Crystal Palace are enjoying a six-match unbeaten run and have won their last two games against tough opponents. They are currently in 10th position in the Premier League table and have a total of 15 points. Vieira has been responsible for transforming the club’s style of play, quickly shaping half a team’s worth of exciting summer additions into a firing side that is growing in maturity all the time, one that has secured statement wins against Manchester City and Tottenham and been beaten only by Liverpool and Chelsea.
Through 11 games of the season, the Eagles are averaging more possession than last year and completing more passes in each match. Expected Goals for are up and Expected Goals against are down, as Palace have climbed into the top half of the table despite having faced the most challenging fixture list of any team in the division.
Palace were the oldest side in the Premier League last season but there is freshness and vibrancy about them now. Edouard, Gallagher and Olise are 23, 21, and 19 respectively. Joachim Andersen and Marc Guehi, their new centre-backs, have a combined age of just 46. Palace’s summer overhaul prioritized youth, with six new signings arriving at a combined cost of £78m and only one of them, former Watford midfielder Will Hughes, older than 25. The average age of Palace’s starting line-up has dropped by almost two years as a result, and the new additions have settled quickly.
The above visual shows the pass map for Palace keeper Vicente Guaita. From the visual, we can depict that he has played a higher number of passes in his penalty area as Palace try to build the game from the back and have moved to a more possession-based approach. So far this season, only two goalkeepers, Leeds United’s Illan Meslier and Leicester’s Kasper Schmeichel, have taken more goal kicks ending inside their box than Guaita. It is quite the transformation, and Vieira has modernized the side’s approach without the ball as well as with it.
The team is ranked eighth in the number of passes attempted, with 4,914 passes. Their passing has been very accurate, and have completed 84.85% of the passes they have attempted. This shift from a counter-attacking approach to a more possession-based approach has given the youngsters of Palace a chance to prove themselves as they get to see more of the ball. Palace remain a formidable threat on the counter-attack, but they are now also seeking to impose themselves on games. It can be seen in the numbers as well as on the pitch.
In their most recent victory against the Wolves, Palace dominated possession of the ball and were able to pass the ball around comfortably. They completed more passes in the central part of the field and also attempted more smart passes. The earlier Crystal Palace side were very dependent on crosses to score goals. But now, they have been creating more chances by playing through the lines of the opposition’s defense.
Despite dominating possession in most of their games, Palace have not been able to take as many shots on goal. They have a total of 117 shots on goal so far and are 15th in the league for the number of shots on goal. Most of Palace’s shots on target have been from inside the penalty area. Palace have been doing well in terms of rotating the ball and keeping possession, but have not been that effective when it comes to creating chances in the final third.
Palace were known for sitting back and absorbing pressure under Hodgson, but the underlying data for this season brings their off-the-ball approach in line with better teams in the league. The injection of youthful energy during the summer has enabled Palace to dramatically intensify the way they press their opponents. It is precisely the kind of evolution the supporters have been asking for.