Transitioning from Sam Allardyce to Frank de Boer was going to be a long slog. The challenge of moving from Allardyce’s supreme pragmatism and direct play to de Boer’s brand of total football was a mammoth one. The Dutchman was given four matches at Crystal Palace, four matches that brought no points or goals.
How the necessary changes were meant to have taken place in this timeframe is unknown.
The Crystal Palace hierarchy surely appointed de Boer in the knowledge that patience was required, yet he ended up with the shortest ‘permanent’ managerial tenure in the Premier League era. De Boer’s failure at Inter at the beginning of 2016/17 served as an ample warning for Palace, too.
De Boer brought good players to Selhurst Park
De Boer survived 85 days at Inter. The Italian giants were 12th in Serie A when he was sacked. Palace’s start was poor, but they should have been aware of the potential early struggles. His 60.3% winning percentage and four Eredivisie titles at Ajax show that De Boer is a top class manager when given time to adapt his squad.
Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Reuben Loftus-Cheek, Jairo Riedewald and Mamadou Sakho were brought in this summer. The first two were only loan additions, and Sakho’s arrival felt inevitable throughout the window after his loan spell last term. The Eagles have a good squad, but they did not exactly jump fully into a personnel revamp to enable de Boer to be at his most effective.
In defence of the club’s decision makers, Palace have a good squad, even if it does not directly lend itself to de Boer’s ways. He did, however, have to cope without their main creative threat and key player Wilfried Zaha. Alan Pardew and Allardyce should have produced better results with this team, and de Boer would have done had he been given the opportunity.
From Pardew and Allardyce to de Boer was a bold, ambitious move. If Palace really believed in the changing of the whole club philosophy, the former Ajax boss needed financial backing and time to implement his ideas. Removing him from his post at this point must reflect a lack of planning, and a misunderstanding of who de Boer is as a manager.
It might be a relatively minor issue, but sacking De Boer either in the international break just gone or in the next break – after their matches against the two Manchester clubs – would have made a whole lot more sense, too. There would have been time to find a replacement, and days for calm to settle in.
Can Hodgson do for Pallace what we did for West Brom and Fulham?
Instead, it looks like veteran former England manager, Roy Hodgson, will take over. Hodgson had two excellent spells with West Bromwich Albion and Fulham, and Palace will be hoping Hodgson’s calming persona can have a similar impact at Selhurst Park.
With an unenviable run of two visits to Manchester, hosting Chelsea and a trip to Newcastle within his first six matches, though, Hodgson will have his work cut out to be an immediate success.
It does, yet again, see a flip in approach. De Boer’s methods were given all of four matches, now Palace will revert to a steady, English hand.
Hodgson will be a solid appointment, but it is hardly a seismic change from the days of Pardew and Allardyce. Defensive organisation will be the bedrock of any success under Hodgson, and any thoughts of producing flowing Dutch-inspired football are placed well onto the back burner.
Palace clearly were not prepared to support De Boer as required, which makes hiring him at all a confusing choice. Their performances have not been anywhere near as bad as the results suggest, and this kneejerk decision only leaves the club looking completely without direction.
They had higher xG than Swansea and Huddersfield despite falling to defeats on both occasions. Sacking any manager on such a tiny sample size is unwise, but particularly an ideologist like De Boer. Those two results could easily have gone the other way, and we can be pretty sure Palace are not sending out any P45s then. Performances – rather than results – are the key when a team is undergoing such a significant change.
It could be a long season for the Eagles, though they certainly have the quality to pull into the comfort of mid-table within weeks as they may well have done under De Boer. Proactivity from club management is often a positive, but this panic sacking only weeks into the new season is a concern. Crystal Palace clearly have dreams of change, even if they are currently far too uncertain and cautious of their Premier League status to embrace it.