After the great victory that Everton was able to achieve against Arsenal last Monday, the Toffees must focus on carrying that momentum forward against a tough, resilient lot that has found recent difficulties despite their grit and talent. Crystal Palace and Patrick Vieira will prove another good test for the Blues when they travel to London for Saturday’s match.
Wilfried Zaha, the young Odsonne Edouard and company will be looking to break a recent run of three losses at the expense of Everton. Meanwhile, Rafa Benitez looks to continue to rebuild the confidence that was damaged during a roughly two-month spell that preceded the Arsenal victory, and which included just two draws, five losses, and not one victory.
Ahead of Saturday’s game, we spoke to Jay from Palace site The Eagles Beak:
RBM: First off, while Palace has been slumping a bit as of late, they remain just two points off of Everton and in 14th position on the league table currently; how would you assess the Eagles season so far and the current energy around this team and its supporters?
We started the season well, perhaps better than many of us expected after such an upheaval in the summer right across the club. However, a slump was going to hit us at some point and that is right now with three losses in a row. That has coincided with injuries to key players which has really hindered Vieira’s style of play that he has implemented at the club.
It just goes to show that more work needs to be done to add to this squad and make it his own so a couple more transfer windows are going to be needed to be anywhere close to the personnel that the Frenchman wants and needs. It was always going to be a season of transition so we have to be patient.
RBM: How is the Patrick Vieira era fairing so far? Where do the strengths and weaknesses of this outfit lie, and what in particular is the new boss still working to shore up?
The start to this season was always going to be tough due to the way the fixtures fell as well as Patrick Vieira not being unveiled as early in the close season as the club would have liked. That was always going to put the club and the new management team a step behind in their rebuild but the Frenchman has come in with fresh ideas and a new style and for the most part, it has worked.
He does need to work through his first sticky situation which we find ourselves in at the moment but his approach has been refreshing from the very start. He certainly knows his stuff which is what you would expect from a World Cup winner but that status does not always translate as well into management. It is still early days but there are plenty of bright signs with plenty still to work on behind the scenes, particularly defending set pieces, preventing late goals and finding a way to cope with missing players.
RBM: So many clubs wanted Odsonne Edouard from Celtic this past Summer, and yet Crystal Palace secured the young Frenchman; how has he adjusted to this level of competition after his stint in the Scottish Premiership?
Really pleased with his arrival, the club did excpetionally well to secure his services and it is exactly the right player we needed to bring in. He has a real eye for goal, pace and very quick feet when on the ball. His quick fire double off the bench against Spurs shows exactly what he is capable of and while he has not really lived up to that amazing start, what it has done is provided competition for places and has seen Christian Benteke up his game which can only be a good thing. Edouard just needs a run in the side as the starting striker rather than being pushed out wide so that we can see what he can really do in an Eagles shirt.
RBM: What are the realistic expectations for this club and its supporters in Patrick Vieira’s first season? Can you see them making any further moves during the upcoming winter window?
Most Palace fans freely admit that it is a season of transition, particularly when you consider the turnover of players and management staff in the summer. It may seem short sighted but I truly believe that survival in Vieira’s first season at the club will be a success with all the upheaval that has gone on. As for the window, Vieira needs to make the squad his own and you have to counter that by the fact that there are another 8 or 9 players free to leave the club in the summer PLUS the club will be decimated by players heading to the AFCON in January - for both reasons, we can expect one of two new additions in the transfer window, would be more surprised if we didn’t.
RBM: How do you expect Palace to set up on Saturday, and which of Palace’s players do you think can cause Everton the most issues in the match?
Good question - we are still getting used to Vieira’s ways but if nothing else, he has been conistent with his approach from a tactics perspective. The big questions will be whether Benteke or Edouard start for this one, whether Joachim Andersen is fit to return to the back line alongside Guehi and the conundrum of replacing James McArthur who has missed a few games due to injury and we have really not plugged the gap considering he had such a great start to the season. Many are calling for Will Hughes to make his first start in an effort to fill that void and that is a distinct possibility. As for players that could cause problems, depends who is selected and wants to turn it on as there is quite a choice from Zaha, Eze, Olise and Edouard.
RBM: Finally, what’s your prediction for Saturday’s game?
The losing run must end and some point so we are banking on Vieira plotting a return to winning ways at Selhurst - Palace to win 2-1
Our thanks to Jay for his time.