What a week we had!
We lost the greatest Dutchman of the last 100 years. The most famous Dutchman, actually. Step into any taxi on the planet and when the driver realises you’re from Holland, he’ll say some version of Cruyff’s name. “Croeff!” Or “Croif”. Or YohanKruf”. But they all talk about the number 14… When he passed away last week, the Oranje players were stunned. Some of them knew him, all of them were influenced, directly or indirectly by him. Team manager Danny Blind and assistant coach Marco van Basten owe their careers to him and both are heavily influenced by his thinking.
A day later, Danny Blind did what the media, the fans and probably the players and the Federation expected him to do. Change the playing system from 4-3-3 to 5-3-2 ( 3-4-3). Cruyff turned around in his grave, if he wasn’t still above the ground. On the day Oranje faces France in the future Cruyff Arena, in Johan’s city of birth, Blind reverted to a more defensive playing style.
And to add insult to injury. the French scored in the 13th minute, making the 1 minute tribute applause for JC sounds ironic.
Shifting to 5-3-2 was a mistake.
We can safely assume that we have learned that lesson. But, I hear you say…. Louis van Gaal managed it quite well at the WC2014!!!
Yes he did. After weeks of straightjacket practice. With Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie on top. And with luck.
Spain could have been 2-0 up at half time. Australia could have beaten us. The penalty vs Mexico was a 50/50 and another ref might not have given it… We weren’t short of luck. In the losers final we played a totally deflated Brazil…
This time around: Blind didn’t have 3 weeks to practice, he had 2 days. And he didn’t have Robben.
Playing 5-3-2 without Robben or a player of his calibre is ridiculous. Who is making the difference up front? Promes? Not yet… Luuk de Jong? Never!
When Oranje shifted to 4-3-3 we got more control. More clarity. More width. Depay played horrendous, yes. But he kept Evra at bay and he assisted both goals. I’d be happy if I was Blind.
And I know, France could have led by 0-5 at half time. They missed opportunities but you could also say we defended well. Cillesen stopped a certain goal and Bruma in particular played a good game.
But Veltman is not a 5-3-2 wing back. He did everything wrong, while Clasie in midfield was outnumbered by all these darting French midfielders who played a 4-5-1, really.
They do have talent to burn, the frogs and I do believe they’re a level up from us at the moment. But to come back to 2-2 was not a bad effort. Sad that their #14 got the winner…. And sad Sneijder had to leave the pitch. Daley Blind succeeds him now as skipper. The only player from the Spain victory in 2014 to start in the England match…
And the goals fell cheap… The free kick was a very soft one to be awarded to the French. Klaassen didn’t do much wrong. Cillesen got tricked and moved to the left, while the ball came to his right. His corner. And he couldn’t even come close. The corner kick resulting in the second goal was badly defended. The second ball was hardly challenged by Promes and Veltman lost Giroud out of his sight: 0-2.
Memphis was partly responsible for the 1-2. He got fouled and his inswinger was scored via De Jong’s arm. But he got a big push in his back and if that wouldn’t have happened, he probably would have headed the ball in. I’m not a huge De Jong fan, but I can see him score from that cross. The second goal was good vision by Memphis and a nice finish by Afellay, who was unmarked. France’ winner should never have been scored, in the dying minutes of the game, but heck…. France deserved the win!
So, Blind decided to fix it for the England game. Back to 4-3-3. With Depay and Promes sticking to their position and with a better football player leading the line. Vincent Janssen played a Kuyt style game. Running, working, being annoying, using his body and with a very cool head indeed!
In the 6th minute, we deserved a penalty (Veltman played great this time around and was clipped by Rose). England didn’t have shot on goal until the 25th minute. By then we had 3 attempts on goal already. Depay didn’t dazzle yet again, but he played with more discipline and if one of the throughpasses into space would have been better, he could have been in on goal two times at least.
But the key was Blind’s game plan (4-5-1 without the ball, 4-3-3 with) and the way midfield pushed forward. Sacrificing Bazoer to hassle Barkley worked really well too.
England had more of the ball, but Holland was in control. One moment of lack of focus got England their goal. Narsingh allowed Rose to get away, Stones pass reached him, Bazoer got pulled away from the center of the pitch and Lallana had time and space. Depay forgot to track back to cover Walker and Bruma was too late to block Vardy’s run. Good goal. Bad defending.
Otherwise, Oranje’s defence looked solid with Daley Blind playing as a real captain, and Bruma putting his body on the line. Willems still doesn’t look fresh but he needs time after 6 months on the sideline while Veltman played like a man.
Wijnaldum was the only one looking out of sorts. He has a form issue, like Depay, but they’re both so talented, that will come good.
Janssen was key in our attack. He pushed Stones back who slipped and he could have done better in finishing, but the cross was on and Narsigh hit Rose’ hand. The Spurs defender sort of slapped at it and the penalty was justified, in my view. We should have had one earlier as well. While the England players protested you could see Janssen going for the ball. Blind would later admit either Janssen or Promes were the penalty takers. Promes was out already, so Janssen took it and buried the ball high in the roof of the goal. His body check on a loose ball vs Jagielka kept Oranje in possession and Janssen had all the composure to find an unmarked orange jersey. Not an easy finish for Narsingh but he did very well.
With 14 players missing (Robben and Sneijder obvious losses but the lack of Vlaar, De Vrij and Strootman is also key) I am not pessimistic about our future at all.
We have good goalies (Cillesen was at fault with France’ first goal), good center backs, and with Tete, Janmaat on the right and Pieters and Van Aanholt and even Ake on the left, our defence looks alright.
I rate Bazoer very high and I think Propper will make big steps as well. Afellay and Clasie are useful and Van Ginkel might still work his way up too. If Strootman reaches his old level, we will be spoiled with choices for midfield. We also have Fer, Klaassen, Hendrix, Wijnaldum… Not too shabby. Upfront, Robben will remain key. I can even see us play with a false #9.
I personally don’t see it in Locadia and De Jong. Fine for top of Eredivisie, but lacking technical ability and handling speed in big matches. Luuk de Jong was painful to watch vs Atletico and France and Klaas Jan Huntelaar and Bas Dost to me are better players to use as pinch hitters.
Vincent Janssen needs more time. He’s just broken through and he will need to prove himself a bit more. But he did demonstrate work rate, a cool head and a fighting mentality. He could be our next Dirk Kuyt.
Vincent Janssen’s career in pics. Youth of Feyenoord, move to second tier Almere City and back to the top via AZ….
I would play a 4-5-1 with Robben in a free role on top. Depay left, Promes on the right and a midfield with Bazoer, Strootman (fingers crossed) and Propper or Wijnaldum or Klaassen. If Strootman isn’t available, Clasie can play in that role. And don’t rule Sneijder out! Afellay is a good utility player. He gave Oranje some oomph when he came on in the second half vs France. He can play anywhere in midfield.
Willems would always play in my team, and on the right I’d play Tete if the opponent has a strong left winger or Janmaat if the opponent doesn’t.
Blind is proving to be a strong CB and at his side you simply pick the man in form. Vlaar, Bruma, De Vrij, Van Dijk…whoever….
This summer, I hope Blind will take his squad on a trip to work on 5-3-2. Provided Vlaar, Janmaat and Robben are fit, this system can work well against tough opponents.
As for Danny Blind, a coach is as good as his material. Poor Danny is not responsible for the fact we don’t have strong world beaters at the moment. I don’t think Koeman or De Boer would do much better than Blind. He’s a good communicator and I think he has a good football vision.
After the France game: “Playing 5-3-2 means you have to work more. It’s hard. We only had 2 days to practice and we didn’t perform a couple of essential tasks. That was clear. It was not good enough. But, that is what a practice game is for. I was asked if it wouldn’t have been a good tribute to Cruyff if we’d played 4-3-3…. I think we can play this, and I want to be able to play more systems. But, against a top team like France, we did come back into the game. That final winner should never have been scored of course.”
Blind, after the England game: “I am positively surprised. You don’t expect to beat England at Wembley with 14 players absent. We beat them with Cruyff, with Jan Peters, with Koeman and Van Vossen and once with Robben in form. Now we needed to rely on Janssen and Zoet. Very pleased about, although… we won’t get any points with this game and it will still be a long long summer….”
The WC 2018 campaign won’t be easy. But France will be vulnerable, as they always are in qualification games. They’ll probably do very well at the Euros, most teams get a dip after a bit tournament (duh!!). Sweden will not be too hard for us. They’re good but beatable. We’ll probably finish second in the group, maybe even first. Mark my words.