Ask the Opposition

Ask the Opposition 5 – Crystal Palace

Manchester City faced Everton on Wednesday night knowing fully well it was an opportunity to make up on lost ground with Arsenal away at Anfield and Leicester at Tottenham. Leicester managed to win but Arsenal drew with Liverpool meaning City’s draw felt like two big points dropped. Wayward finishing and a dubious referring decision to say the least meant Pellegrini’s men couldn’t capitalise on a dominant performance.

However, Saturday’s fixture presents a similarly ripe opportunity to make ground with City facing Crystal Palace a day before Arsenal head to Stoke. The last time Manchester City met Crystal Palace in the league, a Kelechi goal at the death stole all three points at Selhurt Park.

To find out more about Saturday’s opponents, I spoke to Crystal Palace supporter Charlie Anderson.

I guess what we want to know right off the bat is how your all strikers have only one league goal between them. It’s 15th January. You’re 7th. How is that possible?

Simply put, it’s because Connor Wickham’s compensating for a lack of goals with some excellent hold-up play. He took a few weeks to settle, but since then he’s been great at linking with Bolasie, Zaha and Puncheon, as well as bringing McArthur and Cabaye in to our attacks. Wickham’s been injured for the last few weeks but he should be back in the XI against City. We need him desperately, but this is hardly the game to ease him back in to the team. The problem is that we don’t have much in reserve – we haven’t scored in the league since Wickham got injured before Christmas.

You seem to be playing some good stuff, not just now but generally across the last calendar year. What are your targets for the season?

I’m a natural pessimist, and I don’t think our 2015 form is going to sustain itself until May. The injuries to Bolasie and Wickham have really taken the venom out of our counter-attacks and we don’t have the squad to cover for them. At the other end we have two centre-backs who, while mostly reliable, have each made costly mistakes this season. So I don’t think we’ll end up challenging for Europe, but a top-half finish would represent a good season.

Alan Pardew has done a fine job at Selhurt Park in my opinion. What have you made of his tenure so far? Is it getting stale or are there still miles in this relationship?

We’re fun to watch, Yohan Cabaye plays for us and we annoy Liverpool – what more is there to life? It’s becoming easy to forget that we’re a mid-sized club with a long history of mediocrity, and just being an established top-flight team is something most Palace fans have no experience of. If Pardew doesn’t stagnate like he did at Newcastle – admittedly in a very different situation – it’ll be up to him when he leaves.

Talk to me about your famed front-line. Is Bolasie really the main man or do others have a key role to play too?

Puncheon and Zaha are great too, and I already mentioned Wickham’s importance, but you can see from the last few games that it’s Bolasie who makes everything work. His pace and directness are such a threat that he’s become a first line of defence for us – the opposition can’t push forward too much because they’re worried about being hit on the break. Without Bolasie – who won’t play against City – we get pinned back in our own half and it’s easier to force a mistake from our defence. That’s going to be a huge problem this weekend because City will have so much possession.

What have you made of Manchester City this season?

Obviously I don’t have many good memories of our two games this season, but in general I enjoy watching City. De Bruyne looks the genuine article, and Yaya’s goals are always a highlight. They can look a bit lost for ideas when their attacks aren’t going anywhere, but I don’t think you’ll need to worry about that against us. Our left back, Pape Souaré, has a terrible habit of standing off the right-winger and giving him time to pick a cross, so whoever’s on the right for City is going to have a whale of a time.

One City player you’d take at Crystal Palace?

Obviously Agüero, but I like Silva too. I’d consider dropping Jason Puncheon for him.

Score prediction?

We can’t score at the moment, we give away a lot of shots against us and City have the best finisher in the league. Apart from that we’ll be fine. 3-0 home win.

Thanks for coming on, Charlie.

My pleasure. Enjoy the game.

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