Palace 0-3 Terriers
Do I have to do this? I suppose the answer is no, but I’ll give it a go anyway. For the regulars, this will be a little shorter than normal. I am writing this sat by the side of a pool in Bordeaux, and I intend on enjoying my holiday and not moping over this loss.
Crystal Palace collapsed to a humiliating opening day defeat to newly promoted Huddersfield Town in Frank de Boer’s first competitive match as the Manager of the South London Club. A Joel Ward own goal (24) got the ball rolling for the visitors who struck again two minutes later through Mounie (26), provoking boos from the Selhurst faithful in the process.
Christian Benteke saw a bullet goal bound header miraculously saved by Lössl and it felt like only a matter of time before David Wagner’s men would put the game to bed on the break, which they duly did 12 minutes from time as Mounie grabbed his second goal of the game.
What did we expect?
Oh, you were all thinking that after five weeks, a team full of players that were nearly relegated from the Premier League last season were going to be experts at playing 3-4-3? Guess what, they’re not. Some knew that this would be the case. Others blindly hoped that the lads had taken to de Boer’s philosophy like ducks to water. The big question now is – will they ever be ready/good enough to embrace and effectively implement the Dutch legend’s style? Plenty of journalists are now employing “I told you so” attitudes, only they forgot to tell us so and are now saying that they knew it would be a bad fit. After one game. Plenty of fans appear to have had had enough after 25 minutes of the latest transition in SE25.
Back on June 28th I wrote the following:
Whatever changes de Boer makes will be a hard sell. We all jumped on Alan Pardew for attempting a “transition” in playing styles. Sure, it was a disaster, but it is ingrained in our psyches that we must play on the counter in a very direct fashion. I am not saying this is wrong. In fact, the stats back up that this is the ideal plan of attack for us.
Therefore during the opening months of the season, we need to stick with it. We need to cleanse our psyches. Now, we may get off to a storming start. Huddersfield at home and Liverpool away, especially based on recent history, could easily yield six points. Or, the players might be slow on the uptake of de Boer’s ideas and the opening games yields zero points. The worst-case scenario is that we lose to Huddersfield after having had 60% possession before heading to Anfield and winning with 30% possession with a blistering display of counterattacking football. Whichever way around it is, we need to appreciate that this is a longer-term project. Talk of the academy, the progression of the playing style and the potential of the Club have been bounded around by both de Boer and Parish this week. To blink before Christmas if things are not going immediately to plan would be a mistake. If we do blink and he is fired in the first year, then the appointment was an unmitigated disaster. If de Boer can get through the season and keep us in the Premier League, he will have a chance to infect the Club with his ideas and be the most influential manager in the Club’s history since Allison [hopefully without the successive relegations]. Assuming, of course, that a huge Club doesn’t come and give him an offer that he cannot refuse on the back of his potential success as Palace manager.
I still feel the same after the fact. Yes, I threw my hands up in desperation yesterday. Yes, I left a few minutes early, but if we are giving up because of two goals in two minutes, one from a corner that has nothing to do with three at the back, we really need to question what we want from Crystal Palace at this junction.
This is not me excusing the performance or the manager just because it is his first game in charge. Far from it. To start Joel Ward at right wing back after not playing him there in the previous three pre-season games seems like a glaring error. Playing Ruben Loftus-Cheek in the advanced role after not playing him there all pre-season also seems strange, especially when factoring in the incredible performance he put in in the second-half after dropping deeper in place of the subbed Luka Milivojevic.
This is also not me excusing the fact that, yet again, we are not ready, personnel wise, for the start of the season. We must be the only team every year that the new season seems to take by surprise by the season starting in August. The fact that we are starting with a formation that requires a ball playing goalkeeper and a right wing back to function, without a ball playing goalkeeper and a right-wing back is extremely poor. Will the board catch on before the under preparation finally costs us our place with the elite?
Back to what I said on June 28th; “we need to cleanse our psyches”, the psyches that believe that we can only be successful by playing counter-attacking and direct football. We, the fans, caused a large majority of our on-field issues yesterday. Twice we nearly conceded after Dann and Riedewald were pressured by the boos of the fans not to pass the ball back to Hennessey. Instead, they passed it into dangerous areas and were robbed of the ball and nearly punished. If you are going to boo every time that Palace defender passes the ball back to the goalkeeper this season, you’re going to be booing a lot.
“I don’t understand why they keep going backwards and across” was one comment I heard at the game. “Why don’t they just get it forward?” Well, because we have a manager that likes his teams to pass the football. He comes from Ajax for crying out loud. Everyone on the planet knows how Ajax like to play the game. There is a method to the madness and I think that Frank f***ing de Boer is a bit more qualified than Steve in row 29 from Orpington.
We were at what I will call the “Charlton Crossroads” in the summer. Did we stick and aim merely for Premier League safety with the odd cup run thrown in, or did we twist and try to move on to the next level? Of course, it took Charlton a fair bit longer to come to these crossroads, but Steve Parish is an ambitious man and he is not going to sit around on his hands for too long. Frank de Boer is an ambitious appointment with a longer-term future in mind, both on and off the field, rather than just a short-term fix.
I don’t know if the players are ever going to be able to adapt. I don’t know if de Boer will ever be able to fully get across his message to a team that is littered with players that are probably not good enough to implement it. But we have made our bed. If we don’t give it a chance in the stands, what chance is it ever going to have on the field?