira has installed into Palace was evident in their tough fixtures against Leicester and Arsenal. Having been 2-0 down at half time against the Foxes, they came back to draw 2-2 and rescue a point against Leicester. Due to another star performance from a summer signing, this time Michael Olise who was brought in from Reading.
The Eagles also found themselves behind early on at The Emirates, but goals from Christian Benteke and Edouard saw them take a 2-1 lead in the second half. Palace would’ve taken all three points had it not been for Alexandre Lacazette’s 95th minute equaliser.
A 1-1 draw at home to Newcastle was to follow, in a match where Palace had 75% of the ball. Yet another indication of the change of approach under the 45-year-olds management.
Their last game was a monumental 2-0 victory against the Champions, Manchester City. An early Wilfried Zaha strike put Palace ahead, before they were aided by an Aymeric Laporte red card on the stroke of half time. Vieira’s side still had a tough job on their hands to keep City out but put the game to bed late on after Conor Gallagher’s strike made it a goal and an assist for the Chelsea loanee on the day.
Although Palace have only won two league games this season, they have also been beaten just twice – only Chelsea and Liverpool have suffered less league defeats. Their new attacking style of football and the never say die mentality that Vieira has installed in the new and existing players stands them in good stead for the remainder of the season. Lest we forget the Eagles are still without key player Eberechi Eze who is side-lined with injury, the young midfielders eventual return will be a further boost to the squad.
The new centre back pairing of Guehi and Andersen looks as if it’s starting to improve and the emergence of young left back Tyrick Mitchell will continue to be a key part of the Eagles’ new look side. The impact of Gallagher, Edouard and Olise has been evident already, with the trio having scored seven of Palace’s 13 league goals so far this campaign.
Palace play Wolves at Selhurst Park on Saturday and will be looking to record back-to-back Premier League victories for the first time since January.