And here we are. Louis van Gaal had his Asia trip to check on the big boys and to allow some wannabees in, while Cor Pot had the top talents at his disposal to win some silverware.
With the dust settled, the Confederations Cup in full flow and the rest on their way to beaches, mountains, exotic cities or the training field (Sneijder), lets check the State of the Orange Union.
There is a list (in Louis’ head) with names of players of whom LVG thinks he will take them… This is of course, unless something remarkable happens (injury, dramatic loss of form or conflict at club).
At the top of that list is the current Captain, one Robin van Persie. He will lead us all into the final year leading up to the World Cup. Arjen Robben, vice captain, is close behind him. In the form he currently is, he is likely to win the Golden Ball at the end of the year… Or whatever the name. Kevin Strootman and Jeremain Lens (both still PSV but probably not for long) will be on that list too. Lens going to Kiev might be a gutsy move for him, in view of Brazil 2014, but maybe not. Russia has the future, they say…
I think Vorm and Vermeer might be certainties too, with Stekelenburg and Krul battling for the third spot. Stekelenburg to Fulham is a good move for him. Once Krul returns from injury, he might be taking Vermeer’s spot again, as the EPL is simply a stronger competition than the Dutch one.
Darryl Janmaat is way ahead of the rest of the pack on the RB position while Daley Blind has been doing really well on the LB spot. Ricardo van Rhijn will be a good alternative for Janmaat, but he might be surprised by the development of Gregory van der Wiel.
On the left hand side, Jetro Willems and Erik Pieters will both be vying for the spot behind Blind although I do give Van Aanholt a chance to make it, if he keeps on developing as he has, this season.
Pieters could well be a central defender option, depending on his coming season.
In defence, it seems Martins Indi and De Vrij are the key players for Van Gaal. For now… I wouldn’t be surprised if we would find another player suddenly coming in the frame for De Vrij. I was not totally convinced those last games for Feyenoord and I was not totally impressed with him in Israel. He has strong point, but he is slow and a bit clumsy in the one-on-one. Simply a bit too slow and lanky it seems.
I like De Vrij, don’t get me wrong but Bruma at PSV is a terrific prospect for me. I rate Bruma as a real candidate. Vlaar can most likely be the other player who can get his ticket, provided he will perform well this coming season. And then there is John Heitinga. He has been solid for a long spell in Oranje and has lost his standing in the last year or so. He is planning to move to the Eredivisie to make sure he can have a real go at making the squad.
Joris Mathijsen will not make the list, in my view.
In midfield, it seems Jonathan de Guzman made an impression. But he is leaving Laudrup and Swansea and his season might be quite different yet again. Who knows…
There are a couple of no’s, in my book. Like I said, Joris is probably not going to be there. I expect Nigel de Jong to be on the list of no-goers too. He is injured, as is Afellay, Boetius, Tim Krul and Luciano Narsingh. I believe Afellay and Narsigh, when fit, would be assets to the squad but the question is whether both will be able to reach their top form again.
Van Gaal has some options to choose from beyond De Guzman. Again, the Canadian born will have to prove his worth still this coming season in Spain, but lets assume he will succeed. Strootman, Fer, Clasie, Van Ginkel can all play that role, although Strootman will be the second midfielder, normally. The box-to-box man. With Fer and Van Ginkel as stand-in. Clasie would be the ideal stand-in for De Guzman.
As playmaker, I expect LVG to pick between Sneijder, Siem de Jong, Van der Vaart and Maher. Van Gaal thinks De Jong and Van der Vaart are more alike, as they play as second striker, while Sneijder and Maher are more similar as they play more like midfielders.
This suggests that LVG will pick between Siem and Raf and between Wes and Adam.
I personally think that is foolish. If both Wesley and Maher are in top shape and good form, you want them both. Sneijder is maybe only relevant as playmaker, but Maher can take any role in midfield and is versatile and also good coming from the bench.
Siem de Jong is a question mark. He is good at Ajax’ level, but can he make the step up. Also, he seems to play in the same pace all the time and lacks speed.
Speaking of which, Rafael van der Vaart is a question mark because he might not be able to perform consistently at the top level. His physical body doesn’t seem to want to do what his astute football mind wants…
Huntelaar will most likely be the RVP stand in as central striker and it is to be hoped that Ola John performs well the coming season so we can play with a real left winger with tremendous potential. Ruben Schaken has been used as a right winger, with success, but he is not really top notch Oranje material in my mind.
Derk Boerrigter has not impressed this season as a potential Robben stand-in on the right. Schaken is ahead of him but Wijnaldum might have something to say about this. Under Cocu at PSV, he might live up. At the same time, with Toivonen likely to move away, Cocu might play the ex Feyenoord prospect as playmaker.
Van Gaal has added two key aspects to his infamous TIPS system: orientation and conduct.
With orientation, Louis means: how does a player deal with a lot of space around him or behind him? This would apply to a central defender for instance. With a midfielder it’s more, does the midfielder see the runner on his blind side and can he pass the ball on intuition? Conduct is more: what does a player do when faced with a setback? An own goal. A horrendous mistake? Or a referee who is not that good? Or an aggressive opponent? Or how does a player respond when the team needs to fight back into the game? And obviously, how does a player respond when he is benched….
Van Gaal will also have a surprise or two, I’m sure. To give one example: Clasie was benched by Cor Pot, but the little Feyenoord midfielder is a typical Van Gaal player. A lad who sees the game quick and is able to accelerate the game (like Sneijder can). Just like Van Gaal is a fan of Siem de Jong, whose most important strength, according to LVG, is orientation. De Jong feels where space is, feels where the ball will come and is able to be right in time. A quality he shares with players like Jari Litmanen, Gareth Bale and Hernandez.
He might not have the creativity that Maher and Sneijder have, but he has the ability to enter the box at the exact right time to finish a cross or a pass.
I am hoping on the next 23:
Van der Vaart (or any other wildcard player)
And in case of emergency, I’m sure Kluivert still knows how to hit a ball :-).