Dear friends, I hope you forgive me the pun re: Austria. I am so used to go make word jokes with our opponents… Austria was a tough one, so I had to dig deep. I do believe WW2 is now far enough behind us for this to be acceptable, yes?
But, joking aside, I do think we have done well. We beat Wales and England, away. We drew Ireland while playing sub par and we beat Poland and Austria. And sure, Austria is not Germany and Poland is not Spain but decent teams. And we didn’t do too badly. Considering…
And there is lots to consider… We lost our head coach after differences of opinion with KNVB management. We lost key players like Vlaar, Strootman, Robben and Van Persie. We had top talents like Memphis, Willems, El Ghazi underperform for different reasons. And we took a mental blow from not qualifying for the Euros.
Danny Blind was facing a storm. Ziyech didn’t join, more injuries, a system that didn’t seem to work, individual players messing up in key games… a tough road.
But he stuck to his guns (system and approach) and gave youngsters a chance and he made the brave decision to have Advocaat join the coaching staff.
And I guess it worked. The Ireland game was sub par. Lack of pace, lack of desire, no forward passing, no risk takers.. Against Poland, we did alright and against Austria we got our swagger back.
We were lucky though. The Berghuis cross was deflected. Janssen mistimed his header, it could have gone anyway. Austria missed a sitter (Janko) and could have had a penalty (Bazoer on Alaba)… but overall, we played well. And we even could have scored 3 more. A lucky deflection of a Promes shot on the post, Janssen missing an open chance, Promes missing an open opportunity, Van Ginkel heading the ball away from an open goal… Opportunities galore one might say.
And even though we didn’t play great, there were many a positive light to be seen.
Goalie Jeroen Zoet showed composure and kept us in the game at some stage with some good saves. Kenny Tete had a tough start against Arnautovic, like any full back, but fought himself back into the game. I thought he played excellent and was also a threat going forward (more so than Veltman, but less so than Janmaat). Bruma and Van Dijk both had their little moments of complacency and their build up play can still improve but they do play with confidence and both players, with their length, have a physical presence that can’t be denied. Van Aanholt, was decent in defending, although he was caught out a couple of times, as he seems to “bite” too quick and allows wingers to trick him with their movements. Going forward, he was excellent though. He was a constant mover on the flank, although the passing speed of Oranje was still not quick enough for me and Van Aanholt was overlooked too often, in my book. Obviously, he started the move that led to the 2-0 and deserves kudos for his game.
Our midfield needs improvement, although they did step up. Kevin Strootman started rusty but played himself in the game. Great vision and passing and solid in duels. Strootman doesn’t do “friendly games”. If this is a player who was out for 2 years, I am very positive about his future and impact. Rock solid and the only way is up. Bazoer had good and not so good moments. Easy on the eye, agile in his movement, courageous and technically very skilled. But switches off too often. Had two or three occasions where a man drifted away and his passing could be more adventurous at times. His link up with Berghuis was not great. He also should make more runs into the box for me. He plays too much as a controller, like Strootman. But, he’s young. And I have very high hopes for him.
Wijnaldum was the big disappointed for me. He plays in the #10 role and needs to be much more dominant. His link up play with Janssen was simply non existent and it feels like it is too crowded for him in that spot. He plays well in a 4-4-2 or on the flank in a 4-3-3. The central role… I don’t know. Sure, his goal was fine. His run to the area where De Jong would lay off was great and well timed and his left and right foot can produce something special. But we need more from him in that spot. We’ll see Sneijder there vs Sweden for sure (if he’s fit). Upfront, Promes was a busy bee. Constant threat, constantly moving. His touch needs to improve and he lacks composure in Oranje, although in Moscow he can’t stop scoring. He’s positive though and seems to come across as a good lad. Janssen was special for me. His movement, his spirit, his hold up play, his smart passing and link up play… Excellent. If he keeps on working and not take himself too seriously with all the transfer rumours, he could end up being the real thing. Berghuis is a talent but needs to improve still. He is a smart player, re: movement but his touch is sometimes not there and he tends to be pushed off the ball too easily. But he has something special. A real street football player. Reminds me of Steve McManaman but with a better left foot.
Luuk de Jong impressed me as well. Great hold up play and good awareness. Van Ginkel did alright, but missed a sitter. Vilhena and Veltman couldn’t really make an impact, altough Vilhena has great energy and work rate. He’ll probably do well IF he makes the right decision re: his next step.
All in all, a good performance. A sloppy start, a lucky goal, some haphazard defending but also some great passages of play, with Strootman key in midfield and Promes and Janssen a constant threat. Well done!
We now need two things… We need the likes of Janssen, Vilhena, Berghuis, Janmaat and Memphis to to settle in their new situations next season. Wherever they go or decide to stay. And we need Sneijder, Robben, Clasie and Blind back. I still believe in a midfield with Sneijder, Bazoer, Clasie and Strootman, with Robben playing from the right and Sneijder false left winger (with Willems behind him) and Janssen upfront. Against weaker opponents, we could field two out and out wingers. Tete or Janmaat as right back and Willems or Van Aanholt as left back (I prefer Willems).
If Van Persie is fit, I’d use him in the squad as well. With Vlaar and Berghuis, Promes, Memphis, Propper, Van Ginkel and L. de Jong to complete the bench. I can imagine Blind will play son Daley as holding mid in place of Clasie if we need two strong center backs. Or Blind with Van Dijk/Bruma at the back and aforementioned Clasie as holding mid. Length can be key, and for this Blind has options.
I get excited with the prospect of Sneijder and Janssen in the team. With Janssen’s movement, Sneijder will find him. And Robben there too, they will be hard to defend. Playing Clasie will allow Strootman to go box to box which I think is his best position. I think it’s a shame to have a player with his dynamics, body and length to sit before defence.