After a disappointing season which saw the Eagles slump to a 14th place finish after a relegation dogfight, Crystal Palace turned to Dutchman Frank De Boer to reverse the club’s fortunes following the resignation of Sam Allardyce. Having led Ajax to four consecutive Eredivisie titles and transforming young players such as Toby Alderweireld and Christian Eriksen into world-class talents, De Boer arrives with high expectations.
His will not be an easy task, however, with the club lacking in squad depth and missing out on key targets this summer. De Boer will have to make his mark quickly in South London to ensure the Eagles do not find themselves fighting it out at the bottom of the league come May.
Crystal Palace Season Preview 2017-18
Dawn of the Dutch
After weeks of uncertainty in SE25, Frank De Boer was announced as the new manager of Crystal Palace following the resignation of Sam Allardyce. There were many names linked to the vacant role including Sean Dyche and Gary Monk, but after much deliberation, the experience and record of accomplishment of the Dutchman convinced Steve Parish to bring him in.
During the four-pre-season games, it was clear from the off what formation and style of play the manager was going to choose this season. For the next few months, the club will be going through a transition period. The manager aims for a possession-based style of play where the defenders play out from the back and push the team higher up the pitch. One of the central midfielders will be expected to drop deep to collect the ball and the two wing-backs will play a major part in going from defence to attack in a matter of seconds.
In the latest pre-season match, Crystal Palace played out a 1-1 draw with German side Schalke and the Palace fans got a first taste of what they can expect to see under De Boer this season. The three centre-backs of Scott Dann, Jaïro Riedewald and stand-in Luka Milivojević were seen to be playing the way the new manager wants them to, with short passes to the central midfielders and wing-backs to start the attacks. Jason Puncheon was dropping very deep to collect the ball and then turning around to push the team forward.
Further up the pitch, Andros Townsend proved that the wing-back role requires both attacking and defending responsibilities, making crucial interceptions at the back. Wilfried Zaha illustrated how much of an influence he will be this season with an exciting performance up top.
Having spent around £81 million on transfer fees last season, it is of no surprise that De Boer has a smaller budget to work with this season. Midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek has signed on a season long loan from Chelsea and centre-back Jaïro Riedewald has signed for around £8 million from Ajax.
The club have found it difficult to bring their targets in this summer, being put off by Liverpool’s £30 million price tag for Mamadou Sakho and struggling to bring in any cover for Christian Benteke up top. Before the transfer window slams shut, expect the club to make a flurry of deals.
Having only signed for the club last summer, Steve Mandanda leads a list of players who have left SE25 this summer. The French goalkeeper has moved back to Marseille after an injury troubled season in South London. Experienced midfielders Joe Ledley and Mathieu Flamini have been released, as well as striker Fraizer Campbell, who has re-joined Hull City. Campbell’s departure and Connor Wickham’s injury has left Palace short of options up front coming into the start of the new season.
Throughout the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons, Zaha was criticised for his lack of end product. He answered his critics by notching up seven goals and nine assists last season. De Boer has already acknowledged the impact of the winger and he looks set to thrive under the new boss. With the attacking threat of Patrick Van Aanholt and Wilfred Zaha down the left-hand side, the Eagles will be a real threat and expect Zaha to use his pace and trickery to cut inside and cause the opposition defence all sorts of problems.
With Connor Wickham constantly finding himself in the treatment room, the team will be relying on Benteke once again for his goals this season. The Belgian scored 15 goals last season for the Eagles and De Boer has made it clear that he is integral to his plans this season. Out of the 15 goals he managed in the last campaign, seven of those were from headers, which makes Palace a real threat from crosses and set pieces.
If De Boer wants to change Palace into a side which plays out from the back, he will be relying on centre-back Jairo Riedewald to play a huge part in this. Having previously worked with each other at Ajax, De Boer will know that the centre-back is accustomed to bringing the ball out from the back and looking to push the team higher up the pitch.
The 22-year-old will be looking forward to working under the Dutchman again, as the manager has plenty of experience when it comes to working with younger players. Riedewald should be able to improve his game greatly this season and if the young man can put some solid performances in at the back, he will soon become a fan-favourite in South London.
In what is arguably the most competitive season yet, Crystal Palace may struggle to achieve a top ten finish this year, with the club facing a shortage of players in certain positions. If the Eagles do not bring in an adequate back-up for Benteke and he picks up an injury, Palace will be in trouble. Bringing in Jaïro Riedewald is a great start and he will play a crucial part this season, but the back line still needs strengthening and the club should bring in more recruits before the transfer window ends.
Nevertheless, key players like Zaha and Benteke, should they be able to repeat their success of last season, will be able to fire Palace to great heights this season. For both the team and the manager, the sky is the limit.
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