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Crystal Palace: Frank De Boer’s sacking highlights everything wrong with football

The Dutchman lost all of his opening four games for Palace, but Steve Parish's decision to sack the former Ajax manager shows a lack of ambition and integrity.


While football progresses further into the labyrinth of a cutthroat industry where one result can define a whole team’s character or a manager’s tactical ability, the short term is becoming more important than the foreseeable future.

Frank de Boer’s arrival just 10 weeks ago was considered a fantastic appointment. He was seen to be the saviour who would finally rid the South London club of the rough and tumble football of his predecessors Alan Pardew, Neil Warnock and Sam Allardyce.

The manager who would bring “total football” from his former club Ajax and the elegance of the Amsterdam Arena to the gritty London suburb of South Norwood, home to Palace’s ground Selhurst Park.

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Under de Boer’s reign they failed to score a goal and suffered four defeats, a list which includes Burnley, the newly promoted Huddersfield Town and Swansea, all competition they should be more than capable of beating.

He has guided his side to the worst ever start in top-flight English football in 93 years, but Steve Parish’s decision to end the Dutchman’s contract early is harsh and ill-thought.

Short-term success or long-term stability?

De Boer’s appointment came with a vision, a scope to change the football played by Palace, a desire to move away from the ingrained philosophy of direct football. To bring a passing style on which many of the senior players had never embarked.

Take defender Scott Dann, midfielder James McArthur and captain Jason Puncheon, for instance. The trio have spent the last three years playing for Palace under managers whose footballing credentials not only differ in a tactical sense but come from a different culture.

Palace’s last five previous managers have been from England and are notorious for building their teams on the onus of making them hard to beat.

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Allardyce, Alan Pardew, Keith Millen, Warnock and Tony Pulis all set up their sides to grind out results which could have easily slipped from their grasp.

De Boer introduced a culture where short passing is the norm and swift build-up play is just as important as maintaining possession.

To give De Boer only five competitive games to not only implement his ideas to his players but also to adjust his project to the Premier League is not setting the club up for the long term.

A Palace under construction

Many may ask why wait until it’s too late? Act before the situation concludes with Palace’s elimination from the Premier League. However, it’s not like the former Inter Milan boss was getting pummelled 5-0 week in, week out.

They narrowly fell to defeat against Liverpool and Burnley, in matches that may have ended differently had they taken their chances.

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Specifically, against Burnley and Swansea, Palace played fairly well and arguably should have won both games. For example, their expected goals (xG) against the Clarets was 1.98 against 0.28 xG conceded, whilst their xG versus Swansea was 0.92, against 0.76 xG conceded.

This shows that the Eagles were playing in a manner that, statistically, will earn them wins more often than not.

Sufficient backing?

De Boer replaced Sam Allardyce in the summer and received no backing in the transfer market, having to make do with the signing of a 20-year-old defender, two loanees, a £26million signing bought by his predecessor and a squad decimated by injuries.

Wilfried Zaha, Connor Wickham, Mamadou Sakho and Bakary Sako are all yet to return for the Eagles, leaving him to field players such as Lee Chung-yong.

A player who has been proven not to be up to the Premier League grade leading him to only make ten starts in his two and half years at Selhurst Park.

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The images of the South Korean’s weak back pass to the oncoming Wayne Hennessey which allowed Burnley striker Chris Wood to slot home will haunt de Boer’s memory for a long time, with the costly mistake proving to be the last nail in the heavily tarnished coffin.

It was not as if de Boer was stuck in his idealistic ways either. The team that lined up against Burnley was not a team picked on de Boer’s principal and philosophy.

He opted for a back four, moving away from his customary defensive shape and the use of two wing backs. The tactical shift seemed proficient in putting Burnley on the back foot as Sean Dyche’s side could only muster four shots of their own.

However, the sustained switch seemed to provide more agony than joy as Palace failed to find the net despite their 23 attempts on goal.

Old habits die hard

Roy Hodgson remains favourite to take over from de Boer, but doesn’t this appointment return the club back to the old habits the Dutchman was meant to eradicate?

Direct, counter-attacking football with a target man at the helm in the shape of Christian Benteke and box-to-box midfielders filtering in and around his knock-ons and flicks.

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If Hodgson emerges as Crystal Palace’s latest manager, you cannot help but feel it is Parish deciding on a quick fix rather than a manager who is looking to use the club as a tool to build a legacy.

If Crystal Palace are to be successful soon they need to turn their back on the short-term and refuse football’s negotiation of here and now.

They need to embrace the offer of the long-term and demand a club that isn’t built on the scrappy performances and results but follow in the footsteps of a brand of football they can call their own.

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James Lassey

Been known to write about people doing stuff.

Crystal Palace: Frank De Boer’s sacking highlights everything wrong with football

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