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October 19 2021 3.34pm

New Palace taking shape, but still undervalued

September 21 2021

Patrick Vieira

Patrick Vieira

One of the most exciting moves on the managerial side of things was seeing who Crystal Palace would appoint as their new boss, writes Steve Blake.

Roy Hodgson certainly came in and did his job, keeping the Eagles in the top-flight on a rather limited budget. However, it would rarely make for good viewing.

Even though he was the third choice, after Lucien Favre and Nuno Espirito Santo turned down the role, Patrick Vieira created intrigue with his appointment.

The Frenchmanís recent stint with OGC Nice didnít end too well, and overall, heíd be categorised as an untested manager.

Still, itís tough to say that the seasonís started poorly. A defeat to Chelsea in the opening game was all-but-inevitable, regardless of who was coming into their first game in charge of Palace.

Next, drawing with wild card Brentford wasnít too bad given the style of play that was seen in glimmers, and the 2-2 tie with West Ham showed promise.

The turning point, perhaps even the catalyst for a decent campaign, may end up being the 3-0 win against Spurs, which, even though it was against ten men, gave credence to Vieiraís high-press strategies. However, even with the tempered optimism thatís starting to bubble, Palace are struggling to shed the negative preseason forecasts.

A rebuilt team thatís still undervalued

Palace have long been criticised for being old and slow, so over the summer, the club released seven players aged 30 or over: Patrick van Aanholt, Gary Cahill, Scott Dann, Wayne Hennessey, Mamadou Sakho, and Andros Townsend. Despite not a single penny coming in by way of a transfer fee, the Eagles then spent £66 million to rebuild a squad in Vieiraís image.

While the teamís average is still on the older side with these additions, the additions were, at the very least, all under 27-years-old. Marc Guehi and Joachim Andersen inject some youth into the backline, and 19-year-old Michael Olise looks an exciting prospect in a similar vein to Eberechi Eze. Of course, the headline signing was Celtic striker Odsonne Edouard, who scored 50 goals in 87 games of 2019/20 and 2020/21 for the Bhoys.

Since Vieira has taken the helm, what was once the most defensive team in the league has started to come out of its shell a bit more, and increasingly so with each passing game.

Given that Palace were well-and-truly pegged back to the goal line by Chelsea, their sudden intent to press high up the pitch and converge on any ball carrier in midfield is only more impressive and shows a belief in the attacking, aggressive system.

Experts still overly cautious about Palaceís prospects

Despite these very good signings and the performances starting to yield results, Palace are still underrated, and quite embarrassingly so in one market. In the bet uk FA Cup odds, Salford City are favoured over Palace to win the trophy at 60/1 to the Eaglesí 68/1. Of course, this may be due to Palace seemingly throwing the League Cup game against Watford, likely to focus on the Premier League, but itís still a rather unfavourable rating.

At the very least, Palace arenít at the absolute wrong end of the league odds anymore. Now, still out at 1250/1 to win the Premier League, all of Burnley, Newcastle United, Watford, and Norwich City are further out in the odds.

This does show a bit of a trend away from the preseason doom-mongering about a new, relatively green manager, but it doesnít really reflect the increasingly strong showings, including promising flashes in their 3-0 loss to Liverpool, and 14th-place standing after five games.

Putting a great deal of pressure on a team in midfield and towards their goal line is a proven strategy in the Premier League, and may only get Palace caught out against teams with elite playmakers and even more aggressive clubs.

Still, Edouard, Zaha, and especially Eze when he returns, will revel in this system, forcing opposing defences and defensive midfielders to stay honest.

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