I know, I said it before: friendlies are not that interesting. For us, the viewers. I always hope it is good for the coach. This friendly vs Spain for instance. We don’t play the best eleven, as we have two big games around the corner. Same applies to Spain. The players who played never played together before. We had to endure injuries in the run up to these games. And De Boer uses 6 subs, which never helps the flow of a match.
So, we drew 1-1 vs Spain. Big deal.
Still, I think there is a lot to cheer here, and I am going to be first one here to say it: I think appointing Frank de Boer was a good thing!
Before I go into it, a quick summary of the game, from my end, and some comments on players.
We were second best in the first half, and Spain was second best in the second. We lost the first half, but won the second half.
The reason: we didn’t push up from defence to pick up players in between the lines. There was a disrupt between defence and midfield, resulting in a dangerous situation every time Spain repossessed the ball.
The cause: 1) lack of fluidity and understanding between players, 2) lack of real top quality on the pitch (Hateboer, Veltman), 3) lack of courage.
We fixed it in the second half and voila.
As for individual performances: for me, Owen Wijndal was one of the best out there. He definitely gave his calling card to the coach. Wijnaldum was good. Steven Berghuis was good (off the ball, but sadly, his team mates didn’t have the courage to play him in). Dumfries showed why he should be RB #1 (for now). Davy Klaassen showed his strengths. Stefan de Vrij was strong when he came on.
Also, the aforementioned Hateboer and Veltman came up short again, while Luuk de Jong also demonstrated all his weaknesses.
But that is all a snapshot of course. Hateboer is revered in Bergamo. Veltman is a starter in the EPL and Luuk de Jong got Seville a European Cup, so….
But why am I excited about Frank de Boer, all of a sudden?
For starters, he ticks all the boxes. Age, history as world class player, financially independent, Dutch, Ajax / Oranje / Van Gaal pedigree.
He has some scars now too (Palace, Inter) which will make any coach a better coach and in Frank’s case, will add to his motivation to really make this work. This is not Guus Hiddink, who refused to come to KNVB meetings and preferred to play golf, or Ruud Gullit who leaves practices to his assistants to go shopping in Amsterdam.
His main strength is: his honesty. Brutally honest.
Where Ronald Koeman had to act the benevolent uncle to the squad, picking them up after a dreadful couple of years and instilling them with confidence and self-esteem, it is now time for a more mature approach. Where Koeman protected his players in the media, De Boer has already been more critical of his players in 1 month than Koeman was during his whole tenure.
When Oranje struggled in the first half vs Spain, De Boer saw the problem immediately, and tackled it at half time. Koeman would not have mentioned in the press conference. Koeman would have used generic statements. De Boer simply said: “We lacked the courage in defence to step out and follow their forwards in between the lines. We had huge holes in between defence and midfield and we solved it during the break.”
Eat that, Joel Veltman.
And he went on: “I’m not saying you get the death penalty for letting a man go in between the lines, but that is where Spain will hurt you and we weren’t alert enough or courageous enough.”
He also complimented Frenkie and Wijnaldum for alleviating pressure at times but was critical about the decision making of his team: “You need to be able to read the game and know when to play long on De Jong, or when to pass your way out of trouble.”
Another aspect of De Boer vs Koeman: the current Barca gaffer had the tendency to keep his squad intact. There were heaps of questions about Strootman, about Babel but Koeman would praise Strootman’s mentality and kept him close. He was one of Koeman’s captains, when he started out in 2018. Frank de Boer only needed 1 month in charge to drop Strootman. And when he needed fresh blood in midfield, he didn’t go for the comfortable solution (call up Kevin), but brought in 18 year old talent Gravenberch. De Boer won’t be afraid to use fresh players, if he thinks they’re ready. He didn’t call up experienced goalies like Sergio Padt (Groningen) or Pasveer (Vitesse) when Bijlow got injured, but 23 year old Drommel.
Last time around, vs Italy, Frank defied the pundits and kept Berghuis benched, because the system he decided on lacked a right winger. And the Italy result (and performance) said the coach was right.
Just like we could and should have won versus Spain, (missed chances Memphis and Luuk de Jong), we could have beaten Italy with that system.
Now, Frank is clearly not the most fluid communicators. People like Koeman, Ten Cate, Gullit and Peter Bosz do have more flair. Yes, but the football smarts De Boer has will compensate for this. He also has a sharp sense of humour, cynical, which works well amongst footballers.
So the way we look at Frank, is via his interviews, and he will never dazzle with those. But the players will judge him on his actual craftsmanship and I think he has enough. And probably exactly what this team needs.
It’s time to go from Koeman’s Kids to De Boer’s Boars…