Oliver Glasner’s first week at Crystal Palace: set pieces, long meetings, victory and a new toothbrush

As Chris Richards’ stooping low header gave Crystal Palace the lead, Oliver Glasner turned to assistant manager Paddy McCarthy and remarked “Back post! Back post!”

The new Palace manager was delighted that what seemed to be a plan throughout the game against Burnley had come to fruition. That goal broke the opposition’s resistance after 68 minutes and there was no question of anything but victory from that moment.

It was the perfect end to a first week in which Glasner has already made a strong, favourable impression.

In his programme notes he referenced the importance of “attitude, confidence and humbleness”. That has very much been the theme of the week as he and his staff introduced themselves to the squad and those around the training ground.

Likewise, in his first pre-match press conference he introduced himself to each individual journalist by saying his name instead of making the assumption that because everyone knew who he was it didn’t matter. At the training ground the players have found him polite, friendly and approachable.

He is temporarily staying in a hotel in Greenwich, and referred to an exchange with a security guard at Beckenham in which he had spoken of needing an extra toothbrush.

“When I arrived (the next morning), the toothbrush was already in my locker room. (It felt like) ‘we will take care of you and support you.’ It’s nothing important but it meant so much. I really appreciated it,” he said.

That kindness he has received has been reciprocated. He has been personable and taken the time to sit and eat with staff and ask about their lives, talking to them without any sense of superiority or distance. His work ethic has impressed, with the Austrian arriving early, taking meetings early and staying late at the training ground.

Under Roy Hodgson, although there was respect, the mood had become flat. Glasner has immediately lifted that and brought a sense of positivity to everyone with his energy and enthusiasm.

He is intense and hands-on in training, handling matters himself but also delegating. The first conversation with the squad was not about tactics or formation but principles of play. Set pieces, which were the main focus this week, are the remit of two of his four assistants but everyone is invited to offer their input. The same is true of taking drills for his attacking players. No one is excluded, all views are valuable.

Richards celebrates scoring the first goal of the Glasner era (Photo: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

That much played out on the pitch against Burnley. There have, he said, been more meetings than training sessions, and lengthy ones at that, but Glasner has already started to implement his style of play.

The formation he set his team up in, with three at the back, advanced wing-backs and two centre-midfielders with three attackers, is the one he intends to play throughout his tenure. It was similar at his previous club, Eintracht Frankfurt. There is room though for adaptation, with that changing when defending set pieces. He has already instructed his wing-backs to play high up the pitch, to attack the space and be aggressive with quick, dynamic players who are capable of switching play.

Joachim Andersen was tasked with that, pinging long diagonal passes into the right channel for Daniel Munoz — who Glasner described as almost acting as a winger — to attack which proved a successful tactic. Ensuring there were sufficient players in the penalty area was another key tenet of his style, something also implemented to great effect.

While Eberechi Eze and Michael Olise in particular will be vital, he does not want to rely on individuals and is organised and systematic. Everyone has to contribute to be successful.

“I don’t believe one player decides the (result), he always needs the other players,” Glasner said. “The best thing from the game today was the balance we had.” The main difference he said he has made was that “we demanded more runs behind, and attacked more behind the backline”.

There are some players who feel they may find it harder to fit into his system and have some concern that their role in the squad could change. Naturally there has been some apprehension, but Glasner’s polite attitude and approach towards his squad has been appreciated.

He has adjusted training, with a session on Sunday immediately after Saturday’s game and Monday provided as a day off, whereas before it was the other way round.

“We were making sure we had togetherness, desire, confidence and belief to express ourselves,” Joel Ward said. “It’s going to take time to implement things but he’s tweaked bits here and there already — the shape, the way we come out and work together and different triggers, he’s given us guidance on how he wants to do things.

“You can go out there with confidence and belief. He instils that in you and gives you the licence to go out, enjoy yourself and express yourself.”

There may now be more opportunities for youth. Hodgson’s approach was to favour experience in order to minimise risk, a frequent source of friction with the supporters. Glasner named an inexperienced bench on Saturday. That was in part due to injuries, with midfielder Jairo Riedewald the latest to suffer a hamstring problem.

But he has said he is impressed by the academy. Age is not likely to be a determining factor in picking his team, while he made positive, early and effective substitutions against Burnley.

Matheus Franca, the 19-year-old Brazilian, in particular, had a major impact following his 66th minute introduction, with an excellent assist for Jordan Ayew and a determined run which led to him winning a penalty for the third goal. The 21-year-old Naouirou Ahamada looked promising in his natural centre midfield role after being introduced at the same time.

Palace’s pressing intensity was a marked change from Hodgson’s time. They harried Burnley from the start and it was Jefferson Lerma’s intent which pressured goalkeeper James Trafford into a poor pass and prompted Josh Brownhill to haul him down on the edge of the area and receive a red card.

The crowd showed their appreciation throughout, even as they had to be patient, offering support. Palace were more direct, purposeful and, eventually, more clinical. There is still plenty that can be improved and Glasner’s self-described “impatience” will be tested against better teams.

There should be caution in getting too carried away by a win over the team which has conceded the second highest total of goals this season, and who had 10 players for much of the game, but the early impressions from Glasner are encouraging.

“Play as a team, win the crowd and everything will be OK,” he said. That is what his side did. There was no awkward repeat of Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds, however. Instead, We Love You reverberated around Selhurst Park at full-time and toxicity had been replaced by optimism.

(Photo: Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images)

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