Crystal Palace show progress by finishing 2021 in the top half of the Premier League

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Of the 13 seasons Crystal Palace have spent in the Premier League, they have only finished one in the top half of the table.

Under Neil Warnock until the end of December and then under the supervision of Alan Pardew, the Eagles’ 2014/15 season ended in a hugely respectable tenth place in England’s top class.

Fast-forward seven years and, following the unmistakable foundation laid by Roy Hodgson’s steady hand, Patrick Vieira reaches heights that very few have ever reached at Selhurst Park.

The legendary Frenchman has watched an extremely exciting start to his time at the club. And halfway through his first campaign as Palace manager, his team ends up in ninth place in the Premier League table and enters 2022 with real optimism for the future.

Patrick Vieira builds some encouragement at Selhurst Park / Sebastian Frej / MB Media / GettyImages

Admittedly, positive results have not been too regular during the first half of the 2021/22 campaign. The Eagles have only managed five wins in their first 19 league games, losing six and drawing eight.

But when you take into account performance and progress, it is no surprise that a profit margin on the verge of a seemingly dismal 25% has not caused any panic. The draws have been decided by the most marginal factors and moments – moments that could just as easily have turned in Vieira’s side’s favor.

What has become very clear since Vieira’s arrival is the transformation of a team with firm roots in defensive solidity into one that can take the game to an opponent.

Although there have been occasional mishaps at the back, Palace has actually become safer under its new boss.

Promising times for Crystal Palace / Bryn Lennon / GettyImages

Compared to an average concession of 1.74 goals per game during the entire Premier League campaign 2020/21 (where the outgoing Hodgson led them to a 14th place), the Eagles deliver just 1.42 goals every 90 minutes this semester – so far, of course.

In addition, their attacking effect has simply reached another level. Gone are the days of largely weak uninspiring outbursts. Now Palace is an exciting, well-oiled, dynamic collective that embarks on full-blooded offensive raids – so far proven by an increase of 0.34 goals scored per game from the previous term.

And they are actually damn brilliant to look at.

In their last match in 2021, they won a comfortable 3-0 win over Norwich. Goals from Odsonne Edouard, Jean-Philippe Mateta and Jeff Schlupp brought with them the fifth league victory of the season.

The first came from the penalty spot, the second from a sweeping counterattack, and the third from a moment of dynamic shock after a period of ball possession. Three completely different goals, which come from a largely depleted Eagles side.

A quick break from Palace ⚡️

Expertly completed by Mateta # PLonPrime #CRYNOR pic.twitter.com/qsqPbr5Yrd

– Amazon Prime Video Sport (@primevideosport) December 28, 2021

Without Wilf Zaha and Conor Gallagher, many were rightly concerned about the ability of Vieira’s stand-in men. As it turned out, Will Hughes was the stubborn, persistent midfielder who linked things excellently; Schlupp was the driving force from the midfield that we associate with Gallagher; and Mateta rose brilliantly to support the phenomenal Edouard of the day.

From defense to attack, there was never a hint of doubt about what the result would be.

Worried? Pfff.

Vieira has obviously made this collective to perfection and despite setting up a massively rotated XI, the Frenchman – who looked in isolation – saw his men mercilessly sweep away from the Canary Islands.

It was a performance that demonstrated the lively togetherness and development of quality that developed within the Eagles’ squad and, now with ninth place in the middle of the campaign, it is no easy task to ask ourselves how far Vieira can take this Palace side.

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