Patrick Vieira faced his first real test as a Premier League manager during the break against Leicester. Here are my takes from a battling performance that could have snatched all three points.
Eagles Committed To New Style Irrespective Of Scoreline
Palace were always going to be faced with some hurdles while trying to implement a new style of play under Patrick Vieira, and they were dealt a fairly sizeable one on Sunday when they found themselves 2-0 down to Leicester City having had the better of the opening 45 minutes. What was even more deflating was the fact that both goals were entirely avoidable, with Joachim Andersen being dispossessed by Kelechi Iheanacho for the first, before the home side then got caught too high up the pitch, letting Jamie Vardy in to score. In recent years, the thought of the Eagles salvaging something from two goals behind would have been alien, but this new side appears committed to playing a certain way irrespective of the scoreline. Palace’s second-half comeback represented the first time in nearly two years that they have recovered from a pair of goals down to salvage at least a point, and was testament both to the bravery of the players and the belief that Vieira has instilled in them in a short space of time.
Vieira More Than Willing To Take Gambles
There were some questions of Vieira following the Brighton draw after his substitutions saw Palace relinquish their hold on the game and drop deeper in the closing stages. But there could be no such complaints on Sunday, when the Frenchman’s substitutions in the second half changed the game. First, Michael Olise – more on him in a moment – pulled one back less than ten minutes after coming off the bench, before Jeffrey Schlupp took just 48 seconds to level things up against his former club. Vieira has proved himself to be more than willing to take gambles when Palace are behind; the question going forward will be if he can learn to use his bench to close out games when the Eagles are ahead.
Olise Exuded Maturity Betraying Young Years
It’s still early days, but if Sunday was anything to go by then Palace could have quite a player on their hands. The game against Leicester was the first time where we’ve seen Olise have an extended period of time on the pitch, but he immediately had the home crowd purring after he replaced the out of form Jordan Ayew in the 53rd minute. His impressive finish for the goal aside, Olise exuded a maturity that betrayed his 19 years, looking composed on the ball, drifting inside at will and also knowing when the time was right to take on his full back on the outside. What was most telling – and perhaps most worrying if you’re Ayew – was that it was the first time this season where it felt like Palace were a real threat down both wings. Olise showed an ability to go past players, make intelligent passes and also whip dangerous balls into the box. His performance on Sunday will do little to silence those who have been calling for him to play from the start.
McArthur And Milivojevic Still Have A Part To Play
I attended Sunday’s game with a non-Palace-supporting friend, who was full of praise for both Luka Milivojevic and James McArthur in midfield. Among the most pleasing things about Vieira’s short time in charge is that some of the players still here from the Hodgson era – and some from even before that – have shown themselves capable of playing in the 45-year-old’s more expansive system. McArthur was once again a bundle of energy against Leicester, intercepting passes and leading attacks on numerous occasions. Meanwhile Milivojevic looks like he is returning to somewhere close to his best, which is usually when you see him threading through the kind of incisive passes that almost led to Odsonne Edouard scoring shortly after the break. The same can also be said of the likes of Joel Ward and Tyrick Mitchell, who both appear to have been given a new lease of life under Vieira’s tutelage.
Watching Palace Is Something To Look Forward To Again
It might feel somewhat strange to be speaking so positively about Palace when, in reality, Vieira’s side sit 14th in the league with a modest seven points from as many games. However, it is only because it already feels like we got what we asked for. In what has been a difficult run of games to start the season, Palace have shown signs that they are becoming a team who press high up the pitch, play on the front foot and are generally exciting to watch. Teething problems are inevitable, as it showed against both Brighton and Leicester, and it feels like there will be more moments this season where we will be asking ourselves how the Eagles haven’t emerged with all three points. Despite that, many Palace fans will be pleasantly surprised at just how quickly Vieira appears to getting his message across given the size of the task he was handed. More wins will hopefully come after the international break, but for now going to watch Palace feels like something to look forward to again, which feels like a small victory in itself.