Crystal Palace Football Club has been looking for a new manager since the last day of the 2020/2021 season. After four comfortable years at the helm, which have seen the club become stable in the English Premier League after years of bouncing between the top flight and the Championship, veteran manager Roy Hodgson decided the time was right to retire at the age of 73. He gave club chairman Steve Parish plenty of notice of his intentions, so Palace should have had a new manager lined up months ago. For whatever reason, they didn’t – and the subsequent search for a new man at the helm ran on through May and June into July.
Various names were linked with the vacancy. Former Chelsea manager Frank Lampard was the early front runner, but that speculation didn’t go anywhere. Eddie Howe, a highly rated coach who’s been out of a job since leaving Bournemouth, was also linked with the post but didn’t take it. Rafa Benitez was thought to be on the “wanted” list at one point but controversially ended up at Everton. Nuno Espirito Santo briefly became a favourite with bookmakers but eventually took the Spurs job after Tottenham’s own protracted search for a new manager finally came to an end. Lucian Favre is believed to have turned down an offer. By process of elimination, Palace eventually landed on Arsenal and France legend Patrick Vieira.
As a player, Vieira’s qualities were never in doubt. He was masterful at Arsenal and also excelled in Italy with Inter Milan and Juventus before returning to England to finish his career at Manchester City. He won the Premier League three times and Serie A three times, too. He won 107 caps for France at the international level, winning both the UEFA European Championship and the 1998 FIFA World Cup. As a manager, it’s harder to assess his ability. His coaching career started with Manchester City’s youth team in 2011 before becoming manager of New York City FC in America’s MLS in 2015. He led the team to their first-ever MLS Playoff in 2016 and continued to perform well for the next two years, at which point he was offered the opportunity to manage Nice in Ligue 1 in his homeland.
Things at Nice didn’t go quite as smoothly. He finished seventh in his first season in charge – a minor improvement on the club’s previous performance, but less than had been hoped for. He kept his job for two years but was fired after five consecutive losses in December 2020. Since then, he’s worked as a pundit for the BBC. The Nice job isn’t an easy one in France because of the club’s relatively lowly standing compared to the giants of their division, but with Crystal Palace, he’s walking into a similar environment. He’s also got an immediate problem. The new season begins next month, and the club has just released twenty-two players.
Most of the recent releases happened by default because players had reached the end of their contracts, and there was no manager in place to decide who to let go and who to offer new deals to. As it stands, Palace will be without the services of veteran centre-back Gary Cahill, defender Nathaniel Clyne, and midfielder Andros Townsend next season. Mamadou Sakho is also gone, as are Patrick van Aanholt and keeper Wayne Hennessey. Wilfried Zaha is still under contract, but the star player has made it known he’d like to join a bigger club. It’s possible that Vieira will immediately offer new contracts to at least some of the departed players, but there’s a risk they’ll be snapped up by other clubs in the meantime.
Even if Vieira tempts back some of the released squad members and persuades Zaha to stick around, he has a mammoth rebuilding task on his hands. He’s going to need six or seven new players before the season begins, and he has very little time to bed them in with their new teammates and gel the squad together. That means Palace’s pre-season is likely to be difficult – and experience tells us that can lead to trouble when the competition gets underway. An unsettled squad can easily start the season with a losing streak, and negative momentum can be difficult to shift once it takes effect. Sheffield United’s season was effectively over before it started last year when they went ten games before getting their first win. That thought must surely have crossed the minds of everyone associated with Crystal Palace.
Vieira’s standing within the game might persuade some players who wouldn’t normally entertain the idea of joining Crystal Palace to take a chance on the rebuilding project. That could be a positive, but even so, the team is going to look and feel like the rapidly rotating reels of an online slots game. Success at online slots comes with experimentation and repetition. If things aren’t going well for you, you adjust the size of your bet and spin again. With patience, luck, and a large bankroll, success on the online slots of Rose Slots Canada is usually inevitable if you can withstand the losses you’ll accrue before you get there. Every time Vieira experiments with his lineup and his formation in the hope of finding something that works, it’s like taking another spin and hoping for the jackpot. The problem is that patience isn’t something that managers are blessed with in football. The pressure will be on almost immediately. If relegation appears to be on the cards after the first third of the season elapses, Vieira might find himself out of a job by Christmas.
There are positives that Crystal Palace fans can hope for beyond the chance that his contacts in the game might improve the club’s prospects of signing new stars. He has a pro-youth policy that might offer opportunities to players in the club’s academy. He’s also been noted for his attacking, pressing style of play, which is good for entertainment. He’s a clever man, and he’ll come into the job with his eyes open. He’ll believe that he can outperform expectations and keep the club out of trouble. For the sake of the Crystal Palace fans among our readership, we hope he’s right.