Frank de Boer: What’s going wrong for Crystal Palace’s new manager?

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Frank de Boer’s start to life in the Premier League has not gone to plan

After three defeats from his first three matches in charge of Crystal Palace, Frank de Boer is under pressure.

Back in June, his appointment looked to be a real coup, but the former Ajax and Inter Milan manager’s first few months at Selhurst Park have cast his arrival in a different light.

Palace have conceded five goals from two home games, scoring none, with their best performance so far a 1-0 defeat by Liverpool at Anfield.

So, what exactly is going wrong? And how long has Dutchman De Boer got to turn things round?

Palace’s bad start

Palace must be attractive – De Boer

Nobody expected newly promoted Huddersfield to dominate the way they did on the Premier League’s opening day, but then again no other team in the top flight looked as ill-prepared as De Boer’s.

Nor was the 3-0 home defeat a one-off. Despite promising signs in Palace’s next game at Anfield, their return to south London provided yet more disappointment.

After Swansea beat his side 2-0, De Boer complained his players lacked courage. “We have to show some balls,” he said after the match.

On the following Monday, the Dutchman reportedly held talks with chairman Steve Parish, amid rumours the players were unhappy with the team’s new tactics.

Was his job at stake already? Were the players just slow to adopt De Boer’s new style?

Former Palace and England striker Ian Wright told BBC Radio 5 live he thought the Eagles “looked petrified” as they struggled to adapt to a new possession-based 3-5-2 system.

“Can the players even play in that style? Some of them didn’t even want the ball,” he said.

“It wasn’t the kind of football where you could see what they were trying to do. [Striker] Christian Benteke’s movement, for me, is quite poor if you’re going to play that expansive game.

“When you watch a team like Palace trying to do it, the players just go into their shell because they don’t want to give the ball away and that spreads to the fans.”

  • Crystal Palace have lost their first three league games of a season for the sixth time in their history and the first time in the top flight.
  • It is the second time the Eagles have started a campaign by failing to score in their opening three league games of the season (also 2008-09 in the Championship).

So is he the wrong man?

De Boer won only four matches in his first 11 league games at Inter Milan before he was sacked in November 2016

When De Boer arrived as successor to Sam Allardyce – who resigned in May after just five months in charge – he spoke of “evolution not revolution” as he revealed his plans to change Palace’s footballing philosophy.

He said: “I have my own type of coaching and style of playing. We want to be dominant when we can, but also dominate when we don’t have the ball.

“Also for the fans, we must try to be attractive. Palace has a very enthusiastic and passionate fanbase, so they will want to see that.”

Former Blackburn and Celtic striker Chris Sutton told BBC Radio 5 live Palace were suffering because they had tried to change too much too quickly.

He said: “I watched a lot of them last season and they were really well organised. I’m not going to criticise Frank de Boer, but how did he get the job? Who interviewed him?

“We don’t know how that conversation went with [chairman] Steve Parish. He might think it’s a work in progress and will take some time, but if you start the season as they’ve done do we have to be a bit patient?

“Is the chairman wrong to employ him in the first place? Why change what was working under Sam Allardyce? Why not get in a similar type, who would organise them and play off Benteke?”

Frank de Boer’s league record
Club Games Won Drawn Lost Scored Conceded Win percentage Points per game
Ajax 187 124 45 18 431 158 66.31% 2.23
Inter Milan 11 4 2 5 13 14 36.36% 1.27

Or is the timing wrong?

Last season, with top-flight survival all but assured by earlier results, Palace drifted listlessly towards a 14th-placed finish – and then Allardyce resigned.

De Boer – the club’s eighth manager in seven years after George Burley, Dougie Freedman, Ian Holloway, Tony Pulis, Neil Warnock, Alan Pardew and Allardyce – inherited a team that had lost four of their final five games of the 2016-17 campaign, failing to score in each loss.

In both home defeats this season, Palace had more possession and completed more passes than their opponents, but struggled to create chances in front of goal.

If the appointment of Freedman as sporting director is a further signal of the club’s intentions to reshape their structure – “a position the club needed”, said De Boer – it does appear a late one.

And despite a successful spell in his first managerial position at Ajax, Wright suggested the manner of De Boer’s departure from Inter Milan in October last year raises questions over his ability.

He was sacked after just 85 days in charge of the Italian giants, having suffered seven defeats from 14 games in all competitions.

“De Boer’s got a real job on his hands,” said Wright.

“He came off a poor time at Inter. I don’t know what Frank de Boer we are getting and how confident he is in his own ability.”


BBC Radio London summariser and ex-Swindon striker Sam Parkin

Maybe the chairman wanted to evolve the club further this year and play a more attractive style of football, but you need the players to be able to do that.

The fans will know better than me, but it’s almost a situation of being careful what you wish for, because Palace have been enjoying one of the most successful periods in their history.

The crowd is such a big factor in the home games – how often do you see the atmosphere lift when the winger is getting at the full-back?

They do have the tools to do that now – but when I have seen them play, they have looked disjointed. The players aren’t comfortable in the positions they were playing.

What’s next?

Palace’s next match is on Sunday, when they travel to Burnley for a 13:30 BST kick-off in the Premier League. Sean Dyche’s side beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in their season opener, before losing at home to West Brom and drawing at Tottenham.

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