Crystal Palace

Latest Crystal Palace win shows Patrick Vieira's approach is vindicated

Craig Vickers
Crystal Palace celebrate
Crystal Palace celebrate / Tom Dulat/GettyImages

Even amid Crystal Palace's undoubted improvement under Patrick Vieira, the naysayers have been quick to underline his side's propensity for drawing matches this season.

The Eagles have drawn six times, including four successive stalemates between September and October. According to some, Vieira's side have been too guilty of controlling possession for possession's sake - a criticism levelled at him at Nice in Ligue 1 before it went awry last season.

For 45 minutes against Wolves on Saturday, it was hard to not to subscribe to that notion. Palace fashioned an xG of just 0.06 from open play in the first half in front of a buoyant Selhurst Park crowd, with Odsonne Edouard's scuffed shot from the edge of the area the closest the hosts had come to threatening the Wolves goal. Possession, however, was heavily in Palace's favour.

Wilfried Zaha, Max Kilman
Zaha was quiet in the first half / Tom Dulat/GettyImages

The Eagles sit 10th in the division for ball possession this campaign, which is telling considering they have visited Chelsea, Arsenal and Man City already. In these contests, the attacking performances have felt patchy. Vieira has undoubtedly altered the team's style of play, but the merits of that change haven't always been apparent.

It is especially true that the change of style - and the subsequent increase in retention of the ball - may have had a negative influence on Palace's most dangerous player, Wilfried Zaha. The winger thrives with space to run into, but that very space is at a premium when his side have their opponents pinned deep into their own half.

However, it's hard to challenge Vieira's approach after Crystal Palace's second half display. The Eagles emerged with renewed vigour, increasing the tempo of their passing and wearing down Wolves in the process.

The five minute spell shortly after half time hinted at a cajoling at half time from Vieira in the dressing room. Christian Benteke went close from a strike at the edge of the area, Odsonne Edouard had a shot blocked and the former passed up a gilt-edged opportunity from a corner a minute later. The problem in the first half, it appeared, wasn't so much Palace's monopoly of the ball but rather their aggression in the final third.

Once that was resolved the Eagles took control of the contest. Zaha, who had struggled in the opening period, scored the type of goal which wingers tend to thrive on against sides encamped in their own defensive third. James McArthur's through ball was timed perfectly and he showed great composure to bend his strike round Jose Sa.

Conor Gallagher
Gallagher celebrates his goal / Tom Dulat/GettyImages

By the time Conor Gallagher had added Palace's second of the afternoon they looked a completely different animal to the team in the first half. Their xG in the second period stood at 1.74 as Vieira's patient, prudent approach paid dividends.

The result lifted Crystal Palace into the top half of the Premier League and just three points outside of the European places. Few can dispute the improvement in this Palace side under Vieira, and he showed that there's method to his madness this afternoon.