Oliver Glasner: Crystal Palace’s pressing monster who trains without goalkeepers

Oliver Glasner after winning the 2022 Europa League final with Eintracht Frankfurt
Austrian Oliver Glasner takes over at Crystal Palace after Roy Hodgson stood down - Getty Images/Alex Grimm

To offer an example of the way Oliver Glasner wanted his Wolfsburg team to pressure opponents, he would often have his three central centre-backs training without a goalkeeper behind them. “We want to defend in a way so that we barely need them,” was Glasner’s explanation. And why would an untended goal be a problem for a team well versed in gegenpressing?

Glasner is arriving at Crystal Palace this week looking to change their fortunes quickly after just a couple of wins since November but the Austrian will have little time to have his players rehearsed in his ways. His success in German football has involved pre-seasons where he has shaped his team on the training pitches, with eye-catching results.

At Wolfsburg he masterminded Champions League qualification and succeeded where Erik ten Hag failed by getting the best out of Wout Weghorst. Then at Eintracht Frankfurt he followed a similar pattern of two years in terms of guiding them to success – the Europa League after defeating Rangers in the final – and then departing abruptly.

Oliver Glasner, Head Coach of Eintracht Frankfurt lifts the UEFA Europa League Trophy following their team's victory during the UEFA Europa League final match between Eintracht Frankfurt and Rangers FC at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on May 18, 2022 in Seville, Spain
Glasner's greatest triumph came with the 2022 Europa League - Getty Images/Alex Grimm

In both cases, he was thought to be unhappy with the level of investment in his teams, so his first comments on the long-term future of Palace will be interesting. They have players highly regarded in the Premier League. It is not just Michael Olise and Eberechi Eze, their young midfielders. They also have Marc Guehi, who goes through matches unflustered, often unnoticed by the TV pundits but appreciated by Gareth Southgate and recruitment teams of the Premier League’s top clubs.

Glasner currently has the resources at his disposal to get them higher than the 16th place they held when his appointment was announced. Palace are getting a disciple of Ralf Rangnick, who hired him as an assistant coach at Red Bull Salzburg. He is a further evolved version of Rangnick with his intense style of football and coaching. Those who have spoken to him over jobs say he is more adaptable than Rangnick, rather than rigidly sticking to his principles, which could be a strength during his first days in English football.

Nottingham Forest looked at him before they went for Nuno Espirito Santo, while Tottenham once spoke to him too. He has longed for Premier League football and while he has no experience, he could turn to former Middlesbrough defender Emanuel Pogatetz as his right-hand man.

Glasner’s own playing career saw him play more than 500 games for SV Ried without getting an international cap, with his retirement coming after suffering a brain haemorrhage. His style is far removed from his predecessor, Roy Hodgson, as he expects his coaching career to be short. “I don’t want to be a coach until I’m 65 years old, probably not until 60 either,” said the 49-year-old.

At Eintracht he would stand at the side of the training pitch watching, dressed in Nike Premier 3 boots with a stopwatch and whistle around his neck. Hands behind his back, he would observe his first-team coaches take warm-ups and early sessions before taking the drills himself. He invented the ‘Vier gewinnt’ which is a sprint version of Connect 4.

He has a presence on the training pitch which Palace players will feel this week. His training is more technical than physical but there is an intensity to his work. At Wolfsburg he joked that his flat was a place where he slept, but that was it. The rest of the time he was at work. As his session with no goalkeeper suggests, his preferred formation is 3-4-2-1.

Palace can also expect a manager who will speak his mind, not only on the direction of his club but when defending his players. Against Hoffenheim last season he was sent off, which raised eyebrows at his own club, then went into bat for Makoto Hasebe when there were questions over the veteran centre-back, who was 39 at the time. “He’s practically p------ blood at this point because he’s so exhausted and he’s still playing,” said Glasner.

Oliver Glasner, Head Coach of Eintracht Frankfurt, leaves the pitch after being shown a red card during the Bundesliga match between TSG Hoffenheim and Eintracht Frankfurt
Glasner was giving his marching orders against Hoffenheim last season - Getty Images/Alex Grimm

His departure was announced before the end of last season and was a shock. The previous season they had won the Europa League against Steven Gerrard’s team but they also saw Martin Hinteregger and Filip Kostic leave the squad. Players who improved under him include France forward Randal Kolo Muani, who earned a move to Paris St-Germain after his season with Glasner. “We signed him because we saw great potential in him. We saw instantly that he was really quick,” said Glasner.

The other important factor to Glasner’s teams has been bonding in the squad. Palace already have that. They certainly appear united. But one of the first tasks will be for Glasner to judge the mood.

“I do not forgive when someone causes bad vibes in the changing room because that’s something avoidable and something we can influence,” he said. “It’s about how we go about with each other, how respectful we are to one another: that’s team spirit.”