CRYSTAL PALACE have not only taken a gamble on their Premier League survival by sacking Patrick Vieira, but junked a long-term plan to hit new heights as a club.
Vieira reached an FA Cup semi-final and transformed the style of play at Selhurst Park to great acclaim in his first season but has struggled this term and has been axed after 12 games without a win in all competitions.
The Eagles invested in youth and gave Vieira the sort of platform and funding that predecessor Roy Hodgson never had to spark a new era in south London.
While form has taken a turn for the worse this year, the Eagles have pulled the trigger at the first sign of trouble – something not often expected from chairman Steve Parish.
Palace have not won a single game in 2023, they have the fewest wins of any Premier League club this calendar year, along with the fewest points (five) and goals (four).
The desperate run, which continued with a drab 1-0 defeat at rivals Brighton on Wednesday night, has left them three points above the relegation place and drawn into a battle they looked well clear of during the World Cup break.
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Despite the recent run and precarious situation, the dismissal still feels harsh.
Their recent games have been hard to watch at times, with forward players looking short on confidence and a clear plan.
But that winless Premier League run has seen Palace exclusively face teams above them in the table, with a number of narrow losses and draws.
Following a visit to his former club Arsenal this weekend, Vieira had been looking forward to an international break to get to grips with the squad and a run of far kinder fixtures to the end of the season.
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Such has been the drop off in performance of recent weeks that Parish and the other Palace board members may feel that the time over the break is better spent with a new manager and fresh ideas.
There have also been issues rumbling behind the scenes in south London meaning it may not just have been the football which informed this big call.
Players and figures higher up at the club were not pleased with Vieira's unilateral decision to sack former Palace player and coach Shaun Derry in January.
Vieira made the decision after feeling Derry had overstepped his role by addressing players after defeats, but while the manager axed his coach the club left the former Eagles captain on gardening leave rather than end his contract.
Such bold calls and a failure to adapt his tactics during this dismal run have hurt Vieira, who had brought such life to a squad and club who had grown tired of simply surviving under Hodgson – whose work now looks all the more impressive given Palace's lack of progress.
But the Frenchman had hardly been helped by circumstances and recruitment this season.
The summer Vieira arrived was a huge success for Palace's recruitment team.
Joachim Andersen, Marc Guehi, Michael Olise and Conor Gallagher were remarkable acquisitions, but that has not been followed up.
Everyone at Selhurst Park pushed to bring Gallagher, last term's player of the season, back from Chelsea last summer but knew it would be a big task.
There was no credible replacement lined up and the Eagles have suffered without his energy, meanwhile the need for a Premier League quality striker and investment at right-back – driven by Vieira – was not addressed in the summer or January.
Signing a striker capable of offering what Premier League clubs need is a difficult business, but one clubs must manage if they are to succeed.
Things were looking difficult from the off this season when, thanks to a number of players not being vaccinated, Vieira could only take a handful of senior players on their tour to Australia.
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It has all served to undermine what looked to be a well planned route to a brighter future, a journey that has now been cast aside and hangs on one managerial appointment.
The struggles of fellow relegation battlers Southampton and Leeds in appointing new managers will only increase the pressure on Palace to get this right.
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