Life under Patrick Vieira has been better than anticipated so far. Last time the Crystal Palace board took a risk – ending the chain of Tony Pulis, Alan Pardew and Sam Allardyce with Frank de Boer – a disastrous start led to the Dutchman being sacked after four scoreless defeats. In came the steady hands of Roy Hodgson to keep Palace up, maintaining their Premier League status over his three full seasons too.
Replacing Hodgson was tricky and eyebrows were raised at former Arsenal captain Vieira. Yet the Eagles are in 13th, with just seven sides scoring more than their 31 goals and only four having a better expected goals conceded (xGC) tally over the first 20 Gameweeks.
Until their final day hosting of Man United, just two of their next 15 matches are graded above a three on the Fixture Difficulty Rating. Norwich (a), Brentford (a) and Burnley (H) are amongst their next four fixtures, with a game-in-hand against Watford (a) to also fit in.
After a fantastic season so far, cheap Conor Gallagher (£6.1m) is the first name that comes to mind with this fixture run. Seven goals and five assists have him already in ‘The 100 Club’ where only six midfielders have outscored the Chelsea loanee – although this minor detail could become a problem. Gallagher will be unavailable to play in Gameweek 26 because Palace face his parent club at Selhurst Park. If you can find a good fifth midfielder to rotate him with – or opt for a 4-3-3 formation that week – the youngster is highly recommended for Palace’s upcoming games.
Elsewhere, Odsonne Edouard (£6.5m) has found the form which might finally cement him as number one striker ahead of Christian Benteke (£6.1m). Between Gameweeks 4 and 15, he was a substitute on five occasions, only once completing all 90 minutes.
When Benteke stopped his small run of form, Edouard stepped in to start all seven games since Gameweek 16, notching three goals, four assists and an expected goals (xG) score only beaten by Harry Kane. There is a dearth of interesting forward options right now and Edouard has the form and fixtures to solve that.
It’s felt like a quiet season for Wilfried Zaha (£6.8m) but he has still accumulated five goals, with Michael Olise (£5.4m) impressing during his limited game time.
At the back, those excellent xGC numbers aren’t reflected on the pitch, where one clean sheet has been kept in their last 11 matches. Goalkeepers Vicente Guaita (£4.6m) and Jack Butland (£4.4m) have rotated their spot over recent times, so any safe coverage will have to be in defence.
It’s a stable selection where Marc Guehi, Tyrick Mitchell and Joel Ward (all £4.5m) are undisputed first choice options and the other centre back spot usually goes to Joachim Andersen (£4.5m). Of those, Guehi has scored twice.
Because Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool defensive assets soon have a Blank Gameweek, the Palace fixtures are a nice option to rotate in. Grabbing either Gallagher or Edouard could also bring success to your team.