Crystal Palace announced the sacking of manager Patrick Vieira after failing to win a single game this season. In the club statement after Vieira’s departure, club chairman Steve Parish was careful to note the excellent advances made during his tenure. “Patrick’s impact since joining us in the summer of 2021 has been substantial… playing some attractive football in what was a hard and critical campaign for the club – given the adjustments we made to the squad before to his arrival,” the statement said. The numbers back it up: the Eagles improved significantly across all attacking categories during his first season as coach, while pressing far more frequently and effectively higher up the field. Conor Gallagher, a Chelsea loanee, was an important player last season, and Vieira struggled to fill the vacuum when the England midfielder returned to Stamford Bridge in the summer.
The hierarchy will also be aware of the changes in the playing team over this time, with a slew of senior players departing at the conclusion of their contracts. The club had the oldest average starting XI in the Premier League in Roy Hodgson’s final season, at 29 years and 213 days. Flash forward 18 months, and that average is more than two years younger, at 27 years and 114 days – the division’s 14th youngest team. Only Southampton has lowered their age more dramatically among Premier League clubs that were in the league for both seasons.
The Eagles appeared to continue where they left off until the turn of the year, with a remarkable return of 1.38 points per game – but that ratio has been sliced threefold in 2023 due to a lack of goals. There were multiple red flags: This season, Palace ranked last in terms of distance covered, and it’s a significant difference. The graph below shows how the Eagles run between 10 and 4 kilometers less than any other squad. It only gets worse. The graph below shows the average number of sprints recorded by teams per game, with Palace once again at the bottom – trailing by a similar amount to their distance covered. Yet, only Bournemouth and Wolves have deeper styles of play this season, a retreat that has probably reversed the growing trend.
The Eagles’ passing patterns have started 1.84m deeper on average than the previous season – only Liverpool has fallen farther toward their own goal. Finally, the enthusiasm and endeavor had worn off, and the club’s hierarchy is well aware of how close the relegation battle is this season – only five points separate 12th-placed Palace and bottom-side Southampton. Parish and the board have determined that a new manager bounce is necessary.
“It’s not the proper decision in my opinion; he should not have been fired. I realize their recent record is dismal – 0 wins since the New Year. But I speak to a lot of people at Palace, and there has been a lot of cohesion around the place, thanks to Patrick,” Clinton Morrison said after Crystal Palace sacked Patrick Vieira. “I understand it’s a results-driven company, but their recent run of games has been absurd. The next five or six games after Arsenal are all winnable. I’d have stayed with him. I’m not sure what other manager could come in and turn things around. It’s a difficult job, and I’m not sure who is out there. Is he like Jesse Marsch? What Palace has become accustomed to under Patrick Vieira may differ from what a new manager brings in and implements.”
“I don’t think the current run – 12 games without a win since the turn of the year, five points from a possible 33 in the Premier League – is good enough for the squad they have. You could possibly dispute the timing. Why have they done this so close to the game versus Arsenal on Sunday? Then there are certain fixtures that appear to be winnable: Leicester City, Leeds United, Southampton, Everton, and Wolves,” Darren Ambrose said. “But I believe Steve Parish and the club’s higher-ups have decided that making the choice now is the best way to turn this season’s terrible showing into a positive run. There appeared to be problems at the club. When Patrick first took over, I thought he was a wonderful choice – a young and energetic manager. A Premier League legend joining Palace and attempting to effect change. That is all that the supporters want.”
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