It has taken a while, but Crystal Palace have appointed former Arsenal invincible Patrick Vieira as Roy Hodgson’s replacement and the relatively inexperienced boss will manage in the English top flight for the first time.
Last seen in charge of Nice, there are a few things the French boss will need to do if Crystal Palace are to improve on Hodgson’s solid foundations and compete for a place in the top half of the Premier League. Here’s what lies in his in-tray at Selhurst Park.
Restructure the side after mass exodus
Nice and easy one to start off with hey? Before a ball is kicked, Vieira has a lot of work to do to restructure his new side.
First of all, he will need to assemble a new squad. Earlier this summer, Palace published their retained and released list and a lot of senior and experienced players were let go – 22 in total. Gary Cahill, Nathaniel Clyne, Scott Dann, Patrick van Aanholt and Andros Townsend are a few of the players whose contracts were not renewed and they have bid farewell to Selhurst Park. As key and experienced players, they will need to be individually replaced as the new boss will look to immediately build a side in South London that can quickly charge up the table.
A few of the names on the list came as a surprise to the wider footballing community but the issue is not with the players being released, it is the timing of them all departing at the same time. Palace have stagnated in the last few years and are now looking for some enthusiasm to be injected into the side, having had their fingers burnt in their Frank de Boer experiment.
It has taken Steve Parish a while but he has finally seen that if the club wants to make any progress, the club needs a new, clear vision to steer them in the right direction. It was only five years ago they reached the FA Cup final but the side has regressed as a result of players maintaining their positions and getting complacent.
A lot of players will need to come in to make up the numbers but they need to be players who will provide strong competition to whoever Vieira deems suitable to make his best eleven ahead of their first Premier League fixture against Chelsea on August 14th.
Find some goals
Crystal Palace are not the most prolific sides in the Premier League in front of goal. They scored a collective 41 goals last season, 15th in the Premier League. Wilfried Zaha, as expected, was their top scorer with 11, the same tally as Gareth Bale, Sadio Mane, Marcus Rashford and Matheus Pereira. The club have heavily relied on their star attacker in recent years and the player seems to have been frustrated at the lack of progression at the club.
The club did excellently to bring in Eberechi Eze but as he will miss the start of the season, the new boss will need to find players who can help share Palace’s attacking burden. Vieira will need to quickly identify targets that would make good business for the club on and off the pitch. He will need to find players to support and complement Zaha’s style and have the ability to share some of the goalscoring burden laid on the 28-year-old’s shoulders.
Keep Wilfried Zaha
This leads to Vieira’s next task, convincing Zaha to stay. The summer transfer window is never officially open until you see "Zaha wants to leave Palace".
It is understandable, a player of his quality could easily play at a higher level but many of the clubs he will be eyeing up will be well-stocked in his position. Before, Zaha had reasons to be frustrated, the club carried on into each season with the same group of players, the old guard if you will, and with a lack of promising acquisitions, the club looked like they no longer had intentions to be more than just an extra in the Premier League. Nothing they did made it look like the club was turning a corner.
Having seen the high number of players released and the calibre of coach the club are trying to appoint, Zaha might consider listening to Vieira’s vision for the club and definitely in the short-term, the Ivory Coast international will be key to the new boss.
Give Palace an identity
Finally, Vieira needs to give his side an identity. However, this may be more difficult than first thought. He was sacked at Nice in his last job having lost five games in a row and with the side lacking any discernible style of play, however this did come after he had led them to the Europa League with a fifth placed finish.
This is the biggest job of his career to date and the eyes of the world’s media will be on him, with Parish putting huge faith in his managerial ability. There’s an awful lot of work to be done and identifying a clear system and style of play will make player recruitment a whole lot easier. They will know exactly how they play and which areas of the pitch they will need to strengthen to take them to the next level.