Transformation is not really the word I would’ve used. We had a difficult spell not least of all because of the injuries and severity if you like of some of the fixtures, the teams we met. But in fact some of those performances were far from being poor performances.
On another occasion I think we’d have taken a lot more points from those nine games, so in actual fact there wasn’t the need for an enormous transformation, it was a question of keeping things going, making certain we tried to improve on certain things that needed improvement, and one of the things we’ve been able to do in this transfer window is bring in two players who’ve made a difference certainly in terms of the competition so far in our attacking phase of play.
In terms of Eze and Michy Batshuayi, we have two more players who look like they are going to score goals and make goals, and it’s something which has been very useful to us, especially with the re-emergence if you like from injury of Jeffrey Schlupp.
How much does it help to hit the ground running ? It’s slightly out of character for Palace
Yes it is, that’s right, we normally finish well, hopefully that’s still going to be the case because the coronavirus season does not interest me quite as much in terms of our usual finishes as the seasons before it.
It’s always good to get points on the board, we looked at the fixtures when they came out and thought this would be difficult period for us – Southampton, Man United, Everton and then Chelsea. So it’s very good to have already got some points on the board.
Perhaps most important has been to see the team perform in the way that they have done in those two previous matches.
Now we know we’re capable of that performance and we’ve got to try and produce it again.
What’s the toughest aspect of your job with coronavirus – sending teams out in the right frame of mind?
Well, it’s a very good question and I don’t really know the answer to it. The situation for me is still rather surreal. Not the same after so many years of being used to going to big stadia and seeing lots of people before, of course during and after the game, and suddenly we seem to be working in isolation.
We’re glad to be working in isolation because the alternative would be to not to have been working at all.
In terms of motivation, I think all the teams have done very, very well.
I certainly have got no complaints about our motivation and our ability to get ourselves in the right frame of mind to play matches, but that also goes for our opponents we’ve met.
The quality of the football actually hasn’t changed, it’s still there because we are talking about top quality players, but the atmosphere and ambience around the matches has changed enormously, and everybody misses the fans, they give you that extra filip to your performance and to your games.
We’ve all been hoping we’d see them back at least in some form sooner rather than later and I think the disappointment that it’s been pushed back could certainly impact some teams, especially those who regard themselves as totally dependent on their home crowd to get them over the line.
But I can’t really say that we’ve suffered enormously in that respect, and certainly no more so than anybody else.
Nathaniel Clyne – how long will you give him, and how is he progressing?
There’s no rush. We don’t have a timeline, I suppose the timeline might be decided by him because he might come to us one day and say look: I’ve got this club who want to take me and have offered me a contract, what are you going to do?
At the moment, I think he’s still quite happy to be getting his playing level up to the standard that he knows he can reach, and of course we are interested in seeing if that standard is the standard we expect from him and have seen so often from him.
I’m just happy that he’s here. He’s done two full sessions with the team, so it’s still early doors but I’m happy to be working with him and I’ll be having conversations with him on a regular basis.
Then we have to see how our squad pans out because if he was Under-21 I don’t think there’d be too much doubt what we want to do with him, it’s the fact that he’s over age and you’re only allowed 21 in your squad and we have to look at how that pans out as well.
Difficult end to last season but you’ve turned it round
Yeah, but I think that the point to emphasise there is that it’s only two games. It’s nice to have those two games and the performances, but it’s only two games.
We’ve got another very challenging task against Everton, who have also started brilliantly and strengthened their team as well, they’re looking particularly strong at the moment. So let’s wait and see how the Everton and Chelsea games go before we start drawing too many conclusions.
But I am happy with the two games, very happy with the two wins and it does certainly take some of the pressure off that we thought we’d be under in these four games when the fixture list came out in August.
Everton have made a strong start – like the business they’ve done?
Yes, without a doubt. I thought they were a little bit unlucky last year not to finish higher than they did because I thought last year they were a good team too, but there’s no doubt that the players they’ve brought in this year have made a considerable difference and of course getting Gomes back from injury has probably helped as well.
But I think the signings of Abdoulaye Doucoure, James Rodríguez and Allan are three excellent signings, and they are of course made-to-measure signings.
They are the signings that Carlo has made in tandem with his board of directors, which have filled in the slots that he thought really needed filling in and the profile of player he wanted for those slots.
So I congratulate him on that. He is a friend from my Italian days and I’m looking forward to seeing him, albeit not so much looking forward to the challenge they’ll represent.
You’ve spoken about Benrahma, is he still a player you want to bring to Palace?
The way you’ve phrased the question is quite dangerous: ‘I have spoken about Said Benrahma’. His name has been circulated, as have many other players in relation to our club. When those things happen, I play along with it in the sense that I neither say ‘yes we want him’ or ‘no we don’t’.
I have said when his name came up that he’s a very good quality football player, that we know. How close that makes him to joining us remains very much to be seen, and I certainly don’t have have any real interest in discussing players we’re linked with because otherwise you could be here a long time.
Crystal Palace get linked with an awful lot of players, some of which are genuine, some of which I suppose are attempts from the agents to put their players in the shop window.
Jamie Carragher wrote that he doesn’t believe Wilf Zaha is quite good enough to play for a Liverpool or Manchester City – is that a fair comment?
Once again, it’s the same as the previous question, really: I never ever get involved with other people and their comments.
I think every person – especially if they’re in a position as Jamie is – where they’re asked to give opinions about certain players, and he’s entitled to that but there’s no way I’m not going to get into polemics with and exchanges of opinion.
Everyone knows how I feel about Wilf and how highly I rate him – but I understand perfectly well that other people have other opinions and other judgements and they’re welcome to them.
Most competitive squad you’ve had in your time at Palace when you get players back from injury?
Yes, absolutely. No question of that but we needed it too because quite a few times in the past we don’t think our squad has been big enough or competitive enough.
We’re working hard to address that and redress the balance but I’m liking the look at the moment of the squad and its potential.
But we have to get those injured players back and there’s still quite a few of them in the treatment room – far too many for my liking. But let’s hope that after this international break, your prediction will come to pass and the squad will be looking a lot stronger.
Anyone back for Saturday?
Christian Benteke has been training all of this week so that’s someone I could count on of course for the game.
One or two others have started to make an appearance but it’s a very brief appearance – not much beyond the warm up and any non-contact passing work.
But otherwise, we’re still looking pretty much at the squad we had last week.
How much are you enjoying the competition for places?
I enjoy it from the club’s point of view and players’ point of view. Because there’s no doubt players need that edge if you like, they need to see it in training that people around them are playing well and more than capable of taking their place unless they can keep their their standard to the high level that is required.
So I think that having competition for places is good for everybody at the football club really, and certainly as a manager something you need.
We’ve long-since come away from believing that football is an 11-a-side game, especially during lockdown period when we were getting used to it being a 16-man game.
Certainly it’s very rare these to see a team start with an 11 and finish with that 11, so the quality of your bench and the quality of the players that can come on and help you in that stage of the game becomes of vital importance.
Everton’s main threats this season have changed
They’ve added to their attacking threat. Certainly [Dominic] Calvert-Lewin is getting better every year, which one would expect. He’s a good quality player. Richarlison is another who has started well enough and will get better.
Most importantly, the signings of Doucoure, Allan and James Rodriguez have given them an extra boost to their attacking options and the quality of their attacking play, as does the return of Gomes who was missing for a large part of last season.
I don’t necessarily think there are enormous changes in their play or the way they are trying to play, it’s really more a question of the quality that’s now there to enable the style Carlo wants to be produced.
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Best start for Palace in 14 years, and for you since 1997
It’s always nice to get off to a good start, everyone talks about that. But I’m far too conscious of the fact it’s a 38 game season, and 2/38 is not a great proportion.
I also seem to think that often good seasons may come about from what you produce at the end, and that last spurt of eight games is often that one in my experience that has kept teams in the league or can lift you up the league.
It’s nice, but I’m not getting carried away with it or expecting players to get carried away with it.
It’s nice when people are talking well about the team and say they’re doing well than the opposite.
Eberechi Eze has shown signs, and Tyrick Mitchell must be delighted with his start.
Yeah, we’re happy with our signings too. We haven’t really had the chance to assess Nathan Ferguson, although we do believe in him, there’s no question about that.
Certainly the two that we’ve brought in have been fantastic. They’ve come in and shown everybody that they can definitely improve the quality of our play and competition.
Tyrick got his chance at the end of last season when Patrick [van Aanholt] dislocated his shoulder. He took that chance well and has really continued since the start of this season in the friendlies and the opening two matches.
He’s definitely been a plus for us and I hope he will continue to improve and that people won’t start putting exceptional pressure on him because he’s still a very young man and in the absolute nursery in terms of his career.
Comparisons to when Aaron Wan-Bissaka came through
Well it’s a fair question. I’ve got no reason for suggesting that Aaron looked very much like Tyrick when he came in, he took the game by storm and made the position his own very quickly.
Of course, continuing from there to have a fantastic season. Not just a few games, a whole 38 games where he hardly put a foot wrong. Tyrick knows what he’s got in front of him.
But I wouldn’t disagree that in terms of the start and being thrown in, knowing much about him, I think there’s a direct parallel between the two players.
Does it worry you that intent has been taken out of the penalty rule?
Well there’s always been rules in football that I haven’t totally agreed with. I can’t allow it to bother me, it’s a fact of life. You have to learn to live with it.
I don’t get my choice of rules, I have to go along with the masses. When asked my opinion, I give it and have been quite vocal in saying that in these situations, handball should be deliberate and not a question of where your hands happen to be. But I’ve been voted down on that and other people are quite happy to see these penalty type situations occurring.
I’ve got to say I wasn’t jumping around when that ball hit Lindelof’s arm screaming for a penalty. If referee hadn’t have given that penalty, there’d have been no protests from my side.
David Moyes’ COVID diagnosis showing it’s still dangerous despite precautions taken
Yeah, they’ve done a fantastic job. But there is more testing now, so presumably we’re hearing about more people actually having contracted the disease.
What frightens me is when people have to go in intensive care units at hospitals, and in football we haven’t had anybody who’s name has been linked with the virus in hospital yet, let alone in intensive care units.
So perhaps until such a time that that happens, we must accept that it’s just a fact of our daily lives, and more people as the testing gets increased are going to be shown to have the virus.
I’m just hoping that they all will recover without having to go into hospital after a period of sickness or certainly run the risk of falling very seriously unwell.
I wish David and the other two players very well, of course. As you say, it’s very much there but for the grace of God go I at the moment. Every time you have a test, your heart is in your mouth because you’ve been told so many times that you can have the virus and yet feel perfectly well. So all the time that’s the case, every time you get a test your heart is in your mouth to see what results you’re going to get on this occasion.
National League to vote on season which could affect FA Cup – how much do we need grassroots football to exist this season?
Football’s a pyramid, we don’t wish to lose the base just because we happen to be at the apex.
I don’t have an answer to their problems, but it’s very concerning and very distressing to hear that many of them are going to have to maybe close down for a period of time, maybe not even start leagues because they can’t afford to continue it.
But I don’t wish to give my opinions about what the real solution for that is.
I can only empathise with them and say it’s a great shame to lose so many football matches at grassroots level, but I don’t think it’s going to have a great effect on Premier League clubs.