Which Areas of the Team Must Frank de Boer Strengthen at Crystal Palace?
Has anyone said, or heard someone say, “how is it July already?” Yup, it was Christmas just the other day, and now we are already halfway through the year and the transfer window has been thrown open once more.
Frank de Boer’s first task as Crystal Palace manager will be to highlight the areas that we are weak, especially where his desired playing style is concerned, and plug those leaks. By using, at times, wild speculation and making broad assumptions I will attempt to do the job for Frank so that he, or the people that we pay the big bucks to, doesn’t have to.
Essential – Centre Back
There is no other place to start, not even at the Wayne Hennessey conundrum. We need a ball playing centre-back, now more than ever. It is no secret that Frank de Boer is going to want to keep possession far more than his predecessor and this will start from the back.
Mamadou Sakho came in for 8 games last season and gave us all a taste of the avenues that a ball playing centre-back can unlock. The midfield three of Cabaye, Milivojevic and Puncheon found themselves receiving the ball in much more favourable positions thanks to Sakho’s inventiveness on the ball. Sakho gave them opportunities to create better positions, which lead to better results.
Unfortunately, Sakho will (reportedly) not be joining the Eagles this summer. As much as I loved the man, and probably place him in the top two best centre-backs I’ve ever seen play for Palace, I understand where Frank de Boer is coming from at not wanting to splash what is probably all his transfer budget on one player. Especially one that has such a volatile history.
The press is linking Palace with Sevilla’s Adil Rami, and his passing accuracy is identical to that of Sakho’s, although he does pass the ball marginally longer than the Liverpool loanee.
There are a couple of problems with Rami. He turns 32 in December and is right footed. Parish has not been one to go after players that boast no resale value and any money spent on a transfer fee for Rami would be dead money. The bigger problem is that the France international is not left footed. The balance that Sakho’s left foot added to the defence led to a marked improvement on playing with two right footers prior to his arrival and returning to the old ways could see Tomkins’ and Dann’s early season struggles continue.
Reports are now suggesting that the Rami is set for Marseilles, so Palace may be turning attentions to Davinson Sanchez from Ajax. Sanchez undoubtedly has a lot of talent, maybe too much as Barcelona also appear to be interested.
Again, right footed, Sanchez boasted a whopping 89% pass accuracy last season, he outperformed all the Palace centre backs in tackles and interceptions and also scored six goals last term.
For de Boer to be able to implement a possession based game, he will also need to be able to hold a high defensive line. With the pace that the backline currently possesses, this would be impossible – see Alan Pardew’s failed attempts to play a high possession based game. Sanchez is very quick, and with van Aanholt/Schlupp at left back, the Palace defence will boast natural pace that will help de Boer’s style.
Even if we add either Sanchez or Rami, I still maintain that we will need to sign a left footer for balance – which would also mean an outgoing at the back. A gut feeling says that Scott Dann will be off. We would be able to get decent money, remove a hefty weekly wage and thus free up more funds for de Boer to work with.
Essential – Centre Forward
We were extremely lucky last season. After Connor Wickham picked up his injury, if Christian Benteke had not managed to stay fit for the entire season, I have no doubt that we would be playing Championship football this season. Fraizer Campbell would have come in and run his socks off, but I am positive that he wouldn’t have been able to provide the goals needed.
Going into this season, Campbell is gone, and we are left with Benteke and Connor ‘made of glass’ Wickham. In a 25-man squad, a team needs to boast at least four strikers, ideally five. The challenge for de Boer is going to be to find two strikers that are willing to come to the Club and play second fiddle to Benteke for large chunks of the season.
The only link that I have seen so far is Robin van Persie. The former Arsenal and Man United man will turn 34 during the season and will probably demand a hefty weekly wage. Has he still got it? Last season at Fenerbahce, he played a part in 11 goals (8 goals 3 assists) in 22 matches. Not the numbers that we came to expect from the striker in his Premier League days, but they are far from awful.
I doubt that van Persie has the legs to be able to play every week, so should settle for the second fiddle to Benteke position, but the memory of Emmanuel Adebayor may be too fresh for Parish, who undoubtedly sees that deal as a great waste of money. A deal seems unlikely to me.
Whatever else happens in the window, strikers will have to come in and I will be very interested to see who de Boer can attract.
Nice to Have – Centre Midfield
Keeping Yohan Cabaye, which it looks like we are going to do, is as good as a new signing in my eyes as I was convinced that he would be off. Milivojevic, Puncheon and Cabaye were certainly building a solid rapport last season and I expect this to get stronger. However, the middle of the park is a physically draining place, and backup is needed.
Rumours suggest that James McArthur is off, Joe Ledley has departed on a free, and only Jordon Mutch (ahem) and Jonny Williams remain. Williams may get a shot under de Boer if he can find some fitness and rediscover his form, but that hope might be farfetched.
If McArthur does leave, then this goes from a ‘nice to have’ to an ‘essential’ position to fill.
Again, I have no links to offer. If you want to be a lazy journalist, search 'Ajax midfielders' in Google. Lasse Schöne anyone?
Nice to Have – Right Back
Since Frank de Boer became the manager of Crystal Palace the potential signing of Joel Veltman from, you guessed it, Ajax, has been hotly tipped. Veltman can, apparently, play at centre back, but almost all his appearances were at right back last season.
When looking at Veltman’s stats from last season, he looks quite the prospect. He outperforms Joel Ward in tackling, interceptions, aerial duels won and pass accuracy. Of course, he is up against supposedly lesser opposition in the Eredivisie, but the difference in the numbers is startling.
Wardy will need to rediscover the level that he found under Tony Pulis or his time as the first choice right-back could be numbered, especially when considering that de Boer also appears to be targeting another Ajax right back, Kenny Tete. Although, the link with Tete may be down to suggestions that Veltman is set to sign a new contract at Ajax.
Well, that Depends – Goalkeeper
I have given up believing what I ‘read in the papers’ when it comes to Steve Mandanda. For now, I am going to assume that he is a Crystal Palace player and has a chance to impress the new boss. If he stays, I can only assume that he will reclaim the number one jersey on the grounds that Wayne Hennessey isn’t very good consistently enough for the aspirations that we should have. Further, de Boer’s style requires a goalkeeper that can play football. Mandanda looks like he could play in centre midfield (extra timber aside), Hennessey kicks the ball into touch more often than a Welsh half-back.
If Mandanda does return to Marseilles, we will need to sign a new goalkeeper on the grounds that Wayne Hennessey isn’t very good.
If Hennessey continues as number one under de Boer, my suspicions that the lanky keeper has some compromising pictures of Parish will be confirmed.
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