Tag: Robin van Persie

SC Heerenveen shows interest in Robin van Persie

In recent weeks, SC Heerenveen announced that they will not continue with Kees van Wonderen for next season. The Frisian club is looking for a new name to take charge of the team.

The name that gained traction within the club was that of former Dutch national team and Feyenoord center forward, Robin van Persie. Currently working as a coach for Feyenoord’s U17 team, he has been promoted to the U21 team.

Stadionclub intends to keep Robin van Persie as youth coach for the coming seasons, given the excellent results he has been achieving.

Robin van Persie is studying for the highest football coaching license in Europe. Everyone at Feyenoord already understands that Robin van Persie is looking to become coach of a first-team team in the coming years, but with Arne Slot in technical command of the team, this will not yet be possible.

Given this scenario, a move to SC Heerenveen would be the open door for Robin van Persie to begin his career as a head coach.

In addition to Robin van Persie, more experienced names such as Rick Kruys and Maurice Steijn are also at the top of the Heerenveen team’s director of football list.

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Oranje first European team to qualify for WC Brazil

Because Brazil didn’t qualify of course. They “bought” their ticket :-).

And despite all the negativity of the last days, we need to be proud of our team and our coaching staf.

I can list a number of reasons why we should be very distressed, by the way (and I am sure I will).

But I can also list a number of reasons why we should compliment LVG and Co.

For starters: Oranje started under Van Gaal in bad shape. The Euro 2012 was a disaster. Cult hero Van Marwijk was tarred and feathered and players like Van der Wiel, Huntelaar, Sneijder, Robben and Van der Vaart had difficulties hiding their frustrations.

Van Gaal was appointed amidst controversy following his unsuccessful run in 2002 and his JC backstabbing at Ajax. His comments that “his career deserves a go at a World Cup” didn’t sit well with me (and others). As it should NOT be about mr Van Gaal’s career, but about the Dutch National Team. I do like him as a coach (I think he is a very good coach), but I think he is a horrible human being.


hol qual

On top of that, LVG had to deal with some player issues as well. Stekelenburg in trouble, Van der Wiel in trouble, Heitinga in trouble, Van Bommel retired, De Jong injured, etcetc.

LVG had to bring young blood and was somewhat forced to change Oranje’s playing style back to Total Football (he is doing this not just because he’s forced to, as he is a big believer himself of course).

And despite all of this, he has managed to only drop 2 points in a freak game away (Estonia, 4 days back) and managed to qualify as the first nation from Europe.

To quote LVG: “It simply wasn’t possible to qualify quicker, unless when you organise the tournament…..”

The expectations for Oranje’s chances are now being assessed. The KNVB management is only happy when Oranje finishes Top 4. This is what they gave LVG as a target when they signed him last year. Louis himself believes this is too ambitious and he will talk to the management about this. “There are at least 8 teams equal to us or better.” Louis goes for top 8. Johan Cruyff however believes Oranje should be happy if they progress from the group stages. “This Oranje lacks experience in key positions. Players like Martins Indi and De Vrij do have the future but simply lack experience. They can’t help that. They will be much stronger after the World Cup.”

Obviously, the position on the FIFA ranking will be key for Oranje’s chances. If Holland is Group Leader, we should be able to progress without too much drama. If we loste that spot and are part of a group with – say – Brazil or Spain, it might be less likely. However, I do think we play better against teams that play open (England, Germany) than against negative bus parking teams.

Robin van Persie: “We should have won this game 0-4 or 0-5. This was a bit…thin. Against Andorra, you should be able to turn and go deep 8 out of 10 times you get the ball, but we simply failed to do so. I think bringing Maher in the second half was a good move. We got some more creativity.” Van Persie almost has Kluivert’s record. “Patrick is awesome. He really wants me to get that record. He works with me a lot. In particular my timing. When to come to the near post, when to go to the far post. I take it on and think about it. It helps me a lot.”

Skipper Van Persie offered his jersey to a fan. “I am so happy. I think we did well this qualifications series. Sure, we need to improve, but at least we have a goal to work towards….”

hol and

Let’s look at the negatives now, for a bit.

Most people will say “how is it possible that Holland played so weak against Andorra???”….

Some reasons:

– It’s always hard to break down 100% defensive/destructive teams

– Oranje does not have the “automatisms” and flow you expect from the Dutch, which makes the former even harder

– We play with some new chaps who need to find their footing ( Willems, Schaars, Schaken, Lens on the left)

– Some of our players are missing (Robben, Vaart) or simply not in best form (Sneijder)

– Somehow LVG didn’t want to experiment too much, hence we played with 4 defenders and two relatively defensive midfielders

– We failed to score early, which further increased Andorra’s resolve

– Once it was 0-2 for Oranje, the team thought well enough was good enough as Andorra played a rough game and the players didn’t want to risk injuries

All these, are good reasons… Although I personally don’t get why Louis didn’t experiment a little bit more.

Why not use Schaars or Strootman as CB instead of Martins Indi? Using three defenders instead of four? Why not have the lightfooted Maher close to RVP and the man with the golden pass (Sneijder) sitting a bit deeper? Why not using the more offensive De Guzman instead of Schaars?

I can imagine Van Gaal’s response: “If the team does not flow as it is, changing the make up will only confuse more. We need stability and consistency. My aim was NOT to dazzle and to score nine times against Andorra. My aim was simply to win.”

Most of the other criticism is fair enough, but also not that relevant now. This month is NOT when the prizes are handed out.

We qualified. Which is more than LVG could say in 2002. We have 10 months to get our act together.

I believe we have two massive strikers with RVP and Hunter. I don’t buy the criticism on Klaasjan. He is an awesome killer in the box. Simply check his records.

We have 4 pretty good goalies.

We have a young and inexperienced defence. True. But in the words of JC: “If your defence is weak, make sure you attack!”.

Our midfield is potentially strong: Vaart, Sneijder, Clasie, Maher, Wijnaldum, Strootman, De Guzman, Van Ginkel, Afellay, Siem de Jong… What is not to like?

And we might have at least two or three awesome wingers…. Robben for sure. And at least two of the following list: Narsingh, Lens, Elia, Ola John, Boetius, Depay, Boerrigter. Surely, two of these lads should have some form come summer 2014?

I am not pessimistic. I never am.


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Oranje: one more year to prepare…..

Louis van Gaal has almost exactly one more year to prep his squad for the World Cup. Will the No. 5 of the FIFA Ranking have a chance in high heaven to win the World Cup? How strong is this Oranje.

A wonderful VI Magazine analysis, added with a splash of Jan insights.

Van Gaal is an optimistic man, normally. Who will always see chances for his team. His team is the absolute leader in the current Group D of qualifications, hasn’t dropped a point and is practically certain to go to Brazil.

But the same Louis van Gaal says his team is not yet good enough to go for the title. The ambition announced by the KNVB is to finish in the top 4 at the World Cup. One year into the qualifications, Van Gaal claims this is too ambitious and considers talking to the KNVB about this. “I would be a surprise if we win it. I don’t think we will. I can mention eight nations with better odds.”

Let’s analyse the squad and see where we stand.

Attacking capabilities

– Creativity, the ability to take opponents on one on one

These players are the big magnets. The players for whom fans pay the hefty price for a ticket. Clubs open their war chest to sign these lads. The Big Guns. Examples are Messi, C Ronaldo, Ibrahimovic, Reus, Balotelli, Iniesta, Cavani, Suarez, Bale… These are the lads who can make the difference at the highest level, under the most pressure, in the smallest of spaces. Holland has always had players like this. Cruyff, Rensenbrink, Bergkamp, Van Basten, Roy, Vanenburg, Ronald de Boer… We have demonstrated in the qualification games that we have a number of players who can do it at that level. The Narsinghs, Schakens, Mahers… But can they do it at the highest level? Doubt is justified.

We know Arjen Robben can. He belongs in the list above. Robben, injury prone, somewhat older… The only one at world class level. The afore mentioned Narsingh and players like Elia, John, Maher….they might have a good day… But they will also have a bad day…. That is part of their development. Even players like Neymar and Reus can’t bring it every game (yet).

Apart from Robben, we have Robin van Persie, who does not have that one-on-one dribble skill like Robben or Messi, but he definitely brings a lot of creativity in the box. Robben and Van Persie. That is the score on this topic.

sneijder backheel

Sneijder’s backheel vs China


– Goal scoring

We scored 20 goals in six games. Only three nations in Europe have done better: Bosnia Herzegowena, Germany and England. Top nations like Spain, France, Portugal and Belgium have more difficulty scoring. The Dutch goals were made by Van Persie (5), Lens (4), Van der Vaart (4), Martins Indi (2), Schaken (2), Huntelaar (2) and Narsingh (1). Siem de Jong, Robben and Sneijder added some friendly goals to it. A good wide range of goal scorers and we have goal scoring capabilities in attack, midfield and defence. Statistically it can be shown that Oranje creates a good number of opportunities on top. And we always did. The Dutch develop pretty good strikers and we had several generations with amazing forwards ( Cruyff/Van Dijk/Rep/Jan Mulder, Van Basten/Kieft/Bosman, Kluivert/Nistelrooy/Van Hooydonck, etc), but what do all the stats mean against nations like Hungary, Estonia and Andorra? Can we do it against the top nations. This year, we had three real tests: Belgium, Germany and Italy. In these three games we scored three goals and we conceded five. We have a phenomenon in Van Persie (we need to make sure he stays fit), a box killer in Huntelaar and players hovering around central striker position who can score goals but sometimes run cold ( Robben, Vaart, Sneijder, Siem de Jong, Maher). Bas Dost, Van Wolfswinkel and Luuk de Jong can still develop into goalscoring machines at the higher levels they now are, but it seems Louis should invest a bit more in his relationship with Huntelaar.

– Position play

Oranje demonstrated the perfect positioning play resulting in a goal in the last game of the season, against China. It’s the 66th minute when Sneijder repossesses the ball. He finds Van Persie. The striker dribbles a bit and passes to left winger Robben, who pulls the ball back on the coming man, Sneijder, who scores nicely with a backheel. This goal had class, smarts and all elements of a good cooperative team. Quick passing, good running, no egotistical moves. Effective and efficient. And Oranje showed many goals like this in the last year. Our team does not depend on one tactic or on set  pieces. it is clear that Van Gaal’s work with positioning play has paid off. He has managed to play more pass-and-move while introducing more and more new players. Where Van Marwijk relied on two strong defensive mids and put emphasis on defensive skills over build up skills, Van Gaal seems to switch Nigel de Jong for a more football player type like De Guzman or Clasie. Whenever Oranje has possession, we have so many tactically smart players on the pitch (Van Persie, Sneijder, Van der Vaart, De Guzman) that we are almost always able to create a man-more situation. Even against strong opponents. In South Africa, in 2010, it was visible already against Brazil. In the first half, we played with De Jong as holding mid and we couldn’t make the play. In the second half, Van der Vaart came on and Oranje got the upperhand. Same with the game this season against Germany, early in the campaign. Oranje was nervous and a bit afraid. We didn’t do well. But against vice Euro champ Italy, later in the season, we demonstrated our gogme, our wits and our prowess. It’s not all perfect yet. Against China, against 10 men, it took until Sneijder came on to allow the ball to run smoothly through the ranks.


oranje youngsters

Narsing, John and Maher. The new breed…

– Depth / Speed

The ability to penetrate behind the back four of an opponent. Every top team has at least one player with that skill. Spurs has Bale and Lennon. Real Madrid has C Ronaldo. Barca has Dani Alves, Pedro and Messi. Bayern has Robben, Ribery and Muller. Dortmund has Reus. The big Rondo, where players pass and move the ball swiftly until one of the ten field players can make the run. It takes timing, it takes speed, and it takes a player (at least one) to play the pass.

Oranje has Robben and Lens. Narsingh has the quality too, but is still an uncertainty. From midfield, the running man (Strootman/Van Ginkel/Fer) should be doing it and from the back only Daryl Janmaat/ Van Rhijn have the ability.

Whenever Oranje plays with Sneijder/Vaart/Maher, this ability is less apparent as these players want the ball in their feet. On the other hand, these three are all capable of giving the killer pass, as is Van Persie, De Guzman or Clasie. It seems the development of Fer (Norwich), Van Ginkel (Chelsea) and Strootman (Roma) will be key to give Oranje that edge.

It has to be said that your back four has not excelled in giving that killer pass. Heitinga and Vlaar demonstrated a good pass at Eredivisie level but have yet to convince at the highest level. Willems has the guts to play it, Blind has the vision to play it and hopefully BMI and De Vrij the skills. But we have yet to witness it.

– Length/Power

Robin van Persie and Huntelaar can both be seen as specialists in the air. Huntelaar is more the Kieft/Houtman header. Excellent timing, courage and strong muscles. Speaking of courage, who can forget the header against England. Where Klaasjan gave another meaning to the expression “eating dirt”. Robin van Persie is more of the Van Basten style header. Van Persie heads the ball like he plays football with his left. With class, with pizzazz and with vision. Van Persie can place a ball with his head like most others can with their foot. We saw him score pretty amazing header goals this season.

Van der Vaart, Robben and Sneijder all scored important header goals (Vaart at Spurs, the other two at the World Cup vs Brazil and Uruguay) but can’t be seen as experts. Jeremain Lens even got word from Van Gaal that he should be working on his heading skills. And he immediately scored a freak header from outside the box. Both the De Jong bros are strong headers, with Siem having added value in the way he senses where to be when the ball comes. An uncanny sixth sense for position. Van Wolfswinkel and Dost are not typically good headers, and neither is Maher. We do have aerial threats from midfield in Leroy Fer and Marco van Ginkel. The former being a real specialist. Strong jumper, good timing and tremendous courage. Van Ginkel is a strong athlete as well, but technically not a great header of the ball. Strootman, equally tall, is a remarkably weak header however. The two full backs are weak in the air, but the center backs (Heitinga, Vlaar, Martins Indi and De Vrij) are all pretty solid in the air.

RVP, Blind Janm

The young and the new: RVP, Blind and Janmaat

Defensive capabilities

– Ball winners / toughness / will to win

During the WC 2010 people criticised the two defensive mids De Jong and Van Bommel but when you ask players, you will always here the same : they love playing with Nigel and Mark. And they hate playing against them. And their role in 2010s Oranje was vital. They were the lock on the door and kept the team afloat when it didn’t flow. And the reality is, during a major tournament there is always at least one bad game. Every strong nation has players like these, to hold the fort. Spain has Xabi Alonso and Busquets. Brazil has Gustavo anD Paulinho. Germany has Schweinsteiger nand Khedira. Argentina has Gago and Mascherano. In Holland, Bommel and De Jong are absent. Van Bommel retired, De Jong has a long-term injury. De Guzman is now the man of choise for Van Gaal but his strength is build up. Not the destroyer role. Strootman, Clasie, Fer can all play on that position but none of them seem to have the grit of the two guards we use to have. In the Eredivisie, even Van Ginkel, Maher and Afellay played those roles but at the international level they would be too light.

In Van Gaal’s philosophy, taken from the Total Football text book, the whole team will need to be able to repossess the ball, Barca style. Gone are the days in which Sneijder/Van der Vaart could observe how Bommel/De Jong chased the ball. Tactical smart, will to win and physical fitness are the three players called up to replace Mark and Nigel.

– Tactical Discipline

Jupp Heynckes said recently that the biggest strength of his Bayern was their unity. Gone were the days of Robben and Ribery being the stars while the rest of the team did the work. Everyone does the work: even the Robbery couple. It was exactly this discipline that got Oranje in the WC2010 finals and the same lack of discipline that got us egg on our face in 2012. Does the current Oranje have “it”. The problem is: we can’t tell until we are tested. And we have not really been tested in a real match yet. Taking a look at Jong Oranje in Israel, it is clear to see how hard it will be for the youngsters to step up. We played nice matches against Germany and Russia when the circumstanves were good. We have a good spell against Italy, but when the Azuri scored, our spirit vanished. Van Gaal’s influx of debutants and youngsters will have affected the “team building” process. His captain-policy was a bit of a mishit (Sneijder and Kuyt both lost their standing this summer). Both Sneijder and Kuyt responded with great disappointment on that fact. The list of players that might have felt put down by the Team Manager grows. Van Persie was the first to be told he wouldn’t start, quickly switching roles with Huntelaar, who now must feel abandoned. Van der Vaart, Nigel de Jong, Ibi Afellay, Maarten Stekelenburg. This is quite a gamble. Sneijder and Stekelenburg could well bounce back but for Sneijder and Huntelaar it might be too late. It’s almost as if experience is a dirty word, since 2012. But Israel 2013 has taught us that youth isn’t everything. As for tactical smarts, Dutch players are universally admired for their vision and coaching and practice in Holland is always tactical. Young players like Blind, Clasie, Fer and Maher seem to be able to read the game and take the opportunities presented.

LVG Kluiv


“Louis leave the gangsta rappin’ to me, ok bro?”

– Defensive Headers

Oranje only conceded two goals. Spain and Belgium are as tight. Only Switzerland (vaults) and Russia (gulags) do better with only one goal conceded. Holland is well organised when losing the ball, but with the young and experienced back four and the fact that both De Vrij and Martins Indi lack the ruthlessness of Vidic, Terry and Silva, to name three, it is logical for Van Gaal to add some midfield length to the mix. Janmaat and Blind are not natural headers of the ball. Against opponenents with a strong airforce, Van Gaal might pick Van Ginkel or Fer over Clasie/De Guzman, purely to support the last line of defence. Being developed purely in Holland, it is clear that the current defenders lack some grit. Martins Indi being exposed in Israel (as was Van der Hoorn, now at Ajax) and De Vrij was humiliated a couple of times in the Eredivisie even. Janmaat and Blind like to find the footballing solution. Pieters might add some power to the back four, as could Vlaar. The latter misses the footballing skills and the speed of execution – maybe – but his physical power is an asset. Heitinga can’t be ruled out either.  A good header of the ball, but in need of a new challenge.

– World Class Goalies

Germany has Neuer. Brazil has Julio Cesar. Italy has Buffon and Spain has Casillas (and De Gea and Reina). Holland doesn’t even have a number one… Stekelenburg lost his spot (after a tremendous WC2010 and a poor EC2012 and a poor season at Roma). He might do a “Sar”. Edwin van de Sar drowned at Juve, made a comeback via Fulham and became one of the greatest. In top form Stekelenburg is world class. At the moment, Van Gaal is mixing it up. Krul had a go until his injury. The latter had an abysmal season with his club, while Vorm and Vermeer have class but it is not yet World Class.

– The Coaching Staff

Van Gaal has everything one needs to be a Top Coach. Experience, ambition, tactical smarts, communication skills (towards the players that is), a modern method (video analysis) and loyal assistants. Blind has been around and is a walking football encyclopedia while Kluivert is seen as a top coach in development. The latter has a great report with the players. But there are some weaknesses. Van Gaal’s relationship with the media is strained at the best of times. He tends to use players as pawns. Youngsters don’t mind too much, but the likes of Van Persie/Robben/Sneijder don’t like to be manipulated. In the past Van Gaal’s ego has forced him to make stupid tactical decisions ( Reiziger as left back, bringing 2 extra strikers vs Portugal when 0-2 up) and his track record as a club coach shows he can’t work anywhere longer than one season without ending up in drama. The man’s will to become a success on the World Cup Stage could be a blessing for us, it could also be a curse.

– Conclusion

Van Gaal said a month ago that he saw eight other candidates with better options to with the title in Brazil. He was most likely referring to Spain, Germany, Argentina, Brazil, Portugal, Italy and maybe even Columbia and Belgium… He will also see England and France as outsiders. Van Gaal is a realist. He assesses Oranje’s strength well. We do have tremendous weapons, but also some vulnerabilities. We have one year to work on those, although the onus is less on Van Gaal and mostly on the question marks in the squad to develop well. In summary: the Feyenoord back four + Clasie, Daley Blind, Leroy Fer, Kevin Strootman, Marco van Ginkel and the goalies.


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The Louis van Gaal show in Asia….

I said it here before and many of you concurred: Louis van Gaal is a wonderful coach. Great tactician. Good training material. Yadda yadda yadda. But he’s also a bit of a wanker. Big Ego. And not capable of not taking himself too seriously… We all said it: we will have some fun with Louis too, on the way to Brazil.

And I once mused….wouldn’t it be great to be a fly on the wall at times?

Well, a journalist of VI, the Dutch football magazine, offered us this perspective. Michel van Egmond gives us his story about what is going on behind the scenes. When Oranje “did” Asia, he was present.

Here it is.

“Bejing is a wonderous city. You can see soldiers guarding something vague on the weirdest spots. People talk in some weird language, with mouth caps for. And eat anything on four legs. Except maybe the table. But the most hallucinating image on that particular morning is offered up not by a Chinaman but a Dutchman. He strolls through the massive door of the Peninsula Hotel and even Chinese taxi drivers push the brake to have a better look. And would you believe it: a middle aged guy, right out of his bed, walks out of the hotel, yawning and scratching his right leg, dressed in orange slippers and an orange robe…

Lvg boos

More interesting than the games Oranje play, are the press conferences Louis gives. The KNVB wants to do their best to show that Louis is not really the grumpy old man we all think he is. But everytime they try and position him differently, he mucks it up and comes across even worse!

How’ bout this one? The KNVB has organised a big suite in the hotel. Nice fruit, saucers with cookies, chocolates and fresh tea and coffee. And a nice Chinese wait person to help with all the necessities. Van Gaal is chatting with press officer Kees Jansma. The media people slowly come into the room. Van Gaal ignores them at first. People go up to him to greet him. Van Gaal would never greet first. As a Radja, he expects people to come to him. He doesn’t say anything but gives short nods. To some he says nothing more than “good afternoon”. Van Gaal doesn’t do visits. Van Gaal does audiences. Like the Pope.

Van Gaal turns around to Jansma and says: “That’s it?”.

Jansma: “I think so.”

Van Gaal seems to think he deserves more journalists. Then he says: “Ok go ahead”.

The first journo says: “Are you happy with the way things are going?”.

Van Gaal: “Yes”.

Awkward silence. The team manager is a master in giving his public the feeling they are not welcome. People always laugh nervously when he makes a joke. Because he is not a stand up comic. His jokes are not funny. People laught to break the ice. Everyone desperately tries to break the ice… And then he picks up and starts to talk. About the program, the preparation, about Wesley Sneijder and more. In a somewhat condenscending tone. But, as we all know, once Van Gaal talks football he doesn’t sell bullshit. He knows what he is talking about. But ouch….suddenly the door opens and a Chinese reporter comes in. Too late.

lvg boos2

Van Gaal: “Well you are too late!” and sits straight up into his chair.

Reporter: “Yes”.

(A day earlier, Van Gaal was late for a practice session with Chinese youngsters. Close to a 100 kids had to wait for the coach, eleven minutes to be precise, due to traffic jams. But this fact didn’t give any cause for self reflection )

Van Gaal acts the gym teacher from the 1950s again: “Too late, means…in my class you can’t come in!”.

Reporter: “Apologies apologies”.

Another question. Does Van Gaal think there is a risk in selecting young players, as they lack consistency and sometimes will have a setback in their performance?

Van Gaal: “Oh, you are trying to talk me into something? I don’t believe that!”

Reporter: “Eh no, I am not trying to talk you into anything… It’s not a suggestion, it is how it is, I believe.”

Van Gaal: “No, you are suggesting things. That young players can’t sustain their level. That is your theory. But I won the CL with kids of 20 year old. So, what you say is bullshit.”

A bit aggressive for a pretty normal question… Another reporter doesn’t want to give up on this topic and supports his colleague… Van Gaal: “And how bout Sneijder then? He doesn’t play at a constant level either. He’s 29 years old! Or Robin van Persie? You must have noticed that he hasn’t scored for a spell at Man United? Has nothing to do with age. That is what you, the media, make up!”

The tone of the meeting starts to make it Monty Pythonesque. Van Gaal is looking for a rift. One reporter asks if Sneijder’s form has anything to do with Sneijder’s lifestyle? Maybe Wesley is living it up too much? Can I ask that, the reporter adds.

Van Gaal: “No! No, you can not ask this. That is not decent. You don’t have any dealings with his personal life. How do you think you are?”

And when another reporters wants to know if Van Gaal can help Sneijder getting fit again, he again is annoyed. “No of course not! I only see him eight times per year and then I can’t even train with him properly. Because if I make Sneijder work too hard, you guys will start to criticise me again!”

Most reporters start to giggle. They can’t stop themselves. Van Gaal rants on: “This has all happened. All of this. And then you guys think you are the coach!”

And he stops talking.


I try: “But why would you care? What does it matter if some newspaper writes you train to hard? You are the team manager?”

Van Gaal: “I don’t care.”

Me: “Well, it seems like you do….”

Van Gaal: “I don’t.”

Me: “No?”

Van Gaal: “No. But I can give my opinion what is in the media?”

Me: “Sure. You can do whatever you want.”

Van Gaal: “Or is it only permitted for you to criticise me but I can’t criticise you?”

Me: “No, I never said that. No please, criticise us!”

Van Gaal: “Oh, so I can?”

Me: “Sure! It’s entertaining!”

Van Gaal: “Oh well, thank you that this is allowed.”

Another reporter heard that Sneijder had “left the meeting when Van Gaal informed him he was no longer skipper”. He wanted to know what that meant? Did Sneijder leave the room or did he leave the trainings camp….?

This is a detail. Louis could have said: “Oh he went to his room.”

But Louis didn’t. This is what Louis did, raising his voice: “Oh you are a piece of work! You are an irritating little chap, aren’t you? Un-be-liev-able… Always taking the negative approach!! He went to his room! Plain and simple.”

Reporter: “I’m just doublechecking the facts.”

Louis: “So why didn’t you ask: did he go to his room?? Why does it have to be “or did he leave the camp?”… No my friend!”

Reporter: “Why are you being so worked up?”

Van Gaal: “I’m not!”

Reporter: “You are very wound up!”

Van Gaal: “No, I simply criticise the question.”

And he is silent again.

Reporter: “Louis, your whole body language and tone…it’s all so condenscending. Is it us? Or do you despise all the media?”

Van Gaal: “There are people in the media I respect.”

Reporter: “But these people are not in this room?”

Van Gaal: “And you are putting words in my mouth again!”

Reporter: “No, it’s a simple question.”

Van Gaal: “Oh you are simply asking questions… A top journalist you are, simply asking some questions. You have to stay sharp man.”

Louis van Gaal

“I am the best!”

Van Gaal is not present when the Oranje squad visits the Forbidden City later. The security people are with the players though. Although Jasper Cillisen and Jens Toornstra and Erik Pieters have nothing to fear from the people there. No one knows them. No one cares. Louis is not coming along. He might not care too much for culture or he is too busy. He was watching the Young Oranje games every night. When that team reached the semi finals in Israel he said: “I am not surprised. I expected them to.”

Nothing in his communication betrays anything that looks like self doubt. And maybe this is why people respond so fiercely to him. Someone who is so tremendously convinced of himself…you don’t see it in Wenger, Capello, Ancelotti, Heynckes or Guardiola. And he is never boring. His press conferences, even after totally boring and irrelevant games, are great. The only thing more fun than a press conference by Louis van Gaal is a press conference by Louis van Gaal in an other language.

Van Gaal believes that the others need to adjust to him. He loves literal translations of Dutch expressions and has baffled many in English, Spanish and German already.

The Barca players never understood him when he said “No Balon Hospital!”. And so he started to explain that concept.

Van Gaal takes himself so seriously that when the Chinese reporters start to ask the most silly questions at the press conference later, he will respond the only way he can: seriously.

Chinese reporter: “Mr Van Gaal, is it true you lost weight?”

Van Gaal raises his eyebrows. Looks at Jansma.

The reporter: “I mean, you look thinner now.”

Van Gaal: “That is correct. I had a hip operation some time back and I lost some kilos.”

Van Gaal was showered with applause after every question in Indonesia. In China, they don’t do that. But there are not critical questions and every reporter wants on the photo with Mr Van Gaal. One even says: “I am a big fan, Mr Van Gaal!”.

Louis acts as if that is normal.

An English journalist gets the last question: “Why would you want to work in the EPL? There is a lot of pressure on coaches in England?”

Van Gaal: “You clearly don’t know how much pressure there is in Holland. Ask your colleagues!”

Then he gets up. And spreads his arms, says “Thank You” and makes a deep bow. Kees Jansma smiles from ear to ear…

The Louis Show is over….”

lvg hitlerIn Germany, the comparisons between Van Gaal and a certain other famous personality were quite poignant…

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Why Robin van Persie will ROCK this coming summer

There is and always has been debate around Robin van Persie in Holland.

It seems like we – Dutch – don’t understand players like him. We like two types of players: players that perform (and we don’t care if they’re arrogant or annoying) and players that are humble and work their arse off.

In category one, we have Johan Cruyff, Marco van Basten, Dennis Bergkamp, Willem van Hanegem, Wesley Sneijder, Rafael van der Vaart…. Cruyff was very egotistical, Willem cynical, Marco aloof, Dennis didn’t fly, Wesley is cocky, Rafa overweight, etc etc. We don’t care. Actually, we love them all for it.

cruyff-bergkamp-van P

Three characters: RVP, JC and The Iceman

The humble ones? Jaap Stam, Jan Wouters, Phillip Cocu, Wim Jansen, Johan Neeskens, Gio van Bronckhorst, Edwin van der Sar, Aron Winter.

And there is a huge category we do not really warm too. The ones that think they’re better than they are. And the ones who rap. Although this second category is basically a subgroup of the first one :-). Drenthe, Babel, Elia, Kuyt, you know who you are.

In that category players who over-estimate themselves are the ones that leave for greener pastures early in their career. Again, Drenthe, Babel, De Ridder…all those players who disappear.

Robin van Persie was one of those lads, almost.

Terribly annoying at Feyenoord (sure, very gifted too), headstrong, streetwise (talking with a Moroccan accent as a result of hanging out mostly with Moroccan kids… Robin ended up marrying a Moroccan wife and according to some converted to Islam).

Bert van Marwijk (and his staff and senior players) couldn’t contain the young prodigy. He was amazingly talented, although Bert didn’t really know how to use the youngster best. Was he a winger? Was he a playmaker? A striker? Whatever he was, the playmaker role didn’t exist in Feyenoord ( Bosvelt played from deep, with runner Tomasson upfront behind Van Hooijdonk). Pi-Air was untouchable of course so left wing was to Robin’s spot.

When he moved to Arsenal, it still took some time for Robin to make it in the first team, as a starter. Sure, he had his games in his first seasons, but also his fair share of run ins with team mates and coach Wenger and even got a red card for a lunge, which resulted in Wenger yelling obscenities at Van Persie from the side line. Van Persie played a wide role for Arsenal for quite a while and had a number of goes as midfielder behind Adabayor. In the 2008/09 season, he took the role of Henry as main striker, when the Frenchman left for Barca.

It would take a bit of time for Van Persie to shine in that role due to injuries.

Robin has quite a reputation from his early days in Holland. He was known to be a misbehaved streetkid who was sent away from school many times. Later on, after a Dutch World Cup qualification game in 2005, he was arrested on suspicion of rape. He was held in custody for 14 days and circumstances were so bad in the little holding cell that RVP passed out at a certain point. The case was dropped as there was no proof that sexual contact with coercion happened and the “victim” – a former Miss Nigeria/Holland – admitted she claimed to be rape to “gain publicity”. RVP did have sex with her and cheated on his wife, in other words, which didn’t help his public reputation. It later emerged that over 200 police officers had had access to the case file, most of them not authorised to do so.

RVP was always seen as a tremendous talent but his personality and his vulnerable physique made it hard for him to be the dominant player he wanted to be. In 2008/09 he reached the 20 goals per season at Arsenal for the first time, but the season after, he dropped back to 10 (in 19 games) as as result of injuries. In 2010/11, his last season for the Gunners he produced a whopping 22 goals in 33 games, a feat he’d better last season for ManU when he scored 37 out 48 games. This is basically 0,8 goals per game!

RVP Bert

Here’s a tip for you: don’t sub me!

In the Dutch team, he scores once every second game (this year, he is on 4 goals in 5 games, which is as good as his ManU stat, by the way). This is certainly not bad for a striker. But somehow, the perception is, that RVP doesn’t deliver in Orange.

The reason being, of course, that he scores easily and prolifically against smaller nations (qualifications and friendlies) but hardly in big games or big tournaments.

In 2006, the World Cup in Germany, he scored one goal at group stage.

In 2008, RVP didn’t start until Romania and he scored two goals before Russia ousted Holland. Robin played as a winger, supporting Van Nistelrooy.

In 2010, RVP played as central striker, but only scored one goal (Cameroon) in a successful campaign.

Sadly, RVP’s performance stood out like a sore nail during that campaign. Sneijder and Robben were the heroes of the World Cup, with Kuyt, Elia, Van der Vaart and Stekelenburg getting headlines as well.

In 2012, the world expected more from him at the Euros, but a disastrous game against Denmark (in which he missed a number of good chances) resulted in a downward spiral. RVP only scored one goal, with his right, against Germany. A game in which he could have had a second one (and maybe saving Holland from disgrace).

The widely heralded striker can not look back on an international career like Ruud van Gol, San Marco, Patrick Kluivert or Johan Cruyff can in a similar position.

But…is it because he is not good enough? Is it because he chokes in big games?

I don’t believe that. To be able to play at this high level for so long (EPL, ManU, CL, etc) your mental state is totally fine. You will NOT survive one week at ManU if you are not mentally strong.

I would call that evidence #1.

Not good enough? There are many YouTube clips demonstrating how good Van Persie really is. His athleticism, his speed (both with his feet and his brain/vision), his ability in his left foot, his ability as a header of the ball, his ever improving right foot, his finishing ability, his ability to set a goal up…. There is nothing he can not do. I believe he’d even make a good goalkeeper.

Messi is probably faster with the ball and a better dribbler, C Ronaldo might be stronger, but other than that, RVP is the complete package.

So what is it then, that held the former Excelsior player back?

I believe it has to do with team-dynamics and hierarchy on the one hand, and team tactics on the other.

I believe Robin and Bert did not have the best of working relationship. I believe Robin may have genuinely liked Bert as a person, but I believe Robin thrives with a coach who really emerges into the team… Someone like Wenger, Mourinho, Guardiola, Ferguson and Van Gaal.

Van Marwijk is more distant. More like Mancini, Benitez, Capello, I’d say. Van Marwijk was very laissez-fair.

Let the alpha dogs sort it out.

We all remember how the Sneijder clan ( Robben, Van der Vaart, Mathijsen, Heitinga, Stekelenburg, Kuyt) knotted together while the RVP clan ( Van Persie, Afellay, Boulahrouz) had their own little circle.

Bert made Wes the man. Kuyt was his #2. And in the team, despite RVP’s role as central striker, it was Sneijder who dominated the game and would always look for Robben as an outlet, as these two complement each other so well.

I am not saying Sneijder did it on purpose to spite Robin. Playing the ball deep to Robben in space behind the defence of the opponent was simply how Sneijder could contribute best. RVP prefers the ball in his feet and Sneijder and RVP would frequently block each other’s space.

But Bert didn’t care about whether Robin shone or not. He cared about winning. When Bert started the WC2010 campaign he did so wanting to play attractive and attacking football. Like Holland did in the qualifications. He was happy to go with the Fab Four (Wes, Raf, Robben, Robin) but Robben’s injury changed those plans. The way we started at the WC (Denmark and Japan both parking numerous busses) determined how we proceeded.

Robin van Persie

“No, that is where the problem is, Louis….”

Louis van Gaal is also all about results but more so about execution and using the weapons you have at your disposal best. Van Gaal knows that results are the result of something. You focus on execution and the results will come.

The system we played in 2010 was not suited for any center striker. Our 4-2-3-1 was executed from a counter football perspective. You can play 4-2-3-1 in a forward pressing mode, which would definitely result in many opportunities for the center striker. But the way we played, sitting deep, allowing space behind the opponents back line, results immediately in a difficult role for the striker. In our case: Robin van Persie.

His tasks, in that set-up, are putting pressure on the opposing defender with the ball and making himself available once they lose the ball. The first pass would go to Sneijder or RVP, the most forward man, who holds the ball up and redistributes towards the midfielders coming forward who then pass to the fast wingers exploiting space. The Robbens, Narsinghs, Lenses and Elias…

It is no coincidence that Elia, Kuyt, Robben and Sneijder were the goal scorers, as rthe wingers would move inwards towards the center position. Robin hardly got a real chance at the World Cup.

Again, playing 4-2-3-1 in an attacking mode would change this significantly, but in 2010 we were not able to do so, unfortunately.

Now, LVG will not play 4-2-3-1.

His 4-3-3 is set up in a very strict, almost rigid way.

People execute 4-3-3 in several ways. With two sitting midfielders (Bayern) and one forward midfielder, or with two creative forwards and one holder ( Barcelona)…

Louis has distinct roles for his players. One holding mid (De Jong, Clasie, De Guzman, Strootman, Fer), one box-to-box runner (Strootman, Fer, Van Ginkel) and one creative forward, playing as a false striker close to the striker (RVP, Lens, Huntelaar). For this role Louis thinks Wesley, Rafael, Maher and Siem de Jong are his candidates.

As long as Robben and the right winger keep it wide, or allow the full backs to overlap, the field will be wide.

It will allow space for Robin and the playmaker to play off each other.

At the same time, we do need to realise that the time the oft scoring striker are over, in modern football.

robben rvp

“Trust me Robin, in the next game I will pass the ball to you…”

Adabayor at Spurs, Benzema at Real Madrid, Torres at Chelsea, Carrol when at Liverpool, the French dude at Arsenal (forgot his name)…. It is less and less their role to be the final stage of the attack. These lads are all key in allowing the runners around them to take position (the coming man vs the player who is already there) and become the most forward playmakers in the box.

Against lesser teams, sure, these guys will score their goals. But against tougher opponents, even in this 4-3-3 I do expect the Sneijder role, the Van Ginkel role and the wingers to be scoring more. Simply because the central striker already is in position (and easier to mark) while the others will jack-in-the-box into the box…

But whether RVP scores or not, I am convinced that (if he is fit etc etc) he will be of the utmost importance to us.

And I do hope Arjen Robben will finally with the Ballon D’Or this year, allowing Robin to snatch it up next year, after winning the EPL title again and the World Cup with Holland. ( He won’t win the CL, as Frank de Boer will claim it this time around….)

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Sneijder wants to return to world class level

Wesley Sneijder will do what he can to come back to his personal top level. The little midfield general was voted the best midfielder of 2010 (duh…. title in Italy, CL title, runner up in World Cup) and with only 28 years on the clock one would expect at least three more great seasons…

But Sneijder good fortunes (that 2010 season, working under Mourinho, being blessed with lots and lots of talent, Yolanthe) seemed to go against him when Jose left Inter and Sneijder believed he was still at Real Madrid or Chelsea. In Milan, the austerity measures hit hard and Sneijder’s stance on the whole pay-check matter resulted in him not playing a single minute for Inter in four months.

And even great players like Sneijder can’t sit out games for months without losing fitness and rhythm. Add to that a number of little pains and maybe a bit too much complacency with the mrs in Milan.

The former Oranje captain has made a pledge though. To do all he can to return. To be ready for Oranje in the Summer of 2014. For his own honour, but also to repay Louis van Gaal.

This season was….turbulent…

“It was. Very. I was happy in Inter until they came with these new demands. I thought it was wrong. Although I can imagine the club is in trouble, they should honour a contract and I was simply annoyed that I was being blackmailed. I know I can easily get by with less per month, that is not the point. I was instructed by different management groups and players’ unions that if I would give in, a lot of clubs would use the same arguments to put players on the spot.”

“The relationship between me and the club deteriorated as they seemed to be cross with me for the contract I had. Really immature. I realised I had to go, but not a lot of clubs were keen to pay a significant amount for a player whose fitness was questionable, and all that mid-season.”


When Galatasary came to the table, a lot of punters felt Sneijder should let that one pass, but he was keen. “I was keen. Galatasaray is a big club. Internationally. Dirk Kuyt has a great time in Turkey and I heard great stories from Pierre van Hooydonck as well. So we went and checked it out and I loved it.

The passion, the emotions… Football is important in Italy, but nothing beats how football is experienced in Turkey. And Gala has a strong squad, they had just signed Drogba and of course I knew Amrabat (ex PSV).”

Sneijder wasn’t able to set the Turkish competition on fire. “It was a major disappointment. And not just because I was so unfit, also because the Turkish competition is pretty strong. You need to be really on the top of your game. I was behind the group in fitness but everyone was keen to see me play. The coach, the fans and I was too. So I started too early, as these things go… And got little aches and things but I didn’t want to let the team down. But before I knew it the coach started to sub me so I never got the chance to convince, really.”

Sneijder is visibly upset that he let his team and his new fans down. “I love the club and we love living there, it’s amazing. So different and rich and lively. But I need to take revenge on myself. And listen, not just with Gala, I also feel a debt to the team manager. He made me skipper after Bommel and I don’t think I have paid him back with my performance.”

Van Gaal took the band away from Sneijder, explaining to him and the media that Sneijder was currently not fit enough to play top class football. “That hurt. Of course. I don’t know whether I expected him to leave me as skipper… I probably hoped for it, but I knew he couldn’t. I think Robin is the best man for the job now. For sure. He is fit, he is on top of the world, his season at ManU was astonishing. Nothing but kudos for him, but I need to focus on me now and I have to swallow my pride and hurt and simply work my ass off.”

We saw you at the Hoenderloo trainings camp. With that somewhat angry expression on your face? “Yes, that is me alright. Whenever I feel I have to battle or struggle to get on top, I get that look. As if there’s a thunderstorm in the air. But listen, I need that. I need that to motivate myself. I want to show the world what I’m made off.”

He lets out another big sigh. “I want to be decisive for a team. I want to be important. In 2010, I was so consistent. I want that feeling back. And it’s not like I’m old. I’m not even 29 years old yet. I have a lot of football in me still. I have been an international player for 10 years! I started as a young upstart at 19, and now I am almost 29 years and former skipper, hahaha. I need to get myself back to fitness. I want to play the World Cup when I’m 29 years old and another one when I’m 33….”

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Oranje 2014

So Louis van Gaal will stop after the World Cup 2014.

What does that mean? That he doesn’t really like the job? Or is he so confident we can win it that he won’t be keen to go on?

Or is he all about “Louis me me me” and only cares about him experiencing the World Cup as a coach (as he said so often).

I don’t know the answer. What I do know, is that we will have a real chance on the title. No matter what whoever says. Even no matter what Louis says.

He said: there are eight other teams with as much or more chance on winning it. Of course. On paper, that is true.

But England? Really? I believe the traditional nations will be on the list: Germany, Brazil, Argentina, Spain, Italy, Holland.

France? Belgium? Portugal? Mexico? England? Outsiders….

I think Holland will be a candidate for the title, because of the following names: Louis van Gaal, Arjen Robben, Robin van Persie.

Maybe we can add Wesley Sneijder to the list. Maybe Rafael van der Vaart. Maybe.

Add a mix of Stekelenburg/Vorm, Strootman, Huntelaar and a couple of young talents and people will look at us as an exciting team.

And Louis will make sure we will play exciting. Maybe not as good as his Ajax 1995, but with the right intentions.

And yes, our squad will be young. Our defensive four will probably be on average 23 years old or so.

NL Brazil

Oranje scored prolifically last time in Brazil

And it’s quite likely that our midfield will have a 22 year old or younger (Fer, Maher, Van Ginkel, Clasie). Just like we will have a couple of young bucks up front.

And it is ALL good. Louis van Gaal has demonstrated a couple of things. 1) he is a very good coach, 2) he is a difficult bloke to work with, 3) he will clash with experienced players and 4) has reached his best results with young players he can mould.

And don’t forget: our only real prize we won in 1988 was won with a young and relatively inexperienced squad. The Milan Three only played in Italy for one season and one Marco van Basten sat most of the Milan games on the bench or in sickbay. Koeman was not yet in Spain. Arnold Muhren was 37 years old and Van Breukelen wasn’t a spring chicken anymore, but players like Van Aerle, Rijkaard, Koeman (2x), Vanenburg, Kieft, Bosman and Van ‘t Schip were not seen as world beaters, outside of Holland. Talents, for sure, but not much more. Tiggelen played in Belgium, Kieft was with a second rate Italian club, Erwin Koeman in Belgium, Vaantje at PSV, Schippie at Ajax….

And they won it.

Just like we can win it.

We have two of the best forwards. We have a couple of great goalies. Talented defenders and razorsharp midfielders.

If someone can make it work, it is Louis.

I am positive!

kuyt brazilKuyt even scored a brace!


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RVP gets 20 points out of 10

This post was produced a week ago already but due to crash of blog site, is only published now. Apologies…

Robin van Persie is seen as the reason why Man United won the 20est title in the EPL. Mancini said it months ago already, the Man City coach stating that if RVP would have picked the noisy neighbours, they would have run away with the title.

Scoring a hattrick in style with that blistering volley resulted in the local Manchester newspaper to award Van Persie with 20 out 10 (see pic).

A beautiful tribute to the man who came to Old Trafford with only one aim: to win silverware.

Sir Alex: “We had high expectations of Robin as he is clearly one of the world’s best but that he would be this good and would adapt so smoothly and quickly was a surprise to us all…”

The 29 year old is probably the most exciting striker (not counting Messi as a striker) on the planet today. And it didn’t look like this would happen, when RVP started his career in Rotterdam.

The son of an artist couple was always known to be “unadapted”. He spent most of his days playing football in the streets of Rotterdam, with lads like Luigi Bruins (ex-Feyenoord), El Hamdaoui (ex-Ajax and ex-Spurs) and Said Bouhatar ( ex-Feyenoord). Cocky, arrogant and oozing of talent.

He moved from his first club Excelsior to Feyenoord when 14 years old, as a result of a ‘situation’ between his youth coach and his mom. At Feyenoord, the youngster developed into a successful playmaker, only to allow Raf van der Vaart to eclips him in the pecking order in the Oranje youth teams.

His name went round in Rotterdam, amongst Feyenoord fans and I saw him make his debut in the first team at 17 years old, as a winger. He was fast, full of trickery and with a beautiful left foot. Lanky, gutsy and very confident. The problem with RVP in those days, was that everyone around him saw him as the biggest talent Feyenoord ever developed and told him so, day and night. His parents didn’t “get” football and were not able to ground him.

This resulted in that infamous row with Pierre van Hooijdonk on the pitch. It was against RKC. Feyenoord was 1-0 down. RVP came on in the second half.

Van Hooijdonk: “The hierarchy was crystal clear. I was the set piece man. Whenever I didn’t feel it was my angle or distance, I could appoint another player. When Robin took the ball and repositioned it a bit, I thought he was trying to confuse the wall. And I expected him to take the run and step over the ball. To my horror, he hit the ball. I was furious. I couldn’t repeat here what I said to him. Van Marwijk was flabbergasted!”

The Feyenoord coach was never able to control the youngster. Another low in their relationship was the Super Cup game between Feyenoord – UEFA Cup winners – and Real Madrid (CL winners). This was clearly a game RVP relished but Bert used this game to punish Van Persie for his lacklustre performances and excluded the winger from the squad.

Something broke and RVP knew his future would not be in Rotterdam, as he was not “valued” as he should have been. In those days, there were not takers though. Most clubs seemed to think he was poison. Guus Hiddink and PSV and Wenger and Arsenal informed in the winter of 2004 but it wouldn’t be until the spring of 2004 that Arsenal decided to sign him. Wenger knew of Van Persie’s talents and was adamant to have his “assistants” (Henry, Bergkamp, Adams) to educate the youngster.

Van Persie knew he has to adapt. He was no longer the protected lad in a club he knew well. He was now a no-name in a big football nation in a club with players that would eat him for breakfast.

He changed. He worked hard. He listened and he learned.

And when his mentors Bergkamp and Henry left and other top talents like Nasri and Fabregas departed, Robin took the leadership role. With responsibility, his egotistical personality changed into the personality of a leader, a role model…a guy delivering the goods.

Funnily enough, his injury proneness also changed. In his first years, he wasn’t able to stay fit for longer than a couple of months, over the last years he has been fit like Superman.

Robin will probably have 3 more great seasons in him. And once age starts to hit him, he is a player that can play one line back without a problem. Maybe Ryan Giggs will inspire him to play for another 10 years in a playmaker role from the back?

Sir Alex names Robin in the same sentence as David Beckham, Eric Cantona and Ruud van Nistelrooy. ManU Legends. A wonderful honour, when you take into account his first season hasn’t even ended yet.

What does tickle the mind of the Dutch National Team fan is, how can we make sure he performs at this level in the orange jersey??

His Oranje career was a bit stop and start? Was it Bert van Marwijk’s influence? Was it the fact that wasn’t always used as a striker? Was it the dreaded hierarchy again (Raf and Wes vs Robin)?

Fact is, he never shone as he does and did with Arsenal/Man U.

Under San Marco, he has a good two games at the WC2006. An assist on Robben and a scorching goal from a free kick.

In 2008, coming back from injury, he scored and was important, but still in the shadow of Sneijder, Van Nistelrooy, Van der Sar and Kuyt.

In 2010, he scored one goal. As a striker. In a campaign that took us to the finals. The main roles were for Sneijder and Robben. The most memorable image of Van Persie of that tournament was his complaining and whinging with Van Marwijk for being subbed…

Did Robben and Van der Vaart cramp his space when playing as wingers? Did Sneijder ignore Van Persie and only try to find Robben? Was it the Bert van Marwijk connection?

In 2012, the main image is that of Van Persie missing the ball completely against Denmark. Holland had at least 20 chances and the top forwards of Arsenal and Bayern Munich were not able to score.

RVP did score a great goal with his right against Germany and had a good chance to score a second even…. But other than that ( and other than an ok game as shadow striker vs Portugal behind Klaas Jan), the 2012 campaign was a disaster.

So, with Wenger and Sir Alex getting the best out of him and Bert van Marwijk not being able to do so (twice), it might be that our new coach Van Gaal is capable of making RVP important.

Making him the first name on the team sheet. With Sneijder not at his best and with Robben instructed to keep the playing field wide, we might see a different Van Persie.

His connection with Raf on the playmaker spot was quite good in recent matches (the two highly respect one another) and we saw some good interplay between Robben and Robin and RVP and Maher in recent games too.

Lets hope Van Gaal knows how to “touch” RVP like Wenger and Sir Alex have clearly done. And with a more dynamic player behind RVP (sorry Wes), we might see the interplay Robin so desperately needs. With Maher and Van der Vaart, we seem to have those players and I have personally not given up yet on Afellay either.

Lets hope that RVP20 is capable of working his magic even when he’s 30 years old.

And lets hope he will win us the World Cup title (with the other 22 players of course) next summer.

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Oranje Assemble!

Young Feyenoord debutant Tonny Vilhena posing with his hero, Robin van Persie.

Louis van Gaal called Ronald Koeman last week to tell him seven players of the Feyenoord club had to report for duty against Estonia and Romania.

Jean-Paul Boetius, the young left winger, was the one not to be selected and he will fly with Young Oranje to Israel for a friendly.

Ronald Koeman was not allowed to tell the players until Friday and waited until after practice. He stood there, big smile on his face, to congratulate youngster Tonny Vilhena with his upcoming debut.

The 18 year old: “The coach congratulated me and asked me if I knew with what… I knew of course. I was hoping for this with a passion. When I heard I was in the prelim squad, Bruno and Jordi and Stefan constantly talked to me a bout it and I couldn’t stop thinking about it.”

The Seedorf like midfielder wanted to call him parents immediately, but Koeman was stern. The golden rule at Feyenoord: no mobile phones in the dressing room. Vilhena did learn immediately that his buddy Boetius was not yet selected. “It’s a shame that he misses out, but he is so proud of me… JP’s chance will surely come.”

Vilhena looks back on his development. “It’s going really fast. In October, I was on the stands. I wasn’t part of the match squad. I played against Willem II and scored twice. I made my debut against Croatia with Young Oranje and scored as well and three days later I played against and scored yet again. That was a top week. I got lifted up and made a big jump.”

The prospect has never spoken with Van Gaal before. He is looking forward to meeting him. “I have heard a lot from the other lads so I have an idea what to expect. But being on the same pitch with Van Persie, Robben and Sneijder…. Amazing. I will be the same Tonny on the pitch though. But off pitch, I will be a bit more humble I think, hahaha. I remember my picture being taken as an F pupil with Robin… He, Patrick Kluivert and Pierre van Hooijdonk were my heroes. I played football with a Kluivert jersey. And now I am training with him…”

Koeman understands why Van Gaal has selected Vilhena. “Tonny is only 18 years old but he is very mature on the pitch. I think he is better now than many players I have known, who had a superb career. He is pretty amazing. Boetius is also a gifted player but Van Gaal has reasons to bypass him for now. But I know from Van Gaal that it will be a matter of time for Jean Paul. If he keeps on performing as he does, he will come good.”

Boetius shrugs his shoulders. “I am happy for Tonny. And it’s cool that we have a good contingent of players from Feyenoord at Oranje. I am not disappointed. Young Oranje is good for me too. Being part of the prelim was already an honour. I played some difficult games recently, and I’m still young. I have still a lot to learn.”

Kevin Strootman is still a relatively young player. Only 23 years old he has played 17 caps and is a veteran amongst the youngsters. He also cops a lot of criticism recently, mainly due to his conduct in PSV games. “I am working hard to change my attitude.”

He smiles when he notices in the players’ hotel that the media swarm around the Feyenoord players. “Everything or everyone new is seen as positive. I had this too, when I made my debut. The first year is always relatively easy… The problem comes after it. When you get some setbacks… That is when the boys need to become men. The Feyenoord lads will experience that too.”

“I do recognise I’m different at Oranje, compared to PSV. I haven’t had major disappointments with Oranje. I do have it in my character to respond emotionally with disappointments… And at PSV I guess I’m more at home and show my emotions more freely. But not always in a good way.”

“I work hard to change it. I have spoken to Advocaat about it but also with Louis van Gaal. I don’t do myself many favours. I don’t get better when I lose myself in agitation. My peers do talk to me about it as well. But, at the same time, I am not a mean player. I don’t break legs or hit people. I’m simply reacting verbally.”

Louis van Gaal believes Kevin Strootman will be one of the players that will be able to make the step from PSV to a Champions League club without a problem. “I really love hearing this of course. I am grateful that he selected me and allowed me to make my debut as an Utrecht player… I watch the Champions League games and sometimes think “whoa, that is quite a high level” but some other games I think “hmmm…I could handle this… I do get interest from other clubs but I won’t leave PSV for just any club with deep pockets. I really want a club that appeals to me.”

Wesley Sneijder is back in the trainings camp of Oranje. “That isn’t so strange? I am fit. So I am selected. I think I’m still part of Oranje, right? Although I have to admit, I am relieved to be back.”

The playmaker missed 4 internationals as Inter pushed the former Ajax man into the youth team. As midfielder of Galatasaray, he reached the CL quarter finals and will play former club Real Madrid. “We are amongst the best eight clubs of Europe. I don’t think Galatasaray is that bad?”.

Van Gaal always kept his skipper involved. “We did speak a lot over the phone and he visited me in Istanbul. Hey, and I am still captain, right, haha? But no I won’t tell you what we discussed. We did talk about the World Cup. Because we do have the plan to go to Brazil.”

Like Sneijder, Robin van Persie can be considered to be a veteran and like Sneijder he revels in his new role as guide to the youngsters. “I love working with Van Gaal. Everything he does is thought through. He is clear in his ideas, he can explain everything. And I understand his choices. We had a good talk when we first met and I have come to known him as a friendly and even funny man. He may come across stern in the media, but when I work – in other words, play football – I look serious too, don’t I? I am not the same Robin on the pitch as I am at home on the sofa. This is one reason why I don’t like to give interviews right after a game. You are so uptight or full of tension or emotion… You don’t come across naturally. And people start to get all these ideas around you.”

Holland is the only country with Russia which hasn’t dropped points yet in the qualification series.

Van Gaal confirmed that his squad is getting to the point where they can play the sort of football he wants to see. “We are not there yet. The aim is high. I think only three teams in the world play better than us, but that is clearly where we want to be (Barcelona, Spain and Germany, is assumed). People come to the stadium to see Oranje attack and see goals. But even against Estonia it will be hard.”

Van Gaal will most likely start with Blind and Janmaat as attacking wingbacks. “That is how to take the game to them. With speed and depth on the flanks.”

Van Gaal will most likely go for creativity in midfield and De Guzman, Sneijder and Strootman will most likely start in midfield. Van Persie, Robben and Lens will lead line, with Raf van der Vaart starting on the bench.

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A Big Puzzle for Louis

You can say a lot about Louis, but he does have balls.

Most of the nation think he is a dicknecked pompous asswipe, most people feel he failed with Oranje in the past and the media are clearly feeding him suggestive questions hoping that he’ll blow up….

But he took up the reigns of Oranje in a time when even our most successful team manager ever wasn’t able to “reach” the players anymore.

And in his first game, against old rivals Belgium, his team of world class talents and established names failed. Scoring two, conceding four. And if it wasn’t for Stekelenburg, we could have conceded seven or eight…

Quite the jigsaw for Louis.

The old guard at the back or done. Boulah, Mathijsen… I still believe in Heitinga but other than him, we do need fresh blood. Willems I like… Erik Pieters is good at left back but might be even better as center back. Don’t forget: this is his natural position. And with Vlaar, Douglas, De Vrij and Martins Indi we might be in good shape, just as Ricardo van Rhijn and Nick Viergever will most likely have the goods.

Van Rhijn is a good replacement for Van der Wiel and Kelvin Leerdam can play right back as well.

Nigel de Jong had an unlucky game ( and was singled out as such by Louis) but Nigel has demonstrated in the past – for me at least – to be great value. He mishandled the ball and it was 2-2, sure, but this doesn’t seem to happen to him in big games. And as Carlos pointed out after the England game, our goals all came after De Jong stopped England attacks…

But sure, Kevin Strootman can play there too. Or Leroy Fer maybe? Or Jordy Clasie? Or Afellay… Vernon Anita? Enough candidates…

With Robben on the left (with Ola John and Elia as stand ins) and Narsingh on the right (with Robben or Wijnaldum or Lens or Kuyt or even Van Persie) as stand ins, we do look good upfront. Huntelaar, De Jong, Dost, Van Persie, Wolfswinkel… all capable of scoring goals…

Louis will need to fix the heart of our defense and the right holding mid.

I believe 4-3-3 should work out for us in most games. As we can quickly adapt to 4-5-1 or 4-1-4-1 in the game, depending on having the ball or not…

I do worry a bit about Sneijder and Van der Vaart on the same midfield in a 4-3-3. I can see it with Van der Vaart as holding mid in a 4-2-3-1, but Sneijder needs a more penetrating midfielder with him, I believe. Someone like Afellay or Maher, indeed… But who knows, with Strootman as holding mid, he could even be the man with depth, if Raf will take over his position…

From what I’ve heard, Turkey was not too impressive. We should be able to beat these guys.

Once the EPL is on its way, we will see how things progress. Sure, a defensive line up with Heitinga paired with someone like Martins Indi or Vlaar should work. Willems and Van der Wiel or Van Rhijn on the flanks should be enough.

And Van Gaal will have to watch both Strootman and De Jong in how they operate, to pick the man in form for that match.

I believe this World Cup qualifications series will be played with a large squad. Douglas, Van Persie, Ola John, Afellay, Kuyt, Strootman, Vlaar, De Vrij…

Some players will need to present themselves, others will disappoint and/or Louis will try out different combinations.

And only a couple of months before the World Cup, we will see the final contours of our new Oranje emerge…

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