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The Opposition View: Everton at Crystal Palace | Grounds for optimism

A win is more important for the Blues than for Palace at this point - but that doesn’t mean a thing, now does it?

Everton FC v Crystal Palace - Premier League
OCTOBER 22: Everton player Demarai Gray has words with Palace striker Jean-Philippe Mateta (l) during the Premier League 
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Surely you remember? A diving header after being down; relegation so close. DCL. Goodison Park. That was just last season you know; less than a calendar year, in fact. One can still see Frank Lampard in perhaps his most joyous moment on Merseyside.

Fast forward, however, and things are ominous again. Everton are not on Merseyside, but in London. They are facing a side that is playing better under Roy Hodgson than under his predecessor. Worse still, the Blues lost the last two matches in unfortunate fashion against Manchester United and Fulham.

Still. The Blues are not dead to rights, and three points here could release a great amount of pressure on Sean Dyche and company. A flop would only serve to diminish the remaining morale of the side, but a big performance from the entire team as well as individuals like Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Dwight McNeil and Alex Iwobi; what will we observe on Saturday?

It will all unfurl itself in due course - to be sure.

Ahead of Saturday’s match, we spoke to Jon from the dedicated Palace site The Eagles Beak:

RBM: First off Jon, this has been some up and down season for Crystal Palace; with Patrick Vieira now departed and Roy Hodgson back in place for the rest of the season, can you talk about the feeling around the club and it’s supporters right now?

So right at this moment, everyone is absolutely bouncing. Three wins on the spin, nine goals scored, and everyone enjoying how we are playing.

When Vieira was sacked, a lot of supporters - including me - were a bit conflicted, results had been poor, and we were really failing to offer anything going forward. Yet Vieira still had credit in the bank from the previous season and with the way he had seemed to connect with the club, the fans, and the community.

There was also some skepticism about going ‘back’ to Roy. In hindsight, it was absolutely the right decision, and - as usual - Steve Parish has been proven right. We’re unsure what the summer will bring, but I know Parish operates in the best interests of the club as he sees it, and will continue to do so in looking at options for the future.

RBM: With all of the talent that Palace has, what failed during the Patrick Vieira era - which supporters had seemed to back for some time, no?

It is still hard to say, but Eberechi Eze - in particular - looks like he has been completely reinvigorated, literally overnight, and that has, in turn, completely unlocked our ability to link midfield and attack and create openings for our attackers.

Even the much-maligned Jordan Ayew has been a revelation and Michael Olise has continued to thrive. It’s worth noting that Wilfried Zaha has been missing the last two games (he went down injured partway through the match-up against Leicester), and historically, we have really struggled without him (although we did okay when he was at AFCON last January), but in the last few we have looked good even without our talisman.

Everton FC v Crystal Palace - Premier League Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

RBM: What does Roy do differently that has added to this team, and might it be enough to see that the team finishes above a relegation position by year’s end?

I think we should acknowledge the fixtures have been a bit kinder to Roy than they were (in 2023) for Vieira. Having said that, Roy (alongside Ray Lewington - they are very much a package) has managed to essentially remind our players how good they are and instill some much-needed confidence. Aside from that, I think he has taken some of the shackles off our midfield, in particular in terms of how they play, and allowed them to be a bit less rigid, which has made us much more fluid in attack.

RBM: Talk to us about the most dangerous players on the squad; who might be sought to get the most out of them going forward- assuming they stay up of course?

We have the awesome foursome! But to an extent, at the moment, it's an awesome three +1: Eze, Olise, Wilf are our absolute stars, although we are only starting to see the best of Eze now, and I think Olise can still improve further.

It feels monumental in a sense as this could well be Zaha’s final season at the club, having been our best-ever player and absolute icon for over a decade. It’s likely he moves on (but not certain), although I will be devastated if he goes, he is an elite player who fully deserves a shot at an elite club, I just hope its in Germany, Italy or Spain rather than in the Premier League.

Worth also a shout-out to our centre-backs (Marc Guehi and Joachim Anderson), who have been quietly excellent since coming together at the start of last season.

Everton v Crystal Palace - Premier League - Goodison Park
Eberechi Eze with Marc Guehi
Photo by Isaac Parkin/PA Images via Getty Images

RBM: With Palace likely staying up in the Premier League next year, what types of moves, and in which areas will Palace look to make this summer; furthermore, how will they deal with the names they already have who might wish for more playing time or a change of scenery?

We desperately need to strengthen in midfield and right back, some would add at centre forward, but I see that as less critical. We have some bright academy prospects who should get some squad time next season, but to keep progressing, I would love one-two additional midfielders and a progressive right back. Joel Ward and Nat Clyne have been outstanding servants to the club, but I think we need some fresh impetus there.

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 game itself?

Roy has been pretty consistent 4-3-3, the one question will be over whether Zaha might be fit to feature, I wouldn’t expect him to start - in which case it’ll likely be the same side as played the last couple of games.

In terms of causing issues, I fancy Olise taking on whoever lines up for you at right back, although I suspect Eze will get less freedom in the middle of the park against Onana and Gueye than he was afforded at Southampton.

RBM: Finally, what’s your prediction for Saturday’s affair?

I’ll go for 2-2, we’ve been good the last couple, and I’d love to make it four on the bounce, but I suspect your need for points and the likely return of Calvert-Lewin might be enough for a draw.

Our thanks to Jon for his time.