Patrick Vieira earning praise for goal-heavy substitutions3 min read
As a manager, one of the biggest challenges stems from choosing when to put a player on the pitch. Being able to call the right substitutes is important; arguably every bit as important as being able to pick the right starting XI. Indeed, Leicester City coach Brendan Rodgers has remarked in the past that it is more about the team you end the game with as opposed to the one you start the game with.
And while that advice might sound very on-brand for the Foxes coach, it is a mantra that coaches at all levels will agree with. One person who clearly agrees, then, is the current Crystal Palace coach. Patrick Vieira has been under major scrutiny since he first rocked up to Selhurst Park. Seen as the ‘other’ choice after the likes of Nuno Espirito Santo and Lucien Favre rejected the job, many viewed the appointment as one doomed to failure. In fact, many outside of South London had Vieira down as the first coach to be sacked this year.
That, then, has proven to be utter folly. Palace have made a strong start to the season, with the recent draw with Leicester a high point. Battling back from two goals down, new signing Michael Olise produced a fine finish to help get the team back into the match. While a win would have been outstanding, a draw from a 2-0 down position is always credible.
And Olise helped to further bolster a very intriguing stat about Crystal Palace so far this year. They have made more than a few comebacks already, but it is the number of goals off the bench that is impressing. So far, Eagles fans have enjoyed watching an impressive four goals come off the bench – higher than any other team in the league.
Why are substitutes so effective with Crystal Palace?
Well, for one, it has to come down to the manager. Vieira has made the wise choice to leave a few gamechangers on the bench. While fans always want to see the creative starlets on the pitch from minute one until ninety, it is not always possible. Instead, Vieira has often chosen to go with a more grafting team, working away on the opposition to make space and to run them down. Then, when the opposition tire, the ‘creative’ players come on.
This was shown on the opening day of the season, when Odsonne Edouard stepped off the bench to net a stylish brace. Olise has another goal off the bench. It is an impressive feat, and the fact that another sub, Jeff Schlupp, scored against Leicester was further proof that Vieira knows how to turn a game.
While some fans want to see the game wrapped up early, most Palace fans grasp that this is not a club that can win games in 45 or even 60 minutes. The margins are too tight for smaller clubs like Palace, so coaches need to have incredible coaching acumen to win the game later in the day. That is what Vieira has made his name doing so far, and looks pretty safe to continue doing that for some time to come.