Crystal Palace taking a huge gamble in replacing Vieira with Hodgson


"It was a stroke of genius from the club to give Patrick [Vieira] the job," Roy Hodgson said of his successor as Crystal Palace manager in November 2021. 


"I admire him very much and respect him – he’s a very good person as well. I am pleased to see a club that means a lot to me in such good hands. At the moment, I can’t imagine it could have possibly gone any better. I congratulate him, of course, and I honestly believe that he will go on from strength to strength." 


Football is a strange game and Palace fans in particular have learned to expect the unexpected. Yet no member of the Selhurst Park faithful would have envisaged Vieira's replacement being the man he himself replaced in the summer of 2021. 


Palace confirmed on Tuesday that Hodgson has been handed the reins until the end of the campaign. His remit is simple: keep the club in the Premier League. If he fails, Steve Parish's head will be on the chopping block. Make no mistake: Palace's chairman has taken an almighty gamble in going back to Hodgson.  


True, the England manager kept the Eagles in the top flight for four seasons on the bounce. He knows many of the players already and is familiar with the setup and structure of the club. And despite a 12-game winless streak, the veteran septuagenarian will not be fazed by Palace's predicament. 



Yet it is hard to shake the feeling that this is a regressive appointment. Less than two years ago, Palace concluded Hodgson was no longer the right man for the job.  


Vieira, hired with a view to the long term, was tasked with instituting a more expansive style of play with youngsters to the fore. At the first sign of trouble, Palace have abandoned that evolution and gone back to the safety blanket of Hodgson. 


It was clear things were not going well for Vieira. Palace are the only team in the division without a win in 2023. The Frenchman failed to kick on from last term, when Palace played some thrilling football on their way to a mid-table finish and the semi-finals of the FA Cup.  


This time around, the football has been more insipid than exciting. But while Palace were only three points above the relegation zone when Vieira was dismissed - the gap is still the same after a 4-1 defeat by Arsenal on Sunday - their fate remained in their hands. The fixture list has been extremely tricky since the turn of the year; all 12 of Palace's games in 2023 have come against teams above them in the table. 


It is not like Vieira's side were getting blown away either. They drew with Manchester United, Liverpool, Newcastle United, Brighton and Brentford. Each of their last five defeats under the Frenchman was by a one-goal margin. Palace have lacked quality in recent months, but the players were still playing for their manager. Vieira would no doubt have pointed to a kinder run of games after the international break. 


Parish nevertheless felt he needed to shake things up. That is understandable after such a poor run of form, even if the fan base was split on the decision to remove Vieira. Less comprehensible is the choice of his replacement. 


Palace's principal problem this season has been scoring goals. No team has found the back of the net less often than the Eagles, who rank third-bottom for shots per game with 9.9 and second-bottom for expected goals.  


Yet this was also a perennial shortcoming under Hodgson, whose pragmatic style of play had alienated many supporters by the end of his first spell in charge.  


There is no doubt the former England boss did a good job with relatively little investment between 2017 and 2021, but the squad he inherits now is not as well suited to his methods. Palace have lacked invention and creativity this season, and it is doubtful that Hodgson is the man to get the best out of players like Eberechi Eze and Michael Olise. 


It is also hard to ignore the 75-year-old’s hugely disappointing stint at Watford last season. The club’s problems ran deeper than Hodgson, but he was completely unable to inspire the squad or win over the fans. The Croydon-born coach has plenty of credit in the bank at Selhurst Park, but that goodwill could be eroded if things go badly over the next few months.

Crystal Palace taking a huge gamble in replacing Vieira with Hodgson