This summer the Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish hailed the recruitment of Frank De Boer as their new manager as “fantastically exciting”. He believed it would provide a better blueprint for Premier League survival. But three games – and three defeats – into the new season the Dutchman’s job is reportedly already on the line.
Ahead of his team’s trip to Burnley on Sunday, Sky Sports hears De Boer’s own assessment of a troubled start to his career at Selhurst Park and how he plans to improve results.
“That we are still with no points – nobody expected that,” he admits. “If you analyse those three games Huddersfield Town were very clinical with the opportunities that they had and we weren’t. Against Liverpool I think we did quite well. Everybody was pleased about the performance – we could have drawn.”
Burnley vs C Palace
September 10, 2017, 12:30pm
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De Boer accepts that the disappointing display against Swansea in their previous game revealed that the players are still adapting to the possession-led style he wants them to play.
“What I want to see more of is that we take more initiative when we have the ball,” he says. “Against Swansea, especially in the first half, we didn’t create anything for ourselves. I think the first half performance killed the game for us so we have to improve on that. I have belief that we’re going to do that.”
In previous seasons Crystal Palace have relied upon the more pragmatic approach of seasoned managers like Tony Pulis and Sam Allardyce to rescue them from relegation. De Boer’s brief was to bring his own brand of football – the Ajax way – to the club in the hope that it might provide more Premier League stability.
He began the season with a 5-2-3 formation. But teaching the players to adopt a different way of playing – in a different team shape – has been challenging.
“If you want change it will take time,” he says “it’s not a risk but it will always take time. The pre-season programme was already scheduled so it was very hard for me to change it. We had only four games in our pre-season and I would normally like to have six or seven games. Ok, you can say that’s an excuse but still it takes time to implement a different system. If you want to change the system players have to adapt, they have to know how it works.”
When the summer transfer window closed Crystal Palace had secured just one major signing, Liverpool’s Mamadou Sakho, a player who, whilst on loan at Selhurst Park, had played a significant role in their Premier League survival fight last season.
Yet, in view of the start they’ve made this time, De Boer says the shortage of new faces has prompted him to review the system he’s been playing.
“We discussed it and everybody agreed,” he says. “If you get some big signings for Crystal Palace then we can get that system and now we have to really reconsider that. Right now I think we have to go back to the comfort zone of our players and if they feel – and I feel – and everybody’s on board with that and it’s in a 4-3-3 system then we’re going to play 4-3-3.”
The Dutchman arrived in the Premier League with an excellent pedigree. As a player he was a world-class defender for Ajax and Barcelona, winning 112 caps for his country. He returned to Ajax as a coach to lead his former club to four successive Eredivisie titles. It’s a CV, he feels, which stands him in good stead to handle the level of scrutiny he’s now under.
“I deal with a lot of pressure,” he says “I think that’s one of my strongest points. I always stick with what I believe and won’t think about the consequences can be. I’m thinking that I have influence in what I can do with the squad, what I can do on the training ground with all the people around and that’s where I put my energy. I always have the belief that if you get the time the results will come.”
Time was a luxury he didn’t have last season at Inter Milan. He was appointed head coach during a turbulent spell in the Serie A club’s recent history and was sacked within three months.
This week, amidst newspaper reports that his Crystal Palace career might be shorter still, he met with the chairman Steve Parish. He believes that, this time, he will be given the time to see the job through.
“The message is just to try to do your best,” De Boer says. “Of course he wants to get points but I – and my players – always go into a game to get the best result against any team. We know that we have started a project and we’re going to finish that project.”