Patrick Vieira is adamant Crystal Palace need to make moves in the January transfer window to remain relevant in the Premier League.
His 11th-placed Eagles picked up a final three points of 2022 with a 2-0 win at Bournemouth, and face a difficult start to the new year with seven consecutive top-flight matches against clubs currently in the top half of the table, beginning with Tottenham on Wednesday.
Saturday’s victory showed encouraging signs after a below-par performance in a 3-0 defeat to Fulham on Boxing Day, but Vieira knows he needs more options if the club wants to avoid a competitive plateau.
He said: “The focus is really on the players that we have. I think (against Bournemouth) we showed that we have a really good group of players. Of course we want to improve the squad. We’ve identified the profile of players that we need.
“And now the scouting department is starting to look after those players. And then the second phase of it is to see if we can make it happen or not. But of course we will need players if we want to be more competitive in the Premier League.
“But if we don’t find those players, we will work as well as we can, like we did (against Bournemouth).”
Palace added just four players over a relatively quiet summer. Midfielder Cheick Doucoure’s arrival from Lens was perhaps the most high-profile, while American defender Chris Richards has missed most of the season through injury.
The further additions of back-up goalkeeper Sam Johnstone and teenager Malcolm Ebiowei on free transfers left Vieira with a squad he frequently admitted was “short on numbers” to start the season.
While Vieira has largely avoided many fingers pointing in his direction, the Fulham thumping, which saw both James Tomkins and Tyrick Mitchell sent off, resulted in what felt like an unprecedented amount of discussion around his suitability for the role.
Vieira’s backers will argue he has not been afforded the resources he needs, while the former Arsenal midfielder himself admitted he was looking forward to a more consistent calendar after two postponements resulted in a September without Premier League action before a second pause for the World Cup.
“Consistency is a really big word, an important word for us,” he said. “That is what we have a lack of, to be really consistent in those performances. That’s why I really invite everybody again to control the emotion a little bit and not to expect what we can do at the moment.
“It’s important for us as a football club to manage the expectation. We know what we are capable of and how well we can play, but we (do) not have this kind of maturity to be consistent in those kinds of performances like we had (against Bournemouth).”
Cherries boss Gary O’Neil, who was appointed on a permanent basis in November after serving in an interim capacity since September, deemed Saturday’s loss the worst performance he had seen since taking charge, speculating the World Cup break also affected his 15th-placed side.
He said: “The boys have missed a lot of training recently with illnesses, we’ve had a couple coming back from injury as well, we lack rhythm.
“The squad’s not in quite such a good place as it was before the break. We had rhythm, we had boys that were used to playing, that were training every day.
“The last few weeks have been a bit messy in that aspect for us, but no excuse for sure. It’s my responsibility to make sure it looks much better than that next time we play.”