The Toffees did not end 2023 as well as supporters and the team alike would have wished for, but a new year means new opportunities for Everton, while Crystal Palace will be looking to start 2024 just like they ended it.
Injuries, bad fortune, and a difficult schedule can be blamed for the Blues recent run of results, but there is hardly any rest in the Premier League, and certainly no pity from any other side; the team could use the momentum a win in the FA Cup could give the side, and an eventual trophy remains the main objective outside of staying in the Premier League each year.
Standing in there way, however, remains Crystal Palace. Who will win in this midweek affair? Only time will tell.
Ahead of Thursday’s FA Cup match, we spoke to Jon from Palace site The Eagles Beak.
RBM: Straight off, Palace bounced back the other day to snag three points after a down stretch for Roy Hodgson and company; what are the feelings like around the training ground, the supporters and team?
JH: I think the supporters were in a bad place prior to the Brentford game. There was a sense that we were not playing well or getting results. To a degree, we’ve been unlucky with injuries, and I understand Michael Olise will miss this match and be out for ‘an unspecified period’ with a hamstring injury. Having said that, some of that poor luck has come from a combination of Hodgson’s reluctance to rotate as well as a lack of new recruits in the last 2 windows, despite a number of players moving on (most notably Zaha moving to Turkey and McArthur retiring) which is placed as the responsibility of the chairman and director of football.
I think the fans responded really well at the Brentford game, as did the players. The hope is we don’t lose that momentum by playing an overly weakened team on Thursday.
In terms of the team, there does seem to be positivity and there are certainly no rumors of dissatisfaction from the players or anything like that - but it is very noticeable that at the end of the summer 3 of the most experienced leaders (on and off the pitch) moved on - Zaha, Mcarthur and Luka Milivojevic - and while we still have a number of ‘older’ players (e.g. Ayew and Ward) there is maybe a sense that we don’t have the same on the field leadership as the last couple of seasons.
RBM: Tell us about Palace with Roy; does he have much time left with the side or will he be replaced if results don’t improve in general?
JH: I think unless we are at genuine risk of relegation he is with us until the summer. The chairman/board wanted the time to make the right long-term choice and felt that Roy could give that security blanket. But I don’t think it is likely that he will stay beyond this season. The one other scenario that could change things is if their preferred candidate is available/is about to take another role - but I see that as quite unlikely as I think they will have probably identified a number of possible candidates.
RBM: Where is the team strong this year and where can it improve upon?
JH: We have two areas of strength - the first everyone knows about is based on the creativity of Eze and Olise - especially when they can play in tandem. We saw at the end of last season and in brief moments so far this year what they can create especially when playing together.
The second is our centre-backs. They are genuinely excellent - both individually and as a complementary pair. Guehi gets a lot of plaudits partly because he is young and English - but Anderson is also a class act - and maybe brings a bit of toughness we can sometimes lack.
RBM: Are there any winter window prospects now that the window is open?
JH: In all probability, loan deals - that’s what Chairman Steve Parish has suggested is the focus. It’s been suggested we will look to reinforce our left-hand side - both in attack and defence and an experienced addition in central midfield.
RBM: What are the team’s expectations in this competition and the Premier League?
JH: Realistically to stay in the Palace zone of 11th - 14th - sadly it’s likely a year of stasis and avoiding getting sucked too deeply into the relegation fight.
RBM: How do you expect Crystal Palace to set up this Thursday, and who do you think could cause Everton the most problems in the match?
JH: A variable 4 -3 - 3 and 4 - 2 - 3- 1
Olise is out and Ayew is heading to AFCON, so it’s down to Cup / Cult (delete as appropriate) hero Jean Philippe Mateta and Eze to do the damage.
RBM: Finally, what’s your prediction for the weekday FA Cup game?
JH: Got to be optimistic and go for a 2-1 home win!
Our thanks to Jay for his time.