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September 23 2021 4.47pm

Is Palace’s status as relegation candidates justified?

July 26 2021

Selhurst Park (Photo: Andy Roberts)

Selhurst Park (Photo: Andy Roberts)

A quick glance at the odds for the upcoming season reveals that Palace are fourth favourites to be relegated at the end of the campaign, writes John Carless.

Only newly-promoted Norwich, Brentford and Watford more likely to face the drop. So, are the Eagles on course for a relegation battle? Or can new boss Patrick Viera improve on the 14th place Roy Hodgson achieved in his final season?

Doubts about Viera

The early football betting prices are not always an accurate gauge of how a season will pan out but they do give an idea about where punters’ money is going.

Palace finished ahead of Southampton, Brighton and Burnley last season but are priced shorter than all three in Premier League relegation betting odds. This suggests that there is not much confidence in Patrick Viera’s ability to have an instant impact.

Some of that doubt may be born out of the fact that Palace have switched from an experienced and proven coach coming to the end of his career to a young and relatively inexperienced gaffer who is just getting started out on his journey. Meanwhile, the other three clubs mentioned have all retained their managers.

Impressive New Signings

The early signs are good for the Eagles. The club have already signed Marc Guéhi, who enjoyed an upward trajectory during his time at Swansea and will be a great addition to the squad. The Eagles have also snapped up 19-year-old Michael Olise from Reading who was one of the most impressive U-21 performers in the Championship last season.

The left-footed-midfielder had the second-highest number of assists in the league and can play in a number of positions. If Viera can identify more young talent that can be developed to perform at the top level, there could be reason to be optimistic.

Tough Challenge Ahead

Improving on Hodgson’s 14th-place finish might be a tougher task than it sounds, however. You only have to look at Everton who recruited one of the game’s most successful coaches in Carlo Ancelotti and gave him a healthy transfer budget, only to finish 10th. Or Wolves, who spent over £300m during Nuno Espirito Santo’s reign just to finish a point above Palace last season.

Creating an Identity

To get that extra edge, you need something different. Leeds United had one of the best seasons of any promoted side ever by doing things their own way. Marcelo Bielsa was defiant in the face of criticism and never once swayed from his principles.

He created a team with an identity, work ethic and style of play that was sneered at in the beginning but lauded in the end following a ninth-place finish. And he did it all without the distraction of a relegation fight.

For Patrick Viera, the season will be on a knife-edge. He needs time to put things in place, to create an identity, to be competitive and to entertain. But, he cannot afford to regress during the transition period and risk being relegated. That’s the balancing act the new boss faces over the next 12 months.

With that in mind, it is understandable why so many people feel Palace may end up flirting with danger this season.

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