Were Crystal Palace right to sack Frank de Boer?

Sports Mole takes an in-depth look at whether Crystal Palace were right to sack manager Frank de Boer after only four league games in charge.

Crystal Palace set an unwanted Premier League record on Monday when they sacked manager Frank de Boer after just four matches at the helm.

The Dutchman succeeded Sam Allardyce following the latter's surprise summer resignation, but lasted just 77 days before being given the boot following a dismal start to the season.

Reports of player unhappiness and disagreements with the board during that short tenure helped to seal De Boer's fate, but ultimately it was Palace's form on the field which led the club's hierarchy to dispense of his services.

Here, Sports Mole discusses whether or not Palace were right to sack De Boer.



Was he the right man for the job?

Frank de Boer looks dejected after the Premier League game between Burnley and Crystal Palace on September 10, 2017© Offside

Instead of asking whether Palace were right to sack De Boer, perhaps the golden question is whether they were right to appoint him in the first place.

De Boer's arrival was always going to herald a drastic change in formation and playing style compared to the days of Allardyce, and to only be given four matches to implement that is a difficult ask for any manager.

As far back as the opening day of the season, De Boer insisted that he would not change the new style he was trying to bring into the club, despite their 3-0 defeat at the hands of Huddersfield Town to kick his ill-fated reign off to a telling start.

Nor should he have been expected to. One defeat - even four defeats in a row - should never be enough to alter a manager's philosophy, and if the Palace board expected anything else then it is they who are guilty of being naive and ill-prepared.

De Boer came through the ranks at Ajax while Johan Cruyff was manager before going on to follow a similar career path to the legendary Dutchman, playing most of his football at Ajax and Barcelona where the school of Cruyff was very much still in effect.

It is a philosophy which is ingrained into most who experienced it, and if the Palace board did not want to change to a passing style more of the 'Total Football' ilk - or had any concerns regarding whether it would suit the team - then they should have looked elsewhere.

The Crystal Palace board look on during the team's 1-0 defeat to Burnley at Turf Moor on September 10, 2017© Offside

The warning signs were there for all to see in pre-season, and it quickly became clear that Palace simply did not have the players to suit De Boer's style.

The likes of Scott Dann, Damien Delaney, James Tomkins and Joel Ward have their strengths without doubt, but they would not be many managers' first choices when looking to play out from the back and they are a quartet certainly more suited to Allardyce than De Boer.

Heavy investment would have been required during the summer if Palace were to change that, but they signed just two players on permanent transfers - Jairo Riedewald and Mamadou Sakho - while Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Timothy Fosu-Mensah joined on loan.

Having opted largely for youth - 21-year-old Loftus-Cheek being the eldest bar Sakho - Palace again needed to give those players time to not only adapt to De Boer's philosophy, but also settle into the relatively unfamiliar surroundings of the Premier League.

The fact that the board did not marry their managerial choice with either the players already at their disposal or the players signed by the club that summer made things difficult for De Boer from the start, and it was always going to be an uphill struggle for the Dutchman's reign to end in anything other than disappointment from that point on.



Unwanted Premier League history

Scott Dann reacts to a missed opportunity during the Premier League game between Burnley and Crystal Palace on September 10, 2017© SilverHub

De Boer can justifiably feel hard done by that he was never given the chance to implement his style at the club - even if the team itself didn't ever look like suiting it - but results on the field remain the be all and end all for managers.

The Palace board made history for the shortest 'permanent' reign in the Premier League in terms of games by sacking De Boer four matches into the new campaign, but that was only after the Dutchman had claimed an unwanted record of his own.

Sunday's 1-0 defeat at the hands of Burnley at Turf Moor condemned the Eagles to a fourth consecutive loss without scoring - the first Premier League team to ever make such a poor start to the campaign and the first in the top flight since Preston North End in 1924.

It is a damning statistic which may have frightened the Palace board into pulling the trigger, although if reports are to be believed then the decision to sack De Boer was all but made before the Burnley defeat.

The Eagles were actually the better side at Turf Moor - by the admission of Burnley boss Sean Dyche - but when it rains it pours and Lee Chung-yong's suicidal backpass in just the third minute ultimately denied De Boer the chance to give himself a stay of execution.

Andros Townsend dries his eyes during the Premier League game between Burnley and Crystal Palace on September 10, 2017© Offside

It is still very early days in the season, of course, and one win could take Palace out of the relegation zone despite their dreadful start, which leaves them alongside Bournemouth as the only team yet to pick up a point in the Premier League.

However, the prospect of relegation is so damaging nowadays - and the rewards of top-flight football so lucrative - that the Palace board have felt the need to act with 34 matches of the season still remaining.

So much can change in that time, but Palace would likely have needed at least a few more weeks before De Boer really got them playing the way he wanted to, and by that stage there may have been the danger of them being cut adrift.

A daunting run of fixtures may have also caused the hierarchy to act now; if Palace were unable to get anything from games against Huddersfield, Liverpool and Swansea City then the likelihood of them faring any better against Southampton, Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea in their next four league games looked slim under De Boer.

It makes for a very difficult start for De Boer's replacement, though, and should the Palace board act so hastily again then it may not be long before they are searching for yet another new manager.



A shattered reputation

Ajax head coach Frank de Boer looks on prior to the Eredivisie match against PSV Eindhoven on March 20, 2016© AFP

There was a time when De Boer was regarded as one of the brightest young managers in football following a trophy-laden spell with Ajax.

De Boer won the Eredivisie title in his very first season as a manager and went on to become the first boss to lift the trophy four seasons in a row as his initial success in the dugout continued.

It was also the first time that Ajax had ever won four Eredivisie titles on the bounce and took De Boer up to nine overall including his playing career - another record which saw him overtake Cruyff, amongst others, as the most successful individual in the history of the Dutch league.

A second-place finish followed in 2014-15, but Ajax ended the campaign a mammoth 17 points behind champions PSV, before missing out to their rivals again on the final day of the following season.

De Boer was quickly snapped up by Inter Milan following his resignation, but it was at San Siro that his career began to take a serious downward turn and he lasted just 85 days at the Italian giants before being sacked with the club sitting 12th in the Serie A table.

Even after that disappointing reign, the appointment of De Boer to take over from Allardyce was seen as a coup for Palace, but having only managed to stay in his two most recent jobs for a combined total of 162 days he may find it increasingly difficult to secure a post elsewhere following his calamitous cameo at Selhurst Park.



Who is next in the Palace hot seat?

Roy Hodgson speaks during a press conference on June 28, 2016 in Chantilly, France© Getty Images

Having got the De Boer appointment so disastrously wrong, the Palace board must ensure that their next manager is a much better fit for the club.

Roy Hodgson is the man expected to take over the reins, although his most recent managerial role was not exactly a roaring success as England crashed out of Euro 2016 at the hands of Iceland - having failed to make it out of the group stages at the World Cup two years previously.

What Palace will be getting with Hodgson is a vastly experienced manager, though, and one who has taken charge of four different clubs in the Premier League before.

It will be a difficult start for the former Fulham, Liverpool and West Bromwich Albion boss, with Southampton followed by the current top three in the Premier League in addition to an EFL Cup tie against a Huddersfield side they have already lost 3-0 to this season.

However, Hodgson is a manager capable of adapting his style to something more suitable for the players at his disposal, and Palace will be hoping the 70-year-old has a similar impact to his time at West Brom.

The Baggies were only out of the relegation zone on goal difference when Hodgson took over in February 2011, but he steered them to their highest league finish for three decades as five wins and five draws from 12 games at the helm lifted them up to 11th.

Hodgson went one better a year later to guide West Brom to their first top-half finish in the top flight since 1981, earning himself the England job following the resignation of Fabio Capello.

Were Crystal Palace right to sack Frank de Boer?

Yes
No
Yes
44.4%
No
55.6%
Crystal Palace manager Sam Allardyce watches on during his side's Premier League clash with Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium on January 31, 2017
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