Talking Tactics

How Glasner has transformed Crystal Palace's style

By Adrian Clarke 1 May 2024
Crystal Palace Talking Tactics

Adrian Clarke analyses the Austrian's tactics, which are starting to bring success

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Team analysis - Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace have undergone a tactical revolution since Oliver Glasner took charge in February, and his players have responded to the changes with great enthusiasm.

The Austrian has switched to a 3-4-2-1 formation that has brought them four wins and three draws in 10 Premier League matches, including a shock 1-0 victory at Anfield.

Pressing with greater intensity, playing with more width, and using the gifted Eberechi Eze and Michael Olise as twin No 10s, the Eagles’ transformation has been popular with supporters at Selhurst Park.

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Harder to play against

The PPDA (passes per defensive action) metric is a terrific gauge of how teams congest time and space for the opposition.

Before Glasner’s arrival, Palace’s opponents averaged 15 passes before they were disrupted by the Eagles, who often sat back behind the ball to stay in shape under Roy Hodgson.

Their PPDA has been reduced to 12.4 under Glasner, which is just behind Manchester City’s average of 12 this season.

Working harder to pressure rival players - with an 18 per cent rise in pressures - they are regaining possession more frequently.

This has led to a higher number of turnovers, and from some of those situations Palace have scored goals.

Palace's defensive stats before/with Glasner
Statistic Pre-Glasner With Glasner
PPDA 15.0 12.4
Pressures 5,216 2,464
Pressures per 90 mins 208.6 246.4

Eze’s acrobatic scissor-kick goal in the 5-2 rout of West Ham United came from a quality piece of proactive defending by United States international Chris Richards.

Eze's scissor-kick goal v West Ham

As part of a back three that had cover in place, Richards felt emboldened to follow Michail Antonio tightly, and from a forward pass into him the centre-back jumped in front to make a key interception.

Glasner encourages his central defenders to be aggressive in this manner, and from the turnover Palace found the back of the net.

Eze goal v West Ham
Wharton’s immediate impact

Former Blackburn Rovers midfielder Adam Wharton is thriving under Glasner’s tutorship.

He plays on the right of a midfield two and has been outstanding since making his January move.

His naturally assertive style suits the desire of his manager to press opponents inside the middle third.

The 20-year-old wins more tackles than any of his team-mates, consistently scampering around the midfield.

Wharton v Palace midfielders 23/24*
Player Tackles won/90 Player Poss. won middle third/90 Player Interceptions/90
Wharton 2.34 Doucoure 3.62 Doucoure 1.95
Munoz 2.31 Wharton 3.29 Munoz 1.69
Doucoure 1.66 Lerma 3.05 Wharton 1.39

*Rotate to view in full on mobile device

Wharton is also a brilliant passer. As well as being press-resistant in possession, he is excellent at popping off early one and two-touch passes to players ahead of him.

This calmness helps Palace play through the thirds better than they did under Hodgson.

It was Wharton’s eye-of-the-needle pass that picked out Jeffrey Schlupp to score last weekend at Fulham for his second assist of the campaign.

Wharton's assist for Schlupp

Overall, Wharton has created 19 chances in 13 appearances. Six have come from set-pieces, with the rest from his smart distribution in open play.

He is always looking to pull off a progressive forward pass that breaks the lines, so Manchester United will need to be wary of his quality at Selhurst Park on Monday.

Wharton Twenty3 image
Adventurous wing-backs

Another January arrival, Daniel Munoz, signed from Genk, has turned out to be suited to Palace’s new style of play.

The Colombian is a natural wing-back, who has been a key performer across the last 10 matches.

On the other flank, Tyrick Mitchell also looks rejuvenated in a slightly more attacking role.

A clear sign of how positively Glasner wants his wing-backs to be can be seen when looking back on Palace’s winner at Liverpool.

The match was only 14 minutes old, but Mitchell crossed from the byline for Eze to score, with opposite wing-back Munoz (circled) also pushed on inside the Reds’ penalty area.

WingBacks

A replay of Emerson’s 20th-minute own goal for West Ham also shows how both Palace wing-backs were in extremely advanced positions at the same time.

A disciplined double pivot in midfield, coupled with a back three behind, provide Munoz and Mitchell with the freedom to explore inside opposition territory.

In the previous 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 set-up their roles were more restricted.

Wingbacks2
Goal threat has risen

Before Glasner took over at Selhurst Park, Palace had scored two or more goals in only six of their first 25 matches, but they have notched at least two in four of 10 since.

Jean-Philippe Mateta has been a revelation up front, and fit-again Olise and Eze are well suited to occupying those half-space infield pockets in a 3-4-2-1.

In recent years the Eagles have not scored as many goals as their attacking talent has promised. They were limited by defensive tactics.

Now scoring 1.7 goals per game under their new manager, it feels like they are heading in a more exciting direction.

Goals 20/21 21/22 22/23 23/24 pre-Glasner 23/24 with Glasner
Total 41 50 40 28 17
Per 90 1.08 1.32 1.05 1.12 1.70

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