Koeman: Questions and Answers

In the last years, heaps and heaps of questions arose around Dutch football, the national team, our development and football vision and more.

When Koeman came on board as the new NT coach, we expected him to come up with the answers, at least for the NT.

Koeman wanted to use the four friendly games, to come up with clarity, to give the answers.

Now, with those four matches behind us (1 loss against WC contenders England, 1 victory over Euro champs Portugal and two draws, both “games with two halves”), it is time to make up the balance. And lets look at the questions that were answered and the questions that remain…well….questions.

The system

It’s clear that Koeman opted for the “5 at the back” system from day 1 and he wasn’t going to be persuaded to change that. It is a good system to use (5 in defence when loss of possession, 4 in midfield when in possession) and a system for which we definitely have the players.

The mental strength and desire

Koeman was also clear about the mental attitude of the players. “You really need to want to play for Oranje”. And Koeman is the man to send players home who are not committed. Memphis Depay was the typical example of the rogue lad, the larrakin as we say in Australia, who didn’t take discipline to seriously in the past. If he is someone to go on, it seems the players take their coach and their own job seriously now. Memphis is open and friendly to the medium, can be seen laughing at practice and is coaching and supporting is mates on the pitch. It seems he’s also developing a nice partnership with the older Ryan Babel.

The Goalies

It seems to me Koeman will go with Cillesen. The Barca goalie might not play every week but when he does play, he’s solid as. More so than Zoet, who should have stopped that England goal. And Cillesen distribution and footwork is just top class.

Apart from these two, we will have enough young goalies coming through to act as third goal keeper, should we ever make it to a tournament again….

Central Backs

From what we’ve seen, it seems De Ligt has the future under Koeman. He played all four friendlies. Van Dijk is captain and most likely a cert as well. De Vrij, as a right footer, will be duelling with De Ligt for the right centre back position, while Blind will most likely have the upper hand on Nathan Ake. Ake did get the equaliser for Oranje vs Italy, which was nice for him and he does have a bright future. Voted player of the year for Bournemouth of course and a very able player indeed. For now Blind is more solid in his build up play and football intelligence but Ake might fancy the battle with the slower Blind. For De Ligt and De Vrij, it will be interesting to see what De Ligt will do with his future. When he came into the media zone after the Italy game, 14 Italian reporters cornered him to ask if he will pick Juve as his new club. According to the rumour, Barca, Bayern Munich, Man City, Spurs, Juve…they all want De Ligt. Should he decide to go for a big move, he might not get the playing time he needs to get his starting spot in Oranje.

Other candidates to keep in mind for the CB role: Jeffrey Bruma, Terence Kongolo, Karim Rekik, Sven van Beek and Mike van der Hoorn.

Left Wing Back

Vilhena and Van Aanholt were the players used most recently, but Willems and Erik Pieters are candidates as well, as are Nathan Ake and Daley Blind. This might simply come back to the opponent we play. Van Aanholt has more speed and seems to penetrate more. Vilhena is probably better on the ball but lacks the real depth and speed in his game. Pieters is the solid defender but not as able on the ball. Willems is a weak defender but has a tremendous left foot. Terence Kongolo is an option here as well.

Right Wing Back

Daryl Janmaat made a difference coming on for Hateboer vs Italy. The Atalanta right back had a tough first half and still lacks a proper final ball. Janmaat is definitely the better crosser of the two and seems to have more football intelligence (experience). Kenny Tete is definitely a candidate, as is Fosu-Mensah, although Rick Karsdorp, when fit, might have all the tools of the trade for this position.


This is the weak spot of the team at the moment. We do have a lot of midfield options, but they are all a bit similar. Wijnaldum for me is the best of the bunch. The opinions were mixed with is game vs Italy, but I think he did well. Mentality is top, his touch impeccable, always knows what is where and won’t lose the ball too often. Strootman to me is less solid might well lose his spot. Propper is another player I rate. Wonderful vision and technique, and developed very nicely in the physical and tactical side of the game. But, add Vormer, Van de Beek, Van Ginkel and De Roon to the mix and they’re all solid team players but none of them has the world class you’d want to see in a team like Oranje. Where’s our Sneijder, Ronald de Boer, Seedorf, Davids, Van der Vaart, Jonk, Van Hanegem, Cocu, Jantje Peters? I think Van de Beek can make the step up. I’m convinced Frenkie de Jong could be that player. We need at least one. Vilhena can play in the midfield of coure, and Ruud Vormer has demonstrated to be an option as well. And who knows, the real Adam Maher might even find his mojo again…

For now, I’ll go with Propper, Wijnaldum and Van de Beek. In due time, Frenkie de Jong will take the position of one of these three…


I think Memphis will be the sure fire choice for one of the two strikers. Babel has something special but Promes has the future. Agile, skilled, quick, can score goals. His partnership with Memphis will need to improve but I have faith. Nothing wrong with Babel as pinchhitter. The former Ajax and Liverpool man can play anywhere up front.

We do have some exciting players that can bring some spice coming off the bench. Elia is always unpredictable and Bergwijn might have a similar profile. Steven Berghuis seems to be the victim of this 5-3-2 system but everytime he comes on, something happens. He’s all class with his left foot. Looking for the top corner or finding a team mate, as he did with his assist on Ake vs Italy. Against Slovakia, he had the assist on Vormer who aimed straight at the goalie. Luuk de Jong, Wout Weghorst and some others might well be useful in certain emergency scenarios. And who knows, Vincent Janssen might move to a team where he can play, score and remain fit…

After the Italy game, Ronald Koeman said this: “I got a lot of clarity after these four friendlies. In certain positions and with certain players, I think I know what to do. But, there is now a summer and pre-season ahead of us and then also a transfer period. I will not make any public statements until September. Too much can change and I will talk to the players first, in September.


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  1. Im bit disppointed that koeman overlooked van Ginkel especially when he has come on back of such a great season at PSV. He has being injured consistently during NT selection period and finally when he overcomes it, he is overlooked.

    What is missing is a big spark in midfield. I dont think with the current midfielders they stand a chance of surving at the nations league. The ltalians played with two attacking and central mid which tatically dominated the dutch set up.This also dragged Depay and Babel to drop deep. The germans and the french are on another level.they will simply make it look like its a training session.the italians dominated the midfield big time and no matter who starts in the midfield for the dutch in the nations league, its jus gone be a huge ask compared to the quality and depth both the french and germans have.

    One thing for sure Vormer needs to be playing on top where he is free and has more space to work on .vs Italy he was consistently being sucked into defending with De Roon.this was one reason why he was getting isolated and wijnaldum to never helped the situation.only janmaat was leading the attack from the right.apart from that Depay and Babel were forced to drop back to haunt for ball.

    Now you have to realize how its turning out to be. In very game there is a different scenario.its not fitting in.Propper was good vs portgual but ineffective vs Solvakia, some goes for Van der Beek. Vormer made a good impact of the bench vs solvakia but was isolated vs Italy. Strootman should jus hang his boots.

    The simply fact is this. There aint much quality in the midfield and thats how its gonna be. You can do the maths from here and predict what the outcome will. Koeman simply needs more time and maybe some more players to work with. From what I see it might take end of next year before things starts falling into places.

    1. I expect spring 2019, usually we do a couple of friendlies in March, to have a more solid idea about our midfield. So, I think the next Euro should be good for us and a great precursor to the 2022 World Cup, where we finally take it :):):)

      Good news that the defense is set, plenty of options and depth on the bench. Offense not bad either.

      Overall, I have to say it looks good. not great but definitely good. The Hiddink/Blind disaster is in the rear view mirror…

  2. i Our stars re defenders and we can move ack to 442…..
    Van debeek–Ake—-Propper–Vilhena
    on bench
    No more weak players,no more biased selections…

    1. both kongolo and Ake are better than Blind as LB and LCB….its a suicide not to play them as LB or LCB instead of Blind…
      i hope Bazoer finds a club where he ca play regular na dthis guy is hugley talented he will bounce back…

      1. Relax Tiju… Blind might not be a starter but he has his usefulness depending on the opponent… We don’t have defensive issues, if not we have a plethora of options…

        We are good in the back !

  3. How about Justin Kluivert? Will there be a place for him, which I doubt unless he will be doing great In the next season in whatever club he will be joining

    It seems that he will definitely be leaving and may join Roma.

    Though I think he is quite overrated ,and he should stay one more year in ajax . Wherever he go , I don’t he won’t play regular as he is in ajax

    Should he het included in Koemans team , will he partner Depay ? Or take Babel’s position ?

    I’m quite looking forward to see how he will partnership with Depay

  4. Good point Yan, I actually forgot about Kluivert.

    It remains to be seen, he can play next to Memphis I’m sure.

    koeman alluded to using Promes as a wide right wing back for instance and even Berghuis in that role (depending on the opponent).

    But yes, lets hope Kluivert keeps developing and keeps playing.

    1. What about Zivkovic. Picturing him up vs Depay makes you ponder what type of dimension tbey would create. Zivkovic also comes with ultra speed and is skillfull and also good will ball at feet.he finishing is a question mark but with a good chemistry between him and depay this two can replicate the duo of salah and Mane to some extent.

      Not sure whether he made the right move to KV Oostende but he did have a good outings in the EL playoffs there.

      Koeman should experiment him with Depay, maybe after the nations league.

      1. If you look at Babel, it hard to think he can continue with present form till 2020. Jeremine lens is another option but like others he has also has bulked up playing in Turkey. If he goes for conditioning and trims down, defintely will be lethal up front with Depay.

        1. Then there is also El Ghazi who has been caught with Financial crisis at Lille. The owners of the club have been sanctioned with new transfers due to financial instability and have been under tight watch. The team needs reinforcement but are in position to do so. Remains me of FC Twente few season back when they had to appeal there relegation due to financial irregularities.defintely to keep a eye on him as what happens there.

          1. Zivkovic, El Ghazi, Clasie, Riedewald and lens. If these guys can get their career back on track. 2019 can be break through season for NT.

  5. Babel is 1986 december birth..he hardly has 2 year left in him..he was a blessing for us in this dark hour..he was overlooked under Hiddink and Danny..For timebeing we need Babel…He is unselfish so compliments well with Depay…he is th few players with good first touch along with Propper,Gini,vilhena in the team…
    I heard Depay is using new footwear in every match…is it true????if so there is no wonder he has problem with first touch..
    When you have Jetro,vilhena,Propper,Ginkel,Depay and Babel YOU WILL SCORE..WE WONT BE Deprived of goals…but if replace them with lesser quality players u will strugle for Goal..Even if you get chance your players will not make it i mean the Dost,Klassen, etc..
    We will be better team when we play

    1. Common sense. He will be 34 in 2020. Look at hunterlaar and Van persie now at 34.its simply if NT doesnt qualify for Euros after the nations league. It would be in the best intrest to drop him and bring on board younger players who can be ready by 2022.

      1. Depending on club performance alot of players can salavage their career in 2 years and if this does happen Babel will be on decline compared to other who will be or about to be reaching their peak.

          1. I think that is right, Wilson. Players might get noticed in a friendly (for good or for bad), but their call up to the NT depends alot more on their day in/day out performances in their club teams. Unless they get invited to training camp and just tear it up, or they are lights out at the start of the season in August, it is hard to see how Kluivert or FDJ will break into the NT for the September Nations League matches. As the year goes along, they can earn a call up to the NT for the Euro Qualifiers based on their play, but I don’t see it for September.

            Re: Babel. I get your point about his age. But Koeman has given no indication that he is looking to use the present as only a stepping stone for the 2022 WC. Rather, he wants to qualify for 2020, and in that case, he’ll play the the guys he feels who give him the best chance to qualify. Based on the way he’s played, Babel deserves to be in that pool.

            Jan’s note of Koeman’s comment that he would consider playing Promes as a right wb is interesting. I could see it. Also makes me wonder as to whether he would consider playing Babel and Depay up front, and Promes right behind them. Promes would have to dig in and offer something to the mf defensively as well, but he seems like he has the speed and stamina to do so, and his runs out of the mf could be intriguig; especially if they are going to play more of a counterattacking game, as is likely, against France and Germany. Too often in the Italy and Slovakia games, it looked like the forwards would get the ball, and be so outnumbered they had no options. They really did miss that danger man coming out of the mf.

          2. I was watching the belgium friendly which NT drew 1-1 and it struck me this was probably one of the best line under Daddy Danny.lens and Jansen started up front in 4-3-1-2 formation. though the game was marked with early injuries to Schaars and Janseen but Janssen did look good up front with Lens as aux striker on the right. Im not a big fan of Janssen but given the limited option and quality that NT has got upfront I think a fit janssen could be useful upfront with depay.

            this is where Promes can be as useful as wing back providing extra support from the flanks.this enables the option of either Janssen dragging the defense out and Promes coming inside or Promes dragging the defenses out and lining up crosses for Janssen who is quiet effective in air. on the left Depay is one man army and like sneijder he pretty much can hold on his own.

            Depay – Janssen


            wijnaldum- Vilhnea -De Roon- Promes

            Ake – Van Dijk – De Ligt


            being said this Janssen needs to have good pre season and have some good outings in the opening few rounds in the new season.

          3. I wouldnt use promes in the middle. that would mean scarifying somebody in the midfield, which obviously is not a strong hold at the moment.

  6. After Nainggolan omission from Belgium squad, Joachim low drops another bomb by not selecting leroy sane in germany squad.this has to crazy.

  7. Groeneveld has signed for club brugge. This is good news andd good move for him. Club brugge is in CL and with dutch contingent there he will defintely settle in well.

  8. When Netherlands play France in the nation’s league they will need to pick the paciest guys as their wing backs since France mainly score on the counter attacks with their pace up front in Lear dembele and mbappe

  9. @ Andrew
    After going to Nation league format I realized I was wrong. I was under the impression if you bomb out of Nations League, you wont qualify for 2020. I was wrong. the 55 team plus the 4 semi finalist for the euros qualifiers will be decided from the nations league which means even if NT finishes last in the the Nations league, they still will enter the qualifying stage.considering this I think koeman will have more time and maybe more players to look at based on their performance if any before the qualifiers begin proper.

          1. As I said I didnt know about the format for the Nation league. I presumed it was similar to that of of WC qualifers where the first and second team qualifies from each group.where did you bring the vision crap up from.

          2. And obviously the chances of NT finishing either first and second in the group is quiet low. This is why I used the word “bomb” out of nations league.

  10. Marten De roon lacks idea and vision….but he is tough tackler…
    Ake would be astonsihing DM for us..
    He can tackle,he has vision,strong in air,fast He is complete package for DM…i dont see anyone close to him…At present he is wasted at LB like we did to Memphis…
    Memphis got a chance in NT in center e never looked back..Same thing happend to Ake as well we will have a world class DM for 8 years…i think only Bazoer is close to him in that…

  11. With players like Strootman,Deroon kind of players we will have more back pass and side pass..it will be boring games for us….
    Who are our forwards…???
    Then comes pinch Hitter role….i think Both Babel and Locadia can do that…Or even last 10 minutes Virgil van dijk can play as striker as he is also a nice finisher..Deligt is nice finisher as well..
    Just bring in another defender in feild and move Vandijk or Deligt as striker…No need to waste a spot for klassen,Dost,Dejong etc as pinch hitter..

  12. @Wilson, no worries. I had understood that the Nations Cup wasn’t in place of Euro qualifying. In looking at your proposed lineup, I guess my thought was whether Promes could play in the spot you have for Vormer. I think he probably could—he’d have to play with more defensive responsibility, much like Sneijder did at WC 2014, but if tasked with that responsibility, I think he could do it.

    1. I think Promes did play in the middle vs Morocco. Daddy blind used 4-2-3-1 formation in that game with toornstra and Vilhnea behind him. It did complement the attack and him and janssen both scored in that game but given its a tatical move, your opponent at the end of day could also dictate on whether how effective it can be.

      With big teams it may come down to how good your central midfielders are as they will have to do the dirty job. France is one team that often do this. Griezmann playing in middle as a false striker. Probga and Kante are at rovers behind him. It works perfectly for them because probga and kante are best in the business there. Im not sure if the same can be said about NT.

      1. There is something else I have observed about Promes. On dead ball situations he not fluent in holding the ball. He does it better when running. Im not sure if this will defensively complenemt his play. Being said this the only way to find this out is if he plays there more at club level or in friendlys vs some quality opponents.

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