Analysis

Premier League 2021/ 22 Season Preview: Crystal Palace

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It almost seems like Crystal Palace may finally find their groove in the Premier League. A summer of umpteen changes has resulted in an optimistic atmosphere at Selhurst Park. Following Roy Hodgson’s retirement from management at the end of last season, the Eagles have entrusted Patrick Vieira with steadying the ship for the upcoming campaign. Vieira’s arrival is a shot in the arm for a club desperate for positive changes on the pitch.

Despite having attuned to the Premier League following their promotion in 2013, Palace have not shown progress in the division. The club has repeatedly failed at penetrating the top half of the table, having finished in the bottom half for six consecutive seasons. Besides, in recent seasons, efforts at rebranding the club’s philosophy have failed to provide tangible results on the pitch. With the appointment of Viera as manager, fans will be hoping his arrival marks the beginning of a new era at a club starved of sustainable progression on the pitch.

Having succeeded in avoiding relegation under Hodgson, the club will be hoping for metamorphosis under the new manager. For a start, the former Arsenal midfielder will be hoping to find the right proportion of experience and talent in a relatively ageing and pragmatic squad. Additionally, Vieira will be keen on providing a platform for the youngsters to find their feet in the Premier League, thus, envisioning a shift from Hodgson’s cautious approach to an exhilarating attacking force next season.

Season Expectations

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Following the departures of numerous first-team players ahead of the new season, Vieira will be hoping to find stability within the squad. While the likes of Andros Townsend, Patrick Van Aanholt, and Mamadou Sakho have left the club following the expiration of their contract, the arrival of promising youngsters is a boost to Vieira’s prospects for the upcoming season.

Although the club have been underwhelming performers in the Premier League, Vieira will be hoping to inspire a rejuvenation at the club. Joachim Andersen and Marc Guéhi are indispensable additions to the backline while the purchase of Conor Gallagher from Chelsea and the Michael Olise from Reading brings the much-needed depth and firepower in the attacking front.

Given the wealth of experience within the squad, Vieira will be hoping to strike the right balance and produce consistent results next season. The manager will expect the likes of James McArthur and club captain Luka Milivojevic to provide the experience and maturity required to execute his plans next season. Nevertheless, given the inconsistencies last season, the fans will be hoping for a top-half finish and a fresh approach to games, thus, marking a positive change at the club next season.

Area of Improvement

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Despite boasting decent numbers in the attacking third, the Eagles were devastatingly shocking in the defensive department last season. Palace conceded 66 goals – third-highest – throughout the league campaign despite the manager’s rigid approach last season. Additionally, the lack of quality, aging players, and long-term injuries proved to be extremely challenging for a team starved of positive change last season.

Under Vieira, the club will be hoping to improve their defensive form and subsequently change their approach on the pitch. The arrival of young and proven centre-backs ahead of an underrated goalkeeper in Vicente Guaita will provide the platform for a more expansive approach; pushing the team further up the pitch.

Additionally, with a reliable backline, Vieira will be banking on the likes of Wilfried Zaha and Christian Benteke to provide the necessary goods upfront. Provided he overcomes the obstacles that come with being a Premier League, Vieira may well shun his critics and spark a new sense of optimism at Palace next season.

Key Period (Gameweek 3-8)

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Following a bright start to their league campaign, Palace eventually lost momentum over the course of last season. The club secured a 14th place finish with 44 points, however, remaining inconsistent and failing to keep clean sheets for long parts of last season.

Under Hodgson, the team’s repetitive failure at finding the back of the next and the multitude of defensive errors, pronounced by the squad’s rigid approach, hampered the club’s prospects last season. However, with Vieira, the club will be hoping for a positive change in results next season.

Palace will begin their campaign against an exceptional Chelsea squad before they move on to face newly-promoted Brentford. Vieira will be keen on marking his presence with a strong start and will look to gradually improve and make an impact during the aforementioned period, which saw the squad losing three games last season.

Key Player: Wilfried Zaha

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Arguably the club’s most prized asset, Zaha has been the club’s most effective player on the pitch. The Ivorian recorded a career-best 11 goals in the Premier League last season and will be hoping to be a key part of the manager’s plans next season.

With youngster Eberechi Eze forcibly sidelined following an unfortunate injury earlier this year, Zaha will be expected to put in consistent performances next season. Provided his long-standing desire to secure a move fails to materialise, the club’s fortunes may once again be dependent on the 28-year-old forward.

However, with new arrivals and a fresh approach to games, Zaha may finally tap into his world-class potential and provide the necessary returns required of him next season.

League Position: Top half of the bottom half of the table 

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Despite a tumultuous campaign, Hodgson comfortably managed to avoid relegation last season. However, while the arrival of Vieira may bring the necessary changes, questions still loom over his long-term potential at the club.

While at New York City FC, Vieira developed as a coach, improving the league position of the club over the course of his term as manager. Subsequently, Vieira also led Ligue 1 side Nice to a seventh-place finish, thus, helping the club qualify for the UEFA Europa League before his sacking in December last year.

Nevertheless, Vieira will bring a fresh approach at Selhurst Park next season. With the aim of finishing in the top-half, owing to his inexperience in the division as manager, the Frenchman may marginally fall short of it, but, will possibly bring a palatable brand of football to the fans next season.

MUST READ: FPL 2021/22: Crystal Palace Preview | Fantasy Premier League

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