Patrick Vieira has demanded an end to comparisons between Conor Gallagher and Eberechi Eze, insisting the Eagles midfielder will not step out of anyone’s shadow when Crystal Palace host Arsenal in their Premier League opener.
Gallagher’s successful loan spell at Palace in 2021/22 helped him gain international recognition with England before returning to Chelsea this summer, leaving some worried about how Vieira would cope without him.
Eze looked like the potential pre-season solution, appearing in top form after spending much of last season recovering from an Achilles tendon injury sustained in May 2021.
“The profile and quality of these players are completely different,” said Vieira.
“I think [Eze] would be glowing even if Conor were here. He had a very difficult time with injuries, but he finished the season very well and played the last two games since the start of pre-season.
“He is training every day so I believe he is doing his best and will be an important player for us.
“I don’t expect Ebs to give us what Conor gave us last year. They play in a different way. They have different strengths and it will be important for these players to play to their quality, and I believe we can be as good as we were last year.”
Vieira has options for Friday’s starting eleven, with Palace facing a renewed Arsenal in a match he believes is “completely different” from the April meeting at Selhurst, which Palace won 3-0.
While Eze will likely start against the Gunners, his manager has urged patience as the team adjusts to life without Gallagher and as summer signings Cheick Doucoure, Malcolm Ebiowei, Chris Richards and the injured Sam Johnstone settle in south London.
“We still have to give [Eze] time to give your best”, said Vieira. “We have no doubts about how good he can be for us.
“His strength is when he has the ball at his feet and he can create something, he can score goals. It’s not just about him, but also about the players around him.”
Those teammates will likely get more new faces to train ahead of the September 1 transfer deadline, with Vieira admitting he still sees gaps “across the field”.
The former Arsenal captain is especially keen to strengthen Palace’s young talent with more maturity. Doucoure is 22 and Michael Olise is 20, while South London-born Ebiowei turns 19 next month.
“Yes, we need a little more experience,” Vieira said. “We have some players who need a little support and have pressure on their shoulders to allow them to express themselves.
“We are looking forward to improving that side of the game.”
That pressure, he agreed, also applies to the entire first team, which is striving to finish in the top 10 this season after finishing 12th in the table last season.
“People are going to expect more from Palace,” added Vieira, ahead of his second season in the coaching chair.
“We will have to manage this. At the same time, we have to live with that expectation and pressure because we had a good season last year.
“It will be important to maintain these performances and the quality that we have shown, but more consistently to allow us to be more competitive.”