Patrick Vieira has enjoyed a good start to life as a Premier League manager. Although results-wise the Eagles have been relatively uninspiring, and to a neutral it may seem that not much has changed, Palace under Patrick Vieira are at a stark contrast with that under Roy Hodgson.
Far beyond just the number of players Palace have signed, or those that they have let go, a huge revamp of the playing staff, style, and coaching has taken place and the evidence is already beginning to show. The highlight of Vieira’s management so far was a thumping 3-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur two weeks ago – ironically a side managed by Nuno Espirito Santo, whom Palace had reportedly been deep in negotiations with before deciding to move on to their other options. Palace displayed all the courage, fight and willingness that had seemed drained away come the end of the Roy Hodgson era, with a new high pressing, fast tempo style, which blended perfectly with the fresh young squad being assembled, and encapsulated by new striker Odsonne Edouard, signed from Celtic on deadline day, who came on as a substitute to score a brace, the first of which coming only 28 seconds after the Frenchman’s introduction.
However, Monday night presents the first big test under Vieira’s reign, the first ‘derby day’ since his appointment, this is the one the Palace fans really care about. Despite the multitude of changes at Selhurst Park, Palace fans will be hoping one thing that wont change is their impressive recent record against their rivals from the South coast. Roy Hodgson earned a combined eight points in the four games in which he faced Graham Potter’s side, with two wins coming at the Amex, and both draws ending 1-1 at Selhurst Park. If Palace can continue and even build upon this record, then the terraces of Selhurst Park will be singing Patrick Vieira’s name for a long time yet.
The ex-France international would be forgiven for not knowing too much about this rivalry, but in his press conference on Friday he admitted he’d been studying; “I watched the documentary [When Eagles Dare] and now I fully understand the rivalry between the two clubs. It has made it more exciting.” A quote that one again will be music to the ears of Palace fans – the new manager doing his best to learn about the history of the club is ultimately what every fan wants to hear in the build up to a game against their biggest rivals.
Brighton manager Graham Potter was full of praise for the new man in the Palace dugout, stating that it is ‘exciting’ for football to have ex-professional’s like Patrick Vieira in managerial roles, although he went on to state that it was too soon to comment on how Vieira’s style differs from Hodgson’s; “I think it’s really early days and it’s a bit unfair to make any sort of comparisons, I think it’s just with the signings they’ve made. They’ve signed some younger guys which brings a slightly different dynamic. I think the style is more evolving rather than anything too drastic.”
Potter’s Brighton side have enjoyed a flying start to the new season, winning six of their first seven games in all competitions, conceding just four goals in that time and keeping an impressive four clean sheets. Last season’s woes in attack seem to have been dismissed now too, with the South Coast side scoring eleven in this first seven, and only failing to score in one. The Seagulls will certainly approach Monday’s game full of confidence, and hope their good form can continue in South London.
As mentioned before, Graham Potter has a poor record against Crystal Palace, failing to win a single game against what was then Roy Hodgson’s side, so he will be hoping that the change in management and style will lead to a more positive result for him.
Crystal Palace vs Brighton will present Vieira with his toughest test as Palace manager yet, and the match seems set up perfectly to likely be the most entertaining game between the clubs since their Premier League promotion. It is relatively well documented that neutral fans struggle to understand this rivalry – it’s not about the M23, or the A23, and it’s not even specifically a ‘derby’ – it’s a rivalry built over history by the two football clubs involved, it’s one for their fans, but it’ll certainly be worth the watch regardless of your allegiances.