When Patrick Vieira was announced as the new manager of Crystal Palace, you could’ve heard the groans on the other side of London.
It was nothing to do with his allegiance to Arsenal of course, but more for his less-than-impressive managerial record.
This World Cup winner cut his teeth in MLS with New York City FC, and though their final placings improved at the end of each season, the style of football was often underwhelming and ‘functional.’
It was probably more to do with the staff he had available, but a parting of the ways was inevitable at some point, so it was no surprise to see Vieira pitching up at Nice in June 2018.
An unremarkable two and a half years there ended in December 2020 after a run of five straight defeats, and he remained out of work until Palace came calling.
Given his stature in the game, supporters, perhaps unfairly, expected more of him as a manager, but it’s important to note that he’s still finding his feet.
Five years isn’t long to be learning your craft, particularly at a level lower than the English Premier League, with respect.
— Christian Benteke (@chrisbenteke) October 8, 2021
Now that he’s settled back in England, the Frenchman is going about proving everyone wrong.
As has been seen with creditable draws against Brentford, West Ham, Brighton and Leicester, as well as a comprehensive win over Tottenham, he is slowly but surely getting the maximum from his young set of players.
The defeats against Liverpool and Chelsea were regrettable but not surprising, and they shouldn’t be held against him at this point.
His transfer business across the summer was extensive and may well have quickly come back to haunt him.
However, in Odsonne Edouard, Michael Olise, Will Hughes, Conor Gallagher and Joachim Andersen, not to mention the other signings, Vieira has brought in young players that are hungry to prove themselves at the top level.
Players full of energy and running, and, importantly, players that will go to war and put in a shift for the team. Much like their manager in his pomp.
It’s true that the team lost stalwarts such as Gary Cahill, Patrick van Aanholt, Mamadou Sakho and Andros Townsend, but all were 30+ and in one summer, Vieira has lowered the average age of the team without losing out on quality.
Just a couple of wins from seventh spot, the Eagles have got everything to play for, and it’ll be over the next few weeks and into the Christmas fixtures where Vieira will earn his corn.
If he can get the team comfortably into mid-table by then, injuries permitting, there’s no reason why they can’t push on from there.
The combative and competitive streak that courses through Vieira’s veins will see to it that his charges adopt the same outlook and output, and no one should be in the least bit shocked if Palace end up becoming one of the league’s surprise packages by season’s end.