Palace Have The Right Man, Now He Needs The Right Plan
Steve Parish and Crystal Palace have finally, after what feels like the longest month on record, landed their new manager.
Former Ajax and Inter Milan manager Frank De Boer has been handed the reigns at Selhurst Park. Palace fans are happy to have landed a significant up and coming manager and the appointment shows the club mean business and aim to progress beyond that of recent seasons.
De Boer won four Eredivisie titles with Ajax, a feat they had never achieved before made even more notable considering the European giants had not won the league in six years. His spell at Inter was turbulent, having no pre- season and the club in the middle of a takeover. Despite this he still achieved some good results notably against champions Juventus.
His career thus far has been notable for his tactical nous and his strong desire to promote youth. All music to the fans ears. He said all the right things in his unveiling press conference and there is much reason to be confident and excited for the new season. His legendary status and reputation will also ensure good players want to come to Palace in the future.
However, there is a tough job ahead of him. Palace fans will know that things have not gone to plan in recent seasons and will not relish another relegation battle. The team has issues that need addressing and sooner rather than later if we are to prosper in 2017/18.
First to be addressed is the goalkeeper position. Alan Pardew under his management tried and failed miserably to do so and Sam Allardyce never had the luxury of trying, burdened with more pressing matters as he was.
Welsh international Wayne Hennessey is just not good enough for where the club wants to be. He makes mistakes especially with his positioning and seems to suffer from low confidence. He does not command his box and looks indecisive. He can pull out a good stop but often gets beaten when he should be doing better. The fans have never really taken to him either and almost certainly lack faith in him when he is put under pressure. He is a good Championship player but only a number two for a Premier League outfit.
Julian Speroni is altogether different. A club legend and all round great guy who represents the club so well. That said, he is past it now and will not be able to maintain form for a whole season. He has recently signed a new contract but it is my belief he should be aiming to be more of a coach and accept a club representative position. A capable back up that we can rely on but nothing else.
Which leads us to Steve Mandanda. Originally looking like a fan favourite, his relatively few games were uninspiring, his long injury and subsequent media stories reported homesickness. There are rumours he is refusing to return for pre-season as he wants to head back to Marseille. De Boer may be able to convince him to stay and if he does, he should probably be number one between the sticks. However, he would have to go some way to go to win back the fans. If it transpires that he doesn’t want to be with Palace then we should just sell up. There is simply no point in having a negative influence in the dressing room.
A keeper must be a priority for De Boer and there are a few suggestions out there. Joe Hart is looking for a club and could buy into the new project, especially as his England place is not nailed down any longer. Freddie Woodman at Newcastle United and England under 20’s is also highly touted but will be expensive and the Magpies are unlikely to want to sell.
The Eagles defence also needs work. Palace lost arguably their best and definitely most inspiring player at the end of the season when Mamadou Sakho’s loan ended. The Liverpool man seemed happy at Palace but a £40million price tag may prove too expensive to bring him back.
Damien Delaney doesn’t quite have the quality and is now too old to be a mainstay in the team and should be strictly a back up. James Tomkins and Scott Dann both improved after Allardyce took over, coinciding with Dann losing the captaincy, being given it seemed to have effected his performances.
Patrick van Aanholt will be important this season, being a fellow Dutchman he will be influential in ensuring De Boer’s ideas are being implemented and understood. Jeffrey Schlupp is versatile and Joel Ward had some excellent games last season, while Pape Souare is still recovering from his accident. The full back position on the right needs competition as this again has been neglected for too long.
Midfield is where I feel the most important work needs to be done. Yohan Cabaye is getting older and was very inconsistent last season. However, Palace were worse when he wasn’t playing or came off. Rumours of him wanting to leave for France need addressing soon and if so, a replacement found. Lee Chung-yong and Bakary Sako are not good enough at this level and if Palace want to do better they need upgrading.
Wilfried Zaha is obviously a mainstay but I would argue that he needs competition for his position to keep him on his toes and push him but also to come into the team should he be injured, suspended or on leave for the international duty. James McArthur is also a good all-rounder and puts a shift in however he lacks creativity and vision. Luka Milivojevic was by far Big Sam’s best and most effective signing and likely a future captain. Vital in shoring up the defence and bringing quality and leadership to the squad.
The elephant in the room though is Jason Puncheon. Allardyce made him captain and this seemed to inspire him the tail end of last term. However, no goals all season and constantly giving the ball away left fans frustrated with the local lad who we all know is better than he showed last term. Age is not on his side either and De Boer will need to decide whether to stick with the captain or find someone else in the middle of the park.
In the forward line we have quality in Christian Benteke and Connor Wickham will be returning from injury too. De Boer may prefer a different type of player who is more comfortable on the ground and running onto balls. This sort of player is vital if we are to play in any other fashion that we have in recent times.
Much has been made of De Boer’s propensity for using youth as well. There are players that are in with a shout. Luke Dreher has been touted and put in good performances. Sullay Kaikai has made sporadic appearances for the first team recently and could break through. Andre Coker and Kian Flanagan are also spoken highly of and could warrant chances in the future.
Palace have also been very predictable in their style of play. Always looking to counter and play to the wings. Too often our midfield gets by passed too. Our style works well away from home but at Selhurst we need something different to break teams down and really take the game to them and hopefully pick up more points there. This needs to happen but also not compromise on what Palace are good at and what suits our players. A delicate balancing act indeed.
So in short there are no quick fixes and youth can only get you so far. Investment will be needed. New systems and philosophies will also need to be implemented slowly and De Boer will need to play to the teams strengths to ensure our league position is strengthened.
Palace have the right man. He now needs to make sure he has the right plan.