My friends, it has been too long… Happy New Year to all of you!
May 2016 be a great year for you all. I hope most wishes will come true. Not all, as we need some wishes for 2017 and beyond. I do know we won’t win the Euros this year. Sorry to bring that up….
My 2015 was rocky. A rollercoaster ride. Mostly all tremendous lessons and learning. Can’t have the peaks without the troughs, right?
I won’t bore you with the details of my journey. Unless you really want to know :-).
From a Dutch Football perspective, it was a terrible year. Downright awful!
I am still not over it and it’s part of the reason why I needed a break after the last friendly games we played.
Or should I say: game. The Germany game not being played. Saved us another defeat probably….
Dutch football is sick. And for this reason, I did not find a lot of motivation to write a lot. I do apologise. It’s part of the reason, but an important one.
However, this year, we’ll pick up the pace. End of year in Holland always gives us lots of good interviews in several Dutch media and I will bring you some of those in the coming weeks.
A new year does call for a look back at the previous year. 2015, the year Dutch football got egg on its face. And we saw it coming, didn’t we?
In 2010, we reached the finals of the World Cup. With players under contract at Inter Milan, Arsenal, AC Milan, Tottenham Hotspur and Man City. We lost by a Casillas toe and a Webb fuck up.
In 2012, we had our first massive warning, but under the guidance of Louis van Gaal we almost repeated the 2010 result. With players under contract at Manchester United, Bayern Munich, Feyenoord, AC Milan, Ajax and PSV Eindhoven.
Playing an un-Dutch style of game. Covering up our weaknesses and utilising the skills of the likes or Robben, Robin, Sneijder, Vlaar and Depay.
It resulted in some good moves for players like Janmaat, Blind and De Vrij.
But you know what happened….
The Dutch Federation felt it was smart to hire a totally different style of coach than success bringer LVG. Focusing on bringing Dutch School football back to the fore.
Without Robben and Van Persie we failed to dazzle. We failed to score. We failed to stop goals from dropping in and we ended up without Dutch School football and without results.
Albania, Luxembourg and Andorra qualified for the Euros. Holland didn’t.
Exit Hiddink, but Bert van Oostveen stayed and so did Danny Blind.
Time will tell if Blind is the right man for the job.
The debacle of Oranje is not an isolated issue.
This year, Frank de Boer claimed Ajax could go all the way to the semis in the Europa League. They didn’t even survive their group. With Molde. And Celtic.
Feyenoord didn’t register. AZ and Groningen were bit part actors on the European scene and only PSV was able to impress. But, at the expense of their domestic results.
While we had players at Real Madrid, Inter and Arsenal in 2010, in 2015 our only top notch players were Arjen Robben at Bayern and Daley Blind at Man United. But Blind is a utility player at a club struggling to sustain their status in the EPL.
All other players seem to be fringe players. Janmaat, Anita and Wijnaldum are playing relegation football, Bacuna will probably get relegated this season. Martins Indi is struggling at Porto. Memphis is not performing yet for Man United. Nigel de Jong, Raf van der Vaart. Klaas Jan Huntelaar…all disappointing in the autumn/winter of their careers.
Steven Berghuis disappeared, Vlaar is back at AZ, De Vrij is injured and Lens can’t get a look in at Sunderland. Nor can Clasie at Southampton. Siem de Jong got his chance at Newcastle and blew it while his younger brother Luuk does well in the Eredivisie but failed at Gladbach and Newcastle. The list goes on. Van Wolfswinkel… Eemnes….Biseswar…Babel….
It doesn’t look good.
And it’s not just the senior team of Oranje, the youth teams have disappointed also. I will give you my analysis at the end of this post.
Erik Pieters is a high light and that means we are in trouble. Krul is injured, Vorm is happy as a sub in London but Stekelenburg seems on the way back.
We are still developing talent, but our biggest prospect – Zyiech – decided to play for Morroco while El Ghazi, Boetius, Maher, Klaassen and Vilhena don’t really make a dent internationally.
Still, I am not without hope. We do develop good players, with grit even. Davy Propper is one to watch. Against Man United and Wolfsburg he showed his class and talent. Rick Karsdorp, Sven van Beek and Terence Kongolo have quite some growth and Bazoer will most likely become a world class midfielder. Kenny Tete and Riedewald have a lot of future too, as has young midfielder Donny van de Beek.
Once Jetro Willems is back from injury and Stefan de Vrij returns, we do seem to have a couple of good youngsters who could give impetus to Oranje.
The developments of said Pieters, Afellay and Van Ginkel at Stoke City is also quite hopeful.
We need to accept reality as it is. Which for me means that Danny Blind will have to be realistic about our capabilities. He is in charge of the senior team and needs to get us to qualify for the World Cup.
How he does it is up to him. 5-3-2 is an option but all hinges on the availability of our players. I’m talking Robben and Sneijder, in particular.
We can play 4-3-3 against certain opponents if the big names are available. We can play 3-4-3 and 5-3-2. Depending on opponent and players fit and in form.
But we do need to add grit and desire and clarity of our tactics. Trying to dazzle with a team lacking quality and what I call “automatisms” is shear suicide.
The reason why Spain and Germany can play their football as they do has all to do with the fact that the spine of these teams is made up of players that have played together a lot and for a long time.
We are in the process of mixing the old with the new. The very gifted with the less so gifted.
Bas Dost is no Van Persie. Jeremain Lens or Luciano Narsingh or El Ghazi is no Arjen Robben. And Davy Klaassen is no Rafa van der Vaart. Hell, Cillesen is no Van der Sar.
So, we need to adapt our tactics to these realities.
At the same time, the clubs and the KNVB need to have learned from our woeful descent.
And here is my analysis.
In the 1960s and 1970s, all national teams had their own “identity”. They played according to the nation’s culture. Now, I will be generalising for a spell here, but please endulge me.
Coz I know West Germany actually had great players in the 1970s, just like Hungary had a superb team in the 1950s. Like the Austrians. But overall, the nations developed their football in a certain way.
England was all kick and rush. Lots of running, phyiscal strength, opportunistic play and tactically “undeveloped”.
Italy leaned on their defence. Catenaccio was the key tactics. They had great players in Mazzola and Rivera to name a few, but they played with 7 behind the ball.
West and East Germany were teams with lots of lungs and discipline. Athletes, never give up, but tactically predictable.
Spain was always full of gifted players but lacked confidence and lacked team spirit.
Brazil was playful but not always disciplined and for a spell in the mid 1970s very physically tough and even mean, like other South American nations (Argentina, Uruguay).
The Scandinavians played like England, with less talent. In the 1980s, Denmark had a period with sensational players but weren’t able to sustain that level.
The USSR, leaning on the Dynamo Kiev style, had magnificently fit players who played a programmed style of football, very much in sync with the communism of that day. The team is everything, the individual has to make way for the team. Most players wanted to reach the top so they could defect to the west whenever their chances came up.
And the Dutch, well we sort of invented Total Football. We had tactical and technical advantages. We analysed the game played by the other nations and we were usually able to outsmart them. We had players all over the pitch with superb ball skills. Players like Ruud Krol, Rinus Israel, Willem van Hanegem and Piet Keizer could do anything with a ball. From 45 meter passes to reverse through passes to scoring goals.
And herein lies the problem. We also brought arrogance to the pitch. The 1974 squad looked like rock stars and the likes of Gullit and Van Basten wouldn’t be much different in 1988.
However, the other nations all took a page from the Oranje book. In the 1980s, Johan Cruyff injected some Dutch tactics and development systems into Barca which has fueled the Spanish national team. In 2000, the German federation copied the development systems of the KNVB and in 2006 the world watched Ozil, Muller and Kroos come to the fore.
Arsene Wenger is a renowned fan of Dutch football and Jose Mourinho used what he learned from Van Gaal in his early career in Portugal. As did Arrigo Sacchi and Fabio Capello at AC Milan in Italy.
In England, the likes of Rene Meulensteen, Dean Gorre and Andries Jonker work in academies of big clubs while our KNVB coaches have gone to Australia, South Korea and even India and China to teach their principles.
This means, that most nations around us have used the Dutch total football style into their existing playing styles. So the English still play physical and in a high pace, but using Dutch styles in their game. Germany still have mental strength and focus, but they have added our tactical and technical skills. Same for Italy and Spain and other nations….
And the Dutch? Did we incorporate English grit? German mentality? Italian defensive qualities?
No we did not. We believe(d) that being able to control the ball was all it took.
Ad this is why our top talents, such as Memphis, Berghuis, Boetius, Raymond Beerens and others (Babel, Drenthe, Maduro, De Ridder) were never able to bring their level of quality to other competitions. Nice and playful in de Eredivisie. Lacking everything in other areas of the game.
Only a few can rise above it. Only the sensationally talented (Robben, Van der Vaart, Sneijder) or the very committed ones (De Vrij, Anita, Nigel de Jong)….
Will it be enough? Probably not.
But hopefully, the failure to reach the Euros might have woken up some people. With coaches like Frank de Boer, Gio van Bronckhorst, Phillip Cocu, Peter Bosz, Ronald Koeman and Henk Fraser sticking to their guns, we might see the impetus needed to change things.
Whether the current board and management team of the KNVB will usher us into this New Realism, remains to be seen….
Coming up…. Interviews with Dennis Bergkamp, Guus Hiddink and Danny Blind!!