After just 77 days at the helm, Frank de Boer has been sacked as the Crystal Palace manager after a run of four straight defeats. The run saw the Eagles concede seven goals and score none, including an embarrassing 3-0 defeat at home to Huddersfield Town on the opening day.
The sacking comes just hours after Steve Parish, club chairman, tweeted on his social media “We are 4 games in, it’s a terrible start but we have to stick together”. Clearly de Boer was not to be part of this.
However, the roots of his sacking could be traced back to as early as three weeks before with ex-manager Dougie Freedman being brought in as Sporting Director; a clear sign that Parish was unconvinced by the Dutchman’s start to the season.
A 1-0 loss away to Burnley at the weekend was the last straw for the Palace board after the club broke a Premier League record, having lost all four opening games and not scoring a single goal. This unwanted record saw Frank de Boer lose his job and sees ex-England manager Roy Hodgson potentially return to club management, possibly becoming the club’s tenth full-time manager in the last seven years.
De Boer Exit Paves way for Roy Hodgson Return
On Monday the 26th of June 2017, Frank de Boer was announced as the Crystal Palace manager. The Dutchman promised to bring “total football” to South London and was looking forward to “spending money” to build this Palace side into a top ten team.
Club chairman Parish added that he had found the manager “that would stay at Selhurst Park long enough to build the club”. However, this idea that de Boer would be able to bring total football to South London was rather surprising. He was inheriting a squad that focused on defence and playing long balls for the centre forward to knock down. This new style of play that de Boer wanted to bring to SE25 was bound to take time to implement and with that, financial backing was required.
However, Parish failed to supply the funds to de Boer, with two youngsters signed on loan and a £7.9 million defender brought in prior to the start of the season. Therefore, as the club entertained newly promoted Huddersfield Town on the opening day of the season, Palace were massively under-prepared.
Fan favourite Joel Ward was in limbo regarding his position having fallen out of favour in pre-season, but he was chucked into the starting line up at the last minute. The right back had been told he was not good enough to play as a wing back, being deemed to be too slow and was told to research how to play in this position. This was surely a psychological blow for the defender and he was in no fit state to start in this position come the first game.
Prior to the closing of the summer transfer window, Parish and Freedman met with de Boer to discuss transfer targets and left the meeting feeling unconvinced with the Dutchman, laying down the foundations for Parish to wield his axe. In the final few hours of the window, the club spent big to bring defender Mamadou Sakho in from Liverpool, a fantastic signing nonetheless, but it meant that the Eagles had just one fit striker in their 25-man squad, illustrating what a poor transfer window this had been for the side.
When de Boer was interviewed by Steve Parish and the Crystal Palace board, this idea put forward that the Eagles were to transform into an eye-catching side focusing on playing out from the back, must have made the chairman realise that financial backing was key for this to truly lift off. However, as the weeks passed on and the club missed out on several key targets to other clubs, such as Oliver Burke to West Bromwich Albion, de Boers transition was failing to kick off and the players grew frustrated on and off the pitch. His arrogance on the training ground to show off in front of his players and the embarrassing of centre back Martin Kelly in front of fellow teammates to force the 27-year-old to train with the under-23s certainly didn’t help his fortunes.
The fault for the dismissal of Frank de Boer after just 77 days lies in three sections. The manager himself of course will have to take blame. Forcing the players to train and play in a way that they were not used to was always going to be risky and his tactical naivety to change his formation once the game was lost angered the Palace faithful.
In fact, the only time this side looked comfortable playing under the Dutchman was in the last half hour of the second round of the Carabao Cup against the youngest side that Ipswich Town have ever put out; a clear indication that de Boer had tried and failed in South London.
Secondly, the board should take an equal share of the blame. It was Parish himself who brought the man in after a month of searching for the right replacement. If he knew he was not going to be able to financially back whoever came in, de Boer should never have been appointed in the first place. A more reasonable target such as Marco Silva or Sean Dyche should have been pursued.
However, the final area of blame must lie with the players. You can work on defensive shape, passing and everything else for weeks on the training ground, but when your midfielder misjudges a back pass on the halfway line to allow the opposing striker to comfortably slot past the goalkeeper, as a manager a feeling of hopelessness emerges on the touchline as in this situation. De Boer cannot be blamed as his side go 1-0 down.
At the other end, a header from defender Scott Dann in the dying minutes somehow went wide of the post which would have brought the sides level and the manager another game to save his job. If the players had spent less time running off to the Palace hierarchy to moan about de Boer’s methods and more time focusing on the pitch to make this work, the club may not have found themselves bottom of the league and goalless four games. It is for that reason that the players must take a share of the blame.
Just hours after the dismissal of Frank de Boer, it was reported that ex-England manager Roy Hodgson was set to be appointed as the club’s first team manager on a two-year deal.
Many Palace fans will whimper at the sight of Croydon-born Hodgson holding up a Palace top, partly because of last year’s horror show at Euro 2016 with the national side losing out to Iceland in an embarrassing 2-1 defeat, but also due to the 70-year-old lacking in any sort of charisma and personality.
However, let’s not forget that this was the man that took England to three major tournaments, took Fulham to their highest ever Premier League finish and took the Londoners to the Europa League final in 2010. It is easy to forget what Hodgson has achieved in his career given the media onslaught he received after Euro 2016, but Roy Hodgson would fit Crystal Palace’s DNA.
Although the appointment would not look long-term, with 70-year-old nearing the end of his managerial career, for the moment, this would be a good appointment for the Eagles. It would take the side back to the basics, focusing on defence and clean sheets. If Hodgson can get this Palace side playing to their strengths, the Eagles may well be able to look up the table rather than bringing up the rear end.
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