Manchester City went into their clash with Crystal Palace on Saturday having managed to keep clean sheets in all of their home Premier League fixtures so far this season. Around five o’clock on Saturday evening, that tally of zero had become two. However, this came through little fault of their own; instead, the Eagles’ 2-0 win at the Etihad Stadium should be taken entirely for what it is–evidence of Palace’s progression under Patrick Vieira.
Crystal Palace Manchester City Victory is Clear Evidence of Their Rapid Progression under Patrick Vieira
What makes the promising signs shown by Vieira’s Palace all the more satisfying is the Frenchman’s unwavering respect for his predecessor.
The Premier League legend has gone into his new role without the intention of rebuilding the club from head to toe. Instead, the 45-year-old has simply adopted the foundations laid by Roy Hodgson and injected his own philosophy. In the early stages of Vieira’s reign, we’ve seen the same stoicism and compact defensive style that have made Palace such tricky opponents–and Premier League stalwarts–in recent years.
The difference under the Eagles’ new boss is an added thrust, flamboyance, and attacking belief when converting defence into offence. His ability to do so within such a short period should not be underestimated–particularly considering the minor squad revamp he oversaw in the summer.
First-team regulars such as Gary Cahill, Patrick Van Aanholt, Andros Townsend, and James McCarthy departed the club while Vieira recruited fresh, vibrant, but reliable talent like Joachim Andersen, Marc Guehi, Michael Olise, and Conor Gallagher.
Despite a rocky start to the season in which Palace simply failed to see out results, losing six points from leading positions already this term, Saturday brought with it vindication of Vieira’s project.
The Frenchman has already got this squad gelling and performing well, and now has a mammoth result to show for his efforts.
A Stunning Performance
Palace’s victory at Manchester City was nothing short of a masterclass from start to finish. For a team bustling with creative genius and supposed defensive solidity, the Citizens were powerless to the dynamic press, disciplined rigidity and collective strength demonstrated perfectly by Vieira’s men.
The backline was unflappable. An impenetrable combination of Joel Ward, Joachim Andersen, Marc Guehi, and Tyrick Mitchell demonstrated their unity, awareness, and proficient defensive nous throughout, making 12 ball recoveries and 21 clearances between them.
It was the kind of stoicism that had previously been instilled into the club by the pragmatic Hodgson. What is now evident, however, is the back line’s ability to play progressive, fluid, effective-from-deep football–a clear sign of the squad’s development under Vieira.
Matching the defence’s playmaking escapades, the front line were sharp and polished in their own right. Wilfried Zaha and Odsonne Edouard in particular linked up brilliantly to hold the ball up and find clever little outlets to drive the side upfield. A string of nonchalant little flicks in the first half was especially pleasing to the eye, as Palace gave City a taste of their own medicine.
The shining light, however, came in midfield. The trio of Cheikhou Kouyate, James McArthur, and Conor Gallagher was pivotal in keeping the side’s compact shape to stifle City’s creativity, instigating the press and converting defence into attack in the most measured but blistering fashion possible.
Indeed, Gallagher – who was mesmerizingly sensational on the day – was the central figure in both goals. The England Under-21 international was Aymeric Laporte’s pickpocket before assisting Zaha for the opener in the sixth minute and was the instigator and finisher for Palace’s second in the 88th–a quick, sharp, and deadly counterattack to seal the deal.
Promising Signs Turing Into Results
Gallagher was the grand conductor with his all-encompassing role against Manchester City. But he was only at the centre of a perfectly executed collective performance, a performance that has, in truth, been coming since Vieira arrived at Selhurst Park.
There have been promising signs throughout the early stages of 2021/22 for Crystal Palace, and they finally bore fruit with a fantastic victory at the Etihad. The masterful showing put on by Vieira’s players is a clear indication of the remarkably rapid progression happening under the Frenchman.