Crystal Palace have sparked into life under Patrick Vieira as gamble starts to pay off

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 (PA)
(PA)

There was no questioning the size of the job facing Patrick Vieira when he arrived at Crystal Palace.

The Frenchman was far from Palace’s first choice when he was appointed at the end of a lengthy process in which a number of other contenders, including Nuno Espirito Santo, Frank Lampard and Lucien Favre, were interviewed. He then faced a busy rebuilding job as he revamped the squad and started to overhaul Palace’s playing style.

Palace took the bold step of letting a core of experienced players move on at the end of their contracts to inject the squad with fresh impetus, making seven new signings.

Roy Hodgson had achieved notable results but fans had grown weary of his pragmatic style. Vieira was brought in to spark Palace into life.

That was certainly seen in the second half on Sunday when, thanks to two inspired substitutions from the manager, Palace fought back from two goals down to draw 2-2 with Leicester and preserve their unbeaten home record this season.

There were question marks over Vieira when he landed his first Premier League job, but he deserves credit for what he has already achieved.

There were early struggles — Palace went three games without a goal, including losing to Watford in the Carabao Cup — but Vieira held his nerve.

Things took a turn for the better at West Ham at the end of August. After a first half in which Palace looked devoid of a plan and purpose, Vieira reiterated his principles at half-time, telling his players to step up and have the confidence to run at West Ham. They did just that. Conor Gallagher, on loan from Chelsea, sparked Palace into life, scoring the first goal of Vieira’s reign and then another to earn a 2-2 draw.

That sent the Eagles into the international break on a high, and they returned from it with a bang, running riot against Tottenham and beating the then table-toppers 3-0 at Selhurst Park.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The team are still a work in progress. The injury-time goal they conceded against Brighton and the first half against Leicester point to that, but they are a completely different proposition to last season, entertaining to watch and with talent all over the park.

The new central defensive partnership of Joachim Andersen and Marc Guehi is blossoming; Gallagher’s energy is infectious and looks to be bringing the best out of James McArthur; while Vieira appears to have enthused Wilfried Zaha once more. They will only get better with the return of Eberechi Eze from injury before the year is out.

Zaha has been relieved of his duties to track back as often as he did under Hodgson but he has not slacked off. “I feel like it’s not just counter-attacks and hoofing the ball around,” Zaha said recently. “When it’s properly planned, the way we’re playing, the goals are going to come.”

Palace, who are 14th, with seven points from seven games, was always a tough place to visit under Hodgson and, while that has not changed, it has just become a far more enjoyable spectacle for the fans at Selhurst Park.

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