The wait is over. Crystal Palace have finally appointed a successor to Roy Hodgson, with Patrick Vieira installed in the Selhurst Park hot seat on Sunday. The Frenchman was a left-field choice for a club that has tended to opt for managers well versed in the English game.
Vieira has inherited a difficult job. Hodgson steered Palace comfortably clear of the relegation zone in each of his four seasons at the helm. The former England manager was tried and trusted; Vieira is anything but.
The ex-Arsenal captain has no time to ease himself in. Palace’s squad is threadbare following the expiration of 11 contracts last week. Gary Cahill, Andros Townsend and Joel Ward will probably stay, while Scott Dann and Nathaniel Clyne could also commit to fresh terms. But nothing is certain until pen touches paper.
Vieira will expect to be backed in the transfer market, although decisions about recruitment are not his alone. Sporting director Dougie Freedman has already identified a number of targets, and the new manager will now run the rule over the longlist. Reinforcements would be welcome in several areas of the squad, including out wide, in midfield, at centre-back and at left-back.
The loss of Eberechi Eze to an Achilles injury is major blow given his excellent performances last term. Vieira must find a way to replace Eze’s invention, and a creative midfielder will no doubt be sought this summer. The Frenchman may also move Wilfried Zaha back out wide, as he is unlikely to replicate the 4-4-2 formation that Hodgson regularly used last term.
Vieira was clearly not first choice. He held talks with the club as long ago as April, and has been available since leaving Nice towards the end of 2020. The fact that his appointment was only confirmed in July shows that the Palace hierarchy did not consider him the outstanding candidate. But after flirtations with Nuno Espirito Santo and Lucien Favre did not come off, Steve Parish needed to fill the vacancy as soon as possible. Vieira, offered his first chance to manage in the Premier League, was more than happy to snap up the opportunity.
Some may draw parallels with Frank de Boer’s brief and ill-fated stint in 2017. Vieira does at least have some experience of the English game, having represented Arsenal with aplomb for so many years (as well as later turning out for Manchester City). He would nevertheless be wise to avoid repeating De Boer’s mistake of trying to change things too quickly. Palace have been set up to play on the counter-attack over a number of years, and evolution rather than revolution is the way forward.
Vieira’s CV is mixed. He did a good job at New York City, although it is difficult to compare MLS with the Premier League. He initially improved the Nice side he took charge of in 2018, but his tenure at the Allianz Riviera ended badly amid accusations of a muddled strategy and an inability to unite the dressing room.
It is too early to make predictions for the season ahead, and much will depend on recruitment in the coming weeks. Vieira is clearly a riskier appointment than someone like Eddie Howe or Sean Dyche, but he is a more exciting pick too. Palace have employed Tony Pulis, Neil Warnock, Alan Pardew, Sam Allardyce and Hodgson since promotion in 2013. Handing the reins to Vieira is a step into the unknown, and it will be fascinating to see how he gets on.