The Mikel Arteta revolution is in full swing. After a sluggish start against Leeds United in the FA Cup, a strong second half performance by Arsenal saw them through to the next round. Reiss Nelson got his second goal of the season, as the Gunners delivered an all-around team performance in the 1-0 win. Rob Holding returned and played the full 90, Alexandre Lacazette had solid hold up play in the second half, and Mesut Özil was once again engaged throughout.
Now the attention turns back to the Premier League where 10th place Arsenal travel to 9th place Crystal Palace on Saturday. The Eagles were knocked out of the FA Cup by Derby County, and prior to that have just one win in six from the league. To get a sense of how things are going at Selhurst Park we spoke with Jay Crame from The Eagles Beak about Palace, replacing Wan-Bissaka, the future for Wilfried Zaha, how fans feel about Roy Hodgson, and his prediction for Saturday’s match.
Update: I answered The Eagles Beak’s questions about Arsenal, you can find that article here.
TSF: In the summer the club got £50m for Aaron Wan-Bissaka but held on to Wilfried Zaha. How has Wan-Bissaka’s replacement been so far this year and who might be the next break out player for the club to warrant such a transfer fee (Zaha excluded)?
TEB: We have yet to replace AWB but Joel Ward has done a great job since regaining the place he lost to him. He is certainly not the same player but much more experienced and we have missed him since he was injured, the same reason he lost his place to AWB in the first place. Problem is this time we have no back up! The emergence of Brandon Pierrick has been very welcome after coming on against Norwich and making his full debut in the FA Cup. He did well in both appearances and we hope he will see more game time as the season goes on, particularly with the injury problems we are currently experiencing.
TSF: Heading into the season, what were your expectations on how the year would go for Crystal Palace?
TEB: Stay up, first and foremost, particularly with how the summer transfer went for us but there are a growing numbers of fans that want to see more than that from the club each season. I do get it, I really do and maybe this season is one where we can look higher than that after one of our best points hauls at this stage in a season.
TSF: And now halfway into 2019-20, where you do you predict the club finish the league?
TEB: I really do think that we have a fantastic chance of finishing in the top ten this season. We currently sit just three points from Manchester United in 5th but we have a couple of difficult games coming up. In saying that, we are eight points above the bottom three so a poor run of results can easily see us nose dive. It is very much a case of being careful what you wish for but if we get a couple of reinforcements in and injured players back we can try and push on to somewhere around 8th/9th.
TSF: The club added Jordan Ayew in the summer for just £2.5m and he is the leading goal scorer, a great bit of business. What has he brought to Palace that the other forwards didn’t offer?
TEB: Jordan was with us on loan all of last season and by his own admission joined us after pre-season and was unfit, so it took him a while to get up and running. He did not convince many fans and it was a surprise that we signed him permanently but he has done fantastically well. He has looked a different player and has really given us something extra up front, real commitment and goals. Not quite the level you need from a striker but with the problems we have had in the area, we’ll take it right now. That goal against West Ham was just brilliant and one of many reasons why he must be one of the signings of the season. The difference is he has provided goals, energy and stayed fit!
TSF: How do fans, in general, feel about Roy Hodgson as the manager at Palace? And how long do you see him staying at the club?
TEB: It is pretty mixed believe it or not. Some are not convinced by the football that we are experiencing, his tactics and changes. While there are others, like me, that think that the club that need the stability that he has provided since he took over from the ill fated appointment of Frank de Boer. I do think that while Hodgson has his faults, he is doing a great job for us, particularly this season. He does need players in this window and the board need to back him and give him what he needs. We are not talking the level of funds that the top six shell out, we are talking enough to bring in two full backs and two attacking players.
TSF: Does Wilfried Zaha still play for Crystal Palace when next season starts? If not, where do you think he ends up?
TEB: No, I really don’t think so. This is the last season we will enjoy seeing Wilf in a Palace shirt and we really do not begrudge him moving on as he deserves a shot at the bit times to win trophies. The biggest problem is, where we go without him as much of our game is focused around him. Personally, I think he would be a perfect fit for Chelsea. They did not replace Eden Hazard when he left for Real Madrid and Wilf can do something from nothing like Hazard.
TSF: Do you expect the club to make moves in the January transfer window, and if so, at what positions?
TEB: Yes, we just have to with the injury crisis that we are experiencing. We do not have any back up full backs so need one of each and let’s be honest, Christian Benteke and Connor Wickham are not doing what we need in the striker position and Jordan Ayew needs help. One or two attacking players but a lot depends on whether we lose anyone.
TSF: Describe for us how Hodgson likes for the side to play and what does Palace do that might offer Arsenal issues?
TEB: Palace are quite predictable under Hodgson - hard to break down and go through Wilf. Having said that, Ayew has been a real threat this season as well but it will be interesting to see how we perform without Luka Milivojevic (who is suspended) for three games.
TSF: Give us your predicted starting XI for this weekend’s match and the formation Arsenal fans can expect to see Crystal Palace deploy.
- Goalkeeper - Vicente Guaita
- Back line - Martin Kelly, James Tomkins, Gary Cahill, Jairo Riedewald
- Midfield - James McArthur, James McCarthy, Cheikhou Kouyate, Max Meyer, Wilfried Zaha
- Front line - Jordan Ayew
It will be Ayew as the lone striker with Zaha supporting him at every opportunity but the midfield do like to get up and down the pitch.
TSF: Scoreline prediction?
TEB: This is always an interesting fixture between the two, so am going for an entertaining 2-2
Thanks to Jay and The Eagles Beak for answering our questions.