The view from Selhurst Park
Ahead of Watford's game against Crystal Palace on Boxing Day, I caught up with Eagles fan Sam Smith from the popular blog The Eagles Beak, to hear his thoughts on the game, the goings on at Palace and to hear what he had to say about Watford.
Here's what he had to say:
What were your hopes for the season back in August?
We need a huge improvement on last season. The squad was improved in the summer despite losing Yannick
Bolasie to Everton. This along with Alan Pardew's promise of a better style of football that he indirectly likened to prime Barcelona, while admittedly slightly funny, managed to get our hopes up. Anything below fifteenth would be disappointing as we had finished in mid-table in our first two seasons in the top flight so we're certainly capable of finishing there again, albeit teams have strengthened. We play both Manchester clubs away along with fellow relegation candidates Hull City within the final three games so need to be safe by then.
Why have Palace struggled so badly so far?
It's very hard to put a finger on one specific thing. A mixture of bad luck, injuries, lack of form of key players, mistakes and poor tactics have cost us valuable points this season. Our defensive situation was obviously not helped the awful injuries suffered by Pape Souare following his car accident in September. This, along with missing James Tomkins through injury for large parts of the season, has left us utilising the same back four that used to feature under Neil Warnock during a time when defensive calamities happened on a weekly basis. We signed Loic Remy on loan but he's yet to feature having suffered an injury before even kicking a ball which was a huge blow as we expected him to have a big influence. His return, however, could take some weight off the shoulders of Christian Benteke who is the only player who looks like scoring a goal currently.
Wilfried Zaha never seems to have a bad game against Watford! How important is he to this Palace side?
Zaha's biggest compliment, which is often very underrated, is that Alex Ferguson made him his last-ever signing at Manchester United. Although his time at the English giants failed to produce anything worth remembering, he has etched his name into Palace folklore during his two very successful spells with us. During the abysmal run last season, a lot of weight was put on his shoulders because of injuries suffered by Bolasie and Connor Wickham and this led to Zaha maturing really quickly. This season has seen him really improve his all-round game, including his defensive work and his goal and assist output, which has been vital because he's reached 24 and can no longer use being a young player as an excuse for the naivety that was often displayed. Ultimately, he's been our best player this season and will be extra motivated to have a good game on Boxing Day because he wasn't at his best last weekend against Chelsea.
Thoughts on Watford's season so far? What do you think should be our realistic target this season?
I really like Watford. I'm probably in the minority who think it was the correct decision to replace Quique Sanchez Flores with Walter Mazzarri, who I think will continue to prove to be an astute appointment. Mazzarri's summer signings appear to be good, especially Isaac Success who looks like a really good talent. Your targets are very similar to ours as you should be comfortably surviving relegation with the squad you have so anywhere around twelfth to fifteenth should be seen as a good season, although there's no reason why you can't finish higher.
One Watford player who you'd like to see in a Palace shirt?
I cannot fathom anyone who doesn't respond to this question with the very simple answer of Troy Deeney. Although we have Benteke, I think we would really benefit from having Deeney as he would add at least ten goals a season which can be vital for clubs like ourselves.He, like Zaha against Watford, has a very good record against us and he's in search of his 100th goal, which has eluded him for a while, so he's certainly a player we are worried about going into the game.
I think you'll beat us unfortunately, although I think there could be a few goals. It's difficult to predict what sort of effect losing Pardew will have on the players and we could even have a new manager by then if rumours of a deal for Sam Allardyce already being done are true. The result will very much depend on our situation on the day of the game but my gut instinct says Watford 2-1 Palace.
Thanks very much to Sam for answering my questions and good luck to Palace for the rest of the season! You
can find The Eagles Beak on Twitter - @TheEaglesBeak.