Frank de Boer is convinced he can bring success to Crystal Palace and that sacking him now would be nonsensical. The manager is under scrutiny after Palace failed to win or score in their three Premier League matches this season, a hapless streak that means defeat at Burnley on Sunday could lead to De Boer suffering the fastest sacking of the Premier League era, a dishonour held by Les Reed, whose 2006 tenure as Charlton Athletic manager lasted seven matches.
De Boer had a two-hour conversation this week with the Palace chairman, Steve Parish, but the manager said that was standard procedure and everyone at the club was aware he is working to meet long-term goals.
“I always have serious conversations with Steve,” De Boer said. “Normally we are scheduled to come together one day a week to see what’s happening and how we can improve.
“We do that after every game. I’m not so concerned about it. We have a very good relationship. Everybody is disappointed with our results but we know this is not a one-day project; it’s for the long term.
“Everybody knows you cannot expect us to win every game. Seeing the schedule, everyone had calculated we would have four points as a minimum so far and that’s not the case but it’s still a work in progress. After 30 years in professional football I’m convinced [results will improve]. We’ve had some very good training sessions with a very positive vibe.
“You don’t have to panic suddenly. Everybody wants the points but you also have to know what’s going on here and we think we’re doing it the right way. Steve and all the board know that. We had a plan, it’s not that suddenly you’re going to make a 360-degree turn and go the other way. No. Maybe a small step to the left or right but still we have our goal.”
De Boer is expected to demonstrate his willingness to learn from Palace’s fruitless start by switching to a back four for the trip to Burnley. His players have looked ill at ease with a three-man central defence. That defensive trio was a departure from the formation De Boer favoured during his six years as the Ajax manager, a fact he says has been lost on most of his critics in England. He says the suggestion he is dogmatically trying to transplant the Ajax model directly on to Palace is unfounded.
“The problem is that everybody thinks I play the way I’ve always played, and that’s totally wrong,” he said. “Everybody says you play 3-4-3 but if you see the players I put into our squad, our wing-backs were defenders, so normally you can say I play 5-2-3. We looked very carefully at our squad and we thought that was the best for the team.
“I think it was very legitimate to play this system. People say [the players] don’t understand the way of playing but we have played very directly at times. We haven’t just played out from the back. [Goalkeeper] Wayne Hennessey has sometimes gone very direct. It’s been a really different style to the way I’ve played before and that’s because of the quality I have in my team here. We have to adapt to what we have.”
Irrespective of the formation De Boer elects to play at Burnley, the Palace defence will not include Mamadou Sakho, the centre-back signed from Liverpool for £26m. The Frenchman is not match fit following his lack of action at Anfield but De Boer says Sakho “is already a very good influence in the dressing room and in training. You see the impact he has had already with his positivity.”
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