The international break is finally over, meaning we can look forward to some real football this weekend. City travel to Crystal Palace on Saturday in the hope of returning to the top of the Premier League table. Alan Pardew’s men have struggled so far this season, and sit in 16th place having picked up just 11 points from 11 games. Nevertheless, Selhurst Park is a tough place to go for any side, and Palace’s fantastic support could prove to be their 12th man on Saturday.
We caught up with HLTCO in order to get their thoughts on the fixture, and their feelings towards the two sides in general.
Hi, thanks for joining us. What have you made of Crystal Palace’s start to the season, and has it altered your targets for the year ahead?
Much like the latter half of last season, our start to the current campaign hasn’t been great. Although we are posing a real threat in an attacking sense, defensive frailties are costing us massively, with a string of three wins against relatively poor opposition being all that has stopped us from occupying a place in the bottom three. Back in August, numerous fans were hopeful of a push for the top half of the table but as things stand, most of us would be happy to just keep our place in the top flight by May.
Do you believe that Alan Pardew is still the right man for the job?
The Alan Pardew question is something that our supporters have been wrestling with en masse since the end of the last campaign. Whilst our FA Cup run, culminating in the heartbreaking late defeat to your neighbours bought him a fair bit of breathing space, our struggles this term have only served to crank up the pressure on his shoulders. I would love nothing more than for him to be a huge success with us and on paper, it should be a match made in heaven but in truth, I feel as though he needs a minimum of four points from our next three games to keep the figurative wolves from hammering down the door.
Palace brought in some big names in the summer, signing players such as Christian Benteke and Andros Townsend. Were you happy with the business conducted in the most recent transfer window?
It’s no exaggeration to say that our business over the summer was met with almost universal approval from Palace fans. Where before we’ve always erred on the side of caution, there was an obvious change of tactic from the board in relation to the fees we were prepared to shell out for our primary targets. Theoretically, this is the best squad assembled in Palace’s entire history, a view which only serves to add to the collective frustration our fans are feeling over our lowly league position.
Palace have failed to keep a clean sheet since April. Where is it going wrong?
I could write an entire essay on our defensive issues but for the purpose of clarity, I’ll keep it relatively short! In the grand scheme of things, the long-term absence of Pape Souare (who was involved in a serious car crash back in September) has exposed our lack of quality back-up on the left-hand side of defence, leading to a string of lopsided performances from our back four. Scott Dann is superb but was rushed back from a hamstring injury too soon and hasn’t looked the same since, either. If Pep is thinking clearly and let’s be honest, he almost always is, he’ll do everything he can to expose our deficiencies on the left from the first minute until the last.
On to Manchester City now. What are your perceptions of City as a club, both past and present?
From an outsider’s perspective, Manchester City have managed to elevate themselves into the same bracket as Europe’s “elite” clubs without developing the insufferable air of arrogance that follows so many of their lofty counterparts. Of course, there has been something of a shift in the demographic of your average fan at The Etihad in recent years but in reality, that’s a change that every top flight club is contending with. Their decision to officially lend their support to a fund for the victims of the recent Croydon tram crash says a lot about the intentions of those behind the scenes at City; a real touch of class.
If you could have one player join Palace from the current City squad, who would it be and why?
Although I’m sure the vast majority of people answering this question will plump for Sergio Aguero above everyone else, I’m actually going to say Kevin De Bruyne. His comfort in possession and unerring faith in his own outrageous ability is a joy to watch as a neutral. I’m sure he’ll continue to go from strength to strength under Guardiola’s tutelage but in many ways, he’s already the ideal midfield string-puller in my book.
And finally, please can we have your predicted Palace team, and your prediction for the final score on Saturday?
I think we’ll line up: Mandanda-Ward-Dann-Tomkins-Kelly-Townsend-McArthur-Puncheon-Cabaye-Zaha-Benteke. Score wise, I’ll say 3-1 to City. I simply cannot envisage a scenario in which we get anything from the game. Obviously, I’m desperately hoping that I’ll be made to look by a fool on Saturday evening.
If you’re interested in reading more of HLTCO’s thoughts, take a look at their blog.