Frank de Boer’s future as Crystal Palace manager is in serious doubt after only three Premier League games in charge with the club’s hierarchy understood to be deeply unimpressed with the start he has made in English football and increasingly unconvinced he will be willing to adapt his approach and instigate a revival.
The former Ajax and Internazionale manager was appointed in late June to succeed Sam Allardyce at Selhurst Park after a month-long selection process headed by the chairman, Steve Parish, and with the input of Palace’s American major shareholders, David Blitzer and Josh Harris. De Boer arrived in south London on a three-year contract promising “evolution, not revolution” and the aim to make Palace “a solid Premier League team, not to struggle with relegation”.
However, the playing staff have struggled to adapt to the 47-year-old’s demands and desire to play a more possession-based style built around three at the back, and there has been concern raised in the boardroom over perceived naivety due to the manager’s inflexibility over tactics in the Premier League.
Palace have lost their first three league games of the season, including home matches against newly promoted Huddersfield Town and last season’s fellow strugglers Swansea City, and have yet to score a goal.
Saturday’s spluttering loss to the Welsh club, when De Boer again started with three centre-halves and ended up switching to 4-3-3 at the interval when his team were chasing a deficit, pushed an already tense relationship between manager and the club’s hierarchy to breaking point. Parish is understood to have spent the remainder of the weekend considering his options.
De Boer has been in charge for only 62 days, still 23 days shorter than he managed at San Siro, and the owners would clearly prefer to offer him more time to prove his pedigree. But they have been alarmed at his apparent reluctance to bend his approach and, if they receive no indications the situation will change, are conscious a swift decision would allow more time for recovery. A firm decision will be made over the international break.
If the axe does fall then Dougie Freedman, who enjoyed a 22-month spell as manager at the club in the Championship and was appointed as sporting director last week, could fill the role on an interim basis if required.
De Boer, whose 14 games at Inter yielded five wins after four Eredivisie titles in six seasons at Ajax, suggested his players lacked courage on Saturday and was dismissive of talk that tactical systems were wrecking their chances. “I don’t see a change of style,” he said. “It’s just [about them] showing the spirit and doing what we tell them to do. It was not different to against Liverpool, where we did really well. I want to see that every time. If we play 3-4-3 or 5-3-2 or 4-3-3, everybody knows what he has to do. It all starts with courage when you have the ball. Defending, you know, is not the most difficult thing. When you have the ball, you have to make the right choices. We did that in the second half much better.”
The manager has inherited a squad effectively put together by Ian Holloway, Tony Pulis, Neil Warnock, Alan Pardew and Allardyce over Palace’s five-year stint in the top flight. There have been only three signings in this transfer window and the only permanent deal was the £7.9m signing of Jairo Riedewald from Ajax.
The club had hoped to push through a deal for Liverpool’s Mamadou Sakho this week, conscious of the impact the France defender made while on loan last season, though it remains to be seen whether a compromise over the fee can be reached before Thursday’s deadline. Liverpool have been insistent the centre-half will cost suitors £30m.
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