After five league defeats without a goal, the situation at Crystal Palace is looking precarious.
While it’s still early stages and there is plenty of time for Palace to claw their way back up the table, the sheer lack of direction at the club is worrying.
Last season, Sam Allardyce led the Eagles to a hard-earned escape from the drop. Crucial wins over Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool in the space of three weeks proved to be a catalyst in what was a Lazarus-like revival. The team played in typical Allardyce fashion, combining long balls, aggression, durability and dangerous crosses. The sudden abandonment of that style has led to some clueless performances at Selhurst Park.
The hiring of Frank de Boer was the first step towards dismantling the identity of the team that Allardyce had moulded. His reign lasted just 77 days after a similarly disastrous 85-day stint at Inter Milan. De Boer couldn’t replicate his success with Ajax in Serie A, taking over an Inter side who had an average age of 28. He was given the same remit as he was at Palace, play a passing style of football and to do away with the classic Italian Catenaccio style that Inter had been deploying.
De Boer failed miserably at this task, with seven defeats in 14 games an unacceptable return for a club that had spent a lot of money on new players that summer. His football was dull and lifeless, not much happened in the Inter games he presided over and few goals were scored. The pattern repeated itself in his games in charge of Palace, no energy and no cutting edge. This lack of drive in two separate teams has to be attributed in part to the manager.
A large number of candidates had been considered for the position before De Boer was hired, further highlighting the lack of direction in the upper echelons of the club. Even some of the best managers in the world would struggle to get Palace playing that kind of effective passing football that could really hurt other Premier League teams. The attempt at transition was just too much to handle in such a short space of time.
The rapid appointment of Roy Hodgson after De Boer’s exit smacked of panic. A desire to return to the type of football that made Palace very difficult to beat last season is apparent. The revolution is on hold. However, Hodgson is the wrong man to steady the ship in so many ways. It’s a huge step backwards for Crystal Palace.
His failure with England and Liverpool should have been enough to overshadow his achievements with Fulham and West Brom. Hodgson seems to view the game in a very old-fashioned manner and his ability to motivate the team after such a poor start is questionable. England’s loss to Iceland at last year’s Euros should have spelt the end of his managerial career.
The future looks bleak for Palace at the moment, similar to the way it did for Swansea under Bob Bradley or Newcastle under John Carver. There will be a lot of bad days, but there is still a chance for revival. It won’t be a Hodgson-induced revival, but the infrastructure is there for the next manager to set up the right way, make a few additions and put on the performances that the Palace fans deserve.
At the moment that looks like it could possibly be in the Championship.
Michael Cole, Pundit Arena