Sports Palace job no walk in the park for Vieira


Patrick Vieira has landed in South London as the new manager of Crystal Palace, replacing Roy Hodgson. This is his third employment as manager and we can’t say the earlier two were very successful, yet this is bound to be even harder, going by the expectations vis-à-vis what he walks into at the Premier League club.

As a player, Vieira will be remembered more for the nine years he spent at Arsenal, guiding the team to win the league title unbeaten in 2004. That he is a proven winner isn’t in doubt. He has won league titles in England and Italy, and has also been at the apex of the world and Europe, winning the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000.

His successes are however limited to his playing career and after stints at New York City FC in the MLS then Nice in Ligue 1, the former Arsenal skipper has just dived into the deep end.

The new Premier League season starts in about a month and Vieira has a very short window to acclimatize and settle in. The hopes are high, not just at Palace, but the whole league, with fans coming back, and it is bound to be a more competitive season, with bookmakers also set to weigh in with great inducements.

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Vieira will hope to improve on Palace’s 14th placed finish, and to get his team in shape, there are a number of issues for him to address. The biggest of them all, is the players’ contracts, with 11 players out of contract and the club’s handling of the issue hasn’t helped.

Belgian international Christian Benteke was the only player handed a new deal as the contractual issues mounted, with the rest urged to wait for a new manager’s word. It is expected this will be resolved in good time and Vieira has to really dig in.

While he will want to hold on key players, Vieira will know that a squad rebuild is necessary, with Palace having operated in the past season with one of the oldest squads in average age. Going into the transfer market early enough is crucial. The positive thing is that the club hierarchy has agreed to back him in the market and Vieira can instill his style at the club.

There is an unstated desire to have the academy as the heart of the club and after recently dedicating £20m, Vieira will be required to look to that end as well for reinforcements. With his track record working with youthful players, that shouldn’t be a problem.

Wilfried Zaha has been a subject of transfer sagas in the recent past. At some point, it looked like he’d force his move out to Arsenal. Here, Vieira faces the prospect of working with an unhappy but a very key member of the team. This time there’s no concrete offer for him but he still seems focused on leaving for a fresh challenge. With Vieira’s profile, it shouldn’t be tough convincing the star to stay on, and perhaps change his attitude towards serving the club.