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Crystal Palace 2021-22 season review - star player, best moment, standout result

:Headline: Crystal Palace 2021-22 season review - star player, best moment, standout result:
Sports Mole takes an in-depth look back at Crystal Palace's 2021-22 campaign, including statistics, standout moments and our final verdict.
Sports Mole

Crystal Palace concluded their season of transition under new boss Patrick Vieira by defeating Manchester United 1-0 at Selhurst Park on the final day of the 2021-22 Premier League on Sunday.

After years of defensive solidarity to ensure survival under Roy Hodgson, Vieira was tasked with refreshing an ageing squad and implementing a more expansive brand of football this season.

Here, Sports Mole takes an in-depth look back at Crystal Palace's 2021-22 campaign, including statistics, standout moments and our final verdict.



SEASON OVERVIEW

Final league position: 12th

EFL Cup: Second round

FA Cup: Semi-finals

Top scorer: Wilfried Zaha (15)

Most assists: Michael Olise (8)

Despite the experienced Hodgson maintaining Palace's Premier League status in his four years in charge, many supporters were happy to see the former England boss leave Selhurst Park at the end of the 2020-21 campaign.

Palace had become a team more comfortable out of possession, and were set up with a focus of organisation and defensive solidity being the primary target.

Last summer, the Palace hierarchy turned to Arsenal legend Vieira, who had endured a mixed managerial career up to that point, and lacked any experience of managing in the Premier League.

So despite his many years of success in the top flight during his playing days with the Gunners, many viewed the appointment of the 45-year-old as a risky one, but after a comfortable mid-table finish, it seems to have been the right call as things stand.

The Eagles were a side that enjoyed possession of the ball in the 2021-22 season, although the new expansive style did take some adjusting to for a squad that had been refreshed in the summer, with the average age of the playing staff being brought down drastically.

Joachim Andersen and Marc Guehi were brought in to provide the team with two ball-playing central defenders, whilst Conor Gallagher was signed on loan from Chelsea to add goals to a goal-shy midfield, as well as a bundle of energy to assist Vieira with the transition toward a more aggressive pressing approach out of possession.

Finally, Odsonne Edouard and Olise were signed on permanent deals to add additional flair to an attack that had become one-dimensional in recent years, and other than Edouard perhaps, all of the signings were a success in their own way to help contribute to a successful season of transition.

As mentioned above, the new additions and style did not fit immediately, with Palace winning just one of their opening nine Premier League games of the season, with a disappointing second-round EFL Cup exit to Watford sandwiched in between as well.

However, things began to click when the Eagles stunned the eventual champions Manchester City 2-0 at the Etihad Stadium at the end of October, and although there were some minor speed bumps along the way, entertainment was certainly on offer as Vieira's side continued to score multiple goals in fixtures on a regular basis.

Wins over Millwall, Hartlepool United, Stoke City and Everton took Palace to Wembley in the FA Cup semi-finals in April, but their memorable cup run was ended by fellow Londoners Chelsea in a 2-0 defeat.

The run was a breath of fresh air for the faithful Palace supporters though, with Premier League survival prioritised over any form of cup run in recent years, and even a comfortable avoidance of the drop was not compromised.

Palace legend Zaha continued to be the main go-to man when needed most, but the addition of Olise in particular helped take the workload off the Ivorian, with the latter providing fans with some 'wow' moments with individual skill and flair to quickly become a favourite.

Three wins from the final five league games, concluding with the triumph over Man United on the final day, saw Vieira finish his first year in the Selhurst Park dugout with an impressive 48-point tally and comfortable mid-table finish.



PREMIER LEAGUE STATS

Wins: 11 (=14th)
Draws: 15 (=1st)
Losses: 12 (=14th)
Goals scored: 50 (10th)
Goals conceded: 46 (7th)
Yellow cards: 67 (=8th)
Red cards: 1 (=15th)
Passes: 17,301 (10th)
Shots: 412 (16th)
Big chances missed: 33 (16th)
Saves: 101 (14th)
Tackles: 635 (7th)
Own goals: 2 (=4th)
Hit woodwork: 11 (=11th)
Clearances: 731 (11th)



HOW DID IT COMPARE TO LAST SEASON?

As previously alluded to, the 2021-22 campaign could well have turned out into a far worse year than the last given the risk in the turnover of players and manager last summer.

However, even with a drastic change in playing style and squad, Palace improved in several different departments this season.

After regularly dropping out of the cup competitions early, including the third round last season, progression to an FA Cup semi-final was a notable achievement, despite the result.

In terms of the Premier League, a 14th-placed finish in the 2020-21 season under Hodgson was improved by two places thanks to the win on the final day, which also boosted the points tally to an improvement of four on last year.

Despite the significant alterations in style - from a conservative approach to one of a more expansive nature - Vieira's Eagles conceded 20 fewer goals this season when compared to last, whilst scoring nine more at the other end of the pitch.

Perhaps the statistic to highlight the biggest difference between the two seasons is that of the number of passes completed, with the Eagles completing just over 14,000 in the 2020-21 campaign under Hodgson, before increasing that tally by over 3,000 under Vieira - a ranking improvement of 17th to 10th when compared with the rest of the division.

All in all, whether comparing cup runs, league finishes or style, the 2021-22 season was clearly an improvement in every department for Palace.



PLAYER OF THE SEASON - CONOR GALLAGHER

On the back of an impressive 2021-22 campaign, there are several Eagles players that stood out as having enjoyed productive years.

Zaha would be an obvious choice again, given that he outscored the rest of his teammates by seven goals or more, but based on his overall game, the 29-year-old was perhaps not quite as influential on Palace's success as a whole this year compared to recent seasons.

Summer arrivals Guehi and Olise are also notable mentions, with the former picking up the Players' Player of the Year award at the club's end-of-season awards following a significant impact at the back, and the latter dazzling opponents and recording 12 direct goal contributions to help draw some attention and workload away from Zaha throughout the campaign.

However, our choice is the same as that of the club's Supporters' Player of the Year award - on-loan Chelsea midfielder Gallagher.

The 22-year-old was the club's second top goalscorer this season with eight, whilst also laying on five assists for his teammates too.

In only his second Premier League campaign, Gallagher looked right at home in the Palace midfield from the beginning, and his energy and aggressiveness out of possession were perhaps the biggest factors in helping Vieira to be successful in the team's new style.

Gallagher's impressive season for Palace even saw him make his senior England debut back in November, before featuring in back-to-back games for his country in March, and with the midfielder returning to Chelsea this summer, his future will certainly be an interesting one to follow in the upcoming transfer window.



STANDOUT RESULT

The Eagles enjoyed some scalps during their 2021-22 campaign, with the final day victory over Man United following a 3-0 hammering of Arsenal at Selhurst Park back in April, and a thumping win over Spurs by the same scoreline for their first victory of the season back in September.

Vieira's side proved to be a bogey team for the eventual champions, and his former side, Man City though, with Palace holding Pep Guardiola's team to a 0-0 draw on home soil in March.

However, the 2-0 success at the Etihad Stadium back in October has to be the standout result of the season, with Palace being only one of two teams to beat the champions in their own back yard this year.

As previously mentioned, the triumph was only the second win of the season for Vieira, but it was a significant one in showing what his new-look side were all about.

Zaha stunned City by finding the back of the net just six minutes in after being set up by Gallagher, before Palace were given a helping hand when Aymeric Laporte was shown a straight red card for a foul as the last man, with the quick Palace counter-attacks causing several problems.

Despite the one-man advantage, City would not have surprised many by getting at least a point from the tie, but Gallagher, who turned out to be the man of the match, sealed the impressive three points with his third goal for the club just two minutes from time.

> Click here for a full list of Crystal Palace's results from the 2021-22 season.



BEST MOMENT

Although the shock 2-0 win at the champions could easily be the standout moment of the season, we have to go for Palace's run to the semi-finals of the FA Cup as the highlight of their season.

Reaching the last four of the famous cup was only the second time that the Eagles had done so since 1995 - with the only other occasion being the heartbreaking defeat to Man United in the 2016 final.

Vieira's side may not have defeated the toughest of opponents to reach the occasion at Wembley, but they could only beat what was in front of them, and for Palace supporters, it was refreshing to see the club take the cup competition seriously.

The day might have been spoilt a little by the defeat to Chelsea, which was not too surprising given the quality of Thomas Tuchel's side, but the occasion was certainly one to be remembered for those Eagles fans that flooded Wembley and created a raucous atmosphere on the day.

Those supporters will be hopeful that the 2021-22 cup run was a sign of things to come in future years under Vieira, with the competition's success not jeopardising the club's usual primary goal of Premier League survival either.



TOP PRIORITY FOR SUMMER

There are numerous tasks to do on Vieira's list at Selhurst Park this summer, with the focus being the continued rebuild of a squad that revolves around his style of football,

Addressing the future of the on-loan Gallagher will certainly be near the top of that list, with the 22-year-old enjoying such a successful 2021-22 campaign down in South London, and if Palace cannot convince parent club Chelsea to sanction a permanent transfer or another loan deal, then finding a replacement for the energetic England international will be hugely important.

However, the biggest priority for Vieira and the club's hierarchy will be sorting out the future of talismanic winger Zaha, whose contract enters its final 12 months this summer.

The Ivorian has long been linked with a move to some of Europe's top clubs for numerous transfer windows, and the upcoming window ahead of the 2022-23 campaign is unlikely to be any different.

Palace are faced with a decision - hold on to their key man for one more season and risk losing him for free next summer, or look to sell for as high a transfer fee as possible in the coming weeks with the view to reinvesting the proceeds into several new signings.

It is certainly a difficult call to make and few would want to be in Vieira's shoes in this situation, but the outcome of the predicament could prove crucial to Palace's plans for 2022-23.



FINAL VERDICT

Considering the turnover of players and the risky appointment of a new boss with no managerial experience in the Premier League, Palace should be thoroughly pleased with the success of their 2021-22 campaign.

A more expansive style of football was implemented successfully, without compromising the Eagles' league status, with a memorable run to the last four of the FA Cup to savour too.

Many sides endure hugely difficult first seasons of transition, but the Palace supporters will certainly have been pleased with both entertainment, and results, that were on display this year.

It is certainly an exciting time to be involved with Vieira's side, as they look to carry this season's success into the 2022-23 campaign, and look to build on top of the foundations that have been built in the Frenchman's debut year at the helm.


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