As soon as the transfer window closed last week attention turned away from lamenting our lack of business to the tricky fixture this weekend at Burnley which, if reports are to be believed, could determine the fate of Frank de Boer. If Swansea was must-win, then this has to be a “mustn’t lose” for Crystal Palace.
It should be about more than that, though.
Losing his opening three games is far from an ideal start, but that hasn’t been the real problem for de Boer. The negativity around the place hasn’t come from losing three games, it’s come from the ineptness of the performances and, among other things, the failure to score a single goal since the season began. The fact that de Boer has attempted to do something new by employing three at the back has just added fuel to the now raging fire.
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£30 million man Christian Benteke has looked about as far from a goal as Fraizer Campbell looked during his entire Crystal Palace career. The absence of Wilfried Zaha has done our attacking thrust little benefit but we’ve looked thoroughly toothless without him which is worrying as he will again be missing this weekend.
As for the defence, well the same struggles that plagued us under Pardew have come racing to the surface again since the season opener. Set piece goals, individual errors and a general lack of cohesion have all been symptomatic of the opening three games of the season and if we are to make a fist of survival this season we have to address the basics. Unfortunately we’ll have to address these defensive problems without the help of marquee signing Mamadou Sakho, at least for the time being.
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We simply must see progress on both of these fronts this weekend. A gutsy 0-0 full of boring organisational rigidity and the odd chance on the break, that’s the bare minimum of what we should be hoping for this weekend. Drilled. Secure. Dangerous on the break. In short, everything we haven’t been so far I should be describing after Sunday’s game, with any luck.
The points are, of course, important and a loss would be hard to take, irrespective of the performance. With Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea fast approaching, failure to pick up anything at Burnley is nearly inconceivable. Burnely will be anything but pushovers though, they’ve beaten Chelsea and drawn with Spurs in the opening three games for a start and under Dyche always have a doggedness about them.
However, at this stage of the season under a new manager it’s got to be about the process. We have to think big picture. The last few games have seen us take two or three wobbly steps backwards from our starting position. We must steady ourselves against Burnley, the team needs to give us Crystal Palace fans a reason to be optimistic again. We can work from there, use a battling draw or a good performance as a base from which to truly start our season.
A loss would not be the end of the world. A poor performance may just be, especially from where Frank de Boer is sitting. In the short term, a win is more important but in the long term a good performance this weekend could mean so much more.