Crystal Palace’s wait for a new manager was long and arduous — and Patrick Vieira will need to act fast if the Eagles are to hit the ground running.
Well known in England for his days as a powerhouse midfielder at Arsenal, the former New York City and Nice coach arrives to an overflowing in tray at Selhurst Park.
As Vieira, 45, prepares for his maiden season in charge of a Premier League side, we take a look at the tasks the Frenchman must tackle to ensure the Eagles soar in 2021-22.
This was always set to be a summer of transition for Crystal Palace, who found themselves with a significant percentage of their first team out of contract at the end of June after waving goodbye to veteran boss Roy Hodgson.
Christian Benteke has agreed to extend his stay in South London but plenty of his team-mates are yet to decide their futures.
Defenders Joel Ward and Gary Cahill are expected to sign new deals but Andros Townsend and Scott Dann appear likely to move on.
A decision on whether to retain Nathaniel Clyne is also expected as Vieira sets about finalising Palace’s core squad for the upcoming campaign.
The numbers game
Regardless of who stays and goes, Palace’s squad is already short of numbers after James McCarthy, Wayne Hennessey, Patrick van Aanholt, Mamadou Sakho and Connor Wickham were released last month.
Sunderland goalkeeper Remi Matthews, 27, and 19-year-old Reading midfielder Michael Olise, who cost £8million, are welcome additions but more will be needed ahead of Palace’s first Premier game at Chelsea on August 14.
Olise can take on the role of creator-in-chief in the absence of injured star Eberechi Eze but at least one centre-back, a central midfielder and a winger will be top of Vieira’s shopping list.
Search for a striker
After failing to hit double figures for three seasons, Benteke’s 10 top-flight goals and return to form were a welcome boost for Palace last term.
Wilfried Zaha also chipped in with 11 league strikes but Vieira will be acutely aware that a top-class forward can be the difference between survival and relegation.
With doubts over the goalscoring pedigree of Jordan Ayew and Jean-Philippe Mateta, recent reports indicate the Eagles could be set to bolster their frontline by signing Eddie Nketiah from Arsenal in a £20m deal.
It would not feel like summer without a Zaha transfer saga — the 28-year-old attacker has been linked with a move away from Selhurst Park every year since rejoining Palace in 2015.
But the Ivory Coast international is contracted until June 2023 and it appears unlikely any club will meet his valuation.
And chairman Steve Parish is optimistic of retaining Palace’s star man.
He said: “We understand his position. It’s no secret he would like to challenge himself.
“But it has to be right for the football club. He understands that as well. If those two things collide, we will have to look at it.”
Keeping Zaha happy if a move does not materialise will be key to Palace’s fortunes under Vieira.
Invest in youth
With the players used by Palace in the league last season having an average age of 28.8, part of Vieira’s remit is to oversee the transition to a more youthful squad.
That will involve promoting the club’s best academy prospects, such as 18-year-old forward Jesurun Rak-Sakyi, but also looking to the future when it comes to signings.
FC Copenhagen’s £10m-rated centre-back Victor Nelsson, 22, has been linked with a move, as have 21-year-old Chelsea duo Marc Guehi and Conor Gallagher.
Having trimmed the wage bill, there is money for Vieira to invest but he will need to be careful — experience was key to former boss Hodgson keeping Palace in the top flight.
The Eagles want to soar to new heights but a careful transition should be the order of the day at Selhurst Park this summer.