High-pressing football and explosive boardroom battles - what Oliver Glasner will bring to Crystal Palace

Oliver Glasner is expected to replace Roy Hodgson as Crystal Palace manager - we look at how he will change their team.
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Roy Hodgson’s second reign at Crystal Palace has ended, with the 76-year-old announcing that he has "taken the decision to step aside". Widespread reports suggesting that former Eintracht Frankfurt manager Oliver Glasner has already agreed to take charge at Selhurst Park until 2026, an announcement of which will likely follow Hodgson's departure later this week. Considering that the Austrian was reported to be a candidate for the Real Madrid job last year, it seems like quite a coup for Palace – but he was also fired by Frankfurt at the end of last season despite achieving European qualification twice in a row and reaching two major cup finals. So who is Glasner, and what will he bring to Palace?

The 49-year-old began his career in Austria, first taking the reins at SV Ried, the club at which he made over 500 appearances as a defender before his career was ended by a brain hemmorhage. Success followed at LASK, who reached Europe for the first time in 16 years under his guidance. He was then hired by VfL Wolfsburg in 2019 before moving on to Frankfurt after two years in charge, winning the Europa League there in 2022 and bringing Champions League football to the club for the first time since it was re-branded from the European Cup. Along the way, he has demonstrated plenty of tactical flexibility, but there have been common patterns to his playing style.

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Glasner is not a dogmatic manager who insists on setting his teams up a particular way, at least in terms of the broad brushstrokes. At Wolfsburg he played to the strengths of a physical front three (which included future Manchester United forward Wout Weghorst) by setting up with a narrow 4-2-3-1 which looked to play quick vertical balls up the middle to the front line. At Frankfurt, where he had more dangerous wide players like Filip Kostić, he preferred a much broader 3-4-3 which transitioned into a 3-3-4 or 3-2-5 in possession, looking to get the ball wide quickly. He will adapt his base formation to the players he has at his disposal at Palace.

But there are common themes among his teams. He likes to play with a very aggressive high press, aiming to create turnovers high up the field and asking his midfielders to run towards opposing ball carriers rather than reforming and dropping back when out of possession. That will be a substantial change for Palace’s players, with Hodgson typically demanding that his players quickly get back behind the ball when possession is lost.

Glasner also puts a lot of emphasis on having his full-backs be heavily involved in both defence and attack, and at Frankfurt in particular they were asked to get right up the other end of the field when the ball was won to form a broader attacking line. Players like Tyrick Mitchell and Daniel Muñoz will have their stamina and speed tested significantly whether Glasner asks them to stick to the byline or to play closer to the middle of the field.

Finally, Glasner likes his players to be fluid in their attacking movement, with players switching positions and improvising to find space in the final third. That should suit players like Michael Olise and Eberechi Eze, who revel in finding half-spaces and have the ball-carrying and technical skills to take advantage of that extra room. Looking at the players Palace have at their disposal, his set-up at Frankfurt – a narrower attacking three with the wing-backs looking to hit the byline from wide areas – seems like the likely direction of travel.

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But while there are some obvious overlaps between the way Glasner likes to play and the strengths of the Palace squad, their ability to adapt to the high press will be crucial. Glasner may not have worked under Jürgen Klopp but that ‘heavy metal’ approach is a core element of his style of play. While other managers, including Klopp, have generally eased off the ultra-aggressive press as a tactic given that many teams have worked hard to become press resistant in the modern game, Glasner showed few signs of winding things down in his final season at Frankfurt.

That had plenty of advantages – Frankfurt tended to score freely and created a high volume of chances on the counter-attack – but also had its downsides. Frankfurt were often vulnerable in transition against opposing midfielders that knew how to handle a quick press, and they conceded plenty as well. They shipped 49 goals in 34 Bundesliga games during Glasner’s first season and 52 in his second, eventually finishing seventh despite outscoring every team outside of the eventual top three of Bayern Munch, Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig.

That doesn’t mean that Glasner will necessarily make Palace more vulnerable at the back. In his previous job at Wolfsburg, he built a far more rugged side whose narrow set-up made them tougher to break down. In his second and final season there, when he took them to a top four finish, they conceded fewer goals than anyone in the league save for Leipzig. The question is whether his core tenet of ultra-aggressive pressing will become a liability or be reined in as more and more teams learn how to handle it – a process which hadn’t really happened while he was at Wolfsburg.

Glasner has also had plenty of success in cup competitions. Winning the Europa League in 2022, beating Barcelona along the way, was the undoubted highlight but he also got his team through the group stages of the Champions League the following year (losing to Napoli in the round of 16) and reached the final of the 2022/23 DFB Pokal, losing 2-0 to Leipzig. Given that success, and the rumours that Real Madrid were considering him as an option if Carlo Ancelotti had left as had been expected, it may seem rather surprising that Frankfurt let him go – but Glasner, who is a fiery and passionate character, can also be abrasive.

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Last season, he ended up at loggerheads with the Frankfurt board over investment in the playing squad. Believing that the Champions League money needed to be spent on new players, he found that those in charge preferred him to develop young players already available and they ended up making a net spend of just €8.4m (£7.2m).

Although some of the budget buys they did make proved very successful – Randal Kolo Muani was signed on a free from Nantes, for instance – the lack of investment frustrated Glasner, and he became distinctly outspoken in post-match interviews, often criticising the board but also individual players for their performances and causing a great deal of friction. It was that, at least as much as a relatively disappointing league finish, which cost him his job.

Given that Palace are not noted as free spenders, at least by Premier League standards, it will be interesting to see whether Glasner ends up battling with another board before too long – and Palace players will have to hope that he doesn’t continue a somewhat José Mourinho-like trend of throwing members of the squad under the bus if things don’t go well.

He can also be stubborn, as well, sticking with his system and certain preferred players even when things aren't going so well, another source of frustration at Frankfurt. He is not a player who likes to rotate and he hasn't historically been keen to bed in youngsters when he has more experienced alternatives available - it will be interesting to see whether that changes at Palace, who have recently invested heavily in potential future stars like Adam Wharton and Matheus França. This will be a test of both his ability to develop young talent and his patience with it.

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Glasner plays high-risk, high-reward football but his personality makes him a gamble as well. At his best, he is passionate and fires his players up as he demands a committed, aggressive style of counter-attacking football. At his worst, he can become negative and generate a sour mood in the dressing room. But he is unquestionably a talented manager with the tactical flexibility to improve teams regardless of the strengths and weaknesses of their squads, and he has a recent track record of strong league finishes and some unexpected silverware. If he can learn from the mistakes he made as a man-manager at Frankfurt, and refine his strategy to account for teams getting better against the press, then he could be a very fine manager for Palace indeed.