What a year we had… With Ajax in last CL season and with Oranje… first in the Nations League and of course in our Euro qualification matches… We have seen Frenkie and Mathijs go to the big leagues, we saw Chong and Zirkzee making waves, the likes of Tete and El Ghazi making good on their promise and AZ impressing domestically and internationally… But we also saw Ajax being shafted by the VAR this last half year, Mathijs sidelined at Juve, we saw Daley Blind going to grass and Memphis and Malen with serious injuries…
Lets look at what this all means.
Memphis and Malen
I think we need to be realistic. We shouldn’t count on them for the Euros. Donyell Malen, maybe. He might be back in April or May and right in time to make a Marco-Van-Basten-style return… Memphis is probably sidelined until next season and it might be best for him – and therefore, for Oranje – when he focuses on 2022, in Qatar. The question is not: can they be fit in time, but: would it be wise for them to even try….
Memphis working hard
Donyell Malen in Florida
It’s really vague what’s going on. Ajax doesn’t tell us a lot. “Insurance policy and privacy of the player”. Daley himself is optimistic on his Insta-feed but he didn’t travel to Qatar and we haven’t had any serious updates. His loss will be felt, should he not be able to get back to his old level, both at Ajax and at Oranje. His leadership, his passing, his sense of positioning… I don’t think we can find a player in the squad who can offer what he has to give. Let’s wait and see.
Mathijs de Ligt
I don’t think him not playing for a spell would be a serious problem. We’ve seen that his Turkish rival also got injured. It would sense if Sarri will sign another centre back in this transfer window but despite that: Mathijs will get his minutes. He is still highly regarded and he had a pretty amazing late block in the match vs Roma. He and his team mates cheered the interception as if he had scored. He’ll be fine.
So when we take into account the incredible development of the likes of Boadu, Stengs, Wijndal, Koopmeiners, Ihattaren, Gakpo and the fact that we have Ake, De Vrij, Vincent Janssen, Jetro Willems, Tete, Weghorst, Wijnaldum, De Roon, Propper, Van de Beek and many others in the wings, I don’t think we need to worry too much.
Willems staying longer at Newcastle
However… replacing Memphis, who was so important for us, will not be easy. His work rate, his showmanship, his leadership and personality, his free kicks, corners and crosses, his important goals (even when he plays like shite all day, he’ll score you the winner)… I can see several players doing what he can do, partially. Babel can work his arse off. Stengs can score goals and dribble. Promes or Berghuis can hit a free kick, Weghorst can hassle, but there is not one player who has it all. Like Memphis.
So what are the options for Ronald Koeman?
Like I said, he can opt to replace Memphis for another player. Some say Babel. Others want to see Weghorst. Another group yells Boadu. Promes also played centre striker at Spartak…they’re all good options. But I want to propose a different one. Also taking into account that we might miss Blind as well.
Memphis: “I’ll tell Koeman that you should replace me!”
I would opt for a 3-4-3.
Playing three at the back:
De Ligt – De Vrij – Van Dijk
With a four man midfield, with Blind on the left (when fit). Or alternatively, Van Aanholt or Wijndal.
On the right hand side, I really hope for Tete or Rick Karsdorp. But Hateboer or Dumfries are decent alternatives. Not great. But decent.
Frenkie on the left inside, with Van de Beek next to Frenkie.
Then three players up top. Promes with Wijnaldum as false striker and Bergwijn or Stengs on the right.
Obviously Cillesen or Krul as the goal keeper (depending on the rhythm of Cillesen, who lost his spot briefly).
With this tactics, I don’t think we’ll have to worry too much defensively. When the opponent plays with three forwards, Daley can drop back and help the back three. But most opponents will play with one striker or two strikers, these days. The centre backs are all good build up passers, and De Ligt can easily move into midfield when the opportunity is there.
Blind can act as a playmaking midfielder alongside Frenkie, allowing Frenkie to roam while static Blind keeps his position. When Frenkie stays put, Donny van de Beek can make penetrating runs, with De Ligt covering. Obviously, the communication between Van de Beek, Tete and De Ligt needs to be top.
Tete, Karsdorp or Dumfries can make marauding runs on the right, allowing for Bergwijn/Stengs to dart inside to support Wijnaldum or even take the #9 role when Gini drops off. This also allows Van de Beek to penetrate into the box as well, and like with Ajax, Oranje will become a Total Football team with players constantly moving in and out of position.
We’ll have length enough with set-pieces. Wijnaldum is a good header of the ball, as are De Ligt, De Vrij and Van Dijk.
We’ll have more than enough legs and penetration, with Donny, Gini, Bergwijn and Tete/Karsdorp/Dumfries.
We’ll have enough football guile and intelligence, with Frenkie, Blind, Promes and Wijnaldum.
And we have goals! Bergwijn, Promes, Wijnaldum, Van de Beek…all good goal scorers.
And should Daley- God Forbid- not make it, I think Wijndal or Willems will offer the footballing skills we need on the left, although Koeman could also opt for the legs and the opportunistic play of Van Aanholt… Even Tonnie Vilhena is an option for that role, should Wijndal or Willems not cut it, for whatever reason.
This would be my line up.
With Ihattaren as the first sub from the bench, being able to play playmaker (even in Frenkie’s role) or as false striker in the Wijnaldum role.
And Weghorst for if we need a pinch hitter.
Boadu would also be in my squad.
Cillesen – Krul – Bizot
Tete – Karsdorp – De Ligt – De Vrij – Van Dijk – Blind – Ake – Wijndal
Propper – Van de Beek – Frenkie de Jong – Wijnaldum – Ihattaren – Marten de Roon
Stengs – Boadu – Weghorst – Bergwijn – Promes – Babel
Tell me your solutions!!