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We have had the first sacking of the season in the Premier League and the latest victim of the dreaded axe was Frank de Boer. The Dutchman, only 77 days into his spell as the manager of Crystal Palace, was relieved of his duties, following the Eagles’ 1-0 loss away at Burnley.
The result was Palace’s fourth loss in the league in four games, and they hadn’t managed to score a single goal this campaign, leaving them at the bottom of the table. So, there was a strong case for De Boer getting the sack. But, it also throws the club into poor light, in the sense that they wanted to change the footballing policy at the club, but failed to back their man in the market, and were quick to sever ties as soon as things got bad.
However, now that the former Inter Milan and Ajax boss is gone, the club have appointed former England boss Roy Hodgson as the man to take over as the boss. The 70-year old was without a job since the Three Lions’ humiliating exit from the UEFA Euro 2016 at the hands of Iceland and hasn’t managed a club in over five years. But chairman Steve Parish is hoping that the Englishman will be able to come in and pull off something like Sam Allardyce did last season.
And here we list out three things that Hodgson will have to do, if he is to guide Palace towards safety by the end of the season.
The biggest issue that De Boer faced in his five-game tenure at the Selhurst Park was, he did not have the players in the squad that suited his style of play. Yet, he continued to try and implement the possession-based footballing philosophy of the Johan Cruyff school, that he employed to great success at Ajax. It was almost like he was trying to fit square pegs in round holes.
Hodgson should be smart enough to realise that this Palace side isn’t cut out to play total football, and instead look to play to their strengths. In Christian Benteke they have one of the most dangerous target man in the Premier League, who struggled in De Boer’s system and is yet to score a single goal. They have two able wingers in Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend, who can find the big man in the box and get him back to his best.
Again, De Boer was a bit naïve to not understand that the three-man backline was simply not working with the players he had at his disposal. Apart from summer arrival Jairo Riedewald, none of his defenders weren’t adept at playing with the ball at their feet and that is very much needed for such a system to work.
None of the players really looked comfortable in the system. And the difference was seen when Palace switched to a more traditional four-man backline against Burnley. They ended up losing the game, but they were by far the better team on the day.
The three-man defence may be in vogue with many managers nowadays, following Chelsea’s exploits under Antonio Conte, but for Palace’s own good, they are better off sticking to what has worked for them in the past and not experiment with this setup, unless there are players to suit such a system.
It wouldn’t be wrong to say that the Palace side under De Boer was very much devoid of confidence. That tends to happen when the squad doesn’t totally buy into the manager’s views, and the poor results too did nothing of help.
De Boer had shattered the confidence of several senior members of the squad, having asked Joel Ward to watch and learn how to play as a wing-back after not including him for a training game. Benteke never really looked the menace that he can be and Yohan Cabaye started only a single league game under De Boer.
The situation that Palace find themselves in, the squad needs to be united in order to fight for their survival and Hodgson should boost the morale of the squad by conveying to the senior players that he trusts them to deliver in crunch situations, and get the confidence of the team up at the earliest.