Sports media can put their lazy Frank de Boer comparisons to bed. Patrick Vieira delivered his first victory as Crystal Palace manager, over (formerly) top of the table Tottenham in a 3-0 rout at Selhurst Park. Here are our takeaways from Saturday's action.
Palace Dominate at Selhurst
Patrick Vieira's team didn't simply win this game against Tottenham. They dominated. For years Palace, by design, have conceded ground to the more dominant teams in the division. Fans have become used to seeing the team set up to counter-attack as their main route to goal, but Vieira's possession philosophy was in full flow in a role reversal from previous seasons.
The headline statistics went Palace's way, taking 62% of possession, leading in overall passes and shots on goal. Defensively, Palace was sound, as Spurs failed to make a shot on goal in the first half and only managed two in the second. The central defenders, who will likely be the feature of a longer article in due course, have the mobility to recover when needed and get forward when in the ascendancy.
0 - For the very first time in his Premier League career, Tottenham's Harry Kane has had neither a shot nor a touch in the opposition's box in a game where he completed the full 90 minutes. Isolated. pic.twitter.com/KiPNybiOI8— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 11, 2021
The team was patient in possession but driven forward by the energy of James McArthur and the excellent Conor Gallagher in midfield. As discussed in previous reports, Cheikhou Kouyaté continues to give Palace a physical anchor defensively but doesn't necessarily add to the passing game. Kouyaté justified Vieira's choice to start him off the ball, whilst the centre backs could bypass him in the build-up, repeatedly getting the ball out to the full-backs.
Tottenham's narrow formation, with three central midfielders behind Alli and a front pairing, allowed both Tyrick Mitchell and Joel Ward to lead the team in touches whilst getting forward. Mitchell, in particular, looks increasingly confident, with both his new role and playing in front of a packed stadium, still new experiences for him.
Supported by these full-backs, both Wilfried Zaha and Jordan Ayew delivered their best performances of the season. Zaha, giving Emerson Royal a rude welcome to Premier League football, showed the drive fans love when he is on the ball. Drawing an "orange" card foul from Tanganga later turned into a deserved red by Ayew, Zaha was a menace down the left flank.
Another brilliant display from Palace's Chelsea loanee, Conor Gallagher, keeps adding to any potential price tag to acquire him from Chelsea, whilst everyone runs out of superlatives to describe his performances. His finishing was more wayward than he would want, but the energy in closing down and his movement off-the-ball is currently invaluable to the way Vieira wishes to play. A sharp cameo from new signing Michael Olise gave a glimpse of a potential link-up with Gallagher as he attacks the half-space from midfield, something to look forward to for the rest of the season. He may only be here for a short time, but it's one that Palace fans can enjoy.
I Wanna be Édouard
As Édouard entered the fray in the 84th minute, even the most optimistic fan wouldn't have predicted the impact the new striker signing would have had on proceedings. Within 28 seconds and with two touches, he opened his account for Crystal Palace. His first touch killed the momentum of Zaha's low cross. The second slotted the ball through Ben Davies' legs and into the bottom right-hand corner to double the scoreline.
There may have been a moment of disbelief following his first goal, but the second goal replaced that with a greater sense of optimism that Palace may have found their new goalscorer. As the transfer window came to a close, Crystal Palace and fans alike would have been delighted to add a forward capable of scoring only 10-12 goals in a season. Édouard hasn't made a bad start.
Palace Finally Have Depth
Tottenham may have had around £90m in transfer fees in Doherty, Gil and Ndombélé sitting unused in their dugout, but Palace came into this fixture with the stronger bench.
Having seen various U23 players fill in during the previous fixtures and with Vieira unable to name nine substitutes against Brentford, the international break has allowed Palace to get their squad back to fighting fitness. With Milivojević and Clyne returning to the bench, alongside new signings Olise, Édouard and Hughes, Patrick Vieira had multiple choices of influencing the game from the bench.
Following the red card for Japhet Tanganga, bringing Luka Milivojević into the central midfield may not seem like a conventional "attacking" move. Still, it gave Palace more suited to distributing the ball over Kouyaté, given the space in midfield playing 11 vs 10. Milivojević connected with both of his long passes in the game, switching the play with accuracy to Michael Olise in the build-up to the third goal, showing that range of passing.
Likewise, Odsonne Édouard may not be a conventional "defensive" move to protect a lead, and with Christian Benteke tiring from his efforts throughout the game, the new signing gave Vieira a weapon capable of getting in behind Tottenham on the break.
This depth is something Palace have had to contend with in Premier League battles whilst struggling with an ageing, oft-injured squad under Roy Hodgson. Vieira now has the luxury to field different combinations, particularly in midfield, which should give Palace a greater chance of competing across a long season ahead.
The xG Battle
Over a thoroughly entertaining 90 minutes of football, the scoreline reflected the quality of chances created at one end and the defensive success preventing Harry Kane from having any shots on goal. By halftime, Palace had mustered a single "big chance" to open the scoring as Gallagher had two efforts denied at close range by Spurs, first blocked by Reguilón then saved by Lloris.
The penalty earned whilst applying more and more pressure on the Tottenham defence gave Palace the breakthrough. Zaha, seemingly taking over penalty duties from Milivojević, confidently sent Hugo Lloris the wrong way to open the scoring.
Édouard's goal to double the advantage shouldn't have been as easy a finish as he made it look, surrounded by Spurs defenders, the speed in which he got off the shot gave Lloris little time to react. The team's third was another "big chance" well worked into the area, giving Édouard plenty of space to line up his shot and a scoreline Palace deserved on the balance of chances.
Next Up: Liverpool (Away)
Given the strength of schedule in August and September, the victory of Tottenham has probably put Crystal Palace ahead of where many people thought the team would be. With five points already in the bag, a trip to Anfield feels like a "free hit" where any result will be a bonus.
Patrick Vieira will be looking to progress with his new style of play, and Jürgen Klopp's Liverpool can be viewed as an excellent test for the squad rather than an event to be feared. The feeling in the stadium against Tottenham appeared to carry less pressure than the atmosphere against Brentford, a sense of freedom the team can hopefully bring to Liverpool.