After the tough midweek 1-0 loss to Newcastle, the Toffees continue there search for some relief and joy in the midst of a tough stretch of matches where goals have been difficult to come by. Frank Lampard will want to see greater creativity and ingenuity, as well as better finishing, but Crystal Palace will be looking to put up goals against a side that took great joy from the Eagles at the end of last season on the very same pitch they’ll once again play upon on Saturday.
Patrick Vieira will have his side ready to go, and the likes of Odsonne Edouard and Wilf Zaha will present problems for Everton that will have to be addressed by the entire side.
Ahead of Saturday’s match, we spoke to Jonathan from the Palace site The Eagles Beak:
RBM: First off, with the first half of this season nearly over already, and Palace in the thick of the fight on the table right now - currently in tenth after the midweek victory versus Wolves - what is the feeling around the supporters and club right now?
I mean in fairness it still has an early season feel to it, at least for Palace. Technically we are more like a third of the way through! This might speak to our less than ideal pre season set up, but also that we haven’t quite found our preferred formation or line up.
I think the supporters were very buoyed by the game against Wolves last night, obviously the 3 points was big and took us up to 10th, but equally it was a front foot performance and our attacking players gelled - perhaps for the first time this season. We’ve had snapshots - eg Eze playing Wilf in against Liverpool - but as a unit and attacking collectively that’s been hit and miss.
I don’t think supporters were massively down before that, there is realism at Selhurst - we’d had an incredibly tough opening set of fixtures, and although we should be 4 points better off (if we’d held out against Brentford and Chelsea) I think with the midweek victory we’re all feeling upbeat.
RBM: Across the Patrick Vieira era, we have all seen sparks of brilliance out of this team and its players, but something isn’t consistently clicking; what is going on regarding that?
I think Viera and the team made an incredible transition last season, new manager, a huge overhaul of the squad, across all parts of the pitch. That we did that all relatively smoothly last season - and especially with the cup run, perhaps raised expectations of how well this season would start.
But for the way PV wants us to play, I think we haven’t quite found the balance in midfield and to be frank we’re missing the energy of Jimmy Mac/Conor Gallagher. Doucoure has been excellent but he is a different sort of player. I think Schlupp has been good (although not everyone agrees with me on that) and he is perhaps the most similar we have to Gallagher (that is, concerning fit) but its an adjustment to a very different looking midfield compared to last season.
RBM: This is a different sort of season than usual with the winter World Cup, but can the break in the campaign and the proximity to the winter transfer window actually work to this team’s advantage at all?
Yes, I hope so. Although we are rooting for Mitchell and Guehi (and perhaps Eze if he keeps playing like he has been) to get into the England squad - or potentially the starting 11, we are unlikely to be severely depleted in terms of world cup absences, so it’s a big break for us, at a time when other teams are likely to lose a much more significant chunk of their squad. We’re likely to lose whoever Southgate takes of those three, plus Anderson and Ayew which feels pretty light compared to some other teams.
RBM: Where are fans and the club with Patrick Vieira right now, and what are the expectations of this side with all of the talent and ability that it possesses?
I think we all love PV. There has been some sense that he has allowed us to become a bit too reactive at times, for example when we were leading against Brentford. But he has a fantastic presence, and you can see it means a lot to players like Wilf to work with him. It’s also worth something I think for a South London club like ours to have one of the few black managers/head coaches in the game.
As a final note to all future Palace managers (not that Viera is ever leaving), taking the Cups seriously buys A LOT of credit from the fans. It was the third round match against Milwall last season that really energised the fan base and started to make last season feel really good.
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?
The hope is relatively similar to how we lined up against Wolves. (4-3-3 with a front 3 of Zaha, Edouard and Olise) The call for PV to make comes down to Ayew v. Olise to start on the right. The fans would much prefer to see Olise start but there is sense that PV likes the solidity that Ayew offers there.
RBM: Finally, what’s your prediction for Saturday’s match?
You guys have really improved your defence alot, and so I expect a tight game, the head says 1-1 but the heart tells me Wilf is going to fire us to a 2-1 away victory!
Our thanks to Jonathan for his time.