Tag: Afellay

Van der Vaart on Steven Berghuis – Final Post

Hi all, I wasn’t intending on harping on on the Berghuis topic, but I watched the Studio Voetbal broadcast on Monday, with Rafael van der Vaart and Ibi Afellay and the topic of Berghuis came up.

And I decided to transcribe exactly what was said.

Apparently some people here don’t “see it” in Berghuis. One of our finest left footed playmakers (the best since Willem van Hanegem) shares his opinion and I didn’t want to withhold it from you. It may change the way you look at the guy.

In The Netherlands, we have a couple of football analysis programs.

Studio Voetbal is the main program with serious analyses by serious ex players (Van der Vaart, Van Hooijdonk, Afellay, Theo Janssen) and coaches (Buijs, Arne Slot, Ten Hag, Van Marwijk, Rene Hake). This is produced by the NOS, the key Dutch broadcaster who also have the rights to the Eredivisie.

Veronica Inside is a more satirical talk show with humor, criticism, music and analysts like Van der Gijp, Derksen, Hans Kraay and Wim Kieft.

Ziggo, the commercial broadcaster, has Rondo where the likes of Ruud Gullit, Aad de Mos and Youri Mulder are usual suspects.

Veronica Inside has the most viewers, Ziggo Rondo the least. But Veronica Inside is not always taken seriously, while Studio Voetbal can be seen as the norm. Veronica Inside is actually banned by the Dutch National Team players and coach Van Gaal due to their ongoing fierce criticism and ridiculing of said players/coach.

In the last Studio Voetbal, Rafael van der Vaart ( ex Ajax, ex HSV, ex Real Madrid, ex Spurs) and Ibi Afellay ( ex PSV, ex Barcelona, ex Schalke 04, ex Stoke City) got the question:

How did Steven Berghuis do on the #10 position?

Van der Vaart: “Well, mmmm…not great. But I have to say, he wasn’t helped by his team mates. Of course, it all starts with you, with yourself. I think his personality has changed. At Feyenoord, he was the leader, he demanded the ball. Whenever Feyenoord had a problem, he would be sought. Now, at Ajax, he is one of the many. And the Ajax players will look for Tadic or Gravenberch or Blind when they need a solution, and not Berghuis yet.

And I said this from the start: he is being overlooked. Look at these situations. It annoys me. In my eyes, he is the most creative player at Ajax now.

Here is he in between the lines, and starts the attack. He’s in the circle.

This is the next move.

Here, he should receive that ball back! He is coming into the frame, his left foot is ready for it, but Antony goes for the difficult option using the run by Gravenberch.

And here, I get annoyed that this right-footed player tries a shot on goal with his weaker left foot, while Berghuis with that wand of a left foot is overlooked!

And people might say I am nitpicking, and yes I probably am, but he’s the best player in the perfect position and they try to go for the hardest option.

And I believe that when he plays, he needs to get a lot of balls. He needs to be used constantly, because he is the one who can find the solution. And the service he gets is garbage.

From the 20 passes he could have gotten, he gets 4 or 5 balls. And that is the problem for him.

How about this one. He has positioned himself in an ideal position.

He can’t take the free kicks, he can’t take the penalties… He did have a corner yesterday, I mean, he still had 2 assists, which is good.”

Afellay: “He’s too humble. Raf says it right, he is the most creative player of the lot. He usually always does something good with the ball.”

Rafael:” I also see that when he is overlooked at Ajax, he has a question mark on his face and opens his arms. If that happened at Feyenoord, he would have exploded.

And it’s wrong. I mean, Anthony and Neres are good players with a dribble and speed. Mazraoui is also a good runner and dribbler and now they have this new Danish winger, he too is all about speed. But no one can do what Berghuis can do with that left foot. He has the through ball, the cross, the distance shot… That annoys me. He needs to be an asshole on the pitch and he team mates need to help him. I can’t understand why they don’t use him better.

And with the other options on the right: I would always select Berghuis and I’ll tell you why: he is unique. No one else can do this. Same with Oranje, in the NT there is no one who plays like him. He had a number of killer passes in the Oranje games, which are typical Berghuis balls. Van Gaal is no fool, he uses him for a reason!”


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PSV: Holland Horror Story

We all love train wrecks. There is a whole category of movies in that vein: disaster movies! We can’t get our eyes to turn away. Or when there is a crash on the highway, we all slow down to watch…

What happened at PSV in the past months is exactly like that. Like a burning high rise crashing down, despite the efforts of Paul Newman or Steve McQueen…

Us Feyenoord fans thought we had it tough… But what’s playing out in Eindhoven is highly Shakespearian in magnitude and pathos.

Here are your main characters:

Toon Gerbrands – former Volley ball coach and author of motivational books. Prides himself of keeping calm in a crisis and keeping the peace. Won the title with AZ as a managing director, with Louis van Gaal as coach.

Gerbrands, John de Jong and Van Bommel in happier (?) times…

Marcel Brands – lauded and experienced technical director. Produced miracles at AZ Alkmaar and gave the likes of Dick Advocaat and Phillip Cocu players they could work with. He pushed his assistant John de Jong forward as his replacement.

Mark van Bommel -former top player for PSV, Oranje, AC Milan, Barcelona and Bayern Munich. Leadership in spades, like he has experience and football smarts. But also a tough cookie to deal with: arrogant, manipulative, headstrong. Son-in-law and best mate of Bert van Marwijk.

Bert van Marwijk – former top player and top coach (Feyenoord, Oranje, Borussia Dortmund). Currently taking well paid jobs in secondary football nations. Father in law of Mark and his best mate. Enjoys mentoring Van Bommel.

John de Jong – former player for FC Utrecht and PSV. Saw his career cut short by injuries. Introverted, humble and kind man. Thrown in the deep end as technical manager without any real experience.

Steven Bergwijn – top talent for PSV and Oranje. Headstrong and outspoken. Symbol for the PSV youth coming through (Gakpo, Sadilek, Ihattaren, Malen, Doan). Left PSV via backdoor to play for Spurs, partly due to Van Bommel exit.

Van Bommel and John de Jong in happier times…

Some supporting characters:

Mino Raiola, Ernest Faber, Ronald Waterreus, Huub Stevens….

In the Beginning

The first seed was planted back when Cocu was still coach at PSV and Mark van Bommel was knocking on the door, loudly. Marcel Brands was in strong command of the club, he could find players that could raise the level (Angelino, Dumfries, Lozano) and kept everyone in check. Even the board of directors (with among others: Hans van Breukelen!). But it was time for Brands to move on after so many successful years. And the EPL lured him to the big money side of the game, at Everton.

Mark coached Young PSV and did so very well. The young talents there had a great rapport with their coach and Toon Gerbrands felt he couldn’t really ignore Mark, a club icon.

Immediately it was clear to all that it wouldn’t be an easy ride. Yes, Van Bommel is a starting inexperienced coach, but humility is not in his dictionary. He started out demanding to fill his own backroom staff, against the will of Gerbrands, and eventually Mark van Bommel won the argument. And he picked inexperienced Yes Men Jurgen Dirckx and Reinier Robbemond as his right hand men.

Mart van den Heuvel, Ruud Hesp, Reinier Robbemond, Jurgen Dirckx and Mark

Early on in Mark’s first season, more issues came to the fore. Debutant John de Jong, technically Mark’s boss, was not capable of standing up to the former Bayern skipper. When Lozano was in the spotlight for a big money move to Italy, Mark simply benched the Mexican forward, as he “wasn’t with his head at PSV and didn’t train well”. De Jong begged for Mark to use him as his value would diminish if he was benched for too long. Mark: “That is not my problem. I’m responsible for the results and I want to play my best eleven.”

Internally, more problems arose. Mark didn’t like the old-fashioned methods of the medical staff and waged war with the older medical pros in the club, with slamming doors and voices raised. Bert van Marwijk wasn’t so much Mark’s mentor, willing and able to tone him down, but more his biggest cheerleader and consiglieri.

He also had eyebrows frowned when he declared injured and veteran player Ibi Afellay as his skipper. Even if the former Barca star hadn’t played for two years!

As Mark almost got the title last season and reached into the CL with his young team, Gerbrands wasn’t in a position to put a mouth guard onto Van Bommel. He had to bide his time.

When PSV allowed some of their key players to leave the club (Lozano, Luuk de Jong, Angelin0), Van Bommel didn’t get the replacements he desperately needed. Sam Lammers was Luuk’s replacement and due to no one’s fault, the talented striker got heavily injured in the first games of the new season.

Lozana was to be replaced by Doynell Malen who also got some injury woes… And Angelino, well for him, John de Jong got two new players in: Boscagli and Neto. Neither of whom managed to convince the coach, who used midfielder Sadilek on the LB spot, maybe just to spite Gerbrands and John de Jong.

When Malen and Bergwijn had injuries and Lammers’ replacement (some older Greek fella) couldn’t fill their boots, PSV started to drop points. When Ihattaren also had to skip games due to the illness and death of his dead, all creativity was seeped out of the team and more games were lost. PSV didn’t make it into the European competition post the winter break and dropped to a disappointing third place in the league.

Van Bommel didn’t think a crisis was looming. He analysed the games they lost and his conclusions were simple: we don’t play bad, but we don’t finish our chances. And that has everything to do with the absence of his key goal scorers. He also pointed out that he still was waiting for a proper left back (John de Jong!) and was adamant his team would finish second this season if he got the players he asked for.

But the crisis was there. The build up of irritation around Van Bommel’s attitude and management style resulted in Gerbrand’s sharpening the knives. On top of that, some board member spotted the squad having lunch together at some stage and he saw – allegedly – fatty chips and kebabs and pizzas on the table!

According to some insiders, this was the final straw for Gerbrands to fire Van Bommel and his staff (and his father in law). Not a loss on the pitch. But a so-called hairdress-salon (the nickname of the most unhealthy dish in Holland- see photo).

What Gebrands and Co didn’t realise, was the tremendous support Van Bommel has amongst the players. Not unimportant. Some players didn’t like Mark due to his biting cynicism and toughness, but the youngsters all adored him. Gaston Pereiro, Gutierez and the likes of Boscagli and Neto probably hated him and it’s no surprise that these guys never played. But Malen, Ihattaren, Gakpo, Bergwijn, Rosario, Dumfries, Viergever… they wanted to stick with Bommeltje.

And the support of the fans. Mark is a club icon. Symbol of invincibility. The fans wanted to keep Van Bommel and oust John de Jong, blaming him for the mediocre squad Mark had to work with.

And then there are the pundits, analysts, coaches and ex-football players. They all concur that Mark can be difficult, but they also believe he has a reason to be difficult, like Van Gaal (also difficult) and Mourinho (also difficult) rub many people the wrong way, but they do deliver too.

Van Bommel – Van Gaal bust up

And no one understands how this weird season for PSV started with them staying on Ajax’ tail but at Christmas time, the club is in disarray, the coach is sacked and the riot police was called in to keep the crowd quiet.

When Van Bommel was kicked out, Gerbrands didn’t have the ideal candidate to take over ready and waiting and turned to Ernest Faber. A seasoned coach in the mid tier of the Dutch leagues (NEC, FC Groningen). Lacking in charisma, Faber is your typical “come on guys, work work work!”. No real tactical innovation, no special approach… Ten Hag, Slot, Schreuder, Bosz have their tactical approach to fall back on, Advocaat, Hiddink and Van Gaal add their personality to the mix, but Faber is a bit bland and probably at his best as the PSV Academy manager.

Faber reluctantly took the job and saw his team spiral even further down. No desire, no work rate, no joy, no confidence, to sum it all up. They dropped more points and were also kicked out of the national cup competition, meaning that there is nothing to play for this season anymore.

Ernest Faber

Word is, that the players still speak to Van Bommel. They go to him for advice and support and it’s not secret that Bergwijn’s exit has everything to do with Mark’s demise. And who knows, more could follow. Ihattaren can sign anyware, Malen was on the Barca hit list, Dumfries can go to Germany, England and Italy and once these guys leave the club this coming summer, PSV might well drop further down and spiral totally out of control.

It would be typical for Van Bommel to direct this disaster movie remotely, with the connections he still has in the club (sponsors) and with his seasoned father in law. Raiola, the master agent, who has a number of PSV players in his portfolio is also a good friend and the agent of Van Bommel. I’m sure games are being played and I’m also sure that Mark is out for revenge. He probably won’t rest until John de Jong and Toon Gerbrands are out as well.

John de Jong already alluded to his potential exit, saying he wanted to stay until deadline day weekend and then he’ll see what he wants to do.

In the meantime, PSV old hands like Waterreus and Huub Stevens all seem to have a open account to kick Van Bommel in the gut, as they went on national tv with support for the current management and words of criticism towards Van Bommel and Van Marwijk. The game is on.

But some will do well, out of all this. Super Agent Raiola has managed to further expand his influence. He has Van Bommel in his portfolio, Rosario, Malen and now Dumfries, as well.

Latest in: Marco van Ginkel might return to PSV

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What Mo Ihattaren can offer Oranje

The news that PSV youngster Mo Ihattaren selected to play for Oranje, over Morocco brought a huge smile to Ronald Koeman’s face. And if it wasn’t for some private matters the playmaker needed to attend to, he might well have made it in the squad for the Northern Ireland and Estonia games.

After Hakim Ziyech ditched Oranje, the focus from Zeist changed. Got sharper. Apparently, Oranje lost some of its glare and glamour internationally, and it was clear we needed to make a bigger effort to keep the big talents on board.

Mo Ihattaren was the next big name prospect that was courted by Morocco. They were able to turn Mazraoui and Amrabat their way, two players that most likely could have played for Oranje, but were never considered “key”.

Ziyech is of course in the category “extraordinary” and Mo should also been seen like this.

It’s actually quite remarkable how the whole nation started to get involved with Ihattaren’s future (partly fueled by the dramatic miss of Ziyech). But Ihattaren only had a limited number of miles on the clock, of course. He made his debut this year, in January, as a sub. He played not more than 19 games as a starter in all competitions. And in those matches he left such an impression that Koeman was definitely ready to gift the midfielder his debut, at 17 years and 9 months old. What makes him so special?

Ziyech on the left (Morocco) and Mo in the middle (Netherlands)

His breakthrough tells the story. He is only 16 years old when Van Bommel uses him in the match vs FC Groningen (Cruyff also made his debut vs Groningen, but that is probably a coincidence).

Usually, young talents are introduced in teams that are in form. This allows them to try the big stage, to blend in where others can back them up and to give them confidence. But in the phase where PSV is playing lacklustre and weak, Mo goes from benchwarmer to starter. It says a lot about the faith Van Bommel has in the youngster. Ihattaren doesn’t come in to a well-oiled machine. He is actually the oil, Mark van Bommel needs to get his team playing again. With him in the team, PSV wins three games in a row after the winter break. The top talent gets a new contract (till 2022) and a fixed spot in the squad.

No. 10 – The Playmaker or Right Wing

Ihattaren can be used on two positions in the PSV system ( 4-2-3-1). As a left footed right forward he can dribble inside to open up the play with different options (shoot, dribble, pass, one-two). Van Bommel uses him here at the start of the season.  This is where he can grow into the team, so to speak, as this spot demands less from him, in a physical sense.

But, after a handful of games, Van Bommel knows enough and puts him on the #10 spot. This starts in September, away against RKC. The left footer starts on the right again but when RKC leads 1-0, the PSV coach moves Mo to the axis of the field. He is key in creating the equaliser and the winning goal and proves that he is the guy who fuels the attacking machine of PSV.

This limited number of games proves that the talent does best in the axis for PSV. When comparing his stats, you’ll see that whether he plays on the right or centrally does not impact the number of dribbles. But the number of chances created explodes when Mo plays centrally: 4 times more than when he plays on the flank. He also clearly demonstrates that physically, he is very capable of holding his own.

He is also present when PSV is struggling and needs something special. PSV drew against LASK Linz (0-0) and Sparta Rotterdam (2-2) but that was not for lack of trying by him. Ihattaren created in these games 9 (!) chances for his team mates.  PSV lost the second game vs LASK 4-1, but Mo created three of the four chances PSV created. Last season, his brilliance were the remedy for a sluggish PSV. This season he is one of the leading players for PSV.

Ihattaren as starter 2019/20

Aspect Right Wing # 10
Chances created * 0,66 2,3
Successful dribbles 54% 48%

*Per match

The steps this kid makes are actually giant leaps! As a 17 year old, he is one of the first players on the team sheet for Van Bommel. In Oranje, however, he will have to settle for the spot on the right flank, it seems. And that has everything to do with how Koeman looks at his team. Koeman believes in couples, in duos.. Players that gel well. “I don’t want to take the couple Wijnaldum and Memphis apart, jut like I prefer Bergwijn with Dumfries on the right”. As Memphis is the wandering playmaker for Oranje now, Wijnaldum’s role is more a penetrating and running one. Getting in the box as a false striker. Wijnaldum and Donny van de Beek are the types Koeman is looking for there. Ihattaren plays with a striker (Malen) who himself is more a dynamic, penetrating runner, so Mo can use his through ball to bring him in position.

In Oranje, Ihattaren seems to be the solution for the problem raised by Koeman after the lost Nation Leagues final : “Defensively and in midfield, we’re ok. But up front, we could use some more creativity.” Against Estonia, Northern Ireland and Belarus Oranje was lacking creativity in the small spaces, around Memphis. The job opening of a false winger with the gift of the slide-rule through pass seems to be the ideal role for Ihattaren. Also because, like Bergwijn, he is used to play with Dumfries…

Life goes fast for the youngster. His tremendous potential was known already, both nationally and internationally. The public is now also aware of the capabilities of the kid. It only takes a view on the clip of Young PSV vs Young Barcelona in the Youth League, of November last year. He is the youngest on the pitch and gets the ball on the edge of the box. In between two defenders he turns, looks quickly over his shoulder and backheels the ball into the path of Vertessen who scores. His composure on the ball, under pressure, his vision and creativity…

Everyone who worked with him, will use the term “extraordinary”. Whether it’s Marcel Brands, Mark van Bommel, Bert van Marwijk or Kees van Wonderen. And they are not alone, as scouts and reps of Barcelona, Man City, Chelsea and Inter Milan have already knocked on the door of Mo’s agent Henk-Maarten Chin.

Kristof Aelbrecht – currently assistant coach at Fortuna Sittard – worked with him in the U16s. “In the PSV youth, it was always Little Mo this, Little Mo that. I immediately told him, that is not how I will work with you. From now on, you are Big Mo! And I need you to think and act like a pro. The kids were always looking at scoring, or assists. When you enter the U16 realm it’s also about physical, about mentality, about nutrition and rest. Are you coachable, that sort of thing. It’s about awareness. In my time, Mo always made the difference. We played away against Roda JC at some stage and he wasn’t top fit. I took him out after an hour. He wasn’t taking care of his tasks. Well, that was a first for him! I didn’t do this because I liked doing it, but I had to make a point. He was disappointed, offended and simply angry. He was so pissed off that he refused to get on the bus. His brother Yassir couldn’t even bring him to reason.

Yassir and Mo Ihattaren

Yassir: “He said: take me home now or I stay here. I couldn’t leave him so we drove back in my car. And it was a constant rant: That coach this, that coach that, etc etc. I told him: accept it! Your coach was right! it was a long drive, hahaha. But when we got close to home, I really got fed up and stopped the car. I looked at him and said: Listen!! We support you with the whole family. We do everything for your dream! And you won’t ruin it because you are a spoilt kid! This is Kanalen-eiland (the suburb where Mo lives in Utrecht). This is where the kids hang who haven’t made it. The chances for these kids to leave this behind are slim. Make up your mind. What do you want?”

And thus, both brothers made an appointment with coach Aelbrecht to ask him, what Mo needed to do to improve. Aelbrecht and his assistant Adil Ramzi grabbed some video images and showed Mo that he simply wasn’t fit enough.

So, he started with a new diet and he started to work on his lung capacity and endurance. Every morning at 6 am, Mo woke and went for a run. That was in 2017. Today, Mo Ihattaren is super fit.

Aelbrecht: “I had times that I feared I lost him. That I was too tough on him, but he picked it up. We at PSV had to stay true to our values and now you can see what an incredible player he has become.”

Yassir Ihattaren tells the story, but it could also have been told by his sister, his other brothers or his parents. Because the whole family is involved with the dream of the youngest in the family. Ihattaren Incorporated, one could call it.

His older brother gave up his job as teacher history to manage and assist his brother. Yassir and another brother were talents too but their careers ended in the top of the amateur class, as the parents were simply not capable to assist with their careers. With Benjamin Mo, it’s another story as the older brothers jump in to assist. Mo’s father passed away tragically last month.

The whole family keeps Mo in check and keep on motivating him and inspiring him. “Whenever Mo wants to buy something expensive, we will all give our opinion and sometimes we say “hey buddy, stay normal please!” hahahaha.”

Marcel Brands was PSV’s technical director for years and he remembers seeing the little Mo on the PSV youth grounds. “I’d ask him after his match: Mo, how was the match? And he’d say something like: Good. I scored three and two assists. So funny.” When Brands left for Everton, the club immediately wanted to talk about the #10 in the PSV youth. Brands: “I am happy that he’s still at PSV. Don’t get me wrong, if he wants to come here, I’d be over the moon, but I think he needs to stay. Play a couple of seasons at PSV, make your debut in Oranje and go abroad when you’re really ready. It’s a big step.”

Yassir is adamant that Henk-Maarten Chin will be their agent to stay. “We have had them all, Riola, Jansen, you name them. But Henk-Maarten is also family now. We’re loyal people. And we don’t need anyone to bring Mo to the top. Mo will bring Mo to the top.”

The experts say this.

Bert van Marwijk assisted Van Bommel last season and is quite clear about Ihattaren: “It says a lot always when the players who have arrived accept a youngster just like that. They look for him, they trust him. You see it with Frenkie at Barcelona as well. He’s already part of the key players there. And Mo is also a player that solves problems. Mo thinks ahead, like a chess player. He is always two steps ahead. His biggest enemy is complacency.”

Art Langeler used to be Head of Youth Development at PSV. “We have developed a trajectory which gives him the best chances to reach his potential. From an Oranje perspective, we also need to do all we can to give him the right vibe. I don’t even want him to doubt his choice for Holland.”

Kees van Wonderen won the European title with Oranje U17 with Mo Ihattaren in the team. “He played almost everything and was important for the team. He is very skilled, tactically shrewd and mentally strong. He is also happy to do the dirty work and make dirty yards if possible. And his family is important. They won’t put him on a pedestal. They’re critical and he is open to criticism. There are no guarantees but Mo has everything to become a top player.”

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PSV needs to renovate

The season has started in Holland. Belgium was even earlier and the qualification games for the European competitions is upon us too, while Spanish and English clubs still have weeks of prep ahead of them. Weird.

The issues have been widely discussed already. Ajax is playing their CL qualification game tomorrow, while David Neres only returned to the club some days ago. And with the transfer window still open, Ajax might well end up having to deal with the exit of players like Ziyech, Neres and Van de Beek while Lasse Schone already took the bus to Genoa earlier last week. Strange times.

In England they will close the transfer window in the coming week! Well done Poms. Why can’t we do this in Holland too? It’s frantic for the clubs and highly annoying for the supporters. And it’s competition fraude too, in a way!

It really annoys me, every year again.

And thus, Ajax and PSV dropped points already in their first match of the competition while PSV couldn’t get past Basel and will have to forget playing Champions League football this season.

In a way, I don’t think it should be considered to be too negative for PSV though. They do seem a tad light this season and might do much better in the Europa League.

After all the news from Amsterdam in the past months, it’s time to focus a bit on that other big club in Holland. Mark van Bommel’s PSV.

Guti is in charge

PSV over the past seasons (5 under Cocu) used different midfield players and different midfield systems to find the ideal structure. In Cocu’s title winning last season he used 7 players for the 3 spots: Siem de Jong, Pereiro, Van Ginkel, Hendrix, Ramselaar, Propper and Guardado.

Van Bommel directly went for a 4-2-3-1 system with two defensive / holding mids. Pablo Rosario and Jorrit Hendrix were Van Bommel’s go to guys, but they copped a lot of criticism for not offering up enough creativity. Rosario seems to be above criticism with the former Bayern midfielder as he is made one of the captains (with Afellay Van Bommel’s first choice, but the former Barca man is still not 100% fit). Hendrix might be on his way out (with Bologna from the Serie A close to a deal) and it seems Erick Gutierrez (Guti) will claim his spot, finally. The Mexican midfielder needed a full season in Holland to adapt to Van Bommel’s style of play but he’s with the pace now it seems and was one of the more positive players in the past weeks.

Gutierrez and Rosario have developed a good understanding while his passing capabilities work well with the dynamic trio / quartet up front. The question is: will his old friend Lozano be part of that? Luuk de Jong made a move to Spain and Lozano would love to follow him to either Spain or Italy. Rumours abound that the Mexican forward will move to Napoli soon.

Skipper Pablo Rosario against his old club

The PSV fans won’t be too disappointed as the Mexican winger has agitated most of them with his petty behaviour at times, his egotistical performances and his spoilt brat behaviour and ridiculous red cards.

And with Portuguese rocket Bruma in the team, Lozano might not be needed anymore. The left winger demonstrated his skills in the pre-season and does seem to be more lethal in front of goal than – for instance – Malen who does miss more chances than needed.

The analyses and passing maps show clearly that with Guti in midfield, PSV does get to play more football. The forward pass is coming quicker and more precise and with Malen on the #9 position, PSV aims to have 3 quick artists up front with Sam Lammers in the false striker role behind Malen, that used to be Luuk de Jong’s.

Lammers is sadly injured for a while (operated on his knee already) but Malen will stay in the 9 spot with Pereiro coming in as the #10 shadow striker.

Michal Sadilek normally is also a contender for a midfield spot. The young Czech international is seen as a carbon copy of Mark van Bommel and not coincidentally, Van Bommel is a fan of the terrier. With Angelino back to Man City and no real replacement for him at left back, Sadilek is currently a place holder on that position but probably not for long. Van Bommel will be making some tough decisions soon but it seems Guti / Rosario will form the engine room with young Ihattaren a potential dark horse even.

Michal Sadilek – Mark van Bommel Mark 2

Van Bommel will be headstrong in his vision. This much we know. “Football is a game of space. We need to have dominance in the key spaces. I don’t care who takes the space. As long as it’s one of my players.”

Van Bommel wants to see less predictability and he wants to see a mentality of unperturbedness (if that is English). He wants his team to stick to the fundaments and work from that perspective, while at the same time being able to add some variance to the team. “Gakpo can play left wing, but also #10. Bergwijn can play #10 and winger, but also out and out striker, like Malen.”

With the transfer market still open, Mark van Bommel will not sleep too well. The former AC Milan midfielder knows that scouts are still keen to check out Bergwijn and Dumfries, while Jeroen Zoet has announced he will be ready to leave PSV at some stage. The latter doesn’t seem to be in top form by the way, so an exit might not even be that bad (with Unerstahl now as second goalie).

PSV wanted to lure Steven Berghuis from Feyenoord to Eindhoven (as they did successfully in the past with Ruud Gullit and Gini Wijnaldum) but the Feyenoord star has signed a new deal in Rotterdam this weekend and was never seriously considering a move to Eindhoven.

Donyell Malen

Toni Lato is the new left back who will replace Sadilek at some stage, while Derrick Luckassen gets the chance to prove his worth as centre back. Obviously, Van Bommel does have a spot in mind for Ibi Afellay too, once he’s fit. We might see Guti move a spot up to the #10 role potentially, with Rosario and Afellay taking the engine room. Lots of options for PSV but they might still want to make a move or two on the transfer market. A central defender would not be an overly luxurious thought, while an extra striker is definitely needed, even if just as a pinch hitter.


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Ajax wins trophies, PSV deserves applause

The season has ended… Most of the decisions are in. Yes, the play offs for European Football and Promotion/Relegation are still on, but the key decisions are in: Ajax wins the double (and had one leg in the CL finals as well of course), and NAC gets relegated.

We will congratulate Ajax here on a sensational season! A season that made us all drool. Not just us Dutchies, but football fans from across the planet fell in love with this Ajax team!

They won matches, they won trophies, they outplayed the bigger guns (Benfica, Bayern, Real Madrid, Juve, Spurs) and were so close to playing the CL finals! And all of this with great football.

So, expect more posts on Ajax and Oranje in the coming month!!

Interviews with Ten Hag, Overmars, analysis of their games, the Ajax future, etc.

Expect more on the Nations League too, of course.

But despite Ajax’ successes and my inbred support for Feyenoord, this posts needs to give some deserved credit to PSV Eindhoven!

It’s not my club. But this season they really impressed and Ajax coach Ten Hag did praise them, as they kept Ajax sharp (and vice versa) throughout the season.

Because we tend to forget that PSV had its complete technical management replaced, this last summer. Marcel Brands left for Everton. Cocu went on his Turkish dream nightmare job and the youth academy coach left as well.

WK 2010 reunion, with from left to right: Mark van Bommel (standing), Arjen Robben, Technical Manager John de Jong, Nigel de Jong (unrelated), Wes Sneijder and Bert van Marwijk

John de Jong (former PSV midfielder) took over from Brands while Mark van Bommel was promoted from the youth system (PSV2) to the first team.

And the headstrong and outspoken Van Bommel left his mark immediately.

And credit where credit is due! He put his team out there. He instilled his principles into the team. And he started winning games like no tomorrow.

On the first day of the season, Ajax dropped points (Heracles) while PSV won. The two points lead was there all the way until only a couple of weeks ago!

And PSV didn’t dazzle. PSV did win some games in a “fortunate manner”. And they were bumped out of Europe in the CL group stages.

But lets look at at that more closely.

Van Bommel instilled a more modern and dynamic playing style into the team. “I want my teams to be the boss. That doesn’t mean we need the ball all the time, it also doesn’t mean we want to be playing some fantasy football or be attacking all the time. It means we determine what is going on, also without the ball.”

The personality of Mark van Bommel made its way into the team and with some strong signings, he did squeeze the best of out his – also young – team.

Van Bommel and John de Jong as players… the latter had his career cut short due to injuries…

I could even argue that Van Bommel did a better job than Ten Hag. But I won’t.

So Van Bommel wanted his team to press higher up the park and have more grit, more fight and more of a killer mentality. Where Cocu tried to adopt a more Dutch football style (and with a lot of Barcelona DNA which never really came of), Van Bommel added some German and Italian elements to this PSV.

Jeroen Zoet is a capable goalie. Not world class, but definitely top for the Eredivisie. Schwaab and Viergever are vulnerable and limited centre backs. But they did show what focus and determination and communication can do. Schwaab is German and brings that solid and focused approach. Viergever is mainly experienced and an obedient soldier. Nothing flash.

But the full backs compensated in spades. These two made the difference. Angelino is quickly becoming an A team player for Spain. While Denzel Dumfries is already consider Oranje’s best right back. Both players have assists in their locker, both players love bombing forward and can create and score goals (Dumfries more so than Angelino, but the Spaniard has a gifted left and a good partnership with Luuk de Jong).

Denzel Dumfries… From Sparta via Heerenveen and PSV to the top?

Van Bommel learned from his father in law Bert van Marwijk and used two holding mids in his 4-2-3-1 set up. Initially, Hendrix and Rosario took the job but throughout the second half of the season, Van Bommel needed more and started to change the team around. Many criticaster will tell you that was the start of PSV undoing but Van Bommel will know better.

Rosario deserves a mention. The kid came from Ajax, via Almere City of AGOVV or something. “Not good enough for Ajax” although it probably was due to his behaviour and his dad’s behaviour.

But Rosario is a rare player. So young, yet so disciplined, so astute tactically and such a wonderful passer of the game. He would have been more effective in the Ajax team, I do think, but he was a joy to watch in his first real season as a starter.

Jorit Hendrix is a solid club player. With some outstanding moments, but something is lacking with him. He’s too average for my liking. He’s like Ten Hag was, as a player. He’s not quick enough, not tough enough, not tall enough, not technical enough, doesn’t score enough, etc etc.

Pablo Rosario

Which is the only true criticism Van Bommel probably listened to. The PSV midfield didn’t score enough goals! Hendrix maybe 1? Rosario literally zero goals in the Eredivisie. Not good enough. Vilhena scored 7, Toornstra scored 8, Schone scored 5… you want your midfielders to score… Criticism that applies to Frenkie de Jong too, but he creates a tremendous number of chances and criticism Jordy Clasie gets as well.

The #10 in PSV is a problem and Mark solved it eventually by putting Luuk de Jong there. That happened in the period of the season where PSV would end up losing the title, but still, it somewhat worked.

Mexican Gutierez wasn’t good enough (Van Bommel: “The pace is still too high for him”) and Pereiro simply doesn’t seem to be consistent enough. A truly gifted lad, but not dominant enough.

With Ihatarren, PSV has a gem for that role. And Mark tried him on the #10 spot and the youngster made his debut at 16 years old. But can’t carry PSV yet.

So with Malen as the #9, Lozano and Bergwijn on the flanks PSV tried it with target man Luuk de Jong as #10. It did work, but simply not good enough.

Luuk de Jong did win the golden boot, shared with Tadic, and had a very strong season but I do think the captain needs to lead the line… The #10 role is hopefully a temporary one.

Cody Gakpo and Ihattaren: PSV’s future?

Ramselaar realised that his game is over at PSV. Along with Adam Maher, another prospect that didn’t really enjoy his time at PSV. Gutierez might well be the next one…

Lozano had a good start this season but somehow the Mexican doesn’t seem to be consistent. He picks up a lot of yellows and reds for petulant behaviour, diving and at times vile tackles. He seems to be playing for Lozano and seems to be wanting to make his mark and leave to a bigger club.

Bergwijn had a break through season. Scoring goals, using his explosive runs, creating goals and he made his way into the Oranje squad.

But the last months, he seemed to slow down. Not enjoying his game, maybe? Or…getting ready for a big move to his old stomping ground at Ajax?

Anyway, PSV deserves credit and Van Bommel deserves credit for the next wave of talented youngsters coming through. In the olden days, Sparta and Feyenoord would be the harbingers, alongside Ajax… Today, it’s PSV and AZ along side the Sons of Gods developing and keeping talent.

Potential new signing from Germany…

Ihatarren, Gakpo, Salinec, Malen, Rosario…all lads who played under Mark in the B-team and are making their way into the first team… Gakpo reminds me of Beckham, Ihatarren of Afellay, Salinec is a young Van Bommel and Malen and Rosaria, well…you know enough after seeing them play this season.

Van Bommel might be on hitlists in Europe already (AC Milan, Bayern) while numerous players will be scouted too (Angelino, Pereiro, Luuk de Jong, Lozano, Zoet)…

So who knows where PSV will be next season, but they definitely contributed to Ajax’ success (and Ten Hag rightfully thanks PSV) and they gave us some exciting new talents to watch!

Next season, we actually might see a new exciting Dutch talent coming in from a Bundesliga club: Arjen Robben… He doesn’t want to go to China, the sand pit or the US. He needs his medical team close and he wants to be close to his family… He also doesn’t want to compete for 6th spot, so it seems he is exclaiming quite loudly “PSV!!” but we’ll need to wait and see…

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Oranje’s future: Steven Bergwijn

Last time Ronald Koeman called up Holland’s best players, Steven Bergwijn wasn’t part of it. The youngster was flabbergasted. But Koeman felt he was needed for Young Oranje, while the seniors had players like Promes, Babel and …eh… Vormer… Bergwijn didn’t say anything untoward, but ended up canceling his Jong Oranje match due to an “injury”.

I don’t think Koeman will make that mistake again.

Steven Bergwijn has demonstrated yet again, in the first matches of this season, that he is a talent to be reckoned with. Probably in the same category as Memphis Depay. PSV this season has a perfect score (not taking into account the thrashing vs Barca). But the attacking intentions of coach van Bommel are clear: 6 goals vs Willem II, 7 against ADO Den Haag, 3 against Ajax… PSV is on a roll!

Bergwijn: “There is a good and positive vibe in this squad. The technical staff is responsible for this. And everyone is happy with this coach. Van Bommel talks to all the players and all players feel they’re part of it. But Van Bommel is no softie, he can be very strict and clear in what he expects. They’re open but also very serious when they need to be.”

The Ajax game last week was a special one for Bergwijn (and for Pablo Rosario). Both players started their youth career in Amsterdam with Ajax and both were basically told they weren’t right for Ajax. “I am no longer concerned with that, it’s been a while now. I left Ajax behind me. Sure, it’s going to be a super to play agains them, as it was last season when we won the title against them, hahaha. But other than that, no hard feelings.”

“But Ajax, they will always be good, always have great players. But so do we. And you need to with all these matches in the different competitions. And we have a tough group with the CL right? But I’m cheering inside. I mean, you wanna play at the top of your game, well… Barca, Spurs, Inter… there you have it. You can’t complain man, it’s awesome. I think people see us as the underdog. Fine. We’ll show them on the pitch.”

The match vs Barca was special for Bergwijn. His big idol was on the pitch: Lionel Messi. Once, Bergwijn was on  holiday in Spain and happened to be going to a Barca match with his dad, his uncle and little brother. And they ended up in the same hotel as Barcelona. “Not only that, in those days to get some internet, the players had to rely on the business centre in those hotels. And I was there with my brother, when Messi and other Barca players walked in to check some stuff online. Ha, so I got my first picture with him, and now we’re in the same group in the Champions League. How cool!”

The youngster is already one of the key players in this PSV. Last season, he had to wait for Locadia to move on and for Lozano and De Jong to allow Steven a place in the sun. “Last season, I was playing in service of them, this season we’re all similar I suppose, in terms of hierarchy. And the expectations are higher now, sure. But that is cool, I want that. I need to defend more now, as we play more dominant and higher up the pitch, so I have a role to play when we lose possession. I defend more, but still, run less yards, as we are so high up.”

Usually, when a player like Bergwijn breaks into the first team, the bigger clubs in Europe start to circle. But Bergwijn won’t leave PSV for any amount under 20 Mio euros. Last season, Bordeaux had the check book out and this summer Arsenal, Tottenham and PSG have enquired about Steven’s contract status. “That’s nice, it gives me confidence but I haven’t thought about leaving, not one second. I want to stay here, I won’t go for the quick buck. When I keep on developing, the money will follow. I want to be important for PSV, score a lot of goals, play well in the CL and make my mark in Oranje. I can develop and grow here. I recently extended my deal until 2022 and that gives me peace and quiet in my head. I don’t think anyone expects me to stay until the end, to be honest, and I have a plan moving forward, but for now it’s all PSV. I want to make a move at some stage, but I want to enter a new club with some status. At PSV, I will make my minutes, play for trophies and play in Europe. So I am not in a hurry to leave now and end up on the bench. But yes, one day…Spain or England….”

Bergwijn is seen as a new super talent and experts and analysts all are in agreement, this lad will go far. He’s got the skills but also the power. He’s explosive, doesn’t shun the hard work and is a beast on the training pitch. “This summer I had two weeks of nothing and I got bored senseless. I called my uncles and decided to start training. I won’t do a lot of weights though, I don’t want to bulk up, that is not good. But core stability training and a lot of boxing.”

All is going well for Steven, but there is a dark spot on his heart and he is keen to talk about it when he can. Abdelhak Nouri, the Ajax talent who sadly ended up in coma after his heart malfunction last year, was Steven’s best buddy. “We met at Ajax when we were little kids. And we were so close. And we still are. Life is quite hard since that dreadful day. I still talk to his brother every day. I guess I can handle it better now, but it’s still super tough. His parents tell me he is slowly improving. I pray every day, and believe in the power of the Lord. Appie always wanted for me what was best for me, and he is now also a silent motivator for me, I need to get everything out of my career, for him as well.”

Bergwijn has always been compared to Memphis. Not a fair comparison of course, but a logical one. Both are explosive, good dribblers, unpredictable and playing from the wing. Now, Memphis has had a fair share of developments (lessons) already, while Bergwijn only now seems to have the status of a key player for PSV.

His strengths…

Ball skills. Bergwijn has amazing ball skills, the ball is always on a string with him. There are not many players who are capable of taking a man on and leaving him behind to create a man more situation (like Arjen Robben can). This is a quality that is worth millions in football. It mostly makes the difference. And this is why Messi, C Ronaldo, Mo Salah and Eden Hazard are paid the big bucks. And why Memphis is currently the key man up front for Oranje. Bergwijn’s dribbles are testament to the fact he might well be our next key man up front!

Shooting qualities. Memphis was only 17 years old when Holland witnessed that sensational weapon that is his right foot. Memphis can place them, curl them, hit a rocket or hit a swirling ball. Bergwijn needs to work on his shooting technique. The stats show that Bergwijn is making good progress. In 2016/2017, he had a return of 5% (shots vs goals). In 2017/2018, that % went up to 11% and in this current season, he is already at 24%. So every fourth goal attempt is a goal. Only Klaas Jan Huntelaar does better ( 46%!!) while Bergwijn is in the same league as top players like Tadic, Van Persie and Lozano.

Tactical smarts. Players like Messi, Hazard and Griezmann are adept in finding the space in between the lines or in the half spaces. This is a skills Bergwijn still needs to work on. But he is developing well in that respect. A big plus for Bergwijn, he is happy to run in behind and get the ball in front of him, while most forwards in Oranje (but in general too) want the ball in their feet: Berghuis, Promes, Babel, Memphis… Kluivert and Bergwijn both love running without the ball, a very hard to defend weapon.

Eye for his team mates. Bergwijn is not an egotistical player but he can still improve here. Steven Berghuis for instance, created 22 chances for team mates, Robin van Persie 10. Tadic of Ajax, 17. Bergwijn is stuck at 7, one less than Luuk de Jong.

Mentality. Bergwijn is a young player who will make tactical mistakes, but lack of work ethics is not one of them. He was instrumental vs Ajax to keep Frenkie de Jong quiet for instance. Koeman will have enjoyed his game, and will have seen that Stevie is capable of fitting in the defensive shape and playing with his head, not just his feet.

It is highly likely that Bergwijn will be part of Koeman’s definitive squad this time around and make minutes for the senior Oranje, as Van der Looi already announced to select younger player for Young Oranje moving forward.


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1974: Cruyff unique, but no cigar…

Although West Germany got the title in 1974, that World Cup was Johan Cruyff’s and Oranje’s tournament. And based on the historic numbers below, we can see why. In this tournament, Cruyff has had the most successful dribbles, he creates the most chances and he is playing all over the pitch. Something that was totally unique in those days and simply copied later by Barcelona and Messi (and others since).

Lots of players have their signature moves. But the first one to claim that at the world stage was Cruyff. He led Oranje to the finals and eventually lost against West Germany, but he dazzled the world with the so-called Cruyff Turn. Another iconic Cruyff move was the dribble in the finals. In the first minute, without any of the Germans touching the ball, JC found his way into the box, until he got fouled and Neeskens was able to score from the spot. The 1974 World Cup star was and always will be, Johan Cruyff.

So lets start with the second match Oranje played. After beating Uruguay with 2-0, Oranje faces Sweden. And Cruyff will have 12 successful dribbles in that match. Only eight (8) player managed to do this in one match, in the last 50 years.

Date Match Team Player No. success dribbels
12/07/1966 Portugal – Hungary Portugal Eusébio 12
07/06/1970 West-Germany – Bulgaria West-Germany Reinhard Libuda 12
17/06/1970 Brazil – Uruguay Brazil Jairzinho 13
19/06/1974 Netherlands – Sweden Netherlands Johan Cruijff 12
23/06/1974 Poland – Italy Italy Sandro Mazzola 12
22/06/1986 Argentina – England Argentina Diego Maradona 12
01/07/1990 England – Cameroon England Paul Gascoigne 13
05/07/1994 Nigeria – Italy Nigeria Jay Jay Okocha 15

It’s not just the number of dribbles that determined the domination of the Dutch #14. He is at the heart of everything. As the striker of the team, he’s also the dreh-und-angel-punkt. Or the pivot. He drops deep into midfield to start the move, or he moves to the left flank to start his dribble. Other players take the oppportunity to move into the striker position and to “arrive” in the hot spot as opposed to “being there” already. As a result, Johan only scored 3 goals at the World Cup, with Rensenbrink and Rep scoring more (wingers, both) but the former Ajax man was involved in eight of the 14 Oranje goals!

His assists against Argentina (the 3-0) and against Brazil (the 1-0) are typical for his tournament. Against Argentina, he moves into the left flank role and offers a great cross with his left for John Rep to finish. As JC left the central striker position, Rep moved into that role and is on hand at the far post to head the ball home. Against Brazil, Cruyff is on the right flank and he crosses the ball with his right this time, for Johan Neeskens to burst into the box and score.

In terms of dribbles and creativity, Cruyff is boss at the World Cup 1974, with one hand tied behind his back even. Cruyff has 54 touches in the opponent’s box for instance, a number only bettered by West Germany striker Gerd Muller. Cruyff was for Oranje what Messi is now for Barca: playmaker and finisher at the same time.

Player Successful dribbles
Johan Cruijff 34
Uli Hoeness 23
Sandro Mazzola 22
Jairzinho 19
Robert Gadocha 19
Francisco Marinho 19
Player chances created
Johan Cruijff 36
Kazimierz Deyna 29
Jairzinho 19
Robert Gadocha 19
Wolfgang Overath 18
Gerd Müller 18

La Naranja Mécanica (Clockwork Orange) as Rinus Michels’ team would be called, combines towards the finals, against host nation West Germany. The 2-1 defeat causes a national football trauma. Cruyff plays his weakest match, and according to myth, the so-called Bild Swimming Pool incident is at fault. The Bild magazine organised for some naked girls to dive into the pool where the Oranje players were relaxing in their hotel. Bild took the photos and published them a day before the finals. The phone calls from the players’ wives would be the cause for the lack of concentration in the finals. But what do the stats tell us?

West Germany sacrifices Berti Vogts and has him man mark Cruyff across the pitch. The touch map above shows that JC starts to wander around to get rid of Vogts. He is less dominant than usual and West Germany is able to destabilize his threat. Cruyff has zero attempts on goal and only has two would be assists on a team mate.

Johan Cruijff tijdens het WK 1974

Opponent Goals Assists Penalties Ball touches Goal attempts Key passes
Uruguay 0 0 0 107 4 5
Zweden 0 0 0 96 4 6
Bulgarije 0 1 1 91 3 11
Argentinië 2 1 0 86 4
Oost-Duitsland 0 0 0 63 1 6
Brazilië 1 1 0 73 2 2
West-Duitsland 0 0 1 66 0 2

In fact, without a dominant role for the #14, Oranje is still quite threatening. Holland has more attempts on goal than West Germany (14 v 11) and the same number of shots on target (5 v 5 ). Of those 14 attempts, 11 are from within the box, which shows that JC’s wandering about allowed other team mates to find threatening positions.

Stats Nederland
Goals Shots on target Possession
2 25 8 60,0%
0 30 7 62,6%
4 25 12 48,4%
4 17 9 57,2%
2 14 5 62,1%
2 12 6 51,9%
1 14 5 57,8%


Stats opponent
Goals Shots On target
Uruguay 0 1 0
Sweden 0 8 3
Bulgaria 1 11 3
Argentina 0 2 1
East-Germany 0 9 1
Brazil 0 14 1
West-Duitsland 2 11 5

The main difference with previous matches at the tournament, based on the stats – is the defence. West Germany is the only team to reach 10 goal attempts against Holland. West Germany has six attempts from within the box, of which four on target. This is an aspect that hasn’t been discussed too often: the key difference between this game and earlier matches was not so much Cruyff’s performance, but the performance of Oranje defensively.


Opponent Attempts from outside the box Attempts from within the box
Uruguay 1 0
Sweden 5 2
Bulgaria 4 4
Argentina 0 0
East-Germany 2 0
Brazil 3 0
West-Germany 6 4

Johan Cruyff in his autobiography “My side of the Story” about the 2-1 defeat. “I think we were actually too arrogant. I think we felt we could and would beat them. We were 1-o up in the first minute and wanted to play with them. And once you are at that point, it’s hard to turn it around. We had so many opportunities, but it felt like, whatever we tried, the ball didn’t wanna go in. We simply weren’t 100%. Both offensively and defensively. Look at the goals we conceded. We never conceded goals like that second by Gerd Muller. We were constantly a step too late. It was a mental thing.”

Cruyff did see the benefits of losing the finals. “Somehow, the story became better. The best team to never win it, and all that. And our style of play became famous. No one talks about the 1974 West Germany team, do they? And with our philosophy, we showed players who aren’t strong and tall can be stars. Rep, Rensenbrink, Jansen, myself… All over the world, football changed because of us.”

Today, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Arsenal, Manchester City, they all seem to play fluid, without a fixed central striker, with lots of movement… the seed of this was sown by Cruyff, Van Hanegem and Neeskens and co in 1974….

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Memphis, most scoring left winger in Europe

It took less than a year in the Ligue 1 for Memphis Depay to become one of the key players in France. Although his image might not always be too positive in the Netherlands. It’s time to analyse how he managed to resurrect his career with Olympique Lyon.

If one hears something repeated often enough, it will become the perceived reality. This applies to all these Dutch football fans and pundits claiming that Arjen Robben can never be replaced in Oranje and we – Holland – currently do not have any top quality players anymore.

Strangely enough, the most threatening left winger in the five Top Leagues in Europe (Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A and Ligue 1) is actually a Dutch player. It’s also the most critiqued player of Oranje of the past years: Memphis Depay.

Usually, the news items are about the hats he wears, the messages he puts on Instagram, the car he drives, the tattoos on his body or the rap songs he produces. This all doesn’t take into acount the amazing comeback he made to the top as OL player. In Lyon, Depay seems to have recovered from his failed adventure at Man United. The playing style of Lyon could well be the blue print for the plan Oranje needs to execute. The effectiveness of Depay in that system of Les Gones seems to be a worthy aim, as Oranje is looking for new leaders of the line.

Memphis Depay’s stats versus all left wingers in the Top 5 European Leagues, 2017/18:

Goals: 8 1st
Directly involved in goals (goals + assists): 11 3rd
Shots per match: 2,1 26st
Scorings percentage shots: 29.6% 1st*

* Only taking into account players with more than one shot on goal per match

The year and a half Memphis played for Manchester United, in hindsight, can be seen as the perfect storm of what could go wrong for a young lad at a big club. He came in with a huge weight of expectations on his back, not helped by the Jersey #7. Van Gaal immediately gave Depay a starting berth in a team that the coach couldn’t get to dazzle. In the first season of energy-less games, Memphis was instructed to put more energy in his defensive game, while the slow ball circulation meant he was usually facing two opponents. Having to stick to the byline, Depay usually was one of the last players in the tedious build-up to receive the ball, not having any space or time for the creative element of surprise. All things he never had to cope with at PSV. And to put insult to injury, on the last transfer day, Man United signed French super talent Martial for 60 mio euros, a direct rival for the left wing. In two years, the coach who signed him was told to leave and Jose Mourinho came in. He demands more physical and tactical discipline of his players and more defensive duties of his wingers. Not a game plan Memphis would thrive in.

He gave his football management the instruction to find him a team inwhich he could excel. They went to SciSports and asked the statisticians to do the work. Olympique Lyon was on the top of their advisory list and Lyon signed him for 16 mio euros. Lyon was a club where the two wingers are free to roam, free to express themselves and are relatively free of defensive duties. After one year, it’s clear to see why this club suits Memphis.

Coach Genesio uses the 4-2-3-1. And Depay gets the space to do what he does well, explosive runs from outside to inside, preparing his killer right foot for a hammer blow. In the final third of the pitch, Memphis hardly ever plays close to the by-line. The left channel is the territory of a forward thundering left wing back or shadow striker Nabil Fekir drifts to the left to use that space.

Defensively, Depay does not have a tough job. Lyon will drop in, back to 4-4-2 and Depay does need to track back to his defensive position, but apart from forward pressurising when Lyon lost possession, there aren’t a lot of other defensive tasks for him. Last weekend, against Nice, Lyon scored 5 goals. As Fekir was not available, Lyon went back to 4-3-3 in possession and 4-5-1 when they lost possession. Four of the five goals (two by Memphis) were made out of quick turnaround moments, from defence to offence. Whenever Nice had the ball on their left flank, it was clear what Memphis’ job was. Being ready to break once Lyon took possession back.

Memphis, positionally defending but ready to pounce

This season, coach Genesio has four explosive forwards. And with destroyer Gonalons off to AS Roma, Lyon plays a little bit mor passive this season. Happy to give the ball to the opponent at times. Lyon had 59% and 57% possession on average, in the last two seasons. This season, the average is closer to 50%. This shift to a more counter-attacking style fits the team and in particular the explosive Depay. Combine this with the fact when Lyon does have the ball, the left winger is able to show up in time in the danger areas, and it is clear to see how he reaches the level again where he left off at PSV.

It also helps that Memphis is playing next to one of the best false strikers of Europe: Nabil Fekir. The French international is in the form of his life and scored eleven goals in as much matches and had 4 assists. Fekir’s qualities are well-known: great dribbler and a devastating shot.

But with Depay being overly right-footed, Fekir is a southpaw and as a result likes to drift to the left flank, enabling him to cross the ball in with his left. Depay uses this with glee, using the space vacated by Fekir to play in the #10 role.

Memphis coming inside, with Fekir drifting to the left

Fekir also likes to move up to become the central striker, which is possible because striker Diaz has the speed and control to play on the flanks as well. This dynamic triangle – with Fekir as #9, Depay as #10 and Diaz on the left – can be seen often in Lyon games.

The positional freedom Depay has in the Lyon system is the exact opposite of the straightjacket tactics of ManU’s Van Gaal, who instructed his players to remain in certain areas of the pitch and never to cross over. This style can easily be adopted by Oranje, as we also have quite multi-functional attackers in Promes, Babel and Berghuis.

Another positive aspect to Depay’s game is that he has tremendously improved in the two areas where he spoke of in an interview in 2014. The 20 year old back then said his initial pre-action needs to improve and his running in behind without the ball needs to get better. Two aspects he clearly worked on.

Memphis playing the #10 role

“Guus Hiddink and Phillip Cocu think I need to be more alternating in my pre-actions. I need to be more focused. For instance, I should be able to spot the ball coming to me, 10 seconds earlier. The ball comes in my direction, my team mate opens up his body, I can read that he’ll play me in. I need to move before this happens and make my opponent nervous. I used to be static on the byline. Receiving the ball into my feet and then I’d make the action. By making the right initial move, I should be able to stretch the defence.”

Goals Assists Shots Dribbles Chances created
2013/14: 0,4 0,23 5,4 3,4 2,9 7,4%
2014/15: 0,77 0,18 5,7 2,8 2,1 13,6%
Manchester United
2015/16: 0,12 0,12 3,5 1,3 0,5 3,4%
Olympique Lyon
2016/17: 0,41 0,57 3,8 3,3 2,6 10,8%
2017/18: 0,75 0,28 2,5 1,9 1,9 29,6%

In Lyon, Memphis demonstrates to have this down pat. In the match vs St Etienne he scores a goal with the exact same pre-action as his first goal vs Troyes, only two weeks earlier. Depay starts on the right flank when Lyon’s counter starts, but makes his way diagonally to the left. When Fekir playes the ball to the right, to Aouar, Depay will pass a defender’s back and move to the left. He knows the defender will be startled and will turn towards his own goal to sprint back to cover Memphis. When the defender takes his eye off him, in that turn, Memphis takes the opportunity to move away and create space for the shot on goal with his right, whenever the ball gets to him.

He also said in the 2014 interview that national team manager Van Gaal insisted on more depth in his runs. Today, Depay seems to be aware of the damage his speed can do to an opponent’s defence. Diaz and Depay were up against 6 opponents at the half way line, but when he gets the ball and full speed the four Troyes defenders are helpless against the finishing of the left winger.

Memphis moving from central to the left flank away from the defender in behind

Some players make huge steps when they get to a bigger club. Leroy Sane at Man City, Mo Salah now at Liverpool… This usually happens when they realise they can be threatening and useful without the ball as well. It seems Depay reached this point now as well. And he’s only 23 years old, which means he has the 5 or 7 best years of his career ahead of him. So we best get used again, to the moniker “Memphis Depay, world class player” soon. And watching him play for Lyon is a joy, indeed.

Enjoy some snippets of an interview from last month, from Simon Zwartkruis, October 2017.

Memphis: “So tell me honestly, do you write 24 hours per day? No, right? Well, I have a life besides my work as well. I enjoy fashion, I like posting on Instagram, I love nice cars. What’s wrong with that? But people see that and don’t seem to see how honoured and priviliged and blessed I feel to play for my country.”

“As a boy, I fell in love with football and that will never go away. That passion is the core for me. Practice, laughing with the lads, prepping for a game, getting the best out of yourself, nothing is more beautiful than that. And I do know that at pro level, other aspects count. Of course. Football is number 1 for me and will always be. But the judgements people have about me, are about more than football. Some people don’t get me. But what is so wrong what I do? I’m 23 years old, I’m growing as a human. We all do right?”

“I’m a positive guy. And I believe I can influence my life in a positive way. But the things I do outside of football aren’t regarded as positive. I don’t really care, but it surprises me. I am focused on football and my career, no one needs to doubt that. But there’s other things that make my happy. I’m not a pro player 24 hours per day. And it’s different for every one. But when I’m happy, I perform better. I go full throttle at practice.”

“And when I’m free in my head, my game is freed up. It’s actually good for my career, all these things I do. If I would live like a hermit, I’d be unhappy. And that is also top sports: to find the modus that works for you. I treat my body as my temple, I rest a lot. But I still have time for other stuff. Like a musician isn’t always making music, right?”

“It will also have to do with my background. I’m a street kid. My family was always in survival mode. I love nice things now, as I wasn’t used to it. And in the neighbourhood I grew up in, all lads were little “bosses”. We needed to find our way. And some kids came out wrong. Some went the criminal path. Others worked with their talents. And when you do this, whether its sports or music, you need to invest in yourself first. Some kids from the street opt for the quick and easy money. But I never walk alone. God is with me. That is how I am raised. My trust in my faith is huge. And I’m blessed. I grew up in the jungle, and that is a huge contrast to where I am now and where I want to go to.”

After a failed stint at Man United, Memphis found his happiness with Olympique Lyon. “It was a conscious decision to go there. It wasn’t happening for me at Man United. I was more involved in defensive actions that in the attack. Now, I am free to perform my actions, which is my strength. I play on intuition, I can’t perform well with a list of chores on my back. But I do look for the balance and it’s getting better and better.”

When he’s confronted with his excellent stats this year, he frowns. “It’s not bad, but it’s not great either. I demand more. People say I’m too critical and I might be, but I know what I am able to do. I want to be the best. And I’m not, at the moment. But stats don’t tell the full story. I could play a disastrous match but still score twice. It doesn’t tell me too much. Look at our campaign to qualify for the World Cup: I scored three goals and had an assist in four matches. Decent stats. But I wanted to have more contribution than that. And I look in the mirror. It’s up to me to prove my worth also in Oranje.”

With Oranje, most people hope and expect that the mid 20 year old and older players will take the reigns: Blind, Wijnaldum, Strootman, De Vrij, Van dijk and – the only forward in the list- Memphis Depay. “I want to be important in this new stage. We need to create a more positive vibe around Oranje. We are in a tough spot now and we don’t have the quality we had – say – 7 or 4 years ago. We have lots of young players and we need the support. But I see glory for Oranje again. We will need to build a strong team and with the support of the nation, we can build something beautiful again.”

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Oranje goes for #1

If you’d ask me who I would have wanted to win between France and Sweden, I probably would have said “Sweden”! I think this is the mindset of the winner, the champion. I don’t believe in half-baked affirmations like “Well…if France wins, then they’ll be #1 but then we beat Sweden and we can still go to the WC as the #2!”. Screw that!

I say: grab that bitch by the pussy Donald Trump style and go for the jugular.

France is getting nervous, Sweden is getting cocky, fine. We just scored double digits in goals and we have players returning to the Oranje squad in fine form (Sneijder, Robben, Promes, Memphis, Hoedt, Ake, De Vrij, Cillesen).

hoedt arjen lux

We did the business vs Luxembourg. We’re still in it to win it. And our chances of topping the group have just increased!! No gloomy faces people. We are on our way.

I think Dick and Ruud will be able to forge a compact and hard to beat team, with some glorious brilliance on top. Sometimes it’s Robben, next time it’s Promes, who knows if it will ever be Memphis again, but we will be able to rely on the sturdiness, workrate and defensive strength of Wijnaldum, Strootman, De Vrij, Blind, Cillesen to keep us safe at the back.

How sweet would it be to leave France behind us?

wes lux

Not much intelligent to say about Holland-Luxembourg. I predicted 6-0. I was disappointed. The first goal took a while, after that Luxembourg gave up. I am pleased for Wesley to score the second (I knew he would score) and I saw some solid interplay at times and some excellent moves by Hoedt and De Vrij.

We can evaluate Oranje’s performance based on 5 questions:

Was Oranje capable of attacking with creativity and variety?

The answer is yes. The game wasn’t even 15 minutes old of the fans already saw three great through balls from Sneijder  and after 2 minutes it could have been 1-0 by Robben after good interplay with Janssen. We saw De Vrij pushing up and assist Promes his goal. We saw Hoedt doing this centrally for the first goal and the pass on Robben. We saw Veltman drive up for the move which ended with Wijnaldum scoring…

promes lux

Did Oranje attack and defend like a unit?

Marc Wilmots, coach of Ivory Coast, said it succinctly. “Advocaat is capable of letting his team play like a compact unit.” This is still a point to focus on, as Luxembourg (and Ivory Coast) had opportunities to wiggle their way through, and Kevin Strootman in particular needs to adapt better to his role in Oranje.

Have there been changes in the hierarchy?

Well, no. Robben and Sneijder determine what happens. Who takes the setpiece and when to push up. In particular Robben was unstoppable in his desire to attack.

arjen dick lux

Did Memphis finally play simple and direct?

Two backheels in the first half. And both were functional. One actually resulted in Sneijder’s goal. Memphis was under the magnifying glass. Robben and Memphis had a rift after the Ivory Coast game and Gullit decided to spend extra time on the unfathomable but headstrong winger. A good first half, a little bit sloppy in the second. Promes replaced him and the best player of Russia scored as well. This might result in a fascinating duel.

vince lux

Is Vincent Janssen the right striker for Oranje?

Well, that is a 100% yes. He played an amazing game, even though he missed an early chance. He had a good rapport with Robben and is always able to be played in. He’s got eye for the movement around him and created and finished a penalty. 7 out of the 13.

nathan lux

Smart Dick, didn’t want to do a “Ziyech” and allowed Nathan Ake his official minutes

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Update: Oranje back in Action!!

Well, the Janssen-Dost debate is settled. By the flu!! It seems Kevin Strootman and Vince Janssen exchanged some saliva maybe?

The Spurs bench-warmer stays in Holland and Luuk de Jong is ordered to come to Sofia to be the designated pinch hitter (behind Bas Dost and Jeremain Lens, who arrived late from Suriname).

The key question now is: will Stefan de Vrij be fit enough to play?

And it doesn’t look like it. Which means, Oranje will most likely play with a debutant as center back: De Ligt or Hoedt.

De Vrij has had a big knock and an internal bleeding in his leg. Yesterday, he wasn’t able to move his feet. But, as Blind said at the presser: “These things can improve massively overnight, so we’ll see.”

More Danny Blind: “I don’t like to play with two left footed players centrally (Hoedt and Martins Indi) as the build up will be slower than when you have a left and right footer. But it is an option.”

Blind: “There’s always something. First Van Dijk and Bruma and now De Vrij. But luckily Strootman is completely recovered. It seems Janssen has it bad, a throat infection and high fever. Not good at all.”

As for Dost: “Well, it makes my job easier when players fall away, in terms of decisions, but I rather have it hard. I want to have all our positions doubled up. And Dost is a different striker than Janssen, so we’ll need to make some tactical changes.”

training bul

Gini Wijnaldum was asked about the knock on his head: “It’s all good. I can head the ball, I am painfree, no dramas. And yes, it’s a bit disappointing dealing with all the injured players but we can’t keep on moaning about it. Other players will need to step up, it’s as simple as that.”

Blind: “I do have a very good feeling about where we’re going with the squad. I’m confident, even with those injuries… It’s simple: we need to get six points in the coming two matches. We know what we need to do and I’m confident we will.”

The last training session did not give a lot away in terms of set up.

It will be a 4-3-3:


Karsdorp – De Ligt – Martins Indi – Blind

Wijnaldum – Strootman – Sneijder

Robben – Dost – Promes

Some Bulgaria stats: Holland lost the so-called farewell match in 2012 (before that dreadful Euros) under Bert van Marwijk at home against the Bulgarians. An omen of what was to come… This actually was the first and only “farewell” match before a bit tournament that the Dutch lost. Jetro Willems made his debut in that game, at 17 years old. And now has 22 to his name and if he goes on as he does, he might well become the Dutch record international.

Humphry Mijnals made his debut against Bulgaria as well by the way and was the first “coloured” Dutch international back in the 19whatevers.

Holland played Bulgaria 10 times and only won 4 matches…

Tonight’s game is played in the Sofia Savili Levski Stadium. Oranje never won a match there. The Dutch only “didn’t win” more matches in one other venue: San Siro in Milan. We played there five times and never won.

Bulgaria is tough to beat anyway. They didn’t lose at home in 14 qualification games! The last country to win in Bulgaria were the Czechs.

Dost bul

Bulgaria’s biggest claim to fame was reaching the semi finals in the WC1994, beating Germany spectacularly in the quarter finals. Current NT coach Hubchev was in that team.

Currently, Daley Blind has as many caps for Oranje as his dad Danny. If he plays tonight, he’ll surpass him and will have 43 international games for Oranje.

Bas Dost is 2017’s top goal scorer. He has 15 already, this year, with one Lionel Messi on second spot with”only” 13 goals.

Our Dutch Lions are up for two matches in the coming week and strangely enough, the first match is the WC qualifier vs Bulgaria and three days later we have a practice friendly, versus Italy… That really confuses me? Why would you program this? Isn’t it logical to do the practice game first and then the official one? Must be me.

And we do live in confusing times… I will not go into Trump vs Hillary, Trump vs Putin, Erdogan vs Wilders, Wenger yes or no or anything like that.

We have our hands full with Dost vs Janssen and who-will-be-our-goalie…

The AD newspaper poll says 90% of the people voting, feel that Dost should start. The former Heerenveen striker can’t stop scoring in Portugal and will well be on his way to bigger things, if he keeps going like this. Janssen scores as many minutes in the first team as Dost scores goals per month.

dost oranje

But super striker (and also super sub) Pierre van Hooijdonk, who knows what it is to be in the “Bas Dost Position” remarkably say: “stick with Vincent”!

Pierre: “You pick a certain style of playing and for this you need certain players. Janssen is different to Dost, and if using Dost means you have to change the whole tactical plan, I’d say: don’t do it. Use Dost for additional power coming off the bench.”

Van Hooijdonk had to endure Kluivert and Van Nistelrooy in pole position. Easier to swallow for sure. “Yes, the difference between them and me was different to the Dost-Janssen situation, I can see that. But Blind sees Dost in training, he follows him in Lisbon… And Dost failed against Luxembourg. That will count too. If he would have left a smashing impression, it would be different now.”

It does seem like Blind is on the same page as the former Feyenoord man. The mantra is: let Janssen do it in Oranje, until he fails in Oranje. As long as he doesn’t, leave him be.

janssen oranje bul

Blind: “I am sorry but I don’t take the public’s opinion into account. If I would do that, because I can limit the criticism on myself, I wouldn’t be worth this job. I would have to be polling and checking twitter trends daily to make a line up. That is not going to work, of course. And as for the striker, I have made up my mind. I don’t see it as a hard decision to make, it is what I call a luxury decision.”

Blind also has hard data to use for fitness purposes. “I can easily see if a player is mentally and physically fit. We measure this and we have data from the clubs. And Janssen is top fit. He trains daily and hasn’t had major injuries, so that is not a drama. He lacks match rhythm, that is all. But we all know that Janssen and Wijnaldum probably have the most demanding physical programs of all Oranje players. They’re top fit!”

Van Hooijdonk: “The key thing is, will all this have an effect on Janssen’s style of playing. If he plays, I’ll watch his behaviour closely. If he gets through for instance, and has a chance but Karsdorp is totally free before goal, what will Janssen do? He’ll need to pass it to Karsdorp, but sometimes strikers under pressure will go for their personal glory. No matter how big the desire for some success, he’ll need to think of the team.”

oranje training

Matthijs De Ligt on the left

By the way, Dost will only join Oranje today, as he was at the funeral of his grandfather this week. Same as Jeremain Lens who is in Suriname as his dad actually passed away. He will join Oranje Thursday as well.

Today, Stefan de Vrij and Gini Wijnaldum left the practice early with some issues. De Vrij with a sore ankle, and Wijnaldum got a boot against his head. Robben trained in full despite some smaller issues. Kevin Strootman spent his days in bed with the flu.

Danny Blind: “Everyone is fit, it seems, at least for the game starts. The usual little knocks and things. De Vrij’s knee is dry, as the medical staff calls it. He’ll play and I have options next to him of course. Martins Indi is doing well at Stoke, Hoedt plays next to him at Lazio, Viergever can play in that role, Daley as well. And Promes can play on the wing, on the #10 but also as striker. He plays at a very high level and luckily Memphis is playing really well as well. We’ve got choices again.”

Blind won’t say much about the goalie choice. “We have good goalies and I’ve made up my mind, but you’ll need to wait for that one.”

de vrij terug

Stefan de Vrij is back!

Martins Indi left the Oranje squad after his red card vs Iceland. Is the relationship Blind – Martins Indi repaired? Blind: “Well it was never broken. We have discussed this immediately after Iceland. And when he returned to Oranje we have had a good conversation as well. He’s playing now, he’s got rhythm, he’s making the move from Porto to Stoke. All good. And it’s good to have choices. We’re missing Van Aanholt, Van Dijk, Bruma, Kongolo… But we don’t have to panic as we have options.”

Blind is mostly impressed with Wijnaldum’s development. “Gini is becoming a very important player for Oranje and I don’t want to mis-use him like I had to do vs Belgium, when he played right wing back almost. I need to use him like Liverpool does, in that key role in midfield. He’s been excellent.”

Matthijs de Ligt will make his debut in the Oranje squad. A lot of people criticised Blind for that selection. “I know him, I have spoken with him. I’ve spoken with Peter Bosz and Marc Overmars. He’s very mature and learns really fast. I think he will be a full fledged Oranje player and probably a top class defender. But he won’t start. He needs to listen, learn and digest. People felt I should have gone with Van der Heijden (Feyenoord) but I have enough lefties in defense, I really need a right footed player behind De Vrij and that is De Ligt.”

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Wesley Hoedt battling with Janssen

It would make sense for Wesley Hoedt to get his debut in Oranje. He plays next to De Vrij at Lazio and faces top teams and strikers every week. “I think I earned my spot in Oranje, based on the 52 matches I played in the Serie A. I have definitely become a better defender compared to my time in the Eredivisie. And here with Oranje, I feel good too, even though it’s my first time. But I do know some of the lads of course, so that helps.”

Next week, Oranje faces Italy, with a number of players Hoedt faces weekly. “Yes, I played against Belotti last week. I think people in Holland look down on the level in Serie A, but the teams in the top half are really good. And Juventus is a class apart even. The way they are organised. A player like Chiellini for instance. I’m sure he would never make it through the Academy at Ajax or Feyenoord. They’d send him away. But in Italy, they see defending as a pure quality. I like that.”

The friendly vs Italy is 5 days before the Classic, which will most likely decide the title. Blind: “I have not made any agreements with the clubs about the players and how I use them in the Italy game, no. They still have 5 days to recuperate. This is professional football.”

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Debutant Wesley Hoedt

About the strikers: “I have three good options. Lens can play centrally as well. Dost is hot which is great. I think we have a luxury issue, which is nice for me. A couple of good strikers, I can’t complain about that!”

Arjen Robben came later to the Oranje camp with a swollen foot. “I thought OH FUCK there we go again, in bed after the Gladbach match. But it all came down nicely and I have no problem. Saturday, I’ll be 100%. I want to show everyone I’m still here but I won’t do anything silly or over the top to prove myself. But I feel shit that I have to cancel many matches due to injuries. Last time vs Luxembourg I was back and again had to leave the pitch injured. I am so done with that! I really want to play every second for Oranje but I’m 33 years old. I do have to monitor my fitness but as long as it feels like I can, I will….”

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Yesterday, Oranje had a so-called open training day at Quick Boys in Noordwijk, but a closed off training session in De Arena today. On Friday, they fly to Sofia with a practice session and press conference in the late afternoon.

On Saturday, the match. Sunday, flight back with late practice at Ajax’ youth centre (closed off again) and on Monday a partly open session in the AZ Stadium in Alkmaar, with another presser. Tuesday evening we take on the Italians in a friendly, in the Amsterdam Arena.

vilhena memphis

Memphis is happy again

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