Crystal Palace are the envy of London at the moment, cage football on the big stage. They have the Premier League in a chokehold. Selhurst steadfastness with samba stylings, the Eagles are the embodiment of their manager Patrick Vieira, grit, and glamour.
Last season couldn’t have gone much better, but Hall of Famer Vieira will know Rome wasn’t built in a day, and a legacy takes time and patience. So, where do Palace go from here?
Vieira had a huge job on his hands when he took over from Roy Hodgson last summer. Palace were in the midst of an unprecedented contract situation, with nine senior players leaving the club. He handled this situation admirably, though, recruiting a host of young English talent.
This included Chelsea academy graduates Marc Guehi and Connor Gallagher. Both would go on to have stellar campaigns in South London. But with Gallagher only arriving on a season-long loan deal, Vieira always knew he’d be hard-pressed to keep hold of the prized midfielder beyond this summer.
With that in mind, Palace are in the market for a midfielder of a similar profile to Gallagher, and in Wolves’ Morgan Gibbs-White, they seemed to have identified the perfect replacement. Though slightly more offensively minded than Gallagher, Gibbs-White shone on loan at Sheffield United as the Blades put together a late push for promotion.
Gibbs-White excels in and around the box, with his late runs causing havoc for opposition defences. The awareness to drift into these spaces is then supplemented by a superb ability to weigh up his options and either find a teammate or go for goal.
The 22-year-old is more of a wily presence than Gallagher, allowing him to drift off his markers and make himself available for the ball. But despite this, he’s still able to command himself in the middle of the park, driving from deep with the ball just as Gallagher did so often last season.
Gibbs-White has been in and around the Wolves first team for six years now, and it feels like the Englishman is ready to take the next step in his career. Wolves, however, seem reluctant to offer Gibbs-White this opportunity, and Palace are looking to use their reputation for developing young talent to sign the midfielder.
Wolves are reportedly willing to listen to offers, with Gibbs-White stalling over a new contract, and Palace seem prepared to meet their £25 million valuation, especially after missing out on Swansea midfielder Flynn Downes to West Ham.
Internal upheaval is also expected in midfield, with Palace reportedly prepared to let club captain Luka Milivojevic leave this summer after falling down the pecking order under Vieira. Cheikhou Kouyate is, however, expected to sign a new contract.
In light of this, Palace look set to replace Milivojevic with Lens midfielder Cheick Doucoure. A rangy player, his long strides help him burst out of pressure.
His excellent anticipation stops him from diving into challenges. Instead, he pokes the ball away and bounds up the field much like Abou Diaby used to do. Lens enjoyed a magnificent season under manager Franck Haise, and Doucoure was central to this helping to break up play and transition the ball through midfield.
Whilst Clauss (29) and Fofana (27) are enjoying their prime years, Cheick Doucouré has become a key cog in midfield at 22, earning attention from Crystal Palace.@TomQuartly takes a look at the Malian midfielder who could be headed for Selhurst Park:https://t.co/C5YO5TJril pic.twitter.com/I8qdLTJa27
— Breaking The Lines (@BTLvid) July 3, 2022
Wilfred Zaha’s future always seems to be up for debate, and this summer is no different, with Roma said to be interested in the player’s services. Palace, who have previously held firm over their prized asset, may well look to cash in on Zaha. With the club looking to hand Michael Olise a starring role in the side.
The signing of Sam Johnstone on a free transfer from West Brom represents smart business from The Eagles, with the England international displaying his topflight credentials despite West Brom’s relegation in 2021. There is still a question over Palace’s options up top. But with Odsonne Edouard only arriving from Celtic last year, it’s likely that Vieira will persist with him and Jean-Phillipe Mateta through the middle.
Palace are only looking up right now, and they’ll be hoping to challenge the likes of Wolves and Leicester for European football this season. Further additions, beyond the ones mentioned, seem unlikely. With Palace having to clear space in their wage bill. But ultimately, this is a young squad that will only continue to get better with time.
By: Sam Tabuteau / @TabuteauS
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Sebastian Frej / MB Media / Getty Images