Premier League

Axed Vieira joins Lampard and Gerrard among great players who just won’t learn…

Former Premier League managers Frank Lampard, Patrick Vieira and Steven Gerrard.

The Mailbox reacts to Patrick Vieira’s sacking and identifies what Crystal Palace need next. Also: Arsenal’s Europa League exit; Man Utd’s injustice; and the same old England squad.

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Ain’t Paddy’s day
I’m not sure I 100% agree with Crystal Palace’s decision to sack Patrick Vieira, but I understand why they have acted now. Palace started the year in 12th and have only played teams above them in the table since; five draws from this is not a terrible record. However, performances were getting progressively worse – they only opened the scoring once in those games, and haven’t scored for four games.

Truth be told, this isn’t a new development. The team were terrible at defending set pieces last season and have barely improved since; at the World Cup break, they were in a reasonable position, but came back looking like a team that had spent three weeks doing nothing, instead of using it as an opportunity to address their issues. Only two regular starters (Joachim Andersen and Jordan Ayew) were away in Qatar, and it would not have taken long to bring them up to speed. As I wrote on 5 January, it seems like Vieira and his coaches either don’t recognise there are problems or don’t know how to fix them. It turned out their only solution was to do precisely what had irritated people about his predecessor: if Plan A doesn’t work, Plan B is to work harder at Plan A. As with the worst parts of the Roy Hodgson era, the players seem a bit under-motivated: underwhelming starters don’t fear the stick of losing their place, and there is no carrot in the form of a starting berth to inspire those making substitute cameos. This is what will keep Vieira in the same bracket as Steven Gerrard or Frank Lampard, instead of up with Mikel Arteta, Eddie Howe or Graham Potter. The second group, for all their ups and downs, do seem to be constantly learning and trying to improve themselves, in a way that the first group has not necessarily shown yet.

Whoever comes in to Palace, and I’m sure the banter accounts are already drawing up their lists of candidates, has a sizeable task on their hands, but not an impossible one. It needs to be someone who can first and foremost restore confidence to a level that matches the talent in the squad, and everything will follow from there. The ideal candidate will be someone who plays the 4-3-3 that suits the team’s best players, combining defensive solidarity with an…

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