Us Oranje fans here on the blog knew it already: The Netherlands consist of 18 million national team managers. Everyone is an expert. Everyone has an opinion. And like you guys here, everyone wants to voice his/hers.
Below are some excerpts of comments by the Dutch experts :-).
Louis van Gaal was national coach twice. The abysmal campaign for the WC2002 we all remember but so do we still dream of the successes in WC2014. He was the one to push for the 5-3-2. His words: “I think this is the best system currently available. I had to get used to that, as I too was brought up with 4-3-3. But this gives you so much options: you can attack, defend, you can pressure the opponent or if you want, you can sit deep and counter. You yourself are better protected with three central defenders. The balance in the team is better with 5-3-2.”
Van Gaal does get criticism on his beliefs by people who like to point out that the Oranje of 2014 got their successes every time Van Gaal changed back from 5-3-2 to 4-3-3 but a thorough analysis demonstrates this is actually not correct. We beat Spain with 5-3-2, as we did Chili. Our only game where the 4-3-3 didn’t really work was against Australia but the winning goal that got us the point was not a result of a tactical switch, but basically a lucky distance shot by Memphis. Didn’t really have anything to do with tactics.
Van Gaal: “In the top, everyone plays like this. And it can work, but the players need to believe in it. If they don’t, like the Dutch media doesn’t like it, then it will fail. Take Memphis, for him it’s a perfect system. He is the creative one. Leave him be. And there is creativity at the back and in midfield as well, with Frenkie de Jong and Daley Blind. The media and the fans are always mesmerized by individuals. Mbappe, Neymar, Messi, C Ronaldo. They didn’t win the Champions League, recently. It’s the best team that wins it. Chelsea: a team! Last season Bayern and before that it was Liverpool. It’s always the best team that wins.”
“I did have one thing going for me, back then. I had the Dutch players two weeks early in my prep camp. And these guys – with Vlaar from Aston Villa- were my defenders. So I could work for two weeks purely on defence, before the big guns (Robben, Van Persie and Sneijder) joined in. And the key to success in a 5-3-2? The defenders need to defend forward, press forward. Never walk back. Keep pressure on and you will smother the opponent. The result vs Scotland is not so relevant for me. It was a practice match.”
Huub Stevens (former Europa Cup winner with PSV, former coach of PSV, Schalke 04, HSV Hamburg, PAOK): “The Scotland game was not great but I do understand why De Boer wants to try this. Sadly, he doesn’t have the time to perfect it. We missed Daley Blind vs Scotland, Marten de Roon is not a playmaker. And I want to see Frenkie play central. I also missed the flying wing backs. These are essential in this system. We made it easy for Scotland. I can see it work for Oranje, even with Memphis as lone striker, who can move about and make space for the penetrating runs from midfield. When you do have Klaassen, Van de Beek, Wijnaldum and even Frenkie, they can all join in and arrive in the area, versus already being there.”
Foppe de Haan (former Heerenveen coach and national team manager of Young Oranje winning two trophies): “I think we shouldn’t make the system so important. When my team plays 4-3-3 with one holding mid, you can stop the tape and different situations in a game and see all sorts of systems being used. It’s all about the execution, not about the name of the system. I would use a system that players know. I don’t think there is time now to perfect the 5-3-2, so just stick to 4-3-3 and tweak that where needed.”
Andries Jonker (former assistant to Van Gaal, Arsenal Academy director and football tactics “professor”): “We played this system vs Scotland without Blind and with Frenkie and Wijnaldum playing 30 minutes. These are your best players. So how can you judge this team performance and system, based on that one game? I think Frank can make progress with this. And don’t forget, the other big nations are not playing their opponents off the pitch either. Belgium? Draw against Greece. Our players are smart and all play for demanding coaches. And lets look at 4-3-3? We don’t have the typical wingers you need for this. We don’t have a Robben. Our wingers are not world class. But Memphis is. So use him in his power. And with either a dynamic Malen or the static #9, he can run rings around defenders. I think the 3rd midfielder will be key. Who will Frank pick next to Frenkie and Gini? I’m sure Frank will get it right.”
Aad de Mos (former Ajax, PSV and KV Mechelen coach, winner of Europa cup): “Within 5 minutes you could see that it’s not easy to get a performance from this team in this set up. We are schooled in 4-3-3 and the players are clearly having problems with the changes. 5-3-2 can work against strong opponents, but then you need to play on the counter. But for the first Euro games it makes no sense! And the reactions from the players afterwards were clear: they don’t like it. Memphis, De Ligt, Wijnaldum… You don’t have 3 weeks anymore, you need to build your winning team now. Or better, you should have it already. Now you need to work on details, specifics. Dead ball situations, patterns, partnerships. I don’t think Wijndal and Dumfries are right for this 5-3-2. Wijndal is tactically still immature. He is constantly looking and probing and looks puzzled. And Dumfries… he has limited ball skils for a player who needs to cross a ball in. He has hard-nosed boots, it seems. It hurts my eyes at times….”
Piet de Visser (ex coach, educator, discoverer of Ronaldo, Neymar, De Bruyne and Ronaldinho and super scout for Chelsea): “Are you going to play 5-3-2 vs Scotland?? Really? It was an abomination to watch. I never spoke about systems. Systems are being made very important, but it’s about what you do in certain situations, no matter what the system. I used 4-3-3 with some variations. Keep it simple: use a De Roon type player when you face Spain or Italy. Use a football player when you play Scotland or Austria. At times you play 5-4-1, at times you play 4-2-4. Keep it simple: Krul in goal. Then Blind, De Ligt, De Vrij, Timber. Midfield: Frenkie, Wijnaldum and Klaassen and up front: Berghuis, Memphis and Weghorst. And against strong opponents, you play Memphis as 9 and use Malen as left winger and sacrifice Berghuis or Klaassen.”
Theo Janssen (ex Ajax, ex Twente, currently coach of Young Vitesse): “I think we can play 5-3-2 but not without Blind. You need a smart build up player from the back. He has the vision and the passing range. Yes, De Ligt needed to get used to it, but he will. He’s a smart player. De Vrij doesn’t know better. And lets face it, we don’t have top wingers. Berghuis is top but on the left, Gakpo is still young and unexperienced. Promes didn’t have a great season and I don’t think Memphis should be playing from the left. Memphis needs to be your false 9. I think a player like him needs to play where he wants. Period. And if this Oranje can only play 4-3-3, well, maybe we simply don’t have players that are really good.”
I think we’ll see another 5-3-2 attempt vs Georgie, but this time:
But I also believe Frank will play 4-3-3 in the Euro group games and if that goes well (and I think it will) we will keep on playing that until we bump into a very strong opponent (France, Spain, Belgium)….