Crystal Palace 'spirit' and successful formation switch give Oliver Glasner good reason for optimism

Watching on from the directors’ box at Goodison Park, Oliver Glasner will have been encouraged by what he saw from Crystal Palace on Monday night.

The Austrian has inherited a team who have lost their way in recent months, but here he saw a group of players with no shortage of battle or bite.

While a hard-fought 1-1 draw means Palace did not extend their five-point buffer to the bottom three, it was the Eagles who displayed more adventure, and Glasner will fully believe he can guide them clear of relegation danger.

The confirmation that Roy Hodgson had stepped down came just 100 minutes before Glasner was officially announced as his replacement on a deal until 2026.

Palace players were just sitting down to their pre-match meal in Liverpool when they were told.

Monday was Glasner’s first time watching his new team in the flesh. Steve Parish, Mark Bright and Dougie Freedman sat alongside him, while Hodgson’s assistants Paddy McCarthy and Ray Lewington led the team.

Glasner will have seen plenty he hopes to replicate when he takes charge for the first time against Burnley at Selhurst Park on Saturday.

January signing Adam Wharton again showed remarkable composure and poise in midfield, with Glasner no doubt impressed by the way the 20-year-old kept Palace ticking over with sensible passes.

And the way Palace set up suggested Glasner had been involved in preparing for the game. His greatest success came in 2022 when he guided Eintracht Frankfurt to Europa League glory with a front-foot, high-intensity style of play. He adopted a 3-4-2-1 system at Frankfurt, with their front-three staying narrow and leaving the wing-backs to provide width.

Palace did the same last night, playing a back-three in a departure from the 4-2-3-1 system Hodgson and his predecessor, Patrick Vieira, had favoured. The move paid off. Jordan Ayew put them in front with a spectacular goal and Palace were six minutes from a fifth win in 19 Premier League matches before Amadou Onana headed an 84th- minute equaliser.

Composed: January singing Adam Wharton has impressed for Palace (Action Images via Reuters)
Composed: January singing Adam Wharton has impressed for Palace (Action Images via Reuters)

Palace’s wait for a first League clean-sheet since November goes on, but there were reasons for optimism after a good team display.

Like Wharton, fellow January recruit Daniel Munoz has adapted quickly to life at Palace. An attacking full-back with 39 goal involvements in three-and-a-half seasons with Genk, the wing-back position got the best out of him last night.

If Tyrick Mitchell can grow into that role on the opposite flank, a new attacking avenue could soon develop.

The return from injury of captain Joel Ward saw him play on the right of a new-look three-man defence. Ward did okay, but once Marc Guehi is back from his knee injury — possibly this weekend — he will come straight back in and likely join Chris Richards and Joachim Andersen to complete an experienced and mobile defence.

The injury woes of Palace’s two creative sparks, Michael Olise and Eberechi Eze, have been well documented. Indeed, poor results in their absence ultimately cost Hodgson his job.

Yet, here Palace displayed a potential blueprint for how to cope without them.

Odsonne Edouard and Jordan Ayew were nominally wingers, but in truth they played through the middle, interchanging with lone striker Jean-Philippe Mateta, and Everton’s defence unable to pin them down.

It bodes well for Glasner that all three were involved in Ayew’s piledriver, which flashed Palace into the lead.

Perhaps most encouraging of all, though, was the number of 50-50 duels Palace won. Hodgson always insisted this season that the one thing Palace would never lack is desire. That much was clear here. McCarthy said of Glasner: “He’s seen a team with spirit, with commitment to the cause. I bet he’ll have taken a lot of positives from the game and can’t wait to come and work with the lads.” Glasner said yesterday he was “looking forward to working with a talented squad”.

Palace have been a tough watch this season, but here was a much-needed reminder of the quality they possess.

In the dressing room afterwards, Lewington thanked the players for their commitment during a tough few days. Palace can now put look to the future — with a new manager and renewed hope.