Manchester City dropped points for the first time this season at St. James’ Park on the weekend. After a quick mid-week trip to Catalonia, the Cityzens are gearing up for a visit from Patrick Vieira and Crystal Palace FC.
I was able to catch up with the good folks over at CPFC blog The Eagles Beak to ask a few questions of Editor and Founder Jay Crame.
Bitter and Blue: After an opening day loss to top-of-the-table Arsenal, Palace got a draw at Anfield (and may have deserved better) and looked the far better team against Steven Gerrard’s Aston Villa. How is the mood among the supporters, and how do you feel about the Eagles’ chances in the Premier League?
Jay Crame: The opening game was disappointing and you could tell Arsenal had a better pre-season that we did which was very much disjointed. Having said that, it was impressive how we battled back after going a goal down and had chances to equalise before their second. We followed that up with a result no-one gave us any chance of, and you are quite right, we won’t moan about taking a point at Anfield but it could have been so much better. Following that up with an impressive victory over Villa at the weekend puts us in a very good position in a start to the season many said was tough on paper. It has been, there is no doubt, but we have been more than competitive and the excitement that this team and manager gave us last season looks very much to be continuing this campaign which is great to see. It is arguably one of the most exciting groups of players we have ever had and it is going to be a lot of fun seeing what they can do this season. I don’t think a top ten finish would be out of the realms of possibility considering how close to that we were last season and I would take that.
BnB: Wilfred Zaha is off to a fine run of form with three goals from three matches. How excited are you for the Zaha-Haaland Golden Boot race this year? But seriously, how important is he and who else can Palace count on for scoring?
JC: Very excited to see Zaha out score Haaland! No, but on a serious note Wilf deserves so much credit for the way he has improved his all round game. The goals against Liverpool and Aston Villa were very similar, and proper strikers’ goals. That is exactly what he has added to armoury and it is no secret that he wants to play more often than not as a striker and with 14 Premier League goals last season, who is anyone to doubt him? He gets so much stick from opposition fans but he is one of those players that you would love playing for your team, just not against. So passionate and driven to succeed and he really wants to take Palace to a place they have never been before. Anyway, enough about Wilf, as we do have other goalscorers in Jean-Philippe Mateta, Jeffrey Schlup, Eberechi Eze and Michael Olise are all goal threats as is Odsonne Edouard.
BnB: Palace finished 12th in the table in Patrick Viera’s first year as manager. How realistic do you think the chances are that he can guide the team to push for the top seven this season?
JC: Life is very good under Patrick Vieira and you cannot underestimate how good a job has done since coming in to replace Roy Hodgson. You only had to look at what he inherited, a squad decimated by expired contracts. Some would say that gave him a blank canvas which is probably right but he did not come in until the latter stages of the summer so to have a season like we did is quite amazing. That has set the standard but we have started this season where we left off, playing exciting football with a few new additions to the squad. It is no doubt still a work in progress as I get the sense Vieira wants to play five at the back more often but we just don’t have the full backs with wing back capability, but we did okay at Anfield, didn’t we? It is always difficult to judge how we will fare this season, just look at the start to the season as a whole, such a competitive league but it will settle down. It is all well and good taking points off the top teams, but you have to battle with the rest of the division and get the points where you would perhaps hope to. I think we did a decent job of that last season, of course, you are never going to get your own way all the time, but if we can do more of that this season, a top ten finish is very much possible, but we all dream of a trophy or a European tour. So maybe, just maybe....
BnB: And finally, what is your prediction for the match at the City of Manchester Stadium this coming Saturday?
JC: I saw one of the bookies have Palace at 20/1 at one point over the last few days for victory, will they never learn? In all honesty, this game will suit us and we will play on the break. Newcastle showed how you can get at City but that was with their own fans behind them. Vieira will once again have done his homework and we have the talent to really threaten in the shape of Zaha, Eze, Olise, Edouard, Ebieowei and while I am not expecting lighting to strike twice, never say never, right? I will be bold and suggest that we could get a 2-2 draw out of this one with Zaha being a real threat for you again.
There you have it Cityzens. Thanks again to Jay and the team at The Eagles Beak for their time. You can keep track of all things Palace by following @theeaglesbeak on twitter, and you can check out the site at theeaglesbeak.com.