Crystal Palace lost again, then sacked Frank De Boer, and that's idiotic

Henry Bushnell
Frank De Boer (left) is on the hot seat at <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/soccer/teams/crystal-palace/" data-ylk="slk:Crystal Palace">Crystal Palace</a> after just four games. (Reuters)
Frank De Boer (left) is on the hot seat at Crystal Palace after just four games. (Reuters)

Crystal Palace has played 360 minutes of Premier League soccer this season, and its return has been distressing: 0 goals, 0 points, four losses, and three against the bottom half of the league.

And now, after an unsurprising decision Monday morning, a second manager. And a fourth in less than 12 months.

Frank De Boer, who was only just hired by Crystal Palace in late June, reportedly had a Sunday trip to Burnley to save his job. He didn’t save it. An incredibly frustrating 1-0 loss at Turf Moor had him throwing water bottles and rubbing his face in agony. Less than 24 hours later, he was sacked.

And that’s utterly ridiculous.

To be clear, Palace has not been good. Results are troubling. A 1-0 defeat at Liverpool is totally understandable. Home losses to Huddersfield and Swansea are significantly less acceptable.

But a closer look shows the results appear to be heavily influenced by expected goals variance:

Palace was clearly the better side at Burnley on Sunday as well, but calamitous finishing and a tragically underweighted third-minute back-pass from Lee Chung-Yong doomed the Eagles to a fourth consecutive defeat.

None of which is De Boer’s fault.

All of which he paid the price for.

Palace had 23 shots to Burnley’s four. Geoff Schlupp sailed a 15-yard shot over the bar with 10 minutes remaining. Christian Benteke was in alone moments later, but had his attempt saved by the outstretched leg of backup Burnley keeper Nick Pope. Scott Dann then somehow missed a free 89th-minute header from four yards out.

None of which is De Boer’s fault.

All of which he paid the price for.

“I couldn’t do much more than this,” De Boer said after the match. “I will sign directly every time if we create that much chances against every other team, and I’m sure that we’ll get the reward.”

And he’s right. Palace will eventually get the reward. But De Boer won’t. Which is absurd.

There were legitimate questions about how Palace could adapt with a squad and a style that seemingly clashed with each other. De Boer’s approach to the game didn’t gel with the strengths of his players. His tactics didn’t suit previous manager Sam Allardyce’s personnel.

But that’s precisely the flaw in Palace’s thinking. It presumably hired the former Ajax and Inter Milan manager with a stylistic change in mind. It surely understood that such a change would require either time or an overhaul of the squad, or both. But it signed just four players this summer, two on loan and one a previous loan deal made permanent. And then it didn’t give the Dutchman time.

There is something to be said for recognizing a mistake before it becomes costly, and perhaps Palace is essentially admitting that, even though results would have improved, the club’s direction under De Boer would have been unsatisfactory. Plenty of questions could then be asked of the hiring decision back in June, but the firing decision wouldn’t necessarily be the wrong one.

The flaws are in the reasoning. There is little from the past four games that could have convinced a rational thinker to sack De Boer. Perhaps there were behind-the-scenes concerns. Perhaps the problems ran deeper than we know. But that doesn’t explain the supposed do-or-die nature of Sunday’s game. And it doesn’t explain the costliness of Sunday’s loss.

Palace leapt to a reactionary decision. It didn’t have the courage to stock by its own long-term plan amid short-term wobbles. And in sacking the manager brought in to move the club forward, it took yet another step back.

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Henry Bushnell covers soccer – the U.S. national teams, the Premier League, and much, much more – for FC Yahoo and Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell.