Frank de Boer: Why Crystal Palace is an acid test for the Gaffer

Crystal Palace are set to name Frank de Boer as the club’s next permanent manager following Sam Allardyce’s end of season departure just after the former England coach managed to keep the Eagles in the Premier League.

De Boer arrives after fierce competition with Mauricio Pellegrino over both the job at Selhurst Park and Southampton, yet with the St.Mary’s club having opted for the former Deportivo Alaves coach, the Dutchman will move to South East London in the coming days.

The club will be the absolute acid test of De Boer’s ability to bounce back after a short, ill-fated spell with Internazionale threatened to severely damage his burgeoning managerial reputation.

Four consecutive Dutch titles with Ajax had seen De Boer come close to a Premier League job before with both Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur having held him on their respective lists on previous occasions.  

He eventually felt he had achieved everything he could in Amsterdam and left shortly after the 2015/16 season.


Nightmarish time in Milan

The 2016/17 campaign began with him thrust into a nightmarish scenario in Milan with a club that had been rocked by two takeovers in a short period of years and it was still somewhat unclear who was making the sporting decisions at the club.

Erick Thohir and the newly arrived Suning group seemed to be unable to construct a sound strategy of recruitment and De Boer was at a disadvantage before the season even started.


Not given enough time

He lasted less than three months and won just four of the club’s opening 11 Serie A matches with fans running out of patience as quickly as the ownership of the club.

In a way the scenario was unfair on the Dutch tactician because players had been signed for a purpose other than supporting the coach at that time.

Roberto Mancini had sensationally left on the eve of the new season as a result of disagreements regarding transfer policy with Gabriel Barbosa and Joao Mario both brought in for expensive fees as statement signings.

De Boer was tasked with moulding the group into a functional team but wasn’t given enough time to do so.

He made mistakes of course yet in the current era of football you can’t help but feel sympathy for a coach who is only judged on his most recent failure. All his positive work at Ajax was now forgotten and he was seen as the man who failed in Milan.

This, to a degree, is why we are sat here today talking about what was one of Europe’s brightest young coaches taking the chief position at Crystal Palace, perennial relegation strugglers.



Such a move represents an opportunity for De Boer to rebuild his reputation but the chance comes with a heightened risk.

Rather like David Moyes since his Manchester United debacle, less attractive jobs have been the only ones open to him. Real Sociedad had enjoyed a period of vast overachievement following some quite wonderful work put in by Philippe Montanier yet they were always unlikely to repeat it.

Moyes struggled there and another dismissal then saw his options even further limited with Sunderland his only option last summer.

It is no secret that Sunderland have been one of the worst run clubs in the English top flight in recent years with only Aston Villa worse than the Wearside club. It would have taken a miracle to keep them up again and Moyes failed, now it is difficult to see him getting another job any time soon.


Must compromise and find the right balance

De Boer is arriving at a club that has potential and he could build something truly exciting, however there is also the threat of relegation and concern that a lot of his current squad are actually no better than an annual battle against the drop.

At Ajax he was rarely challenged domestically although near the end of his time it became clear his grip was slipping with a Memphis Depay inspired PSV Eindhoven lifting the title in 2015. Crystal Palace will be different, victories will be hard to come by this season and every match of the 38-game season will be a physical slog.

The 47-year-old’s style of football is attractive and focused on retaining possession. There is a danger of it being too passive but it is something that will attract Chairman Steve Parish and will likely have played a key part in appointing De Boer.

However there needs to be compromise, no team in the Premier League is able to sweep to the title with a one-way style that doesn’t bend for anybody. Arsene Wenger has been searching for this particular nirvana since 2005 and it just simply doesn’t happen.

You need to be resilient and have a mixture of options for certain situations in England. Pep Guardiola is slowly learning that whilst Jose Mourinho is the absolute master of it and it is little wonder he has lifted three Premier League titles.

De Boer will have to find a way to balance his attractive football when in possession with a gritty determination that will help his team see out matches when required. This is the only way in which he will be a success and he has to understand this early in order to resurrect his managerial reputation.


His biggest test yet

Long-term there is much to be positive about should the Dutchman survive his debut campaign with Palace’s academy needing a boost with the number of graduates making it to the first-team having dried up in recent seasons.

De Boer handed a lot of opportunities to young players with Ajax, and although it didn’t catch the same attention as Peter Bosz’s work it remained vital for Ajax’s development at that time.

This however is a topic for the future and whilst money will be given to the Dutch coach to add to his squad this summer he will be expected to steer the club well clear of a relegation battle and after his disappointment in Italy, this is Frank de Boer’s biggest managerial career test to date.


Written by Chris Winterburn

Follow Chris on Twitter @Chriswin4

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