It seems like Crystal Palace have had a bit of a reality check this season. Having perhaps overachieved last term in Patrick Vieira’s first season, the Eagles finished with a respectable 12th place finish, whilst earning a day out at Wembley in the FA Cup semi-final. Granted, they were beaten by London rivals Chelsea but it was still a great maiden voyage for the Frenchman, especially when you consider many football betting sites had tipped him to be one of the first sacked and for Palace to face the drop.
Indeed, Palace went about their business quietly last term and it worked well considering Vieira’s rather inexperienced managerial career. However, this season the cracks are starting to show. While they are in no danger of relegation at the time of writing, just six wins in the league all season is hardly where the Eagles would want to be, and with such a boisterous Selhurst Park crowd spurring them on, you would have thought that the south London outfit would have kicked on this term.
Before Vieira came in, Palace released 13 first-team players, some of which had been stalwarts at the club with years of experience. However, that lack of sentiment resulted in a great campaign, and but the Frenchman struggled with second-season syndrome and was a victim of overachieving.
His sacking was just the most recent example of how brutal Premier League management can be but now Palace will need to rely on their current side to dig themselves out of a rut that could see them flirt with relegation. Read on, as we take a look at Palace’s key players moving forward as they begin another era under Roy Hodgson, including some that struggled for large parts of this campaign.
It seems like Wilfried Zaha will be a permanent fixture at Palace now after moves to Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur have fell through in years gone by. Bar a brief spell at Manchester United, the tricky winger’s career has been spent predominantly at Selhurst Park, and as he approaches the twilight of his prime years, he’ll be keen to try and create a few more big moments for the fans that have supported him all these years. Having turned 30 this season, Zaha has played in the FA Cup final and represented the Ivory Coast at the Africa Cup of Nations, and is now one of Vieira’s senior men in the dressing room.
It seems like Michael Olise is destined to be Zaha’s successor running down the wing for Palace. The Frenchman, who was one of Vieira’s first signings from Championship side Reading, has taken his time to be acclimatised to top-flight surroundings, but now looks to have found his feet this season, bursting onto the scene with a series of good performances. The one that caught the eye the most was perhaps his stunning free-kick against Manchester United which rescued Palace a point and earnt Olise plaudits from all ends of Selhurst Park. At just 21 years old, Olise has years ahead of him.
The signing of Joachim Andersen has gone massively under the radar for Palace. The centre-back arrived in south London after being relegated with Fulham but has gone up a gear since Vieira came in, becoming a rock at the back. His physical presence and aerial threat means he wins a lot of duels and his leadership at the back, often beside the young duo of Tyrick Mitchell and Marc Guehi shows he has the leadership to make him a contender for the captains armband if Luka Milivojevic does indeed depart in the summer. He will be a real leader for Hodgson’s side going forward.