Ahead of a crucial clash with Brighton this weekend, Palace’s Aaron Wan-Bissaka has been asked about his teammates, his rise to the first team, his goals for next season and what has helped him to become the excellent right-back he is today. His answer to the last question shows that Frank de Boer did at least one positive thing in his short tenure at Selhurst Park.
Well, in an interview with Premier League Productions’ Kelly Somers at a South London primary school visit, the 21-year-old was asked how he made the transition from being a winger to a defender. Here’s what he had to say:
“I started when Frank de Boer came in and changed the formation to [three-at-the-back with] wing-backs and that’s when the wingers had to play as wing-backs, which is both a bit of defending and attacking. That’s how I got used to it.”
Now-Atlanta United manager de Boer came to Selhurst Park with a vision – the Dutchman wanted to convert a team that had found success in the Premier League playing quick, counter-attacking football, to a possession oriented one.
The former Ajax boss was desperate to bring the philosophy he had near-perfected in the Netherlands to England but it’s pretty safe to say that he did not have the personnel – or the time – to make it happen.
The three-at-the-back which he initially tried to implement was quickly ruled out and a 4-3-3 became the more realistic approach; improvements were gradually made but, by just five games into the campaign, Steve Parish and co had had enough, with the Eagles rock bottom with zero goals and zero points.
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Roy Hodgson was brought in and somehow managed to guide the downed Eagles to Premier League safety. While the former England boss will definitely go down as a far more respected and influential figure in Palace history than his predecessor, de Boer can, at least, claim that his systemic overhaul gave the Eagles one of their highest-rated talents.
The Selhurst Park faithful might not have de Boer to thank for much, but it is a possibility that Joel Ward would still be playing on the right of defence if not for the former Barcelona man’s brief spell in English football.