All sorts of things race through my mind and many new posts are being formed in my head while we still process those dreadful two games.
A question I got on the blog is “What do I think of the players we have coming through the system…”…. Well let me go into that a bit.
Lets start with some key comments:
In my view, having to have great world class players is not everything. Greece 2004 did not have world class players. Yet they won the Euros. In 1990, Holland had amazing individual players and the end result was horrific. The key is, to have a strong team. Probably with a number of world class players, but we don’t need eleven or sixteen world beaters.
Another comment I need to make is: what do we want? Do we want to play Total Football. Dutch School? If yes, what is that exactly? And if that is our objective, is qualifying or winning trophies important as well? If so, what is more important? Or…do we want to be say “forget Dutch School” and let’s just play to win. Like Van Gaal did in 2014. Realistic football, based on the quality at hand.
Van Oostveen is not looking too confident here…
I believe Bert van Oostveen made a mistake in giving Hiddink/Blind the charter to “return to Total Football”. Return to 4-3-3. We don’t have the players for this and most teams these days do not play 4-3-3. They play 5-3-2 (which makes 3-5-2 or 3-4-3) or 4-2-3-1… Somehow, Hiddink and co. wanted to move away from Van Gaal’s “anti-football”. It was the purists complaining (Cruyff, Van Hanegem) but maybe it is important to be realists. I didn’t complain when LVG went 5-3-2. I didn’t complain when we almost made it to the World Cup finals.
If we want to play at top level, competing for trophies, we need to create a system that fits our players. Louis did this…
As for talent, I also want to point out the typical categories we have seen in the past (and present) and what we can expect in the future…. And let’s not forget: we don’t need eleven super world class players to win trophies. We need a healthy mix….
1. Super talents and became real consistent quality players
2. Super talents who never really converted their talent at the top level
3. Overlooked players who became world beaters
So lets look at some players we know today and see what can happen…
1. Super talents who became real consistent quality players
In my book, players like Frank Rijkaard, Marco van Basten, Dennis Bergkamp, Frank & Ronald de Boer, Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben spring to mind. Players who were spotted as young talents, both by their coaches, the media, the public and the KNVB. Usually, these kids have the spotlights on them at a young age and manage to work and develop their way to greatness. At this stage, we are looking at lads like Vilhena, Bazoer, Stef van Beek, Jairo Riedewald, Jetro Willems, Memphis Depay, Nathan Ake and Davy Klaassen… I think Daley Blind, Willems, Memphis and Bazoer will make it. From what I have seen…
The jury is still out of course. Memphis played approx 6 serious games for Man United and only impressed against Brugge, which is sort of the level Memphis was used to at PSV… I haven’t seen him dazzle against the EPL opposition as yet. Willems had his little setback season already but from what I have seen since, I think he is the real deal. Bazoer impresses me every week but with all these talents it is a matter of 1) will their bodies be able to withstand the pressure, 2) will their mentality be strong enough, 3) will their management do what is best for them and 4) will they make the right choices in stepping up from their current level… Royston Drenthe comes to mind… A huge prospect, who left too early, to the wrong club and Royston probably also did not have the mental strength to deal with all that stuff.
When all worked….
In the past, Rijkaard was almost led astray (PSV, Sporting Lisbon) and Dennis Bergkamp had trouble at Inter…. Robben suffered physically and Wes also got lost in the desert for a spell.
Ricardo Kishna and El Ghazi are also seen as “sensational talents” but Kishna didn’t really prove to be one at Ajax while El Ghazi is just starting to deliver on the promise.
2. Super talents who never really converted their talent at the top level
Here we get to the level of Cedric van der Gun, Frans van Rooij, Mario Been, Jantje Peters, Marcel Peeper, John van ‘t Schip, Gerald Vanenburg, Edwin Gorter, Ryan Babel, Hedwiges Maduro, Royston Drenthe, Kyle Ebicilio, Quincy, Peter Hoekstra, Bryan Roy, Ibi Afellay, Richard Witschge. All these guys had super reputations when they were playing for the youth teams. Most of them played rep football for the Dutch from a young age and most were compared with the great Johan Cruyff, the great Willem van Hanegem or the great Ruud Krol (depending on their role in the team). They were all brought carefully into the first teams at their clubs and most of them made their way into the Dutch team… But somehow, they never delivered on their promise. Some had the bad luck of physical problems (Van der Gun, Pepper, Peter Hoekstra, Afellay), others made the decision to leave their club too soon or go to the wrong club (Royston Drenthe, Richard Witschge) while others simply lacked the mentality to make it big…
Johnny Rep, Ruud Krol and Jantje Peters
They seemed uncoachable ( Quincy) or lacked discipline or simply couldn’t be bothered to be team players. Some players excelled at youth level but couldn’t make it work for them at senior level (Vanenburg, Babel, Gorter, Been). At this stage, Holland has a number of these lads. I think Adam Maher currently is in this category. I think Boetius might be the same and players like Fer, Wijnaldum, Davy Klaassen, Siem de Jong, Luuk de Jong and Martins Indi might end up in this basket. Exciting players when they’re young. Highly impressive in the Dutch league when they first make their appearance. But when the surprise factor wears off, they appear to be mediocre… Not that there is anything wrong here… Players like Vanenburg, Van ‘t Schip, Roy and Afellay have had good runs at their clubs and country but they simply never made it to the level that was expected of them when they were young… At this stage, Bruma, Klaassen, Wijnaldum, Narsingh, Promes, Lens could all end up in this category.
3. Overlooked players who became world beaters
This is an exciting category. Philip Cocu, Arthur Numan, Jaap Stam, Jan Wouters, Dirk Kuyt, Roy Makaay come to mind. This is the category of players that suddenly catch your eye. I saw Jaap Stam coming. I remember him at Cambuur and Willem II. And after a couple of weeks, you hear this name more often in highlight reels and you realise that this unknown lad is a powerhouse. Cocu, similar story. Brought as flegmatic talent at AZ. Went to Vitesse as a left winger and mixed good games with invisible games. PSV took a gamble, he ended up playing in midfield and became one of Holland’s best midfielders ever. And the somewhat complacent left winger became a mentally strong leader, who captained Barcelona! Jan Wouters is another example. Overlooked by many clubs and brought to Ajax by Cruyff when he was already a tad older… Marco van Basten highly criticized this signing until he realised that with Wouters behind him, his job was easier… And in West Germany, in 1988, it was Wouter’s pass in the semi finals that led to Bassie’s winner… Arthur Numan was a big fish in a little club (Haarlem) until he became a smaller fish in a big team (Oranje!). Dirk Kuyt made steps from Katwijk, to Utrecht, to Feyenoord, to Oranje, to Liverpool. And with every step, people said “he’s not going to survive that level” and everytime he did! Kevin Strootman is in this category as well, as is Jordy Clasie. The latter was told time and time again by his youth coaches at Feyenoord: “laddie, give it up. It won’t work for you. You’re too small for top football.” In the past, the Dutch team saw players like Winston Bogarde, Michael Reiziger, Peter van Vossen, Adrie van Tiggelen, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Nigel de Jong become important, on the basis of their mentality, grit and personality. In today’s team, I rate Strootman and Clasie of this level but also Dost and Ron Vlaar.
Jan Wouters, FC Utrecht, vs Lerby Ajax. Both would become midfield captains at Bayern Munich
My point with all of this, is that in every successful team in the past, we had players that were known to be bright stars and we had players that came from nowhere. We had players that were essential to the team but they weren’t considered great talents.
The 1974 team won silver in West Germany and had usual suspects such as Cruyff, Van Hanegem and Rensenbrink, but Wim Rijsbergen was a nobody. Slow and definitely an ugly player. But tough as nails. Young upstart Arie Haan played as center back. And Johan Neeskens was quite an unknown playing for HFC before someone tipped Ajax to sign him.
Top dogs Piet Keizer and Sjaak Swart didn’t get a look in. And Michels only found the winning line up days before the Tournament started. Oh, and did I mention that Oranje actually had a terrible qualification series? And actually shouldn’t have qualified as they scored an offside goal against Belgium, which when disallowed would have meant the exit for The Netherlands? Freaky, no?
The 1978 team got silver in Argentina. Big name players like Cruyff and Van Hanegem were not present. Young upstarts Brands, Poortvliet and Wildschut impressed, with Haan and Krol as the leading players. The three PSV youngsters were not rated as hot talents but they fitted perfectly in the team.
In 1988, in West Germany, Holland won it’s first and only trophy. Playing 4-4-2. With under rated Erwin Koeman in the team to cover for Arnold Muhren. Limited players like Berry van Aerle and Adri van Tiggelen completed the team, while wonderboy Gerald Vanenburg was working his ass off for Gullit and Van Basten.
The 1998 Oranje was very close to playing the finals. Looking back on that performance, players like Bergkamp and Cocu admitted that they never really considered themselves good enough for the finals. They didn’t play like they had a chance to win it. In hindsight, they can kick themselves.
My point being…the whole debate about 4-3-3 being the “Dutch School” is silly. The whole point about talent and skill and experience is silly. It is about Team. With capital T.
Team. Tactics. Tenacity. Skill and talent and experience are very handy. But without team, without desire and without a clear idea as to how to play, we will never win anything. This is what made the Greeks win 2004. And what fuels the Germans always!
So sure, our lads can all play. Outside foot passing, pannas, dribbles, cool step overs… all nice and dandy. But the Mark van Bommel / Edgar Davids / Johan Neeskens will to win, is essential. Because at a Euros or at a World Cup, every player can play football.
Piet Wildschut in 1978
With the players we have, I think we should be able to 1) qualify and 2) win trophies.
As the past has demonstrated: a team full of super players doesn’t necessarily mean you win trophies. And vice versa, many mediocre teams have won trophies over the years. From Greece to Germany (1996) to Atletico Madrid and FC Porto.
If we, for the sake of discussion, simply accept that all the Dutch players are capable in handling the ball. And we accept that they all are fit enough to play top football, then the aspects we need to focus on are: 1. tactical strength, 2. mental strength and 3. desire.
If I have to judge our current players on this, then for me the jury is not too positive on the following players: Klaassen, Promes, Narsingh, Martins Indi, Lens, Van der Wiel, Afellay, Boetius, Maher.
Players that get the benefit of the doubt are: Wijnaldum, Van Ginkel, Fer, Bruma, Riedewald, Tete, Berghuis, De Guzman, Bacuna, Van Dijk, Van Beek, Vilhena.
Players that I believe have what it takes in this particular department are Daley Blind, Luuk de Jong, Clasie, Bas Dost, Pieters, Janmaat, Willems, De Vrij,
The good thing is, that the question marks are all playing in the EPL or at top level in Holland (so we can spot them well). Playing in Holland is not necessarily a good thing. I am certain Bruma developed well with Terry and Lampard and Drogba as training buddies while at PSV it is all bit more laissez-fair. The ones that make it in the EPL will most likely have what it takes in the work rate department…
The ones that demonstrate the right development path – such as Blind, De Jong and Willems – will definitely be the backbone of future Oranje squads. I just wish some of them would lose that “lets play some nice football” attitude and develop a “over my dead body” mentality…
All in all, I am not negative about our potential futute. We certainly have the quality. We now need to pair the quality with the grit and pick a coach who will use what he have in a tactical system that works…
Danny Blind can still be that guy, if he leans more to Van Gaal and less to Cruyff. If not him, the likes of Ronald Koeman, Frank de Boer, John van den Brom or Ron Jans come to mind as future national team coaches.
Danny Blind with son Daley Blind