Crystal Palace season preview: Patrick Vieira leads Eagles into new era

The Frenchman is back in the Premier League after a spell managing Nice (Morgan Harlow/PA)

Last season

In his final season as the club’s manager, Roy Hodgson once again steered an ageing Crystal Palace squad to safety, finishing a comfortable 16 points clear of the relegation zone. The veteran coach’s tactics often drew criticism for their conservative nature, while the club remain reliant on the individual brilliance of Wilfried Zaha, but there can be no disputing that Hodgson has left Palace with a great platform for the club’s long-awaited revamp. Eberechi Eze, the club’s major new signing, impressed in patches and Christian Benteke was one of few senior players to earn a new contract thanks to his 10 Premier League goals.

Transfer window so far

It has been a dramatic and tantalising summer for Palace fans thus far thanks to what’s been a near-constant revolving door in the transfer window. With their contracts expired, senior players such as Gary Cahill, Patrick van Aanholt, Andros Townsend and Mamadou Sakho are among those to have already left the club. While some of those will be missed, though, the club’s clear strategy to invest in youth has brought plenty of promise. Championship starlet Michael Olise has signed from Reading while Marc Guehi, who impressed last season on loan at Swansea, has been bought on a permanent deal from Chelsea. Conor Gallagher has joined on loan after a spell at West Brom while centre-back Joachim Andersen had drawn interest from across Europe after a standout season with Fulham.

Manager

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For all Palace’s clear strategy in the transfer window, their search for a new coach was somewhat chaotic. There was interest in managers from both England and overseas, with names such as Steve Cooper, Sean Dyche, Frank Lampard, Eddie Howe, Nuno Espirito Santo and Lucien Favre touted for the role. In the end, though, the club opted for Patrick Vieira. It is an exciting but high-risk appointment, with Vieira’s credentials as a coach – his immense playing career followed by schooling under Pep Guardiola at Manchester City – not always translating into results, with his tenure at Nice leaving question marks.

Key player

Wilfried Zaha. For all the new faces at the club, Zaha remains the talisman and clearly the most talented player at Palace. Despites rumours again this summer that he is set to depart the club, there has thus far been little concrete interest in the 28-year-old winger, who has so often shouldered the club’s creative and goalscoring burden. Promisingly, after scoring 11 goals last season, he will no longer be such an isolated target for opposition players. With the likes of Eze (set to miss the start of the campaign through injury), Olise and Gallagher all bringing their own individual promise and threat, Zaha should benefit from that renewed freedom and remain the club’s matchwinner.

What would be success?

Although such a revamp will inevitably bring lofty hopes, the clearest goal for Palace this season remains avoiding relegation. Implementing great change always comes with risk attached, and the fans desire is to see a more exciting brand of football that allows the younger players to thrive and build solid foundations without sacrificing safety and results. A mid-table finish would represent an excellent first step into a new era for the club.

August Premier league fixtures

(a) vs Chelsea, Saturday 14 August, 3pm

(h) vs Brentford, Saturday 21 August, 3pm

(a) vs West Ham, Saturday 28 August, 3pm

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Bookies’ ranking

18th (1,000/1 for the title)

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