Patrick Vieira admits having talisman Wilfried Zaha in the ranks is a huge boost for Crystal Palace as they prepare to face Chelsea in their Premier League opener on Saturday.
The Arsenal legend spoke to the press for the first time as Eagles chief on Friday. The 45-year-old has been in the Selhurst Park hotseat since July 4 after replacing Roy Hodgson. He wasted little time in bolstering his ranks, with centre-back Marc Guehi a £21m capture from Chelsea.
Joachim Andersen and Michael Olise have also arrived while goalkeeper Remi Matthews was a free signing after he left Sunderland. As always with Palace, the summer was spent speculating over whether Zaha would stay in south London.
Back in May, the Ivory Coast international told The Face he was keen to explore other avenues to win silverware. However, journalist Michael Bridge put his views forward, telling Football FanCast that he believed Vieira would persuade Zaha would stay.
And that seems to have been the case as the World Cup winner revealed his thoughts on the former Manchester United player.
“He’s been fantastic. He’s been a leader, like I was expecting. A leader on and off the field,” he told reporters. “He’s I believe one of the best players in this league and we’re fortunate to have a player like that in our squad.”
Vieira upbeat ahead of Blues challenge
There seems to be renewed optimism around Selhurst Park after a limp ending to 2020-2021. Palace lost six of their last eight league games to finish 14th.
However, they won five and drew one of six pre-season games and Vieira hopes to take that form into the new season.
“The fact we started pre-season in a good way with the way we played those games and managed to get a couple of wins which gives us confidence,” he added. “We know at the same time it’ll be really challenging. But we want to compete.”
The Frenchman is now putting the finishing touches on his side’s preparation ahead of the trip to Stamford Bridge. He revealed that Luka Milivojevic will not face Thomas Tuchel’s European champions due to personal issues.
Olise is still a few weeks away from playing but Anderson will be part of the squad. Following the west London trip, Palace face a home cash with Premier League new boys Brentford.
A short trip across the capital follows at the end of August to go up against David Moyes West Ham United.