Frank de Boer could still yet break his own personal best for his shortest period spent as a manager of a football club. He lasted just 85 days at Inter Milan and some pundits are predicting he could be out on his ear in even less than that at Crystal Palace. He can at least be thankful for the international break, which will give him much needed time to reflect on what has been a torrid start to life in the Premier League.
So, what’s gone wrong?
An opening day home defeat to newly promoted Huddersfield was followed by an away defeat to Liverpool, in what was an albeit improved performance. But what has accelerated the chorus of critics calling for his head was the limp display at home to Swansea on Saturday, which saw Palace lose 0-2. So far, it’s three defeats, six goals conceded and zero scored.
For the record they were poor, very poor against Swansea. Too slow, too weak and devoid of ideas. Christian Benteke was starved of delivery up front and nobody seems to be adapting to the new system he has implemented.
Ever since then, the vultures have been circling with some – ex footballer Tony Cascarino – calling for him to be sacked straight away. He was damning about De Boer’s possession based football – decrying that ‘possession is only good when it’s in a part of the field that can hurt the opposition’.
Cascarino’s criticism was hard to take at times, as it was often shock jock stuff and he lacked any real depth of knowledge about Dutch football. But every now and again he stumbled upon a truth or half-truth about De Boer. Such as the tendency for his teams to keep possession in areas that don’t hurt the opposition and how poorly his Ajax team played at times in his final two seasons in charge; and how he is nothing but doomed to fail at Palace due to him trying to impart a ‘philosophy’ that an average team of players will never be able to execute.
What happens next?
For any Ajax fan, De Boer’s success in England is important, not necessarily because of his own brand of football but due to the fact he is an ex-Ajax man; and we all want him to be recognised as at least a competent coach that can build a career in the Premier League.
But to do that, argue his critics, he will need to adapt – away from the Van Gaal esque 5-3-2 possession football – and back to a more direct, English style of play that afforded Crystal Palace well in their Houdini like escape from relegation last season.
This would be a shame though and surely miss the point about hiring De Boer and an ex Ajax man. Iain Dowie – a former Palace Manager – was one of the few sane voices who said that he should be given time. Given time to bring in the players he wants and given time to impact his style of play on the players he has; and change the whole philosophy and structure of the club.
The problem is whether he will have time, as the Premier League is an unforgiving place – so much so a man’s job can on the line even after three games. But if he can learn to adapt a little bit and mix up the style of play; and come back after the international break and transfer window with a win and a few decent signings – it could all change in an instant.
He just almost needs to adapt in the short-term, so he can buy himself some time to push through his ideas in the long-term. Welcome to the Premier League Frank – where you don’t have much time to do anything!
Honourable mention for mister versatile
With Ajax struggling to find a decent left back and Mitchell Dijks suddenly filling the gap – it’s worth considering what impact Vurnon Anita would have made, had he signed for Ajax on a free transfer.
Mr versatile, he’s playing at left back at Leeds United in the Championship and playing rather well. OK, it’s a level down from the Premier League but a close friend who attends every Leeds game has said you can see his quality; and he could easily play at a higher level.