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NMA Spotlight: New Crystal Palace Manager Patrick Vieira

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Real-life and Fantasy Implications: A review of Crystal Palace’s 2020-21 season with an eye on what the Eagles’ fans and FPL managers can expect from the club’s new manager.

Patrick Vieira - Crystal Palace - Pre-Season Friendly - Premier League Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

Back in the early 1900s, the words “Crystal Palace” were not always associated with the now-famous football club. Crystal Palace was an iconic cast-iron and plate-glass structure in London, designed by architect Joseph Paxton for Prince Albert’s 1851 Great Exposition. The monumental masterpiece of Victorian times was burned down to the ground due to a fire accident in November 1936.

Many believe that today’s club bearing the name of the then-iconic architectural masterpiece could similarly succumb in the upcoming 2021-22 Premier League season if the man at the helm doesn’t steer just right.

Fire Damage Photo by H. Allen/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

To learn more, see HITC sevens’ video of why Crystal Palace could be doomed in the upcoming season.


Crystal Palace 2020-21 Season Review

Crystal Palace v Aston Villa - Premier League Photo by Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images

Crystal Palace ended the 2020-21 Premier League season with 44 points to finish 14th in the table. Crystal Palace had started on a flier, Roy Hodgson’s men finishing the first half of the season just five points behind then-top Man United. The South Londoners were on course for a European spot at that point! Although Palace slacked off in the second half, the Eagles did well enough to assure a 9th successive Premier League outing since their promotion for the 2013-14 season.


Roy Hodgson’s Departure

Crystal Palace v Arsenal - Premier League Photo by Charlotte Wilson/Offside/Offside via Getty Images

Despite Palace’s starting-11 having the oldest average age of any EPL club in the 2020-21 season, the squad was a perfect fit for Roy Hodgson’s style of play. The former England manager had a somewhat conservative approach to the game, instructing his team to sit deep and defend when not in possession, relying on quick counter-attacks to score goals. This style of play suited the aging squad as the old guard didn’t have to run as much as in a pressing style, and they could use their experience to nick results. Ever since Hodgson decided to call it a day and step down from his illustrious 45-year long managerial career, there has been an air of uncertainty around the South London club’s future.


Appointment of Patrick Vieira

To say the Premier League’s managerial revolving door this season has been chaotic is an understatement. Like Tottenham’s and Everton’s, Crystal Palace’s new appointment wasn’t straightforward, the Arsenal legend not being the the Eagles first choice.

Patrick Vieira’s experience as a manager, although not as impressive as the man he is replacing, shouldn’t be underestimated. The French World Cup winner has managed over 170 games at the senior first-team level, with a win percentage of 41.89 with New York City and OGC Nice.

New York City FC v Orlando City SC - MLS Photo by Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images

During Patrick Vieira’s two and a half years with New York City FC, the former Inter Milan midfielder earned the trust of the fans by guiding the Bronx team to successive 2nd place finishes in the Eastern Conference of the MLS. Former NYCFC star and World Cup winner David Villa heaped praise on Vieira’s brand of football and style of management after the Frenchman’s stint with the New York club.

FBL-EUR-C3-NICE-BAYER LEVERKUSEN Photo by VALERY HACHE/AFP via Getty Images

After stepping down from his position in NYCFC, Vieira immediately accepted an offer from OGC Nice to replace the Dortmund-bound Lucien Favre, kicking off his French league managerial career. Vieira’s first two seasons at Nice saw Les Aiglons finish 7th and 6th in Ligue 1 in the 2018-19 and pandemic-affected 2019-20 seasons respectively, their 2019-20 result their highest position in the league since the remarkable 3rd place finish 2016-17. However, Nice’s 5- game losing streak ending with a group-stage elimination from the Europa League was the final nail in the coffin for Patrick Vieira as manager of Les Aiglons.

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Vieira has generally employed a free attacking style of play in both of his previous managerial outings, and he is quite committed to his philosophy. Although stubbornness is not always a bad attribute to have as a manager, this quality of his has come back to haunt him in the past, where his reluctance to switch gears against local rivals New York Redbulls in the Hudson River Derby after a 7-0 drubbing in the Yankee stadium saw the then-NYCFC manager set a poor record in the battle for New York.

Walsall v Crystal Palace - Pre-Season Friendly Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

The main challenge that Vieira will face as Palace manager will be to clear out the deadwood and inject new energy into midfield. In an ideal world, Vieira would love to sign a 21-year-old version of himself to sit at the heart of midfield, but since we don’t live in a fantasy world, the Frenchman will have to find an alternative solution.

Inheriting an aging Crystal Palace squad, it’ll be close to impossible for Vieira to play his preferred all-guns-blazing style of football. There are two routes that the Arsenal “Invincible” can pursue:

  1. Lose his attacking identity and adopt a more conservative approach
  2. Stick with his philosophy and do the unthinkable.

If Vieira chooses an attacking approach, Crystal Palace games will soon become a must-watch for EPL fans, as we could expect loads of goalmouth action at both ends of the pitch. With Palace chairman Steve Parish promising an £80 million transfer budget, the Eagles faithful can hope for some value signings that should help propel them to survival, the only realistic objective for the South Londoners this season.


FPL Prospects

Walsall v Crystal Palace - Pre-Season Friendly Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

At this point, I wouldn’t draft any Crystal Palace players into my initial FPL team — Vieira’s style in the EPL has too many unknowns. If one was to look at recent history, the Eagles have been hit and miss as fantasy assets. In terms of attacking, with last season’s FPL star Eberechi Eze (£6.0M, MID) out for the start of the season due to an Achilles injury, Wilfried Zaha (£7.0M, MID) will be the only player to rely on for somewhat consistent point returns.

Although I believe the former Man United star has been underpriced this season, he still isn’t a pick until we know how Crystal Palace’s attacking guns blaze. Adding to this, the ever-looming cloud over Zaha’s future at the club is off-putting; I don’t want to add a distracted player to my draft.

Last season’s uncut diamond Tyrick Mitchell (£4.5, DEF) could be a good pick if Patrick Van Aanholt’s (TBD) exit from the club is finalized.

Chelsea win Champions League title Photo by Alex Caparros - UEFA/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Crystal Palace’s first five matches are against Chelsea, Brentford FC, West Ham, Tottenham, and Liverpool. I wouldn’t be sleeping easy if I owned Crystal Palace assets in a run of five games including Champions League winning Chelsea, in form West Ham, a rejuvenated Spurs side, and mighty Liverpool. The Brentford game could be classed as an easy fixture, but I wouldn’t recommend banking on it alone as it is very unlikely that Crystal Palace will get a positive result in any of those other games.

Although I don’t like to look too far ahead, Crystal Palace’s best run of fixtures ranges from GW-30 and GW-37, so the likes of Zaha, Mitchell and Benteke (£6.5, FWD) could be solid picks if they’re even still featuring in that distant future.


What is your opinion on Patrick Vieira’s appointment? How do you think he’ll approach the games? What signings could inject energy into the club’s attack? Please share your thoughts, and feel free to ask questions in the comments below!

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Poll

Will Patrick Vieira be a hit or miss for Crystal Palace?

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  • 60%
    Hit
    (9 votes)
  • 40%
    Miss
    (6 votes)
15 votes total Vote Now

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