Frank de Boer sacked, Hodgson appointed new Palace Manager. De Boer perishes under Parish; victim of Crystal Palace identity crisis
Roy Hodgson has been named the new manager at Crystal Palace after Frank de Boer had been sacked by the club. The Dutchman gets the axe after completing less than 3 months in charge of the new club. Crystal Palace had a dreadful start to the season having lost all four opening games. The Eagles could not manage to break the defence in any of the matches so far. With four games gone, four losses and no goals scored, Palace are the only team in the top four division yet to find the back of the net this season.
This is the second time De Boer has been sacked within the first three months of being appointed. His time at Inter Milan lasted 85 days and the Palace role was supposed to be a highly anticipated one for the former Dutch star.
Last season, Sam Allardyce was appointed midway in the season to steady a sinking ship earlier managed by Alan Pardew. That makes Hodgson the fourth manager in nine months, the tenth since 2010 when current Chairman Steve Parish took charge.
When the board decided in June to appoint De Boer, they knew exactly what they were expecting. The former Ajax and Barcelona ace was the first non-Briton to take up the role under Parish and everyone involved in his appointment would have been clear of what he would bring to the club. The decision to appoint the 47 year old seemed to have been a solution for long term and to help evolve the club in every way for the future. It meant shift in the football style, change in players involved, a new set of coaches to raise the player’s technical capabilities and revamp of medical and fitness staff, all this to ensure that the only direction the club moves is forward.
Cryuff managed to do this at Ajax and Barcelona, Arsenal did this when they appointed Wenger two decades back. In Frank de Boer, they had a coach who hailed from the Total Football lineage. With the credentials he had as a player and the four Eredivisie he won as a manager, ex inter boss looked to be wise choice to take Crystal Palace from the shores of relegation to the glory of European football.
It is irrational to think that a manager born and bred in a certain style of football would come to an entirely new league and become a hero overnight. The new manager should have been given some time to get things on track; if there was a dip in performance, the upside would have been definitely around the corner couple of months down the line. This project would always have been a long term one and the decision to drop it shows poorly about the frantic decision made by the club. With two 20 year old loaned players and a € 9m signing, the only additions to the squad that finished 14th last season, it was even more of a task for the manager.
Moreover, the English Premier League is any many ways unlike the Dutch, French, Spanish and German leagues. The game relies on pace and power than technical skills and dribbling, it favours a bullet header from a right winger’s cross than a silky smooth build up play from the No.1 to No.9. Louis van Gaal tested the English waters with probably the most similar philosophy at Manchester United. Even a club as big as United took more than a couple of months to adapt to his style of play. Pep Guardiola, although not a replica of Total football, has an evolved style that has succeeded elsewhere but struggled in England.
To implement the philosophy (an often over-marketed word) or an adapted version of it, at an English club was always a daunting challenge. The resistance to change the mentality of players, not one but the entire team to align with the manager is probably one of the reasons. The heavy investment involved for a mid-size club to bring in players that would suit the philosophy, is surely another. Or it could also be the sheer fright of failure.
Parish said while appointing De Boer, “From the start when I walked into the club we developed a certain style of play; partly because it’s part of the DNA of the club and frankly because it’s less expensive. If you want to play on the break in the Championship it’s less expensive than if you want a lot of technical midfielders. That stuck with us a little bit.”
There have been numerous reports of the club being tight on the financial front. With multiple heavy-waged players under-performing, a slip back to Championship is a scenario the management would not want to face. That being the case, perhaps in the current setting, the club was not ready to accept a change of footballing language. Total football would require players to mould their mind and hone their skills to a different tune than the one they have adapted over the years in England.
Out of 37 applicants that were interviewed by the board, Sean Dyche and Roy Hodgson were the foremost rivals to the Dutchman in June when the seat was vacant. With the limited squad, tighter budgets and assured results a priority, they should probably have stuck to Pragmatism over Prowess. With that logic, Sean Dyche would have been a better choice over De Boer. He did a great job with an average team in Burnley and the performances of Palace under Dyche would only improve with better players at his disposal.
This is indeed a poor start to the season for a club in English top flight and the coach has to take a share of the blame. His training sessions and team selection have been a cause of turbulence. The resistance of players to adopt his methods and the decision to not deviate from a certain frame of football tactics despite multiple failures were a concern. But the current decision to cut short De Boer’s tenure reflects poorly on the board.
De Boer is the scapegoat for the greater problem that still exists at Selhurst Park. From the promised expansive football of Alan Pardew, to the robust methods of Big Sam, the club took a major detour. From the ex-England manager’s pragmatic game to a revolutionary style of play under the Orange man, it took a 180 degree turn to play possession based dominant football. And now another former England manager fills the shoes to take the team through the opposite route, yet again. Identity crisis has hit Crystal Palace!
Roy Hodgson has five decades of experience and can probably steer them to safety come May’18. But at 70 years, he is the oldest Premier League managerial appointment. Hodgson has only a couple of years to offer at the most, assuming he survives the next two months when the Eagles take on five of last year’s top seven. Until Parish and the board decides on a long term plan and be patient enough to stick to it, the managerial flip-flopping will continue and the fans will stay confused on what to expect when their favourites get on the pitch.