Five things Frank De Boer must do to experience success at Crystal Palace
After what was possibly the most drawn-out managerial saga of Crystal Palace's long and tempestuous history, Frank De Boer has been chosen as the man to succeed retiree Sam Allardyce.
The Crystal Palace job isn't hugely unique, but it'll take skill and expertise to build upon the work done by Sam Allardyce last season.
Here are five things De Boer will need to get right to make success of his time at Palace ...
1. Address the goalkeeping issue
A clear weak spot has been the goalkeeper position. Though former manager Alan Pardew attempted to resolve it, first by signing Alex McCarthy and then by recruiting Steve Mandanda, Wayne Hennessey has managed to keep his place in the side for the past two seasons. This despite a number of obvious errors throughout that spell, and a clear and persistent issue with indecision and nervousness.
Palace's French international keeper Mandanda is seeking a move away from the club, having failed to break into the side, but De Boer would do well to attempt to repair the damaged relationship. Should attempts to resolve differences fail, the priority must be to find a player capable of replacing Hennessey.
A stronger, more confident and agile goalkeeper would make a significant change to Palace's backline.
2. Keep a focus on defensive strength
The fear for most fans, when looking at De Boer's credentials, is that he is a manager who wants his side to play passing football. The immediate response from most is that Palace tried and failed to do that under Pardew, and the result was a relegation battle.
But there is a clear answer to this reaction -- Palace must focus on their defensive duties, no matter how much more expansive the football is. Pardew's failure as manager can be traced to his loss of focus on defensive responsibilities. Palace did play some good football, but when it came to doing the basics right, they struggled. An inability to refocus attention on keeping clean sheets saw Pardew sacked.
De Boer's Ajax side were effective in their ability to win back possession and retain it. The issue isn't with how Palace play with the ball, it's the work they do when they don't have it. If De Boer can get that right, he'll make a great start to his Palace career.
3. Fitness and youth
The average age of Palace's 25-man squad last season was 28, which put the club fifth from bottom in the rankings. The combination of the ageing team and a lack of fitness was another contributing factor in the drop off last season. Dr Ryland Morgans detailed some of the changes he and Allardyce made when they arrived at the club, and the impact of those became clear as the squad's fitness improved.
The recruitment must be with a focus on younger players, who are more capable of retaining peak levels of fitness while also playing through the more arduous spells of the Premier League schedule. Keeping the kind of regime introduced by Morgans will allow the squad to play a more expansive, yet equally as defensively sound game.
4. Recruit well, but on a budget
The squad need quality in depth rather than just in the first XI, which will make De Boer's task difficult.
Ronald De Boer, Frank's brother, has already mentioned that his sibling will be looking to recruit younger players from sides where opportunities aren't as easily available, whether from domestic clubs or from abroad. He will have to ensure Joe Ledley and Fraizer Campbell are replaced, ideally with talent capable of challenging for first-team action rather than the kind to just be called upon when needed.
It'll be a busy summer.
5. Empower Wilfried Zaha, Andros Townsend and Christian Benteke with clear, concise tactics
Allardyce's success came in part because he understood the simplicity of allowing the three attacking players to work together. Whereas Pardew ostracised Townsend, Allardyce immediately brought him back into the fold and after a number of games, it became clear why. Townsend linked up well with his strike partners, doing what he'd struggled to do under the previous manager.
That clarity, which ensured Benteke was given opportunities to score and that Zaha and Townsend were encouraged to beat their opponents with the ball, propelled the side forward. Zaha is at his best when he stands his opponents up and then glides past them. Townsend is similar, and Benteke is the person to profit from that the most. All three also showed that they weren't too important to do the defensive work.
A clear tactical approach, which doesn't overload the players with information but gives them the structure from which they can use their skill and expertise, will propel Palace forward.
Robert Sutherland is ESPN FC's Crystal Palace blogger. You can follow him on Twitter @RoDuSu.