I think over time I have written thousands of these post match reviews, it feels. Almost on par with the reviews of friendlies, and somehow the Latvia game felt like a friendly.
The stadium only had stands on one side. The pitch was rough and rugged. The players were just a bit off the pace.
Oranje tried to attack from the get go, tried to let the ball do the work and find the openings against two blocks of 4 players, with 1 player in between to sure up the defence. A 4-1-4-1, with a tall, strong target man up top.
Klaassen could have scored in the first 3 minutes again, but “could have” was the name of the game for Oranje.
It was a bit rusty, a bit sloppy and full of good intentions. But it took Gakpo a long time to finally take his opponent on and reach the byline. It took too many touches for Dumfries (!) and Berghuis on the right to get to a decent attacking play. It took too long for De Vrij, Frenkie or Daley to play that forward pass.
We just missed that oomph, that laser focus to tear down the Latvian defences and in the mean time Latvia created three clear cut opportunities in that first part of the first half.
It would still be Memphis with his assist, yet again, and Mr 1-0 to score that all important first goal, but apart from some attempts by Berghuis, Memphis, Gakpo headers and some intricate attempts by Memphis and Lang in the second half, the ball wouldn’t do what we wanted from it.
And so, we got the clean sheet, thanks to Bijlow’s last minute stretch, we got the three points and we almost kept everyone in one piece.
It seems Cody Gakpo suffered a light concussion though, so he will have to leave the camp. The good news for all of us, Van Gaal immediately called up Danjuma, who will join the Dutch squad today, after having had his debut in October 2018, under Koeman. The 24 year old left winger is back!
After the Latvia game, Van Gaal said he was annoyed at times. “I am satisfied with the result. I was asked by fans this morning, what score I’d be happy with? I said 0-1. I also said we would have 70% possession but they would still get 2 chances. Well, we had 75% and they got 4 chances. But, even against amateurs, we would always give one or two chances away. We ended up doing well. Bijlow did what he is hired for. So we are not unhappy. Turkey and Norway both dropped points, we got the three points. Ergo: we are closer to our goal.”
“I did get annoyed at times with the lack of forward thrust. We are playing too square at times, too safe. You can only break down these kind of opponents by playing that first ball forward quicker. We will be looking at that.”
Despite the dominance and the win, only a couple of players really stood out. Frenkie will always be a 6, never less. Gakpo was active, Memphis was probing, as always and Blind was the one trying to find that forward pass all the time. But the right hand side didn’t perform very well as the Latvians made sure there was no way through for Dumfries. The Inter defender put a lot of energy in the game and was threatening at times but his limited ball skills also took the pace out of several attacks. He sometimes stands out negatively, particularly when quick feet are needed (in combi plays with Berghuis, Klaassen and Memphis, Denzel is oftentimes the player who breaks it up).
The left hand side was a tad more threatening and Guus Til earned his Heineken with his off-the-ball performance. He worked, he covered for Blind, he led the forward press and ended up in the box regularly as well, but the ball simply didn’t fall for him.
To me, I think Van Gaal made a mistake in using two box to box midfielders. The idea is good: Memphis drifts away from the #9 position and Klaassen and Til will run into that space, but during this match it was clear after 10 minutes, that we would have so much dominance that Til and Klaassen would be in the box or close to the box already, cramping up the spaces. The flanks were the ideal spots to attack but Gakpo always comes to his right foot, inside, and on the right Berghuis does this with his left. Dumfries usually supports with an overlap but there was no space. Same on the left. Blind had one overlapping run in the second half which immediately resulted in a header opportunity for Gakpo.
This image below shows how Klaassen and Til are already “there” instead of “arriving there” with Memphis dropping back. There are two midfielders close to Memphis to smother him and this way we played to Latvia’s strength.
Til and Klaassen are too similar. And when you play against a compact, defending team, you don’t want runners, you want creativity. That is the lesson for Van Gaal to be learned (he won’t like reading this….).
Against Latvia (and Gibraltar) I think you need to play with a real #9, and use Memphis as a 10 behind him, to feed off the target man. Til and Klaassen lack the creativity to find the free man in front of goal, so it was always up to Berghuis, later Lang, and Gakpo to create.
Noa Lang made his debut and it left us wanting for more. He’s cheeky, he demands the ball, he wants to be everywhere and he almost had a goal (blocked shot) and an assist (on Memphis).
He also got a big smile on the face of Louis van Gaal. “I want to use him as a right winger. And guess what, he’s not on the pitch for more than 10 minutes, or he switches flanks with Gakpo!! And I wanted to see Lang on the right. So I immediately told him to get back to the right. He’s got some nerve, that kid, hahahaha!”
It’s traditionally been hard for Oranje to impress against weaker teams that park the bus. Gibraltar will park two buses, one can imagine. You need a couple of things: a quick forward pass, ideally passing over the midfield. You need players who can take on opponents and you need width. We have the latter. We have wingers and good full backs. We also have players who can pass that forward ball (Frenkie, Daley, Virgil, De Vrij). We don’t currently have that creative midfielder like a Sneijder or Van der Vaart on the #10 position (as LvG prefers a runner there). But Gravenberch was introduced instead of Til to get more out of the midfield. I reckon we might see him start versus Gibraltar…
My starting eleven versus Gibraltar
The Starting Eleven Louis will field, according to me:
I think we’ll beat Gibraltar, 4-0 or something like that. Memphis will add to his tally and who ever plays target man will score too. If Lang gets a nod again, he also might find the net.