The philosophy conundrum
The focus in pre-season, unsurprisingly, was on the arrival of Frank de Boer and our resident Dutchman has come with a fresh system and a new perspective. Well, I say new…
Alan Pardew’s botched attempt to turn Crystal Palace into a more dynamic, possession-orientated team nearly left us relegated and it was only Sam Allardyce returning us to a more pragmatic approach that ultimately saved us being replaced by Brighton. The agenda under de Boer is essentially the same – to ensure growth as a football club and as a team we have to adopt a more progressive style of play.
I found myself nodding in agreement to Pardew earlier this week, a strange occurrence for most Crystal Palace fans to find themselves in, when he said that the difference between him and de Boer is the manner in which they went about the change. Pardew attempted an evolution while Frank has gone for a revolution. Frank has torn the status quo up and gone with a fresh approach with the 3-4-3, his stall has been well and truly set out and he’s brought in a couple of players already to bolster this vision.
Will it work? I hope so. However, if it doesn’t come off straight away (which is not just possibly it’s probable) then de Boer will have to make a better fist of toeing the line between perseverance and blind unwillingness in a way that Pardew never quite pulled off in order to keep the fans on side.
Luka could continue to be employed at centre-half for the foreseeable future
Square pegs in round holes?
I’ve rarely seen a lineup so open to conjecture and prediction, you’d do well to name each position correctly. Will Julian Speroni start or will Wayne Hennessey retain the metaphorical number 1 jersey? How about Luka, will he continue to be employed as a centre-half or moved back into midfield – and if so, at who’s expense? Does Andros Townsend remain the best option at right wing back? I’m not going to pretend to have any certain answers, but I’ll give it a shot nonetheless.
Frank de Boer’s words to the press indicate that Wayne Hennessey remains first choice, for the time being at least, so that’s the first part answered. Speroni’s performances have given him food for thought, but I’d be surprised to see Julian step out onto Selhurst Park on Saturday. Both Damien Delaney and James Tomkins played a part in the development side’s game against Merstham on Wednesday which suggests that they may not be fit enough to start on Saturday.
For that reason Luka is looking likely to continue at centre-half for the time being, however much he doesn’t like it, unless Fosu-Mensah is paired with Dann and Riedewald which would be a brave decision. As for Andros Townsend, it looks as if he’ll continue to operate the right wing back position until all of our centre-halves return to fitness. Fosu-Mensah is a full back but de Boer has brought him in as a centre-half or traditional right back, a category into which Joel Ward surely falls as well.
All in all, don’t be surprised to see a similar line-up to the one we saw against Schalke.
Do opponents Huddersfield have what it takes to stay in the Premier League?
The Terriers have had a reasonable pre-season in preparation for their first return to the top flight of English football since 1972, however all but the most optimistic of Huddersfield town fans are imagining anything other than a close run thing in a bid to extend their stay at England’s top table.
Their situation reminds me a lot of Crystal Palace’s upon our promotion in 2013, a lifetime ago it seems now. Like Palace, they have an inexperienced squad at this level, Mark Hudson was one of the few players who boasted Premier League experience, ironically with his spell in SE25, but he’s freshly retired. Huddersfield have gone about remedying the situation in a similar manner as we attempted, although I hope it proves more successful than it did for us.
Simply put, they’ve brought in a lot of players. More than 10 have already joined their ranks, comparable to the astonishing 15 that joined Palace that very first summer. A lack of Premier League experience is far from a guarantee of ineptitude however, we’d be arrogant to forget that save for one or two additions Tony Pulis’ Crystal Palace remained in the league thanks largely to the efforts of the ‘inexperienced’ Championship side that got us there.
I don’t think it’s insulting to say that individually they have achieved very little, but collectively have proved themselves to be more worthy than the string of ‘big clubs’ that they laid in their wake. I hope they do well this season, I hope they’re gutsy, brave, determined and stay true to what got them there in the first place.
Just not tomorrow.