Crystal Palace are a side bearing the fruits of upheaval.
When Patrick Vieira was named boss at Selhurst Park after a summer of uncertainty – Lucien Favre and Nuno Espirito Santo were both interviewed prior to the eventual appointment – plenty of eyebrows were raised.
Could the Eagles’ nine-year stay in the Premier League draw to a close with the departure of survival expert Roy Hodgson and the succession of an unproven boss who ultimately failed in MLS and Ligue 1?
However, Monday night’s emphatic 3-0 win over a resurgent Arsenal lifted the side into 9th place – a highest position since November 2020 – with Vieira’s team consolidating the progress they have made this season.
Indeed, the Eagles are soaring under the Frenchman, playing an exciting brand of football and yielding some memorable performances and results for the SE25 faithful.
Last season, Palace finished 14th under the aforementioned Hodgson and so the difference with Vieira at the helm is clear in the improvement in league position.
Yet this doesn’t quite do justice to the philosophical overhaul conducted by Vieira, whose team have become one of the most dynamic outfits in the Premier League – a point Dee from Back of the Nest is keen to stress.
“When you talk about progression and Roy Hodgson and Patrick Vieira, you can look at the league table. Maybe you don’t notice much of a difference, but it’s more than that.
“I think it’s time that neutrals understand this… Yes, I get it’s a points game, but the whole mentality around the club has changed from Hodgson to now.”
Vieira has made an effort to bring down the average of his Crystal Palace squad with the likes of Connor Gallagher, Michael Olise and Jean-Philippe Mateta all shining this season.
The comprehensive dismantling of Arsenal on Monday night illustrated the capabilities of this Eagles side.
🧠 “He's growing as a manager.”
👏 “He has a bit more confidence in his management style.”
— FansBet (@FansBet) April 6, 2022
“The performance itself warranted the result,” says Dee.
“I don’t think we were lucky. In the first half, I felt like we controlled the game a bit more, not in terms of having more of the ball than Arsenal or out-classing them, but we still had more of the ball than we had in the second half.
“We had a game plan to press them and we did that well. In the second half, when were 2-0 up, we didn’t press them at the same level because that might have been a bit silly at times.
“So we sat back a bit more, but we had a game plan in terms of trying to hit them more on the counter attack.
“In terms of the overall performance, I was pleased because it shows that we don’t just have a Plan A. We have a Plan A and a Plan B.”
Palace have an FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea later this month to look forward to and there is a growing sense around Selhurst Park that Vieira is building something that could bring even more success to the club in the coming years.
Many of the young players in the dressing room have still to reach their full potential, with emerging talents such as Olise, Eberechi Eze, Tyrick Mitchell and Marc Guehi amongst others developing with each passing week.
“For the majority of the Palace fans, I feel like we understand that it’s going to take some time,” adds Dee.
“We are not the likes of Manchester City or Chelsea or even Arsenal where you can spend big money and you have world class players.
“We are Crystal Palace, where we did spend a bit of money in the summer, but we understand that a new manager and a new style of play can take a bit of time.”
There have been difficult periods in Crystal Palace’s 2021/22 campaign, like when Vieira’s team won just two of 11 league matches over October, November and December.
However, recent wins over Crystal Palace, Wolves and Arsenal, as well as a heartening draw against Manchester City last month, have justified Vieira’s decision to change the identity of the team.
“The style of football has changed. We’re playing modern football, but we’re not passing the ball for the sake of passing it.
“This season has been a transition season, a process season. We’re now looking at the next five years and what Vieira can do is change the mentality, which he has already done in a short space of time.
“We want to be an established top 10 club and if Vieira keeps improving as a manager, we can do that.”
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