Could Palace Be Looking To Change Too Much Too Quickly?
It is very early days with pre-season not yet over and done with but we asked Gabriel Sutton from the popular Football Lab his views on what to expect from Palace this season after a summer of change.
I will preface my opinion on the season ahead for Palace by saying that I have great respect for the football club.
The atmosphere your fans create is impressive and after a period of financial struggles, you did well to get into the Premier League and then stay there for what will now be five seasons.
However, I have doubts about the strategy the club has taken this summer. The squad has been built over a number of years with the task of staying compact, hitting early balls to the wings and getting crosses in to the front man. I accept that there are limitations to that approach, but for me the way to progress is to maintain the defensive shape whilst making small tweaks to the style of play. For example, encourage better decision making, maybe bring in one or two gifted players with the quality to unlock teams who try to beat you at your own game just like Burnley did last season.
My problem with the way the club has tried to address the team’s limitations, is that they have gone for the polar opposite of what the squad is used to. Frank de Boer is very much from the Louis van Gaal school of management, keeping the ball in your own half for long periods and waiting very patiently for gaps to open up.
I look at, for example, your performance against Arsenal in April. You played them off the park through pace, power and intensity.
“From the players that featured that day, how many will be comfortable with a more non-committal style?”
I would argue two. Yohan Cabaye – we know he’s technically gifted. Perhaps Luka Milivojevic’s Champions League experience would count for something, even though he is predominantly a ball winner.
Aside from those two, it is hard to pinpoint any others. Wayne Hennessey, Joel Ward and Damien Delaney are near the top when it comes to the statistics tables for most inaccurate long balls. Jeffrey Schlupp, Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend, to varying degrees of ability, like to dribble forward at pace. Christian Benteke had the most aerial attempts (49) in the Premier League last season and seven of his fifteen goals were headers.
With only two players signed so far to aid this shift, there may be a clash of ideals. It is conceivable to imagine defenders not feeling comfortable holding onto the ball, wide men getting frustrated at not receiving it quickly enough and Benteke starved of service.
If de Boer and his assistant Orlando Trustfull can get largely the same squad to buy into their ideas quickly, they will deserve great credit. My suspicion is though that in appointing the duo, the club is attempting to change too much, too quickly.