The Palace Crisis – Is Frank de Boer Really To Blame?

Crystal Palace have endured the most nightmarish of beginnings to the Premier League season with three defeats from three, but is new manager Frank de Boer really to blame for their spectacular demise?

When appointed at the end of June, Dutch manager Frank de Boer was promised the world by Eagles chairman Steve Parish. He was ‘excited to spend money’ on players, change the club ethos, be entrusted with all affairs and carry out a long-term footballing project. Yet, just weeks into the job, all those dreams have been torn to shreds as de Boer faces intense pressure from the media after a truly humiliating start to life in England. Instead of backing his new boss, Parish has only added damning words to the situation and left de Boer to hang out to dry. As tactically naïve and uncompromising as de Boer seems in his side’s poor start to the season, what was to be expected of a new manager attempting to completely transform all team affairs? A sorry sight to see, the Palace hierarchy should take the fall for leaving their manager without the correct resources and defenceless against the wolves at his door.

Wrong Personnel For The Change In Style

Yes, we all know the manager picks the team. Yes, we know he controls the tactics each game. Yes, he is responsible for the team on the pitch. Yet, how can a manager implement an entirely different philosophy on a club without the confidence of his employers? Football is a ruthless business that is orientated mainly by the results a team gets, not the style in which they play. The accusations thrown de Boer’s way that he’s oblivious to the importance of short-term success is unfair and unjustified. He knows just as well as anybody that results mean everything, but the whole reason he was brought to the club was to transform the style of the Palace team. If you were assured in confidence that you were brought in based on these principles, why should you change your own beliefs? It’s clear de Boer’s 3-4-3 system will not work, but that’s because he’s new to his job and this transition will not happen overnight. Palace have players used to direct long-ball tactics associated with defensive-minded coaches such as Tony Pulis and Sam Allardyce. The personnel is not used to de Boer’s style and needs time to readjust. Ideally, we would like to see a gradual shift to his Dutch style but how can he be judged already after three matches? It’s just unfortunate for him that the two home games were already against potential relegation rivals. The performance at Liverpool was strong and showed the manager’s awareness of the issues his side face.

Media Throwing Him Under The Bus With No Public Backing 

The disrespect and arrogance of the English media to write off a man as iconic and experienced in the game as de Boer so assuredly, is not helped by the lack of support from his own chairman. It’s the most difficult league in the world, why would they know any better than de Boer himself? Let him get his feet under the table and give the guy a chance. How would you like it if somebody treated you this way early on in your new job?

No Backing In The Transfer Market 

Up until three hours past the summer window’s transfer deadline, de Boer was only given £8 million to spend on transforming Palace from Allardyce’s football. £8 million. The lowest spend of any Premier League club and £40 million less than recently relegated Middlesbrough in the league below. Target after target was missed and Palace didn’t recruit nearly enough as they needed to without a backup striker or a third goalkeeper in the ranks. Mamadou Sakho’s £26 million transfer easily papers over the cracks of a shambolic transfer window for Palace, but his signature was obviously one Steve Parish initiated on behalf of the club. It’s hard to argue against the transfer and Sakho rightfully being our number one target, but what if that meant de Boer was denied the funds earlier in the window to recruit the players he wanted?

Position Undermined By The Chairman

At the end of the day, the manager should always have the final say with any transfer, not the chairman. Is Steve Parish the manager? He probably would appoint himself if he dared to, but to undermine his manager in this fashion implies where the control lies at the club. Although it’s not certain what really happened when Pulis and Allardyce left the club, this situation with de Boer may give indication to the troubles the experienced duo envisaged in their dealings with Parish.

The Results-Driven Business vs. The Time-Consuming Process Of The Long-Term Project

It’s hard to criticise Parish for all the good he has done for Palace over the years, but how can de Boer be blamed if he isn’t given the backing to impose his own blueprint on the club? A change as great as the one Palace so wish for de Boer to implement is uniquely difficult and requires time, money and patience. It seems de Boer is not being given any of this by the Palace hierarchy and the club are reportedly considering chopping his head and reverting back in the circle they came out of last season. De Boer should just be left to get on with his job and maybe we can judge him better once he’s had half a dozen games with his new side. Surely Parish of all people would understand that? After all, he took a whole month to decide who to appoint his manager and gave Pardew countless opportunities to turn fortunes around. Just because de Boer isn’t one of the Palace favourites, he isn’t seen in the same way as the likes of right-hand man Mark Bright and new sporting director Dougie Freedman.

Club Traditions Difficult To Shift

Palace have always been renowned for high-energy, counter-attacking football with pacey wingers and exciting direct football from each end of the pitch. De Boer’s philosophy requires the opposite – patient build-up play, retaining possession and playing out from the back. The ethos and tradition at Palace can obviously be changed, but the Selhurst Park faithful are not accustomed to this style and their impatience was for all to hear in the recent home defeats to Huddersfield and Swansea. De Boer doesn’t just need the patience and confidence from his board, he needs it from his crowd, his players and the club as a whole. It doesn’t help that Palace have been made into a relegation-battling side since the collapse of the Pardew regime, so impatience and poor results are not appreciated. The Palace board should have known this would be the case and should back de Boer with time and appreciation of the scale of his project. Reversing club traditions didn’t work twelve months previously under Pardew and all those years ago under Burley. If you’re scrutinised as brutally and unfairly as de Boer has by many Palace fans, then we’ll never change to what we so crave – to be a dominant, authoritative and stable Premier League side with a clear perfectionist style of playing.

Ultimately, if you assess how the weeks unfolded as the summer went on, it’s clear the club have gradually gone back on their promises to de Boer and have left him to take the blame for the crisis at the club. The Palace hierarchy are the ones who are culpable for this mess and need to come out and declare where their loyalties are going to lie. Do they back the manager or sack the manager? Who is to blame, the board or de Boer? Have your say in the comments below or send us your thoughts via our social media channels.



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