Experts on the 5-3-2

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 meister

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.”

Jonker as Academy Director with Arsene Wenger

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.”

Cruyff instructing his coach, De Mos

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….”

Super scout Piet de Visser

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: “Frank de Boer is inhumane”

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)….

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  1. Ummm, I missed where Theo Janssen says De Boer is inhumane. I guess it was a joke but truth be told cockiness and being an ahole won’t take us far. As per 18 million dutch coaches this applies to every nation with a passion for football, it is not just a dutch thing.
    One thing I get from all these opinions is that DeBoer will get a free pass when we crash and burn because he didn’t have enough time to test “the system” or our players are not good enough to play DeBoer’s “system”.
    Good luck.

    1. He said this literally about Frank de Boer. He compared him with Koeman, who has that “arm around the shoulder thing” and others like Fred Rutten who would show an interest in your family etc, but Frank saw/sees players at pawns.

      The recent shenanigans re: Cillesen, Babel and the manner in which St Juste and El Ghazi were informed about their exit didn’t deserve the beauty trophy.

  2. I agree with Stevens. Frenkie should be our 6, he has the ability to break apart plays, and has filled in at CB for Ajax and Barca.

  3. Jan, let’s be honest, ain’t no system/tactic that is going to save this Dutch team or this generation. The roaster that we have here can’t play any system. The majority of our players are technically and physically not there. The 5/3/2 system is only good if your wings back are good. Our wing back are sucks. What does Winjdaal bring to his position. You can even get one good cross from this kid in an entire 90 minutes. Dumfries is a waste. We don’t have a David Alaba or a Philip Lam ect. Berghuis is another waste. For me I think we have to accept the fact that we have failed to produced talented players that we use to and figure out where and how we fell short and look into the future. Stop pretending. With this team, my prediction is, we get knock out in the first round in Euro and we may not even make the next world cup.

    1. This is such a dumb comment. No one here is saying that these guys are world class, in fact, I think everyone is pretty open to the fact that the group is mediocre at best, and most people have quite a few negative things to say about more than half the players.

      Everyone knows that Frank is trying to bake a cake without sugar here, and I have read a single person who is optimistic about the team’s success at this event.

      But they have to go, quality or not. It’s not like the team will just decide to stay home because they’re not going to win this year.

      1. How’s my comment dumb? A lot of you on this blog always pointing out players as if they are playing for Barcelona, Bayern or Chelsea. lol Even Jan sometimes laughed at these suggestions. What is Klaasen doing on the NT? LOL My point is, Dutch fan should spend their time screaming at the Dutch federation to try rebuild Dutch football instead of hoping this Dutch team will make it to the Euro semi final. I stand by what I said earlier, ain’t no system is going to save this Dutch team. By the way there is no comparison between the team Van Gaal had and this one. Second FB in my opinion is just an average coach. He left out the left back from AS Roma for Dumfries. lol

  4. Totally agree with jean_venette.
    We just haven’t produced any class players.
    The best player of this generation is Memphis Depay and he only looked good at PSV. Ever since then he has to look clumsy and slow. If it wasn’t for nepotism, Barcelona wouldn’t be buying him. Holland’s best player is still probably Arjen Robben, and they would have had a chance, if the rest of them just passed him the ball and played 5-4-Robben

  5. As much as I wanna comment, this time I will wait until the euro finishes.

    Intesting comments from the so called experts. This is always the case before tournments when they sit around the table and talk on strategies, who,Why, where,When and so forth.

    At this point I will say two things and this is also in context to the article.firstly

    Past is not equal present

    You play any formation, you need the right players for it

  6. Honestly guys, the players we have aren’t as bad as you guys seem to make them, on the contrary I’d say they’re good, with some being very good and some great.

    We have top CB’s with De Ligt, De Vrij and Ake who all three should start if fit. We have a very promising RB in the name of Timber who should start instead of Dumfries which can solve our problem in that position that for such a long time has been a concern. We have Blind who should play as a left wing back which we know he lacks speed but his passing/crossing is great.

    We have a midfield of Wijnaldum which top teams like Liverpool (wanted to extend his contract) while Barca and PSG are fighting for his signature. I know many of us think he hasn’t played great for Oranje but Gini is a phenomenal player if played at the correct position which I think is where Klopp played him as opposed to Koemans and De Boers where they had him in a more attacking role. We also have De Jong that apparently for some of you guys he is overrated now!!! Frenkie is as special as they come and we should be glad he is Dutch. Big question mark on whos going to be the player next to them. De Roon doesn’t do it for me. Good player to come in when you want to defend a lead but not needed when playing 5-3-2. Gravenberch is very talented and can be an option. Very good with the ball on his feet and could certainly help with his creativity. Klaassen is an option. His constant running and pressure make him a very valuable player for Ajax. He is no Sneijder but I do think Klaassen has the best anticipation out of all our midfielders maybe with the exception of De Jong. He knows exactly where the ball is going to go and he is always there. This is something that a lot of people haven’t noticed about him or neglect to give him credit. We also have Koopmeiners and Donny. Just like De Roon, I don’t think Koopmeiners is needed in this formation. He can be an option for the left CB spot if Ake is not fit and Daley I used on the left wing. As for Donny we don’t really know his form due to his lack of play for United.

    Since we are playing with two up top, we have Depay who’s good enough for a player of the season contention in the French league we have the 4th goalscorer of the Bundesliga Weghorst, we have a very promising Malen who I’d give him a go next to Depay in the game vs Georgia and lastly Luuk who can be a decent sub with his height and set up play when you need a goal.

    Not going to mention any wingers since the 5-3-2 doesn’t require any.

    Again, I think we have a good enough team to shock everyone! Portugal had a far worse team than us and won a Euro! Greece won a Euro with some great defending! They didn’t have exceptional players but they had a TEAM and this is what we are hoping we have.

    As I’ve said time and time again, 5-3-2 is the only way to go in this Euro. Who doesn’t see it this way simply hasn’t followed much the national team lately or the players who play in it. It increases our chances to even compete for the title with some luck on our side that is. 4-3-3 would be disastrous against the top teams with our current wingers and wing backs. My only concern is Frank De Boer. If he can get things right tactically this team will surprise a lot of people. As I have stated numerous times, I’m not Frank’s biggest fan but I fully support his decision on the change of formation and the selection of the current players. I suggest we stop these negative thoughts/comments and leave them after the Euro. If things don’t go well then we can all join the debate as to who’s fault it is.

    1. I agree with your assessment. There are material to make a good team, if we can get it together, we can even win the Euro. Let see what will happen.

  7. I wanna see this after euros. Major overhaul.

    Danjuma-Malen/Brobbrey- Lang


    Frenkie-Veerman- Ihattaren/Van Ginkel

    Bakker- Van Dijk-De ligt


    3-4-3- Diamond midfield with Depay on the tip. Bakker as make shift CB which will suit him better. Time to invest in drommel now.

  8. Agree, a little puzzling. Only Stekelenburg and Blind as changes. Would have liked to see Malen, Gravenberch/Van de Beek…but he’ll probably be substituting early and often again.

  9. Left wing is so bad, Wijndal do nothing, i don’t know why he even hype himself as best LB in Eredivisie. Put Ake in LCB and move Blind to LB is the best we can do.

    There is no play between Depay and Weghorst. And there is no cross into the box Weghorst. If that is the case, just pull Weghorst out and use Malen or Promes.

    1. Georgia created more chances than us. Their finish sucks but this 5-3-2 system is not working. You put 5 defenders and De Roon in, you are supposed to have a strong defense, in reality, Scotland and Georgia created so many chances against us.

      1. Could only catch 30 mins of the 45 but the reason they create so much is that there’s a vacuum in the centre in the 5-3-2, whenever a ball is lost the opposition has lot of space to play through the middle & stretch the flanks.

        You’re right De Roon does not fit well in this line up, Gravenberch should replace him.

  10. I liked having Weghorst on, it was nice seeing a big number 9 up there. He had some good layoffs, naturally finisher’s instinct to shoot on sight.

  11. Our wing play Suks as usual…Dumbfry and winjdal is equally bad….WE MUST GET RID OF THESE GUYS…..
    IF DEBOER WNATS 532 let Bliind play as LB and Timber/Promes as RB…with Ake-Devrij-Deligt…
    Gini wijnaldum is the poorest partner Frenkie could have in NT…Gini lacks the intelligence to play with frenkie…i hope Gravenberch,Dony wiill better than gini with frenkie..
    there is no connection between Weghorst and other forwards..Weghorst worked his BUtt off…
    We are wasting chance with Gakpo

  12. I could not watch entire game but just watching highlights I could see that Georgia was able to find holes in Dutch defense: despite having five defenders, the space was too wide. I think, the more Memphis and Weghorst play together the more chemistry will develop between them. Let’s stay optimistic.

  13. As long as De Roon keeps playing, the team will continue to play poorly. He brings absolutely nothing. He can’t pass, can’t shoot, can’t penetrate, can’t dribble, so what can he do? The fact FDB does not see it says all anyone needs to know about his coaching ability. More and more people in the Netherlands are asking the very same question. Why De roon when we already have 3 central defenders? In addition, he is preventing Frenkie from playing at his best since he is always in his way!!!! We need De Roon out and Grevenberch in. A MF with Frenkie, Wij and Grav would be top class and certainly not far from the very top MF at the Euro. Let’s hope FDB’s brother is able to get through to him but even that is not obvious because one of Frank’s characteristics is his idiotic stubbornness.

  14. Jan, thanks for the article. You have to love the Dutch, their psyches constantly battling between passion, pragmatism and cynicism. No wonder I enjoyed growing up there.

    Couple of impressions from the game – loved what I saw from both Weghorst and Malen. Dumfries’ aggressiveness and strength in the air I liked, literally never giving the ball down the line to the runner (generally wijnaldum) in favor of passing back to the D I didn’t like. De Vrij looked in command, and Timber looks like a revelation. Like others I don’t the value add of De Roon – there’s just not enough football there. Frankie started a bit off with his passes, but once toward the back end of his time he looked completely in command and razor sharp. Memphis looked totally comfortable and in control. Given our current talent distribution I like the 5-3-2.

  15. One other thing – I don’t get people’s negativity here. I see a generation still in transition, but on the rise. Gravenberch, Gakpo, Timber, Weghorst, Frenkie, de Ligt, Wijndal… Add in Memphis and Wijnaldum who will still be in the mix the next couple of tournaments, Virgil coming back, Ake, de Vrij, I don’t know, man, while you guys are over in a corner whining to each other about how everything sucks, how Tahith Chong is a misunderstood genius, etc. I’m going to be over here delighting in how this group of guys roots for each other, plays hard for each other and their country, and comes together as a world class squad.

      1. 100%, glad to see some realism here. Everyone on this blog likes to complain that the quality isn’t there as though Frank is deliberately picking like a C squad or something.

        I slightly understand some frustrations, because Koeman spent 2 years doing the transition, and then it was like Frank started all over again, but the fact of the matter is that these are our players, its the best team we have, and now FDB has to find a way to make them optimal.

        1. I didnt wanted to comment but am being forced to reading the above comments.You see this is exactly what im I have been saying and been critical about. this is no negativity but fast becoming a can not run and neither hide from this. Everytime NT’s performace is above average vs average teams, the hype umbrella is out.come the next game if it is vs an above average or more competitive team and when the performance is average to below average like last weak vs scotland, the umbrella is gone and its back to square one and defensive mode. I think jean_venette also touched on this in the previous blog.

          you cant just pretend that by beating George, the team has shifted to another gear.

          Its understandable that FDB is trying to make things happen but he has put himself in that situation. If he would have been more flexible in his selection earlier he would have in a better position now. For how long have the critics being calling upon on him for weghorst selection. He calls him up on the last hour, what do you expect to happen. If you want to put a blind eye on this, your discretion but it wont change the fact of whats unfoding.

    1. Robin…infact winjdal,Dumbfry and de roon sucks afect the games of others and our flow….these 3 needs to be replaced…Winjdal is lesser to Annholt,Blind,Jtero williams,Malacia and Sinkgraven….
      De roon is very lesser to koopmeiners,Frenkie,Gini,Gravenberch,Bazoer…
      Dumbfry is lesser to Timber,karsdorp,Rensch….
      i hope Blind plays at LB at 532

        1. Hateboer,dumbfry,winjdal,de roon these players lacks quality…i would not add even Luuk de jong in this list…Luuk has delivered for us when mattered…these guys are porblem to play better football/..

  16. it was disgusting to watch Dumbfry,winjdal and De roon yesterday…They dont belong in dutch NT level…these 3 are seriuos concern now…our chances depends on removing them..

  17. I only watched the first 30mins of the game, but judging from the various comments/reports, seems we aren’t ready for the start of euro. Apparently, 5-3-2 isn’t yielding the results we expecting, despite the more defenders and a certain De Roon, we are shakier than ever to concede goals. This could be down to the unfamiliarity of the players in this system. Somehow I feel the players are playing with uncertainty, don’t know whether to press or hold. Frenkie De Jong is very quiet and not influential at all! Wijndal continues to underwhelm, and Dumfries’s heavy touch remains. All these don’t bode well for the team at all.
    Even for Depay, I would think he will be less prolific comes the actual tournament where opponents will up their play.
    I still believe we have good players, just poor coaching. See how Erik Ten Hag can make Ajax play nice football with no world ☆ players.

  18. Our
    Back line if play
    Timber–Deligt–Devirj-ake –Blind
    They are top class and world beaters…they are second to none…
    Our Midfeild
    they are top class and world beaters…
    Our forwards
    Memphis–Gakpo-Malen–Lukk are more than decent and capable of winning a Wc oe EC….
    But we are fuc###4ked with Winjdal,dumbfry,veltman,De roon,klassen…..when you start game with winjdal,Dumbfry,Dumbfry…you are done for 60 minutes…UNLESS YOU SUB any of these low quality players…

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