Tag: Malen

Oranje gets 3 points and some valuable lessons!

After some solid performances by our lads in their club teams (PSV, Liverpool, RB Leipzig, Atalanta, Man City), it felt that we could have a good go at this Euros. The last friendly results were also pretty hopeful. Despite the absence of Frenkie de Jong, Luuk de Jong, Marten de Roon and Noa Lang, I believe we all felt that this could be our tournament. And… it still can be.

But the Poland game did put our noses on the some of the facts (Dutch expression).

If have to summarize the game, I’d say:

  • good start
  • some good chances
  • one moment of lack of concentration and Poland scores
  • we keep on going and get a bit of luck on the Gakpo goal
  • Oranje’s energy drops after 60 minutes or so
  • Koeman needs to make a change in the second half as Veerman and Simons (and others) are less effective
  • Wijnaldum comes on but isn’t found in between the lines
  • with 10 minutes to go, Koeman brings two secret weapons ( Weghorst and Frimpong)
  • Weghorst scores

We can be happy with the 3 points and we can be very happy with the performances of Ake, De Vrij, Schouten, Reijnders, Verbruggen and Gakpo.

We need to be critical on Van Dijk, Veerman, Memphis, Simons and Wijnaldum.

Van Dijk wasn’t terrible but showed some weakness in positioning. Veerman had to deal with a man marker (Szymanski) and had no answer to this. We saw this in earlier matches where Frenkie was manmarked and had to work hard to get away from his man. Veerman is a passer. Not a dribbler. And he doesn’t have the explosive runs Frenkie or Reijnders has. The switch with Reijnders back to the 6 position worked well, as he has more legs and can take a man on. We have seen Veerman struggle with this before and it’s been my ongoing criticism of him.

Simons started fresh but ran out of steam. Memphis tried hard and potentially too hard. That shot he hit hard over the bar was a 100% chance for a player like him and it didn’t need that power. Relax, Memphis!

Wijnaldum, finally, was told by Koeman to not drop deep to get the ball but to stay close to Memphis and find space between the lines, where the midfielders/defenders were supposed to find him. Sadly, they didn’t.

Btw, we did get to 21 shots. The highest number since that dreadful first game against Denmark in 2012. When we had 32 attempts on goal and scored zero goals.

Another fascinating stat: in the 90 minutes of play, Oranje didn’t use a single Ajax player. This is the first time in 95 matches!!

Some conclusions:

Joey Veerman struggles with man-marking

Szymanski wants to hold Veerman’s hand

You need to be dynamic to lose your man. Frenkie would move to left wing or right back or wherever he had to go to make the man marker uncomfortable. Joey is too static. Plays too much in one pace and lacks the dribble and speed to bypass an opponent and create a man over situation. Yes, against Iceland he played well. Why? He didn’t encounter man-marking. This needs to be taken care of.

I wonder if Koeman will use Veerman versus France. Their midfield – no, their whole team – consists of top athletes. My fave line up below.

We defend set-pieces terribly

A free run towards the ball for Buksa

Again, we have to mention Veerman. He was one of the blockers in that situation but he didn’t get a grip on Buksa, who could out-jump Dumfries and head the ball home. Veerman did try to pull Buksa’s jersey, only briefly, but Memphis was totally ball watching. Van Dijk: “We’re sick of that goal. In a dead ball situation, this has to improve. The goal scorer had a free run towards the ball. That needs to improve!” was his opinion. One comment in defence of the Memphis and Veerman (and Schouten). They were facing a number of tall lads in that box.

Nathan Ake is our playmaker

When Frenkie is absent and his replacement Veerman can’t get a foothold in the game, it’s good to know that one of our centre backs can play playmaker. The City player started so many great moves and basically had two assists. The second one for Weghorst doesn’t officially count as the ball got a slight deflection.  Frankowski decided to press on Ake, who was seen as the danger man at Oranje’s side, but that resulted in the Polish wingback to be drowning and offered Gakpo the time and space to shine. The result: Bednarek had to deal with Gakpo. Who is a very agile and elegant player, whereas Bednarek has trouble turning even without an opponent in sight.

Oranje has a strong bench

With Memphis upfront, we actually have Bergwijn, Frimpong, Malen, Brobbey, Zirkzee and Weghorst who can come in to change things around. Weghorst has made the difference already at the World Cup, some friendlies and now also at the Euros. Holland lost its grip slowly in the second half and Koeman has a nice menu of options available to him. Wijnaldum didn’t impress, but his little run was key for the Weghorst goal. In a way, that was an assist. Frimpong and Malen add speed and depth to the team while the strong Brobbey could well be a key player for us versus France.

Bart Verbruggen does his job

The youngest Oranje goalie ever at a final tournament had no nerves. He had 6 more than decent saves, which is the highest number for any Oranje goalie in 5 years. His footwork is also lauded and De Zerbi taught him well. Keep your foot on the ball and pull the opponent in, to create space elsewhere. It seems like the ongoing musical chairs of the keepers is well over.

My musings for the France game

I know it’s early days as the France game isn’t until Friday and lots can happen in between. But, I think the midfield we played versus Poland won’t be good enough versus France. I hope Veerman can accept it, but I would use a different line up versus France.

I’d opt for Memphis on the left. Against two big, strong centre backs, Memphis – who is not 100% – would probably drown. On the left, he will get a chance to roam and get touches. I’d play Frimpong on the right. Allow Simons a rest but don’t write him off! I’d play Brobbey as a 9. Strong, grit, fight, speed. Let him deal with these two monsters and let them deal with Brobbey.

I’d use Gakpo as a 10, with Reijnders and Schouten in the engine room. Gakpo learned to play midfield at Liverpool and will be key to give a 75 minute “give it your all” game. I would also opt for Geertruida as he can play into midfield. There won’t be overly much space for Dumfries, I don’t think and I find him still a dissonant in possession and not necessarily that good a defender.

If Giroud plays, I’d use De Ligt.

 

 

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Koeman calls up Jan for the blog!

Hi my friends, the last months on the blog were quite….quiet. My dear friend Tarcisio is having some IT issues and as our boys will be playing for the title soon, I thought it prudent to get back here and commentate on the Oranje games.

Word of warning: I will not go into the deep end for other national teams. Focus will be Oranje and their games.

And a big ASK: I have had to spend more money into getting the site back up and running.

After years of offering this platform, there have always been just a handful of committed fans who would support the blog with some digits. You probably know the cost of running this sortathing?

At the same time, I do see some people really getting a lot of joy/mileage from this platform so I need to ask all who can, to chip in a bit for the opportunity I offer people to share stories, their comments, their comical banter and at times their less than friendly banter.

If we value this orange community, please share a bit of your materialised energy so we can keep it going.

A proper post, soon! For now, please use the link below:

 

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Prelim Squad announced for Oranje

Almost a month to go and we’re starting to leave the club competitions behind us.

You will have seen the squad selection by now? I don’t think too many surprises.

For some, the absence of Bizot was a surprise, as he was called up for the last international games. He was most likely part of the prelim squad, if not for some domestic family issues. Marco decided to forfeit the Euros as his family circumstances have not been resolved and he prefers to be with the family during the summer.

The list of injured players ( Hartman, Wieffer, Lang) might become longer with question marks for Marten de Roon, Frenkie de Jong, Memphis Depay and Zirkzee, while Luuk de Jong definitely retired from the NT.

Calvin Stengs, Thijs Dallinga and Steven Berghuis will have had idle hope and should something happen to Malen or Bergwijn or Xavi Simons, these three might still get a look in.

If Frenkie and Memphis can join the squad, I do believe we’ll be in good shape.

We simply need our key players to be in form and Koeman to pick a logical starting eleven for the games at the Euros.

I mean, our goalkeepers are fine. Our central defenders are top. Maatsen and Ake can cover the left side, even Blind might be able to play against opponents parking the bus. Frimpong and Dumfries will cover the right with Geertruida also on hand.

Our midfield options are pretty good, with Veerman, Schouten, Reijnders and Koopmeiners and when fit, we can expect some fire upfront from Malen, Gakpo, Simons and Brobbey.

As mentioned, we need Koeman to make the right decisions and allow the players to play to their strengths.

It may sound simplistic, but we need two teams: 1 that can dominate possession against the minions and 1 that can play on the transition when playing the strong countries who themselves want to dominate.

I will suggest three at the back in both scenarios and I would personally use Bijlow as first goalie.

My two teams:

 

 

Tell me your fave line up in the comments….

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The State of Orange (Oranje)

As a national team coach, you want to be able to mould your best team, tactics, approach and squad by now, some 3 months before the tournament.

The two friendlies, against serious opponents, should have told us many things. And it did. But not sure if it was what Koeman wanted.

Not sure what the plan was versus Scotland, with the new 3-5-2 set up (or 3-2-3-2).

Disappointingly for Koeman, we won’t know for sure as the execution was not great. Some players didn’t reach their usual level (Wieffer, Simons, Frimpong) while Memphis is clearly not 100% fit.

Add to that the absence – again – of Frenkie and it’s hard to ascertain where we stand.

Versus Scotland, we played under par for an hour or so but still won 4-0. Against Germany , we played well at stages but lost 1-2.

Two corner kicks: two goals. Fixable, sure, but not something Koeman will be happy with.

Koeman was able to use his subs and shift form shape to shape, so the flexibility of the team and the adaptability of the team seems to be getting better.

I think, when all the players will be fit, we do have a very good squad. But I also think that France, England, Spain and Italy are a bit further than us, in terms of solid game play, patterns and key players.

Sadly, as it happens with every tournament, we won’t have all players available at the Euros.

Some conclusions:

Stop the silly systems debate

As always, people spend hours debating which system Holland should play. This is an irrational discussion. We played 4-3-3 versus Scotland, or so it seemed. But it was actually a 3-5-2. Against Germany, we played 3-2-3-2 but again, in the practice it was. four man defence as one of the midfielders dropped back to start the build up. Daley Blind was hardly ever in defence, but played as an extra midfielder and at times as a number 10 even. Joey Veerman dropped back to assist the defenders in their build up. Ake moves to the left back space.

In the second half, Blind kept the pitch wide, allowing Memphis to explore the half spaces on the left hand side.

Ake as left centre back, Blind playing wide wingback in a 4 men midfield.

What system is this? Never mind. It’s about space and how to use the space. Not about numbers on a playing field, when the ref whistles to start the match.

Creating the free man

Koeman is keen to use his midfielders and front men to create a free man in our team. He put Reijnders one v one on Kroos and instructed Memphis to harass Andrich, the Germany holding mid. This forced Germany to build up via Tah. This way Koeman could stack the centre of the pitch with two holding mids (Veerman, Schouten) and always kept three defenders to deal with the mercurial Germany forwards.

Blind playing central midfielder

This chess face-off meant that Germany was still in control on their own half, but were not able to be a threat against us, in terms of goal scoring opportunities.

Here Blind is playing as second 10

Donyell Malen is like a panther

We have quite a number of top forwards or top potentials in the attacking line, with Lang (now injured), Gakpo, Simons, Brobbey, Zirkzee, Stengs and Bergwijn but Malen offers something the others players don’t have. Malen is explosive, fast and very willing to make runs deep. The other players all want the ball to feet. Lang and Simons do tend to go deep, as does Bergwijn, but not as their first instict. Malen is like a panther, lurking and watching for his change to spring into action.

This makes him a unique player in the squad and should cement his spot in the squad if not the team. In the first half, Malen was instrumental in our first goal, even though he never touched the ball. He had two more breaks and in the second half he presented both Memphis and Reijnders with 2 100% chances. Both players mishit the ball and aimed too high.

Yes, Malen played well but goes to sleep here and allows Musiala some touches in the box

Still, he has his moments of snoozing off (like big cats do) and he was at fault, partly, with the first German goal. He didn’t cut off the pass and was a bit late in reacting to their short corner allowing Musiala to be a threat ( who assisted the ball to the goalscorer).

Jerdy Schouten is a keeper

Schouten played against Germany like he does for PSV, all season long. Very tight on the ball, always in control, always with great care. Van Gaal didn’t think he was good enough after half a game for Holland but Peter Bosz and Ronald Koeman are convinced. On top of that, Schouten plays a lot of forward passes as well, in true Frenkie de Jong style, starting a number of threatening moves. When he got subbed, at the 75th minute, he had most interceptions to his name as well. I don’t want to be over the top here, but he would be a top replacement for Toni Kroos at Real Madrid.

I think Schouten passed his exams and will battle it out with Koopmeiners, Wieffer, Reijnders, De Roon and Veerman for the next-to-Frenkie spot.

Our goalies are fine

We don’t need to worry about our goalies anymore. Flekken and Verbruggen both impressed. Bijlow will return. Nick Olij is a fine shotstopper and Bizot has impressed in France.

So, it seems we might be in good shape this summer.

But if we go through to the last 4, I believe it will be partly due to luck and a favourable draw.

I don’t think Oranje deserves to be seen as a top contender but with the right mix and the key players available and in form, we can surprise.

Koeman called this international break “the final exams”. The jigsaw pieces have not all been in place to show the big picture and the former Barca coach is still playing with them.

Verbruggen impressed

His own conclusion: “I have not been able to find the right combinations, and I fear it’s the result of this injury ridden campaign. And as the calendar keeps getting fuller, I don’t understand why we are now being limited to take 23 players instead of 26. We know already from experience that from the date we have to send in our list of names and the first match, players will drop off. That is always the case.”

Koeman said he already knows who his Euros goalie is, and it seems to be Bart Verbruggen. Only Bijlow is fit and plays a series of impressive matches will he be able to replace Bizot as third goalie.

In defence, it is clear that Virgil, Ake, De Ligt, Dumfries and Geertruida are certain of their spot. Frimpong didn’t impress this time around, but used properly, the speedy right wing back will make the squad, as will multi-functional brainiac Daley Blind.

In midfield, a fit Frenkie is on the bus as well, as will Reijnders be. He didn’t disappoint in his Oranje matches and impresses with his legs, lungs, intelligence and technique.

Wijnaldum seems a shoe in as well. Why select him now otherwise. Koeman has loyalty to Gini and knows the former Feyenoord talent gels well with Memphis. Mats Wieffer has mixed results but Koeman rates the midfielder high and he does have some credit. But he’ll need to show it to the coach in the coming matches.

Schouten is in the same boat as Wieffer. Very promising but a thin foundation as yet. Koeman will be focusing on their performances in the coming months.

Marten de Roon will most likely be in the squad as the only enforcer we have. He never complaints and is one of the leaders off the pitch. Koopmeiners however, who had to leave the camp with an injury, is exceptional in the Serie A, but never really impressed in the orange jersey.

Joey Veerman is not for everyone. Very good on the ball, vulnerable without. He played well in the past Oranje matches but was exposed in several CL matches for PSV. Koeman will throw a dice regarding Veerman and Koopmeiners.

Quinten Timber might nog have been able to show enough in this break and might need to focus on a spot after the Euros, to replace Wijnaldum on the road to 2026.

Xavi Simons is one of the few creative sparks in the team and despite a disappointing series, he will be on the bus as well.

Upfront, it seems Memphis, Gakpo, Malen and Weghorst are certain of their ticket. The question marks will be stalwarts Berghuis and Bergwijn, who both need a super strong finish of the season. Koeman mentioned before that he finds Berghuis to be a unique player and therefore potentially a part of the squad. This gives Koeman another option on the right wing.

Calvin Stengs might have a super end to the campaign and also be in the running for the right wing position. Brobbey and Zirkzee will also be right in Koeman’s radar for the coming games and Brobbey will be part of the squad when fit, it feels.

Micky van der Ven, the left footed centre back of Spurs could also make the squad as his speed and ability to play on any spot in defence makes him an ideal squad player.

Some more question marks: Q Hartman, Stefan de Vrij, Nick Olij, Ian Maatsen and Noa Lang.

And what to do with Summerville… He’s on fire for Leeds and is close to a senior call up, in particular when one or more attacking options (Gakpo, Malen, Simons) fall away with injuries…

Strap yourselfs in, we’re heading to an exciting finish of the season.

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Oranje making up numbers at Euros

Well, we made it. We qualified. But the performance quality – or lack thereof – doesn’t instil a lot of confidence in me.

I don’t think I have seen one match after the World Cup that gave me a good feeling. And sure, we miss a couple of big players, but I can’t see how Frenkie or Memphis would have improved the play much, all by themselves. I mean, there were games with Frenkie in the side post-WC which also didn’t dazzle us.

I do think Koeman is doing the right thing in his squad selection and today’s line up, for me, was quite logical.

I personally would have doubted to put Weghorst in, but he did score the winner so people will probably laugh at me.

But i just don’t like him. And I think that another player would have scored if we had Malen as right winger and Xavi as false 9.

I probably also would have played Wieffer instead of Schouten. I’m a big Schouten fan but to put him in in his second game after being shoved aside by Van Gaal quite rudely, I would have used him versus Gibraltar. I think Wieffer is settled more in Oranje and is known to be quite stoic.

I also need to add: I think Schouten played a very decent match and will only improve.

Lastly, I think I would have picked Bijlow over Verbruggen. The latter is a great talent but still so inexperienced. He had to field two shots on goal and one went in through his legs. Ouch. Luckily for him, the Irish attacker was off side.

But overall, I think Koeman’s decisions re: line up and squad are fine.

It’s the execution (and maybe the prep by Koeman) that leaves a lot to be desired.

The excuse that we miss so many players is not a real excuse for me. We missed a lot of central defenders ( Botman, De Ligt, Timber, Ake, Van der Ven) but that area was not where the issues were today. I thought Blind and De Vrij did well. De Vrij was probably one of the best. His passing, some of his footwork, obviously his defending too. No worries at all.

The issues were in build up and the speed of play. We played walking football. Every time there was a chance to accelerate the game, we seemed to not want to take it. Where Frenkie naturally turns “open” when getting the ball and pass through a line or two, the two “6”s were too cautious. Schouten did it a couple of times, but it still was a bit timid. The pass backwards was found too easily. A simple acceleration on the ball, either with the man or by the ball in terms of a pass, was constantly an option and mostly not taken.

Up front, Weghorst seems to “block” forward motion. Every time he comes into the ball, Simons and Gakpo would move forward for the flick, and every time Weghorst would simply bounce the ball back to the midfielders. No flow.

And most annoyingly, none of the players had the urge to make runs in behind. The corner triangles you see so fluidly at Man City, Feyenoord and Arsenal were not there. The only player at times to recognise the space was Reijnders who’d run into it, but the pass never came. It was sterile and flat. There were options enough ( for Hartman, for Xavi, for Weghorst or Dumfries) to make the dart into that space, even to just stretch the Irish. But no.

My biggest disappointment was the post match interview with Weghorst, who was angry at the reporter asking him a question about the lack of flow in the game. As if the great man is above critical questions after doing his heroics for king and country. Pathetic!

There is a lot of work to do. The good thing is: we do have the players. But we need these players to realise they need to up their game two levels if they want to compete with Spain, England and France at the Euros.

 

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Oranje’s bright future…

It’s a bit cynical maybe to speak of a bright future after a loss in the Euro qualifications, but with Koeman’s 3-4-3 and the talents cherished by AZ, Feyenoord, PSV and …. Ajax (?), we should be able to mould a winning team again.

We will need to reach the Euros of course and that is not a certainty yet, but with the Greece game coming up and our escape route via the Nations League standings, it’s hard to believe we won’t be making it.

There have been some good suggestions on the blog for ideal pairings and such. I think it’s best to stay flexible also taking form and the strength of the opponent into consideration.

Goal Keepers

With Bijlow, Flekken, Verbruggen, Olij, Vaessen, Van Gassel, Gorter, Room, Noppert I don’t think we’ll have many issues here.

Bijlow remains my favorite, although Verbruggen will develop into a top goalie as well. If we have 3 goalies who can stop shots, distribute the ball, coach well and remain fit, I think we should be happy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Central Trio

Van Dijk will be beyond criticism, as will Ake be. I think De Vrij will make way soon for Van der Ven/Botman. De Ligt is not ideal in this role as he will have trouble seconding for Dumfries/Frimpong as occasional “right back”. He’s not very agile and needs a direct opponent to bite himself into. I would see De Ligt as the replacement for Van Dijk. With space around the right centre back, the likes of Timber and Geertruida are more suited for that role on the right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Van der Ven impressing in orange and in London

Wingbacks

It’s clear that Dumfries and Frimpong on the right and Hartmann, Malacia, Maatsen will be the main guys for the wingback role. I haven’t ruled Karsdorp out on the right, but he’ll need more playing time of course. Mitchell Bakker can be an option on the left and who knows, Wijndal?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mercurial Frimpong

Central midfield

De Roon will probably always play a role in the squad as coach appreciate his physical strength, his tactical discipline and leadership but from a football perspective, Reinders, Wieffer and Veerman and even Schouten (PSV) will eclipse him at some point.

To me Schouten is a more complete “De Roon”. The PSV midfielder is also a great passer of the ball. Shame that he was overlooked, in particular with Koopmeiners out.

Frenkie will be a certainty. Koopmeiners/Frenkie hasn’t worked too well. Reinders could be a good partner for Frenkie. I personally rate him overall higher than Veerman who remains to be weak without the ball. Schouten/Frenkie can work well too, I believe.

Ryan Gravenberch is doing really in his early Liverpool days and he and Frenkie might also end up being a strong partnership. Not sure about Gravenberch as a 10. I can see Reijnders playing as a 10 though.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jerdy Schouten

Forwards

Up front, it might get tough for Memphis to get back into the team, in particular if Koeman can get Brobby to perform. Gakpo and Xavi Simons are probably solid options for the coach. Noa Lang is on fire at PSV. A forward trio of Lang, Gakpo and Xavi Simons looks really amazing, with Malen, Bergwijn as support. Danjuma is a bit of a dark horse. No idea why he cut his time at Villareal short, as he was doing so well there and then he ended up with Everton??

Zirkzee and Joel Piroe might end up becoming top strikers for us too, in the years to come. Another forward/midfielder I really rate is Ruben van Bommel of AZ, currently in Jong Oranje.

In that squad, managed by Michael Reiziger, players like Kenneth Taylor, Jorrel Hato (Ajax defender), Dirk Proper (NEC) and Isaac Babadi (PSV) look like the real deal, as I’m also impressed with Noah Ohio (Standard Luik). The latter played his youth football in Manchester at United and City.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ruben van Bommel scoring while Mark van Bommel is tearing up

Coaches and playing style

Ronald Koeman seems to have the sympathy factor in The Netherlands, based on his past as a player and based on his last stint as national team manager, as he is seen as the man who got Oranje out of the slumps. He’s not the most innovative or even adventurous coaches, but with Erwin Koeman next to him and more important, Sipke Hulshoff next to him, we should have all elements in place. Erwin is a great field coach and analyticus while Hulshoff offers the more modern coaching aspects to the team (stats, video analysis). Pat Lodewijks is always praised for his wonderful set piece ploys.

As clubs like PSV, Feyenoord, AZ but also Sparta and even Almere City transforming into high press, high octane teams (Ajax currently lacking behind a bit) and with top internationals playing this style of football already under Klopp, Guardiola and Xavi, it’s only a matter of time before Oranje plays in this same vein, forcing the likes of Xavi Simons, Memphis and Lang into the mould as well.

We will only get better.

The Greece game will not be easy. Greece is better than most people think ( we have a couple of these guys in the Eredivisie and they’re good). We can lose or draw that game, I would not be surprised.

We will still have a way into the Euros via the play offs but again: if we can’t beat Greece than we need to wonder what we want to achieve in those Euros.

Still, I say we win 0-2, with Weghorst and Simons on the score sheet.

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Oranje simply not up to it

The cliche “men versus boys” has been used here a lot. In the past. And how I hoped that would remain a thing of the past.

But the games versus Croatia and Italy have yet again demonstrated where we go wrong. Again.

And I wonder who or what is going to change this!

The System

Lets start this two-match review with the obvious: some people claim that due to the losses and the conceded goals we will need to consider a switch back to the 5-3-2 of van Gaal.

One photo will show you why this is nonsense.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As one can see: we had enough defenders in the box (5!). It’s not about the number of defenders. It’s about how the defenders defend and about what they do.

Combine this insight with the fact we conceded two downright idotic penalties versus Croatia and the analysis is done: stupidity, complacency and laziness.

Gakpo trying to turn the best midfielder of the past decade on the edge of his own box. Gakpo losing the ball and then trying to pick up the little maestro from the back (and what… bring him to the kids’ stands??)…. And late in the match, Malacia with a lunge in the box. I mean, a rush of blood to the head of course but I could accept the explanation of Malacia: only minutes left to score a goal and we needed the ball so I took a risk. And failed. But either way: two cheap penalties and very unnecessary.

The Croatie second goal was a typical example of alibi defending. Or pseudo defending.  Making people believe you’re doing what you can. Dumfries, in this case not putting any pressure on the ball and staying at 1,5 yards from the forward. In his own box! That is not something you see Croatian or Italian defenders do. And Ake, Virgil and Koopmeiners all looking at each other. Typically something that happens even more with a 5 at the back system.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not enough pressure on the ball. No communication. Ake can see it all happening in front of him,

Versus Italy, same old same old. Two early goals because no one really defends! No one attacks the ball, no one clears the ball, no one puts pressure on the ball and the key forwards who should track back to cover the Italian wing backs: absent!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dimarco gets time and time from Malen and his defender mates were not able to recognise or communicate the danger to him. Where is a screaming Frank de Boer when you need him?

We didn’t lose because of the system

The quality of the players

I think we all know we have a lot of players who can play some neat, nifty football. Xavi Simons, Noa Lang, Donny Malen, Joey Veerman, Frenkie, all gifted players. But tenacity, leadership, personality and mentality are also part of the complete package of qualities a player requires.

And we lacked it. Again. We did see some good moves, we did see some decent actions and at times we played some nice football. Sure. But it’s about when things don’t go your way. When the opponent finds spaces where you didn’t expect it. When team mates get sloppy.

The quality we need then, is not the step-over of Noa Lang, the shimmy of Frenkie or the dribble of Xavi. We need the leadership of a Roy Keane. The big mouth of Gatuso. The piercing look of Mark van Bommel. I can fully understand that Wieffer, Geetruida, Dumfries and Lang are not the players to demonstrate this part of the game.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But Virgil. Nathan Ake (treble winner!), Frenkie de Jong ( skipper at Barca) and Koopmeiners should do more in this domain. Captain Van Dijk should be in Malen’s face, if he doesn’t track back! Frenkie should be ready to make the tactical switches where need be.

It’s all too sweet. We’re too friendly. We play too many card games at training camp and we focus too much on funny youtube clips with quizes, or raps with cigars and fashion shoots.

Mentality, commitment, leadership

And these are the elements that are missing. Some players came to the Nations League final round complaining that the season was too long and if we don’t win versus Croatia, we can’t be bothered to play the Losers Finals. Koeman should have sent these players home!

If you can’t get inspired for a football game, not hoping the coach will do it for you, then you have nothing to do in an orange jersey.

Every single player of Spain, Croatia and Italy has had a long and tough season! Man up!

We believe we are great football players. But we are only great on the ball. And not great. Above average. And we suck in the mental department.

And this is not something we fix by changing systems.

The Coach

I never believe in getting a coach back for a second stint. It was a success with Michels and Oranje, ok. But not in any other instance. Mourinho at Chelsea. Van Marwijk at Feyenoord. Van Gaal at Barcelona. Van Gaal with the Oranje/Ajax contingent in 2000.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is a sense of “comfort”, working with a coach you know. Whenever a coach says it feels like coming home, you know you’re in trouble. It shouldn’t feel like home.

Why pick Koeman again? Because it worked so well before? Well…. did it? He bailed before the Euros. Not really a success. So in my book, a big cross should have gone through his name.

Peter Bosz was available. Just sayin’.

Koeman has end responsibility and he needs to get his players mentally ready for a match or send the ones that can’t be bothered home. And when Malen doesn’t track back twice in 15 mins and we get hammered twice: immediately sub the dude. Show grit. Show courage.

Just like our team wasn’t able to show courage versus Croatia, our coach lacked courage in his choices.

The Future

I do believe the youngsters we see in Orange will grow into good solid players for the team: Wieffer, Veerman, Geertruida, Simons and even Malen, Gakpo and Lang are still youngsters, compared to Blind, Van Dijk and Memphis. We need to give them a chance.

But we need to give Botman, Frimpong, Schouten, Dallinga and Spierings a chance too.

Bijlow was not 100% top, but was only really at fault with that third Croatia goal. It wasn’t an easy one, but it was stoppable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A back line with Ake and Botman, De Ligt and Frimpong should work. Or Malacia, Ake, De Ligt, Frimpong.

A midfield with Veerman, Frenkie and Wieffer should work. A forward line with Lang, Gakpo and Malen should work. We do have enough quality on the ball. But we need to turn it into a team and we need to wise up really quickly now and start switching that button on in their heads.

Playing for Oranje is not a summer camp outing after a tough season at the club.

It’s do or die now.

 

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Memphis’ injury a blessing?

This is not a sentence I expected to write. Ever. Memphis has been super important for the Dutch NT, ever since his appearance at the World Cup in 2014. Under coach Koeman, the explosive and talented forward led the team, scored a record number of goals and is well on his way to become Oranje’s all time goalscorer and most likely most capped player. Or so it seemed.

But, the former Sparta youngster hasn’t been able to shine for more than a year now. His Euros was lacklustre and his World Cup a big question mark. He went from injury to injury and was absent more than present, both at Barcelona and more recently at Atletico.

But, as we established here, as the Dutch have trouble to thank their heroes and force them out to make way for new stars, it was a real question whether coach Koeman would make wholesale changes or whether he would rely on the old guard. Virgil, Cillesen, Memphis, Daley Blind, Wijnaldum…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like many coaches before ( Zwartkruis in 1980, Beenhakker in 1990, Van Marwijk in 2012, Van Gaal recently), it seemed Koeman was falling back on the old hands, but reality has reared up it’s not so ugly head and helped the former snow flake a bit.

Cillesen had a couple of howlers at the end of the season and couldn’t dig a hole big enough to hide in.

Daley Blind hardly played and has already been told he’s out of the squad.

Wijnaldum is stil with the squad but with his recent lacklustre performances and with Koopmeiners’ classy run as a #10, I don’t think Gini will feature much.

Virgil was able to claw back to a decent form, after a season of mishits and stumbles and will most likely lead the team out versus Croatia.

And Memphis? Well, he pulled out himself. Not fit enough to play and prefers – smartly – to prep for the new season in Madrid.

And it’s a blessing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arie Haan in 1974

And don’t forget: we know how coach sometime end up with their success formulas just by sheer luck, coincidence or as the result of setbacks. Michels lost all his centre backs in 1974 (Israel, Laseroms, Drost, Mansveld, Hulshof) and decided to put midfielder Arie Haan in the back with young stopper Wim Rijsbergen.

Or in 1988, when the same Michels started the Euros with 4-3-3, with Marco van Basten on the bench. A player who almost didn’t make the cut. After one match – losing versus USSR – Michels went to a 4-4-2 with Van Basten and Gullit up front. The rest is history.

Van Gaal and his three at the back in 2014? This came about due to an injury for defensive mid Kevin Strootman and an experiment of Koeman with Feyenoord away at PSV.

The Memphis injury could well be a key break for Koeman. Or, as Cruyff would say it, this could be an advantage resulting from a disadvantage.

Koeman and Van Gaal both were tempted to to use two wingbacks and three defenders, to build a solid foundation and create space for his mercurial forward. Memphis needed freedom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Johnny Bosman versus USSR in 1988

But the 3 at the back system didn’t work for Koeman as he saw that his team had issues dominating the game. At the same time, Ten Hag showed how you can do it, with a 4-2-3-1 system. When Frenkie de Jong came into view, Koeman switched to the Ajax system, with two central defenders, at times augmented by the deep lying De Jong, who’d drop in between, pushing the full backs further up the field.

Frenkie made his entrance in Sneijder’s farewell match versus Peru and the new Oranje system was settled. In 2018, Koeman built his team around Virgil, Wijnaldum and Memphis. The latter two do not have the status or form they had back then and it’s time for a change.

The only two Dutch forwards who perform at a high level in big competitions are Cody Gakpo and Donyell Malen. Therefore, it seems only logical to build the team around a new #9: Gakpo.

At Liverpool, he plays like a false 9, with two offensive midfielders in his back. Fabinho, the defensive lock, will be paired with Trent Alexander-Arnold who joins the midfield from the back, a role Geertruida plays at Feyenoord. At Liverpool, Andy Robertson is the third centre back, which is the role Ake plays at Man City. Both Van Dijk and De Ligt are accustomed to this system.

It seems Oranje could well play in this same form, although Dumfries might be at odds in this role. It’s not very likely that Koeman will drop the Inter right back though, but this Liverpool/Man City system could well work for Holland.

For me, I don’t think we can go beyond Ake as left back. He can fill the job the way Blind did, as Ake too is a great passer of the ball.

This leaves space for Frenkie to explore the left side a bit and in my midfield, I would have Mats Wieffer playing the defensive mid, with Frenkie next to him but with freedom to roam on that left flank.

My number 10 in this system is Teun Koopmeiners. I don’t like him much as a six, but in the #10 role he is killing it at Atalanta. I’d pick Xavi Simons as the left winger and Malen on the right, of course.

Noppert should not start, in my view, and if it’s a toss up between Flekken and Bijlow, I’d go for the latter.

As for the RCB, I would pick De Ligt versus a static #9 and Timber versus the more diminutive forwards (like David Silva or Alexander Isak). Not sure what Croatia will bring.

This is my line up.

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Oranje: how are we doing?

The month August is a terrible month for Dutch football, usually. Our teams usually struggle so early in the quakification games for European places. We also do not have the world class players who usually would be signed the earliest in the season (Raphina, Lewandowski, Haaland), which means Dutch players/clubs usually get to know their future in the final week of the transfer period. In this season, the Eredivisie will be already 4 games in.

Lets have a look at the Dutch NT players and where they are.

Goalies

The usual suspects are Cillesen, Bijlow, Pasveer, Flekken, Krul as I see them, are all doing ok, but not great. Flekken and Cillesen had some howlers already. Pasveer just got back to fitness and the coming man Bijlow also had a couple of mistakes already. But, I think we’ll find 3 goalies to come to Qatar with us.

Defence

Van Dijk is doing what he does best. Lead the defence at Anfield. Ake is getting quite some games now at City, Dumfries came of the bench to score a dramatic winner with the last touch, De Vrij is playing, Rensch is impressing, Wijndal is doing ok with Ajax, as is Blind. Malacia has yet to play a real series of matches with ill-fated Man United. Hateboer and Karsdorp are getting games in, as does Tete. Botman got his first start as well, while Pascal Struijk is a regular starter at Leeds again. Geertruida also impressed at Feyenoord.

Mathijs De Ligt is the only player yet to start from the beginning, but he’ll be fine.

Midfield

Our midfield is ready for a bit of an overhaul. Wijnaldum has to find a way to get back, while Klaassen and Van de Beek are also still waiting for ample minutes. It seems Steven Berghuis might also lose out now Schreuder seems to enjoy Tadic on the #10 position. Frenkie is not a starter at Barca (yet) but every time he comes onto the pitch, he lifts the game. It feels like – like Cruyff – the midfielder is strengthened by conflict situations. We do see some exciting new names, though and we might see a changing of the guards. Xavi Simons is impressing with everything he does. He’s a real player, great touches, speed, vision, he can score and assist and off the pitch he comes across as a fun, focused and humble professional. I hope LVG takes him to the World Cup. Quinten Timber is another player to keep tabs on.

Another name that established himself in my book is Joey Veerman. In the holding role (next to Frenkie) he can be really good. I love his side-footed finishes, which gives him a lot of control and shows the icy blood in his veins. I think he’s improving positionally as well, so time to give him the nod.

Forwards

Luuk de Jong does what Luuk de Jong does best, at PSV. Bergwijn is shining at Ajax, while Memphis works hard to be a factor again. He impressed me in the pre-season and if his deal with Juve comes off, he’ll be our leader of the line, as per usual in Qatar. Gakpo is going through a difficult spell, while Noa Lang is also not yet settled. These two are typically players who might find a new club late in the window. Malen is yet a bit invisible (for me) while Danjuma is injured (ankle). Weghorst is playing in Turkey and will find the net, but I think it might be a toss up with Brobbey who has been really good in his hold up play as a #9.

Problem cases

I think we all know by now that Ihattaren is going through a really difficult time. His connections with a gangster family is not helping and Ajax, apparently, is ready to move on. Sad. I don’t think Frenkie and Memphis are probem cases, they are too good to be stopped. Malacia though, might have some issues getting into the Man U side, as Ten Hag does well to protect the lad in this tough period.

I do believe he’s way better than Shaw and will make his mark, but is it in time for the World Cup?

My current squad of 27 would look like this:

Goalies:

Cillesen, Bijlow, Pasveer

Defenders:

Dumfries, Karsdorp, Timber, De Ligt, De Vrij, Van Dijk, Ake, Blind, Wijndal/Malacia

Midfielders:

Frenkie, Veerman, Simons, Koopmeiners, Berghuis, Klaassen, Gravenberch

Forwards:

Bergwijn, Memphis, Danjuma, Luuk de Jong, Brobbey, Gakpo, Malen, Lang,

Who do I miss?

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What we learned about Oranje is not good…

Like you, I want the Dutch NT to shine. We all want the same thing here, I think, even though we don’t always look eye to eye in the how and the with whom side of the solution.

These past two matches – the Great System Reset by Louis van Gaal of the World Soccer Forum – should have given us some answers.

Lets see what we learned. I’m sure you will all be able to share your thoughts in the comments sector.

The biggest thing I learned is not a very good thing to have to learn…

Our team is not capable of 1) recognising a change in the opponent’s tactics and 2) adapting our own system in such a way that we can counter the opponent’s moves.

This for me is a key learning point and shocked me more than I would want to admit.

Hmmmmm classy….

I believe being able to “read games” and demonstrate leadership as a result by taking action used to be our strong suit. In the days of Cruyff, Van Hanegem, Jansen and Vd Kuylen, this was part and parcel of our teams.

Players like Jan Peters, Ruud Krol and Hugo Hovenkamp were able to do this too and the next generation of players with Jan Wouters, Arnold Muhren, Frank Rijkaard and Ronald Koeman was also able to make autonomous decisions. In the 1998 team, we had players like Cocu and Frank de Boer who would be able to take control as Van Bommel and Sneijder were the ones doing it more recently.

Where are the football brains in this squad??

Surely, players with experience such as Virgil van Dijk, Daley Blind and Gini Wijnaldum should be able to see what the Danes were doing?? And even though Frenkie is still young, a player of his caliber? I can totally imagine that Malacia, De Ligt, Dumfries and Koopmeiners are still a bit timid maybe, but some of the others…

This is the sort of leadership we need

So, Denmark has one world class player (at least) in Eriksen. And we know him well. He played for Ajax and with Blind, and against Wijnaldum. I mean, everyone here knows where Eriksen plays and how.

But when the Danes bring him in, at the start of the first half, Van Gaal wants us to believe the team didn’t “get” what that meant and wasn’t able to respond?!?!? Really?

That Eriksen goal could have been stopped, should have been stopped.

And then it happened against Germany as well. We play with two midfielders (Malacia and Dumfries are wide, while Berghuis plays closer to the two forwards. Guess what: we’re outnumbered! And the team had to wait until the half time break to have Van Gaal explain this to them? So Frenkie didn’t say to Berghuis after 10 minutes: “Yo, Stevie, drop back into midfield ok, we’re being hammered!”. So the team needed the coach to make changes in the second half and then Oranje, and only after Van Gaal’s impressive coaching, was able to fight back?

Ludicrous. Where is Will Smith when you need him?

Van Gaal just found after the Denmark game that Eriksen is an attacking midfielder….

If this is all true, our biggest problem is on the table now: it’s a tactically ignorant squad who need the constant instructions from their master coach, to be told what to do.

This is Problem #1 for me.

What else did we learn?

That the system is a handy thing to have, and it offers a sort of safety net to use, a stronghold of some sort, but…the system doesn’t win you games. The execution of it does.

Whether we played 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 or 3-4-3, if we don’t execute it properly, we will be mince meat after playing a top 10 nation.

So you know, these countries are all going for the title: Germany, Spain, Portugal, France, England, Argentina, Brazil, Belgium… In order to win against these teams, we need the system – whichever – to work AND we need our key players to show up.

I personally do believe in this system, but you can only play it with success if you have either 1) trained it extensively and then you might need the constant coaching from the sideline, Tuchel/Conte/Simeone style or 2) mature players who can take charge during the match. I think De Vrij, Frenkie de Jong and maybe maybe Memphis are able to add this to the game. A bit limited.

Another leader on the pitch, with his finger pointing and his passing….

Lets look at the players…

The Goal Keeper situation is not great. Flekken couldn’t convince and he does deserve more time, of course, but he didn’t look like the guy who ruled the area. His passing is fine, but his main job is to stop balls from going in. He didn’t convince me. As long as Cillesen and Bijlow are fit, with Krul or Flekken, we’ll be ok.

The Central Defenders all play for top teams and we do have a couple more in Botman, Struijk, Timber, Schuur and Teze. Still, I would expect Virgil to be more adaptable and him struggling with the 5 at the back is a surprise. At Liverpool, he plays with a world class goalie behind him, a world class defensive mid in front of him ( Fabinho) and a good solid centre back next to him. He was a bit lost, against the Germans and against Denmark in the second half too. De Ligt was ok, I felt, and De Vrij will probably be Van Gaal’s first choice at the back.

As for the Wingbacks, Daley Blind is no wingback. He can play there but that will mean some adaptations on the left wing in front of him. Malacia or Wijndal or Vilhena will be better options. On the right, Dumfries for me, is not good enough. He is probably one of the best we have, but compared to his colleagues from Germany, Italy, France and England, he is weak. His positioning is weak, his first touch is 50-50, his timing is off at times and he gets lost in confined spaces. We need someone else there. Karsdorp gets my vote.

Another example of a playmaker with leadership skills

I would bring both Blind and Dumfries along to Qatar though…

Midfield positions should be covered with Frenkie, Teun, Donny, Ryan Gravenberch, Marten de Roon and hopefully Joey Veerman. In case of emergency, Daley Blind can play there as can Nathan Ake, or Davy Klaassen.

The attacking mid position needs work. Joey Veerman? Cody Gakpo? If Steven Berghuis is too lightweight, so will Veerman be. Klaassen and Wijnaldum can play there of course, but so can Noa Lang, Danjuma, Memphis and Bergwijn.

Upfront, I was not impressed with Donyell Malen, although I do like him a lot usually. He’s quick, he finds his team mates easily, but in the Germany game, it felt like he needed to do what Bergwijn did versus Denmark? I think Memphis will step up as per usual in the big games. Weghorst will be an ideal super sub.

Cocu, highly rated as a tactical brain in midfield by all his former team mates

I personally cannot see any new attacking players make their way into the squad. Brobbey might be a candidate, other than that I don’t see a lot of emerging Dutch talent up front.

I still think we can have a solid team for the World Cup. But we will need some key players to be fit and in form, particularly in the axis of the team: goalie, central defenders, playmaker, #10 and striker. Or: Bijlow, Van Dijk/De Vrij, Frenkie, Gakpo, Memphis (for instance).

I do fear that the intense approach by the modern coaches (Conte, Bielsa, Ten Hag, Tuchel, Van Gaal, Nagelsmann, etc) result in a sort of straightjacket approach and players are losing their initiative and the balls to take the game in their hands, despite what the coach says or wants.

Cruyff, Keizer, Jansen and Van Hanegem and co did this regularly, but they did make sure they won their games…

We need a player with balls to do this. I don’t think we have many of those. Frenkie is more an ideal son-in-law type (but what a player) so my hope is now on Lang and Danjuma to be those players.

On another note, Ziyech and Mazraoui are on the fringe of the Moroccan team now… How awesome would it be to have both these players wearing Orange in the future…. ;-).

 

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