In Patrick Vieira’s first game as Crystal Palace head coach, the Eagles defeated League Two outfit Walsall 1-0 on Saturday afternoon thanks to a first-half Wilfried Zaha goal.
Here are four things we learnt:
Nathaniel Clyne deserves a new deal
The Palace academy graduate’s return looked out of the question. However, due to Nathan Ferguson’s persistent injuries, keeping him at Selhurst Park for the upcoming season makes sense.
With it apparent that Vieira will want his full-backs to join the attack, Clyne’s natural athleticism and attacking ability fits the bill.
He linked up well with Jordan Ayew down the right and caused concern for the Saddlers.
A change in formation unlocks some freedom
Roy Hodgson persisted with a 4-4-2 formation for the lion’s share of his tenure, whereas it appears Vieira will move towards a 4-3-3 system with Zaha cutting in from the left.
While it is only pre-season, and Vieira’s team were up against a side playing their football in League Two next season, the change in formation saw Palace dominate possession after a quiet first 15 minutes.
Rob Street, Zaha and Ayew pressed the Walsall defence early on – a clear sign of the new-look Crystal Palace moving forward.
Jairo Riedewald, who was dictating the play in the first half, created a handful of chances and looks poised to be an integral part of Vieira’s side.
The formation and ethos of passing out from the back did not falter despite the wholesale changes for the second half.
Good run out for several returning faces
Ultimately, what pre-season boils down to is fitness. With James Tomkins, James McArthur and Martin Kelly all getting crucial minutes, it will only serve to strengthen Vieira’s squad ahead of the start of the Premier League campaign.
Academy boys impress
Rob Street, who was playing as the lone striker during the first half, did well to hound the Walsall defence. The 19-year-old got his rewards when he played an intelligent one-two with Zaha for the opening goal in the 41st minute.
Jesurun Rak-Sakyi showed his quick change of direction and natural burst of pace in the early stages of the second half.
Dan Quick and Jake O’Brien also didn’t look out of place during their time on the pitch.
The youngsters grew into the game, dominated the ball and held their own.
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