We have seen some lively discussions off late, about Berghuis, Lang and Danjuma. Keep the debate going, as I’m sure things will heat up even more, the closer we get to the World Cup!
This is the second to last international break re: WC qualifications and the only break that offers LVG some time to experiment, somewhat. He has 2 days more than normal and he has two relatively easy opponents to worry about.
We have seen freak results in the past (Faroer Islands!!) but surely we can beat Latvia and Gibraltar. With these six points on top of the current number, we are well positioned for the last series of games. Obviously, if Norway and Turkey drop points in this round themselves, life will be easier even.
In a disappointing press conference, LvG discussed the key talking points. I will mention them briefly as most of these have been debated already on this blog.
Here are some key points:
- Danjuma – the media started to imply that LvG had been sleeping while Danjuma took the European football world by surprise with his dazzling turn v Man United in the CL.
- “Really? Do you think we don’t have scouts? Do you think I don’t watch La Liga? Oh… well, I am very aware of him. And he is good player, but he made his transfer late in the window, he needed some time to settle and started on the bench. He now has some good games under his belt, that is excellent. And when he can keep this level up, yes, he will be part of the squad again. But this series of games came to early.”
- Goal keepers – Flekken is now part of the squad, as the fourth goalie, while Cillesen is ignored. Rumours had it that the squad didn’t want Cillesen. That it’s a personality thing.
- “I need to find the best keeper. And if my scouts tell me there is a 28 year old goalie in the Bundesliga who is all round, I need to check that out. He is a real Van Gaal goalie. Very good with his feet. So this is my chance to test him out and see him at work. Cillesen is not off the radar. He is a very good goalie and he only started playing again recently. He has had two games. Too early for a re-call.”
- Berghuis – the Ajax player is impressing currently on the #10 position. Van Gaal won’t use him there.
- “Berghuis was not a starter at Ajax. He was even benched. I played him in three matches which got him noticed in Ajax and he has me to thank for that. I have other options for the #10, and not a lot for right wing, so Berghuis is a right winger for me.”
- Quincy Promes – the ex Ajax player who is under investigation due to a knife incident (now playing in Russia).
- “Yes he can play for Oranje, yes on different spots and yes he did wel recently, but by rule, I will not select players who have these things going on in their private lives. It will be distracting. For him, for us, I get questions about it, and it’s not worth it for me.”
What was disappointing about the presser was Louis’ attitude towards the media.
He did this earlier on when talking about the players and the expectations for these two games.
When confronted with close to euphoric comments about how well the clubs played internationally, Louis used his vinegar tactics to put it all in perspective. You see, in the last international break, Louis was charming, warm and funny. He played the game and got the people behind him. Now, he needs to be careful for a too optimistic vibe and he is now using his bad-cop routine to piss everyone off, including the players.
“I have told Lang not to provoke or do things other than football. What he does at Brugge… he can not do this with me.”
“Do you think Dutch clubs perform well? Come on! Only Ajax plays at top level. PSV choked when they could get into the Champions League and failed. They are now in the Europa League, which is fine. But don’t tell me it’s top. It’s not. And the conference league? Really? Feyenoord, AZ and Vitesse are playing games against Punch and Daisy. Of course they perform well. Half of the clubs’ names I can’t even pronounce!”
He also explained how only Stefan de Vrij (of the players who played versus Turkey) won his match, last weekend. “None of the other players won their games. That goes to show that there is no place for complacency, or for arrogance. We will need to be top, also against Latvia and also against Gibraltar!”
This is typical Louis. Getting everybody sharp and on their toes. Bringing goalie Flekken is could well be part of the strategy to tell all his players: if I can find a better option than you, I’ll bring him in! And doing this to Bijlow is a safe strategy for Louis, as Justin won’t balk at Van Gaal. As opposed to a Van Dijk or Memphis who wouldn’t enjoy being treated this way.
Flekken on his feet
Now, Van Gaal extends his dramatic play acting and theatrics towards the media too and that is always pissing me off.
I mean, the press conferences are there for the media to ask questions ON BEHALF OF THE FOOTBALL FANS. They deserve a normal treatment and normal answers. But Louis uses the pressers to settle petty scores with journalists. The NOS (the main Dutch broadcaster) got his traditional “Are you the NT manager?? Or am I? Or do you make those decisions??”. Valentijn Driessen of De Telegraaf (the biggest daily in the country) “Ah you and your little paper…”….
It is becoming quite pathetic as the NT manager is the figure head of Dutch football, to treat the media – and thus the public – like this condescending way is not on. It’s typical Van Gaal.
Danjuma showing his number to his opponent
He has been experimenting a bit with Plan B as he called it. He doesn’t call it a new system, he calls it a tweak of the system, in case we need to force a goal. The solution isn’t hard to predict. At the training of yesterday, his booming voice was clear: “And then we bring Wout or we bring Luuk and then it is BOOM BOOM!”
Noa Lang was a popular player amongst the media. The mercurial forward has been seen as a prodigal talent for many years and now he’s part of the nation’s elite, after a really good spell at Brugge. “In all honesty, I expected the call last season already but I guess the coach was focusing on the squad for the Euros and I missed out. I’m so happy that I am part of it now. The coach did speak to me about not being provocative. I get that. But I told him that it is and always will be part of my game. I try to find the limits. And he understood that too.”
Yes Noa Lang is a character alright.
Frenkie de Jong had to deal with a lot of questions about Barca: ” It is not as bad as the media paint it. Really, it’s not. I mean, losing Messi was a blow and he is the kind of guy that always delivers. We will need to make do without him now and we also have at least 5 other first team players out. So it’s normal that we don’t perform at our best. Real and Atletico have only 2 points more than us, if we win our catch up match. And yes, I played right wing in a match, but that was really because we had no other options and there were chances for us on that side. I am convinced it will all come good. Ansu Fati is back and we will have Pedri again and I am also convinced I will improve more as will Memphis. It will end well, trust me.”
We may not see another post before the Latvia game.
But we will see an update :-).
The last presser before the game, Van Gaal confirmed that he is utterly impressed with Mathijs de Ligt who is working hard to restore his form. “He has risen from the dark. He is so close to a starting spot, but he has to compete with De Vrij who happened to be the Man of the Match in the two previous matches.”
Van Gaal also mentioned Noa Lang and Mark Flekken. “They confirmed what we hoped for. Noa is a very creative player and we need that to break open opponents like Latvia. I can’t tell you if he’ll make minutes but I don’t see why not? Flekken appears to be an open positive lad. He’s good with his feet and he stops many shots. He has to improve off the line though. He needs to be better with crosses, that is what my current opinion is of him.”
And about skipper Virgil: “He is still not 100%. He played four whole matches with Liverpool and he’s on his way to full fitness. He is very close.”
Oranje is currently in Riga and the coach thought it was vital to train at the local stadium. “It’s always key to know where you’ll play. Get a feel for the place. De Kuip, Anfield, Camp Nou… amazing temples but all different. I need the players to experience this.”
Van Gaal watched and analysed some of the previous Latvia games. “We learned a lot and are well prepared. We have been working on our game plan and the dead ball situations. I hope you will be able to spot that.”
About the right wing role, Van Gaal said this: “Steven Bergwijn has told me he doesn’t want to play from the right. I think Berghuis is currently the only one we have, with Lang. And I think Quincy Promes can play there too.”
This is my line up (the one I think LvG would use… I think I would have included Karsdorp in my personal fave line up).