Tag: De Jong

Winners and Losers of Oranje

He who studied Louis van Gaal knows he is a true fan and follower of his role model Rinus Michels. As a young player, he would bike to the Ajax training ground, not to watch the Ajax players, but to watch Michels. When a young adult Van Gaal needed to pick a profession, he decided to become a teacher, phys ed, like Michels was.

He tries to copy Michels career (Ajax, Barca, Oranje) but wants to do one better: winning the World Cup. He will have noticed how Michels abandoned the Dutch 4-3-3 in 1988, in order to win the first and only trophy for Holland. He shored up the midfield and took a forward off, making sure his two stars Gullit and Van Basten wouldn’t need to do too much work and could focus on scoring goals. Realist Michels ignored all the idealists and won the big prize.

As a young coach, Van Gaal played uber attacking football, which has inspired many a coach, like Guardiola, Bielsa and Flick. But on 19 January 1989, something happened. Barca led Valencia, 3-0. In 20 minutes, Valencia scored four goals and Van Gaal lost that match.

His next big trophy, he won with AZ Alkmaar, playing counter football in a 4-4-1-1 set up.

During the years, he realised he was naive and started to focus on a way to win games with exciting football. He got more and more convinced, that the strongest team with the tightest bonds would win tournaments. And when one has mediocre players, reactive football will pay off, using tactical smarts, to cover your own weaknesses and to exploit the weaknesses of the opponent.

At the 2014 World Cup, he knew he had some world class forwards, but mediocre defenders. The players back then were on the pay roll of Ajax, Feyenoord, Aston Villa, Norwich, Swansea City, Galatasaray… He created a platform for Robben and Van Persie and disciplined the lesser heroes into a tight system. When he needed speed and pizzazz, he brought Memphis. When he needed legs in midfield, he had PSV player Wijnaldum.

We got to the semis, and a failed penalty shoot out blocked us from beating the Germs in the finals.

This time around, our back line has players who are at Man City, Liverpool, Inter, Juventus, Ajax and midfielders who play at Barcelona, PSG, Man United or Bayern Munich. Our forwards might not (yet) be of Robben status, but they know how to unsettle defenders and score!

Van Gaal believes he has a real chance of lifting the trophy.

He studied the way Tuchel at Chelsea works with his three at the back. Chelsea is able to put pressure on the ball and does this by using the wing backs in a tactical way. They need to see the moment to push forward and put pressure on the wingers of the opponent. Van Gaal noticed that Daley Blind has the tactical intelligence to recognise these moments. Something Dumfries needs to improve on, as he got it wrong recently versus Germany (and initially versus Belgium as well).

Van Gaal speaks of the 10 yard rule. When the opponent has the ball, the Oranje players cannot be further apart than 10 yards. In this way, players can put pressure and know that their spot will be covered. This was what didn’t go well at the Euros, recently, when the Czechs didn’t find it hard to play in between the lines.

Another aspect Van Gaal has been hammering on: coaching. All players need to be vocal, you need to inform your mates and create a better awareness or orientation. Van Gaal uses video analysis software to monitor this. The video software constantly calculates and visualises the distances. Based on this, Van Dijk is named the General of Pressing and he is the key man in coaching the team. Stefan de Vrij is his capable 2CO in this task. Interestingly enough, when Oranje is able to keep these distances, the opponent finds it hard to score. Once we are unable to fill in the gaps, the opponent will get chances. We were able to do it right for 70 minutes versus Belgium. Once we started slipping and getting more fatigued, we become vulnerable.

The lesson? If we can keep this up for 90 minutes, it will be hard for any opponent to score against us.

By using two forwards and no real wingers, LVG opens up the flanks for his wide wingbacks. This means Oranje has always an extra man in midfield. Vanaken and Witsel of Belgium were constantly facing three Oranje midfielders. When you control the midfield, you control the game.

Players like Memphis, Bergwijn, Lang, Malen and Danjuma do love the space on the wing to be available for them to run into. The experiment with Weghorst as deepest striker against Wales didn’t work out. As Wales didn’t press up, we were a man short in midfield, also because the two “half 10s” weren’t able to play the spaces too well. Van Gaal changed it back, by making Lang a midfielder again and this way we regained control.

Against Poland, Van Gaal went back to his 3 midfielder game plan (Klaassen, Frenkie, Berghuis) and we should have and could have won that too, if Memphis had scored the pen. The two Polish goals can be (and should have been) avoided.

The new Oranje system works well against stronger nations, who want to attack as well. It will allow for space, for Frenkie and Memphis in particular to create havoc.

Against team parking the bus – and they usually also sacrifice a player to mark Frenkie de Jong – this team needs to improve. Van Gaal had to instruct Frenkie to not try and dribble into cul de sacs, but to move away from the action. Find space on the wings, or in areas where nothing is happening. If the marker follows, it means other players will be able to get more space and take over Frenkie’s role.

The fact that it still takes the coach to point this out, as he had to do versus Denmark when Eriksen became the free man after he had come onto the pitch, there is still a lot of work to do. You want that tactical intelligence on the pitch, you want players like Blind, Van Dijk, Frenkie and Memphis to “see” these things and take care of it.

This new Van Gaal system has a couple of winners.

Steven Bergwijn – Van Gaal called him a Gift of the Gods, literally. Strong on the ball, a good partnership with Memphis, scoring ability, depth, speed. But… not able to play more than 70 minutes at high intensity.

Steven Berghuis – Van Gaal calls him the “passer” as opposed to the “runners” Klaassen, Wijnaldum, Van de Beek and Til. Berghuis is unique in this role, with Teun Koopmeiners as more defensive alternative. As there are no real alternatives, it seems the Ajax man is certain of his spot.

Jurrien Timber – He may have gotten the wrath of the coach against Poland but Timber has been impressing as right CB in Ajax and in Oranje. He is the complete package: speed, ability to play right wing back if needed, strong in challenges and very good on the ball. His off day v Poland was due to fatigue, Van Gaal concluded.

Nathan Ake – Van Gaal prefers a left footed left centre back. He seems to prefer Blind as wing back so Ake is the only left footed defender in the squad. Martins Indi was called up for this reason and we’ll see Sven Botman most likely too. Ake doesn’t play much at City, but he keeps impressing in Oranje.

The Losers

Stefan de Vrij – Van Gaal is a super fan of the Inter defender as he also used him successfully in 2014. “Everything Van Dijk can do, De Vrij can do as well.” It seems he is the ideal stand in for captain Virgil van Dijk.

Mathijs de Ligt – The young and solid Juve defender was tested as left CB but that was not an overall success. It seems De Ligt needs to focus on a spot in the centre or right CB. For these positions he’s competing with De Vrij, Van Dijk and Timber. Tough test for Mathijs.

Gini Wijnaldum – One of the key players for Oranje in the past years, but Van Gaal is not impressed with his performances in Oranje. “Gini has to deliver. We cannot bring players in to help them find their feet. He will need to do this at his club.”

Arnaut Danjuma – Scores for fun in Spain (and everywhere else) but hasn’t impressed Van Gaal too much. “He is still injured. He’s not my #1 player and when you’re not fit, you move further down the hierarchy. Danjuma needs to get fit and he needs to perform. Only then can I select him again.”

Bookmark and Share

Oranje work in progress…

Or so we hope… It’s only one more week… And then the real stuff comes down. Frank de Boer wanted to be able to play 5-3-2 and seems to be throwing everything he has at it. But will it be enough?

A 3-0 win over Georgia doesn’t mean much.

So De Boer went for another 5-3-2, but with Stekelenburg for Krul and Daley Blind for Mathijs de Ligt who is struggling with a groin issue.

But the coach also tweaked the positions.

Wijnaldum as #10

Against Scotland, Holland played with one holding mid and two more offensive midfielders wider. Against Georgia, we play with two holders and a central #10 or false striker and as the match progressed, Frenkie started to play higher up the pitch whenever he could, so we would have more pressure on their holding mids.

In an attacking sense, Memphis now has more space behind him, to fall back into and pick up the ball. No matter where the coach positions him on the white board, he will always go into the half spaces on the left side of the pitch. Against Scotland, Gravenberch was constantly in his way, now agains Georgia that space is his. In this way, Holland plays with two #10s behind striker Weghorst. At times Blind could find the 10s via a forward pass and threaten the goal. See below.

Wingbacks push up

We saw how Wijndal in particular failed to push up in the first half vs Scotland and how this influenced the first stage of that game. Now, De Boer instructed his wingbacks to take on their counter part, allowing the midfielders to be available and on the front foot for when we repossess the ball. The shape and positioning was way better, see below.

The backs being high up the pitch resulted in our second goal, when an agressive Dumfries marks his man way on the opponent’s side of the pitch. He turns over possession and via Frenkie’e quick feet, Memphis finds Wout Weghorst, who is allowed to score his first Oranje goal and boy, did he enjoy that.

De Roon pushes Dumfries up

This is a more subtle change. And it concerns specific build-up situations, where De Roon drops back next to the right back central defender. See below:

He pushes Dumfries forward which is great, as the PSV skipper is the most threatening attacker for Oranje and gets the penalty shout too. But there are also issues.

De Roon doesn’t add anything in the build up. Timber is a way better footballer and demonstrated this vs Scotland. De Roon delays the build up, more than anything and with him on Dumfries’ duties, Oranje lacks a player in midfield, which can be a problem.

Below a situation where De Roon is missing in midfield and De Vrij and Blind get in trouble.

But despite all these changes, Oranje’s problems remain the same. We have a week to go do deal with the following four problems:

The wrong players have to build up

In an attacking sense, the wrong players are involved in the build up. In Koeman’s 4-2-3-1, the buildup happened from the back, centrally, with Blind as left back and Virgil and De Ligt centrally with Frenkie close by in midfield. In that set up, Oranje at times played with three at the back, as Frenkie would regularly drop back to assist his colleagues.

This image above shows us how it is resolved today. The space where Frenkie likes to start is now occupied by the left central defender who moves towards the side line and De Roon who drops deep to provide an option. These are not the players who will come up with a swift forward pass.

No depth

In top matches for Chelsea, Timo Werner always plays. Not because he scores prolifically, coz he doesn’t, but because he will run in behind all the time. Whenever he goes, he pulls the opponent’s defense with him and opens up space for anything to happen.

We don’t have that player currently. Weghorst works like a horse but is not that type of forward and Memphis wants the ball to feet. Dumfries is currently our player with the deep runs, and he is a full back! When Malen is introduced, this goes more smoothly. The explosive PSV forward can make those runs all day long and create more space for Memphis and Weghorst.

Man marking results in chaos

Georgia creates opportunities in the first half! And more than they themselves had expected. The #91 on the World Ranking seems to play out of trouble with ease, against this Oranje. The cause: holes in the organisation. The Dutch start from a particular zone on the pitch, but quite early on in the game, you can see the pairing happening. And the results are sometimes ugly, see below.

Wijnaldum has to follow his man and ends up playing right bac. De Roon and De Jong are not in the zone protecting our defence which resulted in Timber pushing forward and also being out of position. Shambles!

Playing a team like Georgia which likes to form a square in midfield, it’s quite hard to do man marking, as the Oranje midfielder would be out of position too often and the central defenders would be forced to push up all the time. Georgia didn’t really benefit from this but a stronger opponent surely will.

The distances between players are too big

The core of our defensive woes is the distance between players. In order to defend forward with the defensive line, the distance between forwards and defenders should be no more than 30 meters. Koeman called this vertically compact.

Today, these distances are bigger. The players don’t seem to recognise the situation together, in order to push up (defence) or drop deeper (forwards). The result is: too much space in between the lines and it is very hard to play a pressure game if the space is too big. These are all things that can be remedied at the training ground, but maybe not within one week.

Lastly, it’s important to look in the mirror when judging this team: would we take this result in the Euros group stages? Or in a World Cup qualifier? Would we be distraught with the lack of quality or just enjoy the three points and hope our better form is right around the corner?

But if it’s a friendly warm up match for the Euros, we tend to look at it all with a magnifying glass.

It’s important to remind yourself that:

  • In 1974, most Dutch fans wondered why we were going to the World Cup. We wouldn’t stand a chance, as Keizer and Swart were getting too old and all our central defenders (Israel, Hulshoff, Mansfeld, Drost, Laseroms) were injured and we had to rely on a midfielder and a rookie in central defence.
  • In 1978 expectations were dreadful as JC and Willem van Hanegem weren’t coming
  • In 1988, Michels couldn’t find the winning recipe until after losing the first group match
  • In 2010, the pre-World Cup campaign was also quite disappointing and our defence was considered way to weak
  • In 2014, the whole nation wondered what on Earth Van Gaal was going to do with this team

I do share a lot of the criticism that has been voiced on the blog. I also think Wijndal and Dumfries do not have the quality level this team needs, in particular moving forward and with their final pass.

I also think Malen should start over Weghorst.

I really don’t think De Roon should be starting. I would play Gravenberch for him.

Stekelenburg would be my #1 goalie.

Bookmark and Share

Oranje ready for Scotland

The jersey numbers were presented for the Oranje squad. And with Jasper Cillesen out of contention due to Corona, Maarten Stekelenburg got the #1 jersey, while Tim Krul has his favorite #13. The jersey numbers don’t say much about who starts. De Boer said he wasn’t sure which goalie would be his new #1, and the coming friendlies will probably give us more insights.

Luuk de Jong has his number 9, a number previously held by Ryan Babel. But it doesn’t mean that much, it’s not the first eleven numbers that will play, as Frenkie has his fave #21 and Daley Blind his usual #17.

Frank de Boer already announced he will be playing a 5-3-2 against the Scots. He wants to spend more time perfecting it, as most of the players are well versed in 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 already. “Most players have this experience in playing with 3 at the back, but for some it’s years ago so we want to work on it. It also happens to be a good system vs Scotland, by the way,” according to the coach. He also said Marten de Roon will start against the Scots, but that was all he was happy with sharing.

De Boer: “We want to dominate the game but we don’t always have a lot of possession. With this system you can dominate the game without the ball. We did this well vs Italy away, with a good sense of discipline and work rate. Now, we need to add more when we do have the ball. Our key players know how to play in this system. Daley Blind, Mathijs de Ligt, Frenkie, Memphis, it’s not new for them. And I do hope the jigsaw will fall into place quickly, I think it can. And if not, it’s easy to re-shape into a 4-3-3.”

Cillesen not being able to play and train with the group was enough reason for De Boer to give clarity about the goalie. He’s not longer needed. “It’s deep deep disappointing for him and for us, but we can’t start with a player who is not fit. We can’t practice with him, he will miss at least one match and I think it means we can’t use him. I only need players who are 100% fit.”

He did say some highly positive things about his new lads, Timber and Gakpo: “I am really impressed with them. The pace is high with Oranje and so is the intensity, but these two didn’t have any issues getting on the proper level. Don’t think for a moment these guys are just here to make the squad full. We will probably need the depth of this squad.”

Bookmark and Share

Big Puzzle for Louis van Gaal

Holland was the first European nation to qualify for the World Cup and it is now the first nation to qualify for the knock out stages. Despite all the pessimism and negativity (or concerns) we are doing something right.

We saw the great statistics on the blog, thanks for that, and it is clear that we are on an impressive run.

I personally believe and believed that Chile will be the worst opponent for us in this group and I can see Chile go far this World Cup.

Louis has some decisions to make and these decisions will be influenced by what the coach actually wants to achieve. Do we want to finish first or second? This will depend on how well Brazil will do but we won’t know this before we have to play Chile. Brazil plays Cameroon though and they are having a howler this tournament.

There is a dilemma in terms of playing style / system. The 5-3-2 worked well against a slow and sluggish Spain, that hoped to be able to simply pass their way to victory (and dive their way to victory). But against a hard working and forward pressing Australia the 5-3-2 was rubbish and after Van Gaal switched to 4-3-3 we got more control over the game. Which is exactly what we need if we want to utilise the class of Robben, Van Persie and Depay.

lvg post oz

And since one of the key figures at the back – Martins Indi – will not be present against Chile, it might be a good idea to resort back to our normal way of playing . Taking into account of course that Chile has its own ideas about how to play and/or what position to want in the group.

And another issue of course is the yellow card situation. De Vrij and De Guzman are all on edge. Will Van Gaal rest them against Chile? And the ever impressive and formidable De Jong is suffering a bit with little injuries. Maybe he should be allowed to take a break?

This is a tough one. Van Gaal doesn’t want to take risks with key players, but he also wants to maintain flow and rhythm. The scruffy game against Australia is not a benchmark for Van Gaal. “I cannot really process the way that game went. That was not a typical game for us. We will need to improve in possession, no matter what system we pick.”

Sneijder: “You can’t play great every game. We are on a World Cup. You have to calculate lesser games.” And Van Persie: “What counts is that we have two victories and six points.”
Vlaar: “This is tournament football. We need to score one more than the opponent. If we do, I don’t care about the rest.”

vlaar fist

All true but it is not wise to simply ignore the inconsistency of the team. Against Australia, players like Janmaat, Blind and Martins Indi were clearly the Eredivisie players again, the ones they tried to outgrow.

The FIFA chose Arjen Robben as the Man of the Match vs Australia. Normally, Van Gaal doesn’t single out players but this time he felt he needed to mention Nigel de Jong as his Man of the Match.

De Jong: “Every now and then you need to bite with the bark, you know? But Man of the Match, it’s not that important to me. The forwards, the goal scorers always get the attention. I had a good chance to score. If I did, it was 3-2 already, I might have had a chance. But it’s all good. I played well, so I can’t complain.” De Jong battled a lot with Tim Cahill. “He is a class act. I know him well from England. He has so much passion. The Aussies are not better than Spain but bring much more power to the game. In the first half, we played to clean. While they went for every lose ball. Some lads need to still grow into that. And you need to show yourself. After the break, we showed that side ourselves too. We drew the longest straw at the end. That is what counts.”

nigel cahill

Chile plays 5-3-2. They won’t debate that. So a 4-3-3 seems to be logical. Van Gaal: “I cannot share that conclusion yet. I will have to do some work on that.”

Van Gaal’s friend and ex-colleague at Ajax Co Adriaanse feels the 5-3-2 is done with. “It worked a bit against Spain. One half. And also because Spain lacked the desire, the power and the form. It was dreadful against a lesser Australia. When you play 4-3-3 there are more and better options to build up. It simply is easier to do. I think we got what we wanted versus Spain. Now it’s time to play our own football. I say: use Chile to get the team working on it again, and whatever the result, you know… When you play Argentina or Brazil or even Italy, you don’t want to use 5-3-2.”

Piet de Visser is a former coach and currently super scout for Chelsea. The 74 year old has an outspoken opinion about football. “To me Chile is the best team of the tournament. It was a surprise that Holland beat Spain but Chile gave them a beating too. Quite clear that Spain failed to bring new players in after their wins in 2008, 2010 and 2012. And they probably should have gone with a new coach. Brazil has a mediocre team. I think Holland shouldn’t fret too much about meeting Brazil in the knock out stages. Brazil is David Luiz and Thiago Silva. Oscar and Neymar do not carry the team but have flashes of brilliance. But both players had a tough season and it shows. Most other nations disappoint. Italy is shrewd, Germany is clinical and will make it very far. Argentina is also not performing too well. Again, Holland has a chance, albeit as an outsider.”

chile coach

Argentine born Jorge Sampaoli, coach of Chile, is a protege of Marcelo Bielsa. Once, when he was redcarded, he climbed into a tree to be able to still coach his team. Like Van Gaal, Sampaoli is obsessed. Marcelo Bielsa is known as El Loco. The Mad Man. The former Argentina and Chile team manager was inspired by none other than our Louis van Gaal and his 1995 Ajax team. And therefore it is safe to say coach Sampaoli as well, is a fan and follower of Van Gaal. This is the first time the two coaches meet and face off. 
Sampaoli: “We want to attack, we want to win and we want to put pressure on the opponent. We will never feel less than any opponent we play.”

And rightfully so. In 2013, they beat England at Wembley, 2-0 and earlier this year they outplayed Germany in Stuttgart. Chile is the number 3 South American nation behind Brazil and Argentina.

It is quite thinkable that Chile wants to attack to avoid Brazil and win the group. They’ll attack. And that will mean that there will be space for the Dutch to explore. And Chile might score a lot, they also concede a lot. They are the masters of 5-3-2 so it does seem smart to use a different system, to allow us to control midfield. A 4-3-3 which will be a 4-5-1 when not in possession seems to be the best way to go.

By the way, Chile and Holland only versed each other once before. In 1928. At the Sparta Castle in Rotterdam. Good times, I remember that game well. 2-2 it was and instead of penalties the decision was made by draw. Holland won.

We finish up with Robin van Persie leading the training here, with the young talents!

Bookmark and Share

Brave PSV reaps kudos but not the result

PSV has won five competitive games in a row and has garnered quite some excitement. And what’s not to like: fan fave Cocu at the helm and exciting young talents like Willems, Wijnaldum, Depay, Maher, Rekik and Bruma in the squad, to name a few.

The football PSV has demonstrated in the first weeks of this season has been pretty good. Fast paced, intelligent, domineering, attacking.

The style of football we haven’t seen PSV play in a long time (have to go back to Nilis / Nistelrooy days) and with Ajax the club to beat and Feyenoord in a dip, it’s a great prospect to have PSV-Milan on the roster.

A prestigious game between two big names in Europe. Both clubs won the Europa Cup before and only 8 years ago they faced each other in the CL semi finals.

The prize of this tie is a ticket into the CL and therefore access to lots of euros. Euros both PSV and Milan can use.

And what an experience it would be for Cocu’s babies, if they could make it. And wouldn’t LVG be happy with this lot playing at least 6 massive games this season.

But…. playing nicely and being attractive for the fans is one thing. Winning a football game is another. It sometimes feels that good football and winning don’t go hand in hand. PSV started their game great. As one expected. Cocu willl have instructed his lads in Barca fashion: have fun, be ballsy, take the game to them. There is nothing to lose, really. The onus is on Milan.


And in the first minutes, PSV did exactly that. Matavz, Depay, Wijnaldum, Maher, they all had a go, with Maher impressing in particular with a half volley blocked, another distance strike stopped and a rocket on the cross bar after a little dribble.

But by then, Milan had already pounced successfully. A Depay mistake tracking back, three defenders ball watching and El Shaarawy was able to head the ball in, unmarked.

By half time, I think PSV deserved to be equal with Milan.

There is a lot of good things to say about PSV, but at the same time, PSV is definitely not there yet. At times Willems looked like watching the ball. He should be charged a ticket price for that. The back four are talented but not yet the killers they need to be. Schaars impressed yet again in midfield and will add international caps to his tally without a doubt. Schaars is disciplined, has vision, and passes balls with tremendous pace into the feet of his forwards.

Depay and Wijnaldum need to improve in their decision making. Both players are very skilled with their feet, but not good enough with their head. Maher seems to have it all but drifts in and out of the game too much. Needs to be more demanding and show more leadership. Maher needs to learn a bit from Sneijder in that respect. He might be a bit too friendly.

In the second half, funnily enough, the lacklustre Milan of the first half changed into a more dynamic team. And when they did, it was PSV who scored. A distance strike with swerve from Bruma was too hot to handle and Matavz was on hand to head in the equaliser. Deservedly so.

PSV does get some more opportunities, like Milan in honesty. El Shaarawy with a missed chance and Jozefzoon – coming on for Park – and Rekik missing good chances.

All in all, a great open game. Lots of box to box action. Lots of mistakes and lots of testosterone.

One player to single out for me is Brenet. Not super in defence, but a good mentality, working hard, not starstruck at all but a wonderful prospect indeed.

In the last 5 minutes, we saw some chances for Jozefzoon for PSV and Polley for Milan. Jozefzoon didn’t get a shot off as he mishandled the ball, while the Milan sub did get a shooting opp. That, I suppose, is the difference between PSV and Milan.

And despite the result and the fact that PSV has been caught napping a number of times (corner kicks Phillip!!!), the fans in Eindhoven have something to look out for this season. And they better hurry too, as I can’t see players like Rekik, Maher, Depay and Willems play in Eindhoven very long.

wijnaldum AC

Mark van Bommel assisted Dutch TV in analysing the game. The former PSV and Milan man was highly critical on his ex-mates and felt the youngsters were a little bit too playful. Where Urby Emanuelson was highly positive about PSV and predicted a huge future for the team and players, Van Bommel was cranky. “AC Milan was better. Much more goal focused. PSV played good but they made too many sloppy mistakes in the final third. It was too playful for me. Too much gallery play and little flicks and backheels. Against Milan for a CL ticket, you need to be totally professional and focused on the result.” The TV anchor was taken aback by Bommel’s criticism. The retired midfielder added: “Listen, of course PSV is young and inexperienced but this level of play doesn’t need frivolity. It requires more than that.” His former coach and father in law, Bert van Marwijk was in the tv studio and a little bit defensive: “I think Mark is disappointed with the result. Someone who is used to play at top level would say things like he says, but all in all, PSV can be proud, I think.”

Memphis Depay had a shitty feeling as he was at fault with Milan’s first goal. “I took too much time. I remember considering to just hit the ball away or go back to the goalie, but he was in my back and gave me a push and was away. When I looked up, it was 0-1. I was pretty pissed off and happy we at least got a goal back.”

Coach Cocu was positive about his lads. “Our first 25 minutes were very good. We created pressure and opportunities. You do hope to score at least once then. And it’s known that a club like Milan, with top players, only need one little mistake to pounce. They have that quality. They don’t need to play well. But we recovered well. We played a good second half and got our goal back. We have another game to play next week. We are not without chances.”

Stijn Schaars ended the game with mixed feelings. “We played really well, at times. And to do so against a European top team is quite something. And funny, the first time we didn’t look good, they score. That is what they can do. But, we only conceded one and we scored one. They won’t play for the 0-0 next week and we will get chances with our players. I think our belief in getting into the CL has only increased. We’ll make it into a match.”

Here is the highlights of the 2005 CL semi finals. The home game.

Bookmark and Share

Jong Oranje failed!

I think hard and long about my post titles, and this is the one that won. Not “Lousy Italians steal victory”, not “Unlucky Jong Oranje leaves tournament with heads up high” and not “Cor Pot rested his players but it didn’t show”.

It was a horrific game to watch. I think for neutral viewers but definitely for Oranje fans.

In the first 5 minutes, we saw one yellow card and numerous referee forced stops. After 30 minutes, there were already 20 fouls. And of course a free kick on the post by Maher.

It took at least 25 minutes before we saw some flowing play (by Holland) and to be honest, that whole phase before the break was Holland’s most impressive, with good runs and plays on the left and right flank, with Wijnaldum and Van Rhijn on the one, and John and Blind on the other side.

We ended the first half with another free kick opportunity for Maher, who sadly missed the target, as the Italian goalie was frozen to the ground.

But all that didn’t result in a goal.

The second half was pretty one-sided until that one moment. The so-called attractive and attacking playing Italians played their traditional defensive game and Oranje simply was not good enough to break them down.

Only one real chance in that stage and the pull back from De Jong, beating the goalie, was 2 yards behind runner Van Ginkel. Not De Jong’s fault, in my book. It was too eagerly run by Van Ginkel. If he paced it, he would have had an easy tap in and if the ball was 2 yards in front of him he could have slid it in. Now, he forced De Jong to give a pinpoin accurate pass. Without De Jong being able to see where Van Ginkel was.

For all the rest of the effort, little to show for it. Ola John’s engine was out in the second half, Wijnaldum couldn’t get the combination going, Van Rhijn was indecisive, Maher active but unlucky, Van Ginkel made runs that weren’t rewarded and Strootman fought for all he could but never really contributed in the build up.

Pot responded with the usual, predictable changes. Depay for John was logical and the young PSV winger had some good spells. Van der Hoorn had to come on for the injured De Vrij and Fer came on late (too late for me) for Blind.

Van der Hoorn would unfortunately play a part in the Italian goal, where he clumsily “bit” in the trick and allowed the goal scorer to turn away and score.


But we didn’t lose this game because Van der Hoorn made a mistake.

We lost the game because the Italians were better, fitter and smarter.

And had more luck. One has to say. One ball on the post and a penalty shout in the first half, could have gone the other way of course.

But Holland needs to look into the mirror.

First to do so: the KNVB. If they take this tournament and this team seriously, why put Cor Pot in charge?

What is his claim to fame? How is he the youth development maestro? (See Spain, where their coaches move up through the system and “breathe” the Spanish style of football. Italy by the way, same deal).

The KNVB is the first to blame, with coach Cor Pot the second. Although I think he did what he could. He simply can’t do better than he did.

A team like this, with these prospects, a year before a World Cup deserves a coach of a different caliber. Someone like Ronald de Boer maybe? Phillip Cocu? Alphons Groenendijk? Jean Paul van Gastel? Jaap Stam? Alex Pastoor? Ron Jans? John van den Brom? John van ‘t Schip?

Someone with tactical smarts and who knows what it takes to win at the highest level.

Sure, you can say “the players had to do it and they didn’t”, but the players that were on the pitch were clearly not gelled into a swinging team.

Lets take the pace.

If you want to create chances against a defensive Italian side, you need to play with pace. High ball speed. Swift one touch / two touch passing. Simple but quick. And reach the wide players fast (so they are one on one) or play into the deepest man fast (so the midfielders can either move up or even overlap). None of this happened.

Lets take the build up patterns.

As I said before WHERE IS CLASIE? We need one player in midfield who can sit deep with defence, always available to take the ball and always ready to accelerate the game forwards. Against Germany, Russia and against Italy, none of the midfielders took that role. The reason is simple: Pot plays with three midfielders and the central one plays high. The other two mix up the tasks of box to box so one of the two came back to collect and build up, if the other went high up the park. Strootman is not bad at this, Van Ginkel is not used to it. He can do a lot but giving the killer pass is not what he is about. He even had clumsy loss of possession a number of times close to our last line of defence. This team – these central defenders – need a central midfielder who sits deep, not high. A player like Scholes, Xavi, Cabaye… A player like Clasie. Although Adam Maher can play that role too, mind you! So I missed that role (and that player). I would have played Strootman and Van Ginkel on left and right of midfield, with Van Ginkel free to make his forward runs. And I would have benched De Jong who is not that helpful against opponents like Italy and Spain. De Jong is great against lesser opponents. I would have played Adam Maher in the Messi role. The roaming center forward, making space for Wijnaldum and Van Ginkel and John.

That would be a dreamteam.

Still not convinced of Jeroen Zoet, I felt his clearances were poor and added to insecurity with Blind and Van Rhijn.

Italy won it deservedly, at the end of the day. More mature, more shrewdness. Not as bad as the Euro2000 semi finals, fortunately.

But we have learned valuable lessons this tournament.

The most valuable one: there is a LOT of work to be done. But Van Gaal is a coach who can handle that, at least.

We thank Cor Pot for all his contributions. I fear he was too lightweight for the job, but you can’t blame him for accepting the task of course.Bookmark and Share

Rafa leads the way to 4th victory in campaign

Truth be told, I wasn’t totally happy with LVG’s appointment. There were too many aspects in his past and personality I didn’t like. The dramatic series with Oranje in 2000/2001. The antics as a club coach (where some clubs asked him to leave, despite his quality) and his recent JC backstabbing at Ajax…

But…he is a world class coach. Club coach, I would add to that, but now he is demonstrating to the world that he has learned and developed. He is acting the National Team Manager perfectly. His relationship with the players seems to be great. He has clarity and consistency in selection and players’ choices. He has a good mix of assistants ( Danny Blind, cool & collected; up and coming Pat Kluivert for the fun factor and the passion; Ron Spelbos and Edward Metgod, the silent scouts in the background and then the usual goal keeper coach Frans Hoek and the video analysts he used at AZ and Bayern).

“Am I so dumb or are you so smart?!?!?! Oh…hang on… I got it wrong…”

Stekelenburg, Huntelaar, De Jong, Heitinga….they all have seen and experienced how decisive the man can be and they all seem to be accepting of his authority.

Van Marwijk has taught Dutch players that winning ugly is important and sometimes necessary and now we know what winning is (again), LVG will add the Dutch identity back into the mix. Wingers, one holding mid and attacking football.

Rafael van der Vaart played his 102nd cap against Romania and surpassed Phillip Cocu. Gio van Bronckhorst and Frank de Boer are in his sights now (106 and 112 respectively). “I’d be lying if I said it didn’t matter to me….”, the Man of the Match laughed last week.

Two assists and a goal for Rafael van der Vaart and that swagger that adds so much confidence to the team. And what a team it was. Power, speed and skill on the wings. A world class number 9 (RVP or Klaas Jan), creative midfielders and a destroyer in between and strength and speed at the back. I think we’re getting in real good shape (considering Robben, Sneijder and Krul weren’t even present…).

Heitinga celebrating the 2-0 with Martins Indi

So Romania had to concede 4 as well, like earlier in Budapest when we played Hungary.

And luck is always a factor. The free kick on the bar in the first 5 minutes could have gone in. And the penalty shout for Oranje could have been ignored. And all that jazz… But it went as it went and Oranje took the chances and did the business.

12 points out of 4 games.

I think Europe will be paying attention. I’m sure the football pundits and analysts in Spain, Germany, Italy and Portugal will read the papers and think…hmmmm….. Oranje…. :-).

With rumours that Spurs is following Clasie and our center back BMI scored two out of five, to name two facts, I think it’s clear we will reap more and more excitement around this team.

And with RVP finding the net again and that dream header of Lens, we seemed to be in that flow.

And Van Gaal will do everything to keep that flow going. Until end of June, 2014, I’m sure.

As he said when he was appointed: the World Cup is starting against Turkey.

I think he was right. Let’s keep on winning and only stop doing so when that man Blatter is waiting to give us that trophy.

Raf scores the 3-1 from the spotBookmark and Share

Player Ratings and our Future

It’s time, with some days behind us for the dust to settle, to do a proper analysis of our current squad, their performance and their future in our Oranje.

We will analyse the coach separately after this post. And then look at our future material. The prospects…

Maarten Stekelenburg
Coming out of a mediocre season it Italy, Maarten Stekelenburg played an ok tournament. He was lucky to stop a number of close efforts (most of them by sheer luck I believe) and did what you expect from a goalie. But to win a tournament, you need your goalie to stop at least that Denmark shot and the second Gomez goal too. He didn’t look too good there. In terms of coaching and defensive management: I do not get the impression he is at Van der Sar level. I believe he is a bit lacklustre in his body language. Aspects were both Vorm and Krul have impressed me more. Although I do not think that Vorm and Krul – being still young – would have faired better in that department. I do believe though, that Vorm would have stopped the Denmark goal and Krul would have stopped the 2nd Gomez one :-). But, Stekelenburg is still going to be in our World Cup squad, although not necessarily as first goalie. If rumours are correct and Vorm moves to Tottenham and Krul to Chelsea, who knows what happens.

Gregory van der Wiel
Came out of a troublesome season with Ajax. Was injured for a while (and Ricardo van Rhijn played Van der Wiel into oblivion) and didn’t return to his full form. Played a bad tournament but showed some good spells in the Portugal game. His defending and passing were under par and his crosses atrocious. Needs to really up his game or could be easily surpassed by said Van Rhijn, Feyenoord’s Kelvin Leerdam or even Ronnie Stam, if he indeed decides to come back to Holland ( PSV). Stam has the right age and playing for Wigan will most certainly have strengthened him. Van der Wiel will need to improve big time. And his post tournament interviews don’t bode well. “There is something wrong between Oranje and me. I can’t play my own game.”

Joris Mathijsen
Didn’t have a great season at Malaga. Was criticised and benched and most likely his legs can’t carry it anymore. He came into the tournament with an injury and was almost out for the whole tourney. Played a bad game against Germany. Showed some positive forward movement in the first 15 minutes of the Portugal game, but drowned with the rest of them. Doesn’t show the leadership and build up qualities we need if we want to play Total Football. Joris was a good soldier for us, but needs to retire. And I wonder if we will be mentioned in ten years from now…

John Heitinga
Did have a tremendous season at Everton. Man of the Season. Doesn’t get better at that level. Johnny won’t win CLs or even European League trophies with Everton but this was a mighty season. But playing central defender at Everton or at Oranje is a different thing. He is not expected to push forward with Everton. At Oranje, he constantly tracked back. Don’t know why, but he did. He also didn’t seem 100% fit. Did he not mention this to Bert? Johnny will be a 2014 player though, and I can even see him making one last jump to Liverpool or Tottenham.

Ron Vlaar
Ron had a big season at a small club ( relatively speaking). Being great at Feyenoord means you can tag along in Oranje. We can’t expect Vlaar to suddenly carry the team. I think he played ok. Any defender would get in trouble against a C Ronaldo on fire. And with Van der Wiel slipping up, the tall (but slow) Vlaar had trouble playing against Portugal. But he could be still valuable. He’s only 26 years old. He’s strong, good header of the ball and a good long pass. Vlaar should have put that Sneijder cross against Portugal away, allowing Oranje a chance at 2-1 to progress. You only get one of those in these types of games and a real winner, a real top player, scores it. Vlaar could be 2014 material, unless Viergever, Bruma and Gouweleeuw develop much better.

Jetro Willems
This 18 year old prospect had a big step up from playing Jupiler league with Sparta to playing Nani and Thomas Muller. I was tremendously excited to see him in the squad, but in hindsight: this only works if a lad like this can settle in a team that operates well. In a Germany or a Spain, Willems would have been great. In this nervous and torn Oranje, it was actually a sorry sight to see the lad struggling. Irresponsible of our coach. Maybe Jetro told him it was all good, maybe the lad is mentally super strong, but was this necessary. If you have Buttner, Emanuelson, Schaars, Bouma, Anita… I think the lad did well, considering… What can you expect? I also believe he has the goods to become a really exciting player. But he needs at least couple of consistent seasons. Man United apparently wants to sign him and that could work out really well, or it could ruin him… Drenthe style.

Mark van Bommel
Had a good season with AC Milan, but in a different system and in a different role. His 35 year old legs can not cope with the gaps we shown between defence and offence, but I don’t think any midfielder could. Maybe Strootman could have been the exception. But he never got the chance to show it. Bommel’s individual game wasn’t too great. He missed his men, he allowed himself to be muscled off the ball… he had great moments and he had bad moments. One also has to question his leadership, if it’s true that there are two camps. But… I can’t imagine Mark continuing in Oranje, so let’s thank him for all the great memories. He gave it what he had, I’m sure. But it’s time for new blood now.

Nigel de Jong
Had an ok season with Man City. People on telly in Holland claim he only played 12 games or so, but that is total rubbish. I watched him weekly ( or Man City) and Nigel was called on anytime City got in trouble. He is still highly valued at City and he had a good season there. He is still strong, committed, focused and playing sober. I think he was the best player we had this tournament! Which is not good news of course. But Nigel deserves to be a squad member still. For sure. He lacks dynamics ( see Strootman) but he surely plug holes and destroy. And apparently, he is a good header too, suddenly?

Rafael van der Vaart
Had an ok season with Spurs. I don’t think they did tremendously well. They should have ended number 3 for that. And Rafa is not as important and influential as Modric is. Rafa is a great player, good vision, good passing, good goal scoring etc. But he’s not a holding mid. So in a 4-2-3-1 he’s not the right man for the holding mid role. He is a playmaker. But if you have Sneijder already…? Do you play them both? And what to do with Van Persie? And on top of that, he’s not getting fitter and not younger either… He will be 31 years old in 2014. Don’t get me wrong: I’m a massive Vaart fan, but… With Maher knocking on the door, and Wijnaldum, Clasie…. If he is in great shape, he could come along. Also, Rafa does need to keep his ego in check. He always thinks he should play. This tournament, last World Cup, I agreed. In 2014, probably not…

Ibi Afellay
Came out of a horrendous injury. Hasn’t played more than 18 minutes for Barca since. Bert thought Ibi could make the difference. This tells me Bert lost faith. It’s ridiculous to think a player who isn’t sensational in the first place (he’s not Messi or Rooney or C Ronaldo) to lift us in three top games in eight days after such an injury. Ibi did well against Northern Ireland (YEA!!). And ok against Denmark. But drowned in his second game against Germany. He was also playing against type (he’s not a left winger) and Bert could have or should have used the only other real winger we have in the squad: Luciano Narsingh.
If Ibi keeps on developing, he will be a key player for us at the World Cup 2014. He played holding mid for PSV for a while and did that really well. I don’t see a winger in him.

Wesley Sneijder
Came out of a troubled season, with injuries and issues at Inter. His mentality and personality – as ever – were great. Good positive vibes. Winner mentality. Humor. And leadership. On the pitch, he was hot and cold. Great in possession, but lazy when he lost the ball. He did show his class and a fit and motivated Sneijder is definitely one of the best midfielders/players on the planet. He does need to keep his ego in check, but with Sneijder it’s relatively easy: make him important and he will carry the responsibility. He will most likely be the future skipper of Holland in 2014 and beyond. The problem with Wes, like with Robin, is that they have a protected position at their clubs. They are the guys that call the shots. They need to lose that attitude once back in Oranje.

Robin van Persie
Came out of a sensational season with Arsenal on a personal level. Staying fit all season and scoring from every angle. But his position in the Oranje hierarchy is different and his role in the team was overshadowed by Huntelaar’s position. There have also always been rumours about Van Persie’s bad relationship with buddies Sneijder/Van der Vaart, but Robin was the first to jump Rafa after he scored against Portugal. The national debate Van Persie vs Huntelaar probably didn’t help. For either of them. Van Persie played a good game vs Denmark but once in scorings position, he blocked. Bad touches, bad balance, bad decision making, too eager….etc. Van Persie carries a weight on his shoulders and bad management by Bert may have caused all this. But, with Van Persie’s skill and talent, he will most certainly make the World Cup cut. Hoping the team manager will be able to craft a winning team of all those talents.

Klaas Jan Huntelaar
Came out of a tremendous season with Schalke. Has Man United and Valencia chasing him for his signature, apparently. Started in a bad way. Was promised a fair chance as the starting striker but felt screwed by the coach. Couldn’t make an impression in all his minutes, but in his defence: he didn’t get a playable ball all this tournament. Hunter will most certainly be part of the new squad, unless Van Marwijk stays on. Then, Klaas Jan could chuck a Van Nistelrooy and retire early.

Arjen Robben
Came out of a difficult season with Bayern. Suffered injuries and let his team down at the key moments (Dortmund, Chelsea). Came into the tournament totally focused on re-establishing the brand Robben. Over-zealous. Over-eager. Too self absorbed. Playing too much for Robben. Bert needs to share the blame by persisting with Robben on the right wing. But it does seem that Robben’s injuries robbed him of his speed. And his left foot clearly was out of whack. He’s still a threat. And an in-form Robben can compete with C Ronaldo for the second-best of the world trophy. But despite all his efforts, his contributions were mediocre at best. If his body agrees, Robben will be a candidate for the 2014 World Cup.

Dirk Kuyt
Came off a disappointing season with Liverpool. Didn’t play a lot. And if he did, didn’t play too well. Is always hailed for his work ethics. But the minutes he got never enabled him to make a change. In my view, Narsingh would have been more impactful. It’s interesting to see how Dirk will fair in Turkey. He might be spent. He might not make the cut for 2014. That is what I expect. But never say die with Dirkie…

The Others
Schaars disappointed me by throwing the towel on the left back spot so quickly. He is a good midfielder and if he indeed moves to Inter, he might develop further and take Van Bommel’s position in the squad. But he’s not getting younger either and needs to compensate his lack of speed with something else.

Bouma should never have been selected in the first place. Boulah will most certainly not make it into Oranje anymore although the Cannibal might make a new career in Turkey.

Strootman is still my main man for the future. Tough, great passer, good work ethics and mentality and most importantly: dynamic and penetrating.

Luuk de Jong has a future. The striker has shown he can score, create and work for the team. Good header, smart mover. Nothing wrong with him. Will be part of WC2014 squad if he keeps developing. Will have competition from Dost, Van Wolfswinkel, Castaignos and Barazite, though….

Luciano Narsingh had the most assists in the Eredivisie. He basically made Dost the topscorer and the latter should pay 20% of his salary to him. Narsingh can further develop under De Boer if he goes to Ajax. And might develop into a fresh new Robben… Let’s hope so… He will most likely be part of the 2014 World Cup.Bookmark and Share

What Bert should do now…

Thanks to the AD for this insightful article. I have used what I can and added my own opinion to it :-).

Willem van Hanegem said it ( I think). “Football is a simple game. But playing simple football is hard.” And we saw that demonstrated by Oranje. Despite all the quality, all the experience, all the will and all the chances, we lost.

So, is our coach suddenly not able to motivate them? Has Van Persie unlearned to score? Has Italian football wasted Stekelenburg? No…

It’s tactics.

It’s system and player selection.

In the last months, things aren’t going too well for the team manager. Like with Van Basten’s 4-3-3, the time for this current system to be binned could we be here. The idea of the 4-2-3-1 is to play tighter and not let a mouse slip though the trenches. The 6 at the back defend the fort and the thoroughbreds up top need to score. Well, in the last months, the six at back conceded a lot of goals and the guys up top can’t find the net.

And if you recall the Denmark game, you’ll have to agree that it indeed looked like “6 at the back” and “four on top”. The gap between the forwards and the rest was huge. The stars wanted to attack attack and pushed up high while the insecure defense (incl De Jong) tracked back whenever they could. In particular after the Danish goal. The result? Gaps for the Danes to exploit and lots and lots of yards to cover for our lads.

“Those forwards need to do better in the turnaround”.

No, that is too easy. If you do that, you’ll be playing like we did in the World Cup. But do you think Denmark and even Germany or Portugal will have a go at us if we play counter football? Dutch football is forward pressure and high paced football in a small space.

Pic 1: Our current system is too static and predictable and when executed like Saturday leaves a huge hole in midfield.

But, this system reached the finals at the World Cup!

Was it because of the system, or despite the system? Did we play really good football? Were we lucky? We had an easy group against three teams counting on us winning. Cameroon didn’t lay down and play dead, but Japan and Denmark invited the Dutch victory in.

Our first knock out game was atrocious! The Brazil game was too, in the first half. In the second half, Raf van der Vaart came in for Nigel de Jong… We won, but also because Brazil imploded.

The Uruguay game was not that good. Hell, I remember plugging my butt in the last 10 minutes!! We scored the first but allowed them back on the scoresheet.

And we all know what happened in the finals.

So, the system, to me, was not the hero of the World Cup. The difference was the sheer quality of and will of our individual players! And some luck, at the right times.

It’s clear that if your defense is the weakest link, you should make sure the defense will not come under pressure. As Cruyff always says: if you don’t want to be under pressure, you simply have to put more pressure on them. Our best game in the last two years was against Sweden. Little hint: Nigel de Jong didn’t play, but Rafael played on his spot. Silencing the “Sneijder and Vaart can’t play together” crowd.

So, is Van der Vaart the solution?

No. It’s never one player. The solution is, to bring more football from the holding position. Like in Spain, where Xabi Alonso plays there, but that is one hell of a playmaker. Or Pirlo in Italy. Or Schweini in Germany. Very tough lads, sure, but mostly football players.

If you have Hunter and Van Persie, you should bring Sneijder back on line. Let Sneijder direct play from midfield with skipper Bommel. Let Van Persie play on the 10 position and bring Hunter up top. And yes: Robben on the LEFT!!

In stead of 4-2-3-1 we should play 4-1-4-1. With Bommel in the lone holding role and Sneijder next to Van Persie centrally. Van Persie playing in the Litmanen role, as a shadow striker. In reality, it will play like a 4-3-3 in possession. Which means there is always a player in reach within 12 yards. And this relieves our defense even more.

See pic 2.

So what to do with Huntelaar if we don’t cross balls in?

Well for starters: to think Hunter is dependent on crosses should check Hunter’s goals for Schalke on YouTube again. He is fine in the combination with a Raul type behind him. But bringing crosses in will work, obviously and with a free flowing Van Persie behind him, we can become quite a threat… In particular if Bommel and Sneijder are there for the loose balls.

The “idea” with false wingers is that the full backs will overlap to give the cross. Well, we haven’t seen any decent cross from Willems or Van der Wiel… So it doesn’t work.

We need Afellay on the right ( or Narsingh) and we need Robben (or Afellay) on the left.

So, bottomline, will Bert make these changes for us?

No. Fat chance. Bert is married to the system. Believes in it. Told the journalists yesterday that no matter what people say, he will always do things “his way”. Bert thinks that if we keep on creating, we will start scoring soon. And win games. He also said confidence in the camp is still very high.

Let’s hope Bert is right!

Bookmark and Share