FOUR matches. 360 minutes. That’s how many competitive games Frank de Boer was given to evolve Crystal Palace into a free-flowing football team, something in the mould of the Netherlands and Ajax teams he was once a part of.
However, he was sacked on Monday after failing to win a game or score a goal. And it is interesting to see the reaction to his sacking.
Prior to Sunday’s game against Burnley, the writing was on the wall for the former Inter Milan and Ajax boss, with news leaking out that Roy Hodgson was set to be given the Palace role.
Many were surprised he made it to Sunday, with plenty of talk before the international break that De Boer was to be sacked after losing three straight games and the dressing room already plotting to oust him.
Media coverage painted a picture of a manager treated harshly and unfairly, and that he needed more time to implement his philosophy.
Palace were undergoing a radical change, transitioning from a team built under Tony Pulis, Alan Pardew and programmed to play the “Sam Allardyce” way — physical, direct football — to a passing game built around flair and plenty of off-the-ball movement.
While De Boer had the pre-season to get his ideas across and friendlies to tweak and change things, competitive football is where you find out what actually works.
And it seems that from the get-go the Palace players refused to jump on board.
They didn’t take to his 3-4-3 formation and complained, to the point where De Boer abandoned it and switched to a 4-3-3. But the results didn’t improve — while they played slightly better they still lost games.
And his final game in charge, a 1-0 loss to Burnley, was a disaster from start to finish.
The only goal of the game came from Palace’s Lee Chung Yong playing in Burnley’s Chris Wood as if they were teammates.
Scott Dann had two shots cleared off the line and the icing on the cake was his missed header at the end of the game. With the goal gaping, Dann headed wide.
Social media shouted sabotage and made jokes that the players lost on purpose, but it was widely acknowledged that this was a team that gave their all for their manager and that on any other day Palace would win 5-1 with ease.
Many felt chair Steve Parish would delay sacking the manager and give him another chance. But 12 hours later De Boer was gone and all the headlines saying he needed more time were replaced with stories about how he had to go, he was never the right man for the job and how Hodgson, who was public enemy No 1 last summer, was the perfect candidate to keep Palace in the Premier League.
Every story on Monday evening was singing from the same hymn sheet. The same players were mentioned — Damien Delaney and Martin Kelly — in every article and for once everyone knew what the situation was behind the scenes.
There was a clear briefing: De Boer had brought this upon himself and the club had no option but to make a change.
One of the incidents that kept cropping up was that players were annoyed that the manager was taking part in training, showing off the skills that saw him win 112 caps for his country and made him one of the best players of his generation.
Managers playing in training isn’t a new phenomenon. Tottenham regularly tweet videos of Mauricio Pochettino scoring free-kicks, players enjoying the close bond they have with him and in interviews they talk about how it helps them improve.
It is the same with Zinedine Zidane and Real Madrid. There are countless clips of the Frenchman showing off, taking on his players and the players love it.
Cristiano Ronaldo gushes about the influence Zidane has over the team, about how it makes them want to improve and how they are picking the brains of one of the best players to ever play the game.
It says a lot when a manager can not only talk about how he wants players to play, but can show them as well. One of the problems Rafa Benitez had with the Madrid dressing room was that he was telling how to play but didn’t have the skills to show them.
It seems petty but players are fragile like that. So when Zidane walks in and talks, the Madrid players listened.
Over at Selhust Park, however, it seems the Palace players felt threatened by De Boer’s skills — bizarre considering he is 47 and wasn’t exactly going to pick himself in the starting line-up.
To be brutally honest, these players aren’t exactly elite. The squad is made up of men trying to earn a move back to the bigger clubs.
Andros Townsend was banished from Tottenham; his career is slowly being resurrected at the Eagles.
Wilfried Zaha left the club to try and make the grade at Manchester United, only to return a few months later. While he has since attracted Tottenham, he put pen to paper on a bumper deal to stay where he is.
Yohan Cabaye’s failed stint in France with Paris Saint Germain saw him return to the Premier League, looking to rebuild his career.
There are other top-six cast-offs in Christian Benteke, Mamadou Sakho and the aforementioned Kelly.
I would have thought that De Boer’s arrival following his 77 days in charge of Inter Milan would have been a match made in heaven for all involved.
A wounded manager in charge of wounded players; had it succeeded it would have been beneficial for everyone. All could have parted ways for bigger and better things had the players put their egos aside and not ran to Parish.
And Parish should take a large proportion of the blame. From the long, drawn-out process of hiring De Boer in the first place, to failing to back the manager when players complained early on.
The tweets that undermined the manager in public but, more importantly, being in the exact same position year in year out in regards to recruiting a manager to improve Crystal Palace’s standing.
Parish has failed to bring stability to the club and should have stuck with the Dutchman for longer than 10 weeks. Bringing in Hodgson, who has a 35 per cent win rate in the Premier League, seems extremely desperate and shows little ambition.
Palace’s next four league games are Southampton at home, Manchester City and United away, before welcoming Chelsea to Selhust Park.
If Palace go zero and four, will Hodgson be shown the door? Or will he be afforded time and patience to get his philosophy across to the players?
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