Dubai: I can’t help but feel Crystal Palace have made a huge mistake in replacing the sacked Patrick Vieira with former boss Roy Hodgson. To me, this feels like a giant backwards step by the struggling Premier League club.
The South Londoners hired the former Arsenal captain one-and-a-half years ago and his remit was to change the style of play that was being implemented by the defense-minded Hodgson. There were signs of Palace becoming a more attacking side that played on the front foot. But now, they have brought the 75-year-old back and this move does not make sense at all. The only ones who will benefit are all the other clubs fighting relegation.
Other clubs have taken chances on young and attacking coaches and they are reaping the rewards. Roberto De Zerbi has got Brighton up to seventh in the table and they are playing superbly, even though his style often makes fans nervous. It all starts from the goalkeeper who rolls the ball out to the left or right full back and then the defenders recycle the ball in their own danger zone for over 10 or more passes. If they give it away there they will likely be punished and the proverbial egg will be on De Zerbi’s face. But the idea is that this type of possession provokes opponents into overstretching. And by committing too many players to the press Brighton then have more open space to exploit when they attack. It is working a treat and they have a very realistic chance of qualifying for the Champions League. It would be an incredible story if the Italian was able to achieve that with the Seagulls.
Fulham are on the up too with Marco Silva in charge. The Portuguese coach has done a remarkable job in firing the Cottagers into the mix for European qualification. His side currently sit ninth in the table – three-points adrift of the European spots. It comes after he successfully guided them to automatic promotion back to the Premier League last May. The 45-year-old is a talented young manager who has rebuilt his reputation after his sacking as Everton boss in 2019.
Brentford, in eighth, are a robust outfit under German Thomas Frank. The Bees have ruffled more than a few feathers this season with their up and at them approach. And what about Arsenal? Many felt it was a risk to put Spaniard Mikel Arteta, their former midfielder, in the hot-seat due to his lack of experience in management. But he has the Gunners firing on all cylinders. They are playing brilliantly and are top of the table, eight points clear of Manchester City.
These clubs took chances with managers that other teams perhaps would not have done - but they are reaping the rewards now.
Hodgson came out of retirement to take charge of Watford last season - but could not save them from relegation - and has done so again to help out his former club but there were many better candidates out there that owner Steve Parish could have turned to. For me, Michael Carrick would have been a smart choice. The former Manchester United star has impressed as coach of Middlesbrough and many feel he is ready to take on a job in the Premier League. In a short time on Teesside, Carrick who also enjoyed a brief spell as United’s caretaker manager – remaining unbeaten – has transformed the North East club from relegation candidates to one well set for a Championship promotion play-off spot. Rarely has a rookie been so illuminating and Palace ought to have pushed the boat out to get him. But by going back for Hodgson suggests the club did not have a plan when they sacked Vieira. It is a lazy appointment by the board.
Hodgson is known for his defensive strengths but the Eagles already have the second best defensive record in the bottom half. So he won’t need to improve that aspect of the team, but what can he offer them in attack? His teams have never been known to employ a high press and play on the front foot - or score that many goals. It is hard to envisage what he will bring to the club, apart for a bit of familiarity. Palace may feel they have taken the safe approach with him but I think it could all end in tears.
De Zerbi, Arteta, Silva, Frank and Carrick are young coaches that are changing football and Palace should have thought outside of the box with a similar appointment. But by turning to a dinosaur they now face extinction from the Premier League.