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McArthur On Ambition, Fans and Villa

20 August 2015

Eagles midfielder James McArthur has been speaking ahead of this Saturday's home clash with Aston Villa, discussing the atmosphere in the dressing room, working with the manager and his teammates, the famous Palace fans and previewing the visit of Tim Sherwood's men this weekend.

Since joining the club at the end of last summer's transfer window, McArthur has been a near-constant in the heart of the Palace midfield, winning endless plaudits and the Vice Presidents' Player of the Year award in the process. He recently committed his long-term future to the club, ending speculation surrounding him and proving how settled he is in SE25.

When asked about what is so special about Palace, McArthur said: "I think the character of the boys, the atmosphere in the changing room is unbelievable. I've been lucky enough to have played at both Hamilton and Wigan, where there were great changing rooms, but here it's a really special atmosphere and everyone's really together.

"The club's got a lot of momentum, there's so much positivity around the place and so hopefully we'll do really well this year and keep progressing," he added.

It's not just his teammates that bring an air of positivity to the Selhurst Park changing rooms, it's Alan Pardew's ambition and attitude, claims McArthur.

"Everyone in the changing room pushes each other and the manager demands high standards," he said. "You can see his ambition and I think that's great. 

"When he first came in he demanded that we played a certain brand of football that was attractive, with pace and power, and I think we've got that. So it makes for really exciting times at Crystal Palace right now."

"We need to demand more from each other and I think that's how we'll go forward," said the Scotland international. "You're only going to move forward if you demand high standards off every individual in the squad and that's what we do in the changing room."

Those high standards have been raised even more by the Eagles' summer transfer business, adding the likes of Yohan Cabaye, Connor Wickham, Patrick Bamford and Alex McCarthy to a squad which was already good enough to finish tenth in the Premier League last season.

"I think we were in a great position before everyone came in," said McArthur. "There's so much going for this club right now, so to sign the type of players that we have only adds to the ambition.

"It's a really big statement that we signed Yohan. He's a top quality player, he's played for Paris Saint-Germain. We were watching videos of PSG and you look at the players he was playing with, to come here shows that he knows which direction this club's going in and that's a real positive.

"When you're playing alongside him you're getting used to the way he plays, I think it's great for myself. Everyone knows that I'm more of a ball-winner and will try to give it to players like Bolasie, Zaha, Puncheon and he's another one that you can trust to give the ball to and he'll have an influence on the match."

On top of the impressive transfer activity, which has also seen the club tie down the likes of McArthur and centre-back Scott Dann to new deals, is the fan positivity that the players thrive off.

"The fans are amazing, they're always great," said McArthur, referencing the famous Selhurst support. "I think the statistic last year was that we were first or second for coming back from losing positions to earn points and that's all down to the fans. 

"When you're losing a lot of fans would get on you, but they don't here, they try to help you and that meant they were a big part of the success last year and they will be this year as well."

Loud, passionate fans getting on players backs can some times breed additional pressure within the club, particularly on the players, but that's not something that McArthur worries about, given that the Palace support back the eleven on the pitch through rain and sun.

Asked whether he felt a weight of expectation, McArthur said: "No not really, and our fans are an important part of that. They stay behind us even when we're losing; prime example against Arsenal. 

"A lot of fans could've turned, because in the first 20 minutes - in my opinion - we were very poor. But they stayed behind us and they kept us in the match, so hopefully they'll carry that on and not expect too much, but obviously we'll still be demanding the highest standards from each other."

Despite the defeat to the Gunners, McArthur was optimistic about the performance - with the Eagles only narrowly losing to the potential title contenders.

"We'll need to learn from defeats. I think that's important," he said. "Some times it's actually good to lose, in the sense that you learn so much from a defeat. In the next game we'll try to make it right. Everyone's really looking forward to the Aston Villa match now and we're ready to go to try to make the things we've done wrong right.

"It's going to be a tough match, but the manager's got a game plan; we know what we've got to do to try to win the match and it's about executing that game plan.

With Palace finishing last season tenth, there is a lot of hope and expectation around the club, with some fans and pundits suggesting an even higher finish could - or should - be on the cards this time out. However, McArthur insists that the final league finish can be misleading.

"[The aim for this season is] to keep progressing, to win more matches then last year, to get more points, to play out every performance at the top of our game - that's the aim," he said. "I think it's hard to set targets based on where we finish [in the table], 'progress' is the important word here."

"With the quality of the squad we've got right now, I think one of my main aims is just to play as many games as I can, to keep enjoying my football and to hopefully add some more goals to my game."

Information regarding tickets for Palace's next home game, against Aston Villa, is available HERE.

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