Tag: Van de Beek

Van Gaal makes his own rules…

The Dutch internationals stumble over each other when they need to talk about the “vibe” in the squad. They’re all mates, they play games together, go on holidays together and in these modern times, players of Ajax are best buddies with players of Feyenoord… Gone are the times when Cruyff and Co sabotaged PSV goalie Van Beveren and playmaker Van der Kuylen… This unity doesn’t result in invincibility, as the Montenegronians (??) have experienced, but Norway has noticed that after one slip, the homogene character of the squad can be re-established swiftly.

Everything that went wrong in Podgorica went well in De Kuip. Wijnaldum told of text messages stating that he “should quickly forget about that dreadful match and move on” but Gini didn’t want to know about it. He was very happy with the focused and frugal performance of his team. Mature, he called it. Result before beauty.

Van Gaal made his entry into the squad some three months ago, knowing that the players initially didn’t want him. He decided to listen. To open up to the wishes of the players. What system did the players prefer? What positions do they want to play? That worked in his favour. Players felt heard. And after his first international weekend, Van Gaal did what he always does: he went his own way.

Bergwijn told Van Gaal he didn’t want to play on the right wing. Fine. But Van Gaal used him on the right versus Norway, and the Spurs forward was Man of the Match. Lang told Van Gaal he was able to play right winger but the Brussels star was tested and Van Gaal immediately added him back into the queue for the left wing.

Van Gaal knows that the players want 4-3-3 but the wily coach knows that Oranje isn’t good enough and additional securities are needed. Also, when you do have three top notch central defenders while doubting your forwards, the 5-3-2 is a logical go-to scenario.

Van Gaal introduced a new term (for the Dutch at least): “Provocative Pressing”. Which means: dropping back a little, allowing them a feel of comfort, give them some time on the ball, but when they get into a particular situation (for instance, an opponent gets a hospital ball, or is played in badly, or is isolated), the Dutch pounce on them like a pack of wolves. This as opposed to counter football (…) or the high press (Man City, Ajax, Liverpool).

Van Gaal believes that the result was key, in this qualification campaign. He started with a deficit, as Oranje lost under De Boer away in Turkey. “I will worry about the quality of the performances later, now it is all about results.”

Van Gaal did what he needed to do. Firstly, he got the confidence of the players. Secondly, he brought a bit of vibe back which seemed lost under De Boer. He did so by listening to the players and giving them initially what they wanted. Van Gaal will have seen however, that this Oranje struggles against weaker opponents (limited spaces) and plays well against stronger teams ( Italy in Bergamo, under De Boer or England in the nations league under Koeman). When there is space, we have the goods. We have speed and vision to work with that. But our world class is at the back, with Van Dijk, De Vrij, De Ligt and De Jong.

Van Gaal has a window in March and in June to play and work on his team. In March, it’s friendlies and in June it’s the new Nations League campaign. And before the Qatar WC, there is one week of prep. “I know exactly how I will use that time and I have already informed my players.”

So what to expect? When the Norwegians went looking for a goal at 1-0, Van Gaal switched to a 5-3-2 (bringing Ake) and immediately space opened up for Memphis and Bergwijn. Van Gaal can indeed gel two or three systems in the team. With the arrival of Gakpo and Danjuma, more options open up. We can play with forwards who want the ball to feet (Berghuis, Gakpo) or with forwards who will go deep (Bergwijn, Danjuma). With Memphis as #9 and Weghorst as pinch hitter, there are options.

Towards the World Cup, there are some decisions to be made.

The goalie. It seemed Bijlow was the #1 but with Cillesen becoming available and pinching the spot ahead of Flekken and Krul it is interesting to see how both rivals will fare in their upcoming matches.

Blind seems to be Van Gaal’s pick for the left back position but it seems Malacia and Wijndal will slug it out for the other opening.

On the right Dumfries is the main man, and Van Gaal used “inner circle” subs to replace any other candidates, leaving Rick Karsdorp out in the cold. That might well chance, depending on the development of Rensch.

In midfield, there will be a spot for Van de Beek should he return to weekly football as he does have something special. Klaassen seems to get closest to that particular profile but in my view, Donny is a tad better than Klaassen.

On the wings, as said before, Louis is able to match and mix a bit, with Lang and Malen also still options.

Do we see any other players now that are so remarkable that they should have a shot? Kenneth Taylor? Pascal Struijk? Bakker of Leverkusen? Geertruida as right back? Let me hear your thoughts…

Bookmark and Share

Frenkie remains humble

Hi all, sadly no more time to write a specific post on the Austria game.

I personally think it will be a tough match for us, even without Arnautavic involved. They’re an experienced team, physically and tactically disciplined. This could wel end in a 2-2 result or something like that, I wouldn’t be surprised if we would choke on this opponent.

But, being positive as I am, I will call 3-0 for Oranje. Goals by Wijnaldum, Memphis and Malen.

Leave me your prognosis below in the comments.

And leave me some beer money while you’re at it :-). Covid hurt this blog and blogger too… You can now also decide to donate crypto. it seems to be going down anyway…

Your gift is appreciated

The AD newspaper had a nice insightful interview with Frenkie de Jong.

For someone who is usually showered with superlatives and compliments, he hardly uses them himself. More to the contrary. When you start paying attention it becomes comical, even. In this particular interview, which took an hour, he used words like “not bad” and “pretty ok” around 12 times. The only time he uses the word “amazing” is when he mentions Messi.

We’re halfway the interview, talking about his role in this Dutch Netherlands team at these Euros. “If I can reach my usual level, I have a fair chance to get minutes,”. He says it with conviction. As if this is not the best and most popular Dutch player of the moment. And it’s not a false modesty. He is like this. Calm, balanced and analytical. He’s self conscious but also highly self critical. He finds it easy to put things into perspective, as a result, the hysteria surrounding him doesn’t really affect him.

He’s got a smile almost plastered on his face, but it’s not like he’s without tribulations. It appears as if he floats through life, but the people who know him well will tell you this is definitely not the case. Frenkie was convinced of his talent and ambitions when he was still quite young. “We watched the World Cup 2014 at home, with friends and family. And from a certain age, I felt…yes, I want that. And I always felt that one day, I would be at a big tournament. I was 12 years old and had the complete conviction.”

Frenkie is a modest kid, grew up in the small town of Arkel. A normal, fun of the mill family. Dad is parking guard in Delft and his little brother plays there with the local amateurs. Parking guard is probably the exact opposite of the position Frenkie has in life. “But my dad loves his job. He’s a lot in the outside open air, riding his bike and he knows a lot of people in Delft. He’s not the guy who will fine you, he’ll probably talk to you to get you to change your behaviour.”

Frenkie’s journey to his first big tournament was relatively long. The missing of the World Cup 2018 happened just before his break through in Oranje. And when Koeman’s Oranje qualified for the 2020 Euros, it got postponed with a full year due to Corona.

“I don’t feel young anymore. I am not a rookie anymore, you know. But playing your first tournament is super special. I’m enjoying and I talked about it with the lads that were at the 2014 World Cup. And it has started to really sink in, now the domestic leagues have finished. The commercials on telly, the orange jerseys, I love it. As long as I don’t have to be in one.”

While many of this colleagues opted for a week holiday in Dubai or Ibiza, De Jong went home to Arkel to recharge his batteries. “I didn’t feel tired. We didn’t perform well in the last part of the season with Barca, but it wasn’t fatigue. We simply had to beat Granada at home and take the lead in the Liga. We had a good spell before that game. And then the draw against Levante and the belief seeped out of the team. It was mainly mental. As if we kept on chasing our tail.”

You gave yourself a 6,5 for the season in the newspaper Trouw, after your first season. What is the grade for this one?

“No, hahaha, it was a 6 actually. I don’t know for this season. I my personal performances were better than last season, but we missed the title, we got kicked out of the CL pretty early and despite the national cup, we had a mediocre if not bad season. When you play at Barca, you want more. The season itself wasn’t dramatic, we had a fantastic comeback and played some good stuff, but at the end of the day: not good enough.”

So, that means one point more?

“I would say, half a point.”

But your personal stats went up, like Koeman wanted from you?

“When Koeman came in, I had a talk about my role in the team. And he was clear: he wanted me to be more offensive and add to the team’s goal tally. He kept on saying: you’re a big money signing, you need to start making the difference, you need to take responsibility. He put more pressure on me and I loved it.”

Under Koeman, he did play on several positions. He played in the holding role, he played a number of games as centre back and the final part of the season more and more in the attacking mid role. He made quite an impression in that position.

“I do like scoring goals, but it depends on your role for the team. At Ajax and initially at Barca I played in the holding role. You are the first station in the build up and you determine pace, and direction, you try to start the engine. When you’re a more offensive mid, you are station 2, in a way. You are higher up the pitch, and you aim to be decisive, with a dribble, or a through ball… I played well in that role, I had my best games in that position. And in the Cup Final (Copa del Rey) it was probably very visible, with a goal and two assists.”

“I prefer the midfielders role, either holding or forward. I prefer not to play too far back, as you are more a lock on the door than a real playmaker. And playing in the #10 role is also not my preference as you are more in a sort of waiting mode, waiting for the players behind you to find you. I prefer to be more involved, hence my preference for midfield. The ball is there most often. I basically want to have the ball, hahahaha.”

He assimilated into Barcelona life with ease it seems. The city, the magnitude of the club, the media, the players group… it all went smooth. As if it was normal that a kid from Arkel played in the Bluegrana jersey. Where Donny van de Beek, Steven Bergwijn, Hakim Ziyech and before them Memphis Depay had serious issues settling in another country and club.

“The ideal moment to go abroad is different for everyone. You can’t say “you need 150 Eredivisie games before you go”. I think it’s different per player. Some are ready when 18, others are ready when they’re 27. I did feel more settled the second season, I think that is actually quite normal. Barca paid something like 80 million for me, and that puts a lot of pressure and expectations on you, but I will remain who I am. They bought me for how I played at Ajax so that is how I’ll play here. I won’t become a different person.”

How is it now in your second season along side Messi? Does your relationship change, now you’re there a bit longer?

“I met him first when we had a friendly against Arsenal. He came later due to the Copa America. I shook his hand, I am not sure if he mentioned his name. Not that he had to, hahaha. I told him my name. But Messi… I am still humbled to play with him. He is so amazingly good. He has so much status. And you can understand, when I have the ball and I can play the ball to Messi or to another player, well… if they’re both in a good position, I’ll pick Messi. Isn’t that the best thing to do?”

How was it to see him blossom again this season?

“I think he’s very happy at Barca. I hope he stays, he’s so important for us. In the dressing room we act as per normal with one another, but I don’t ask him about his future, or app him to ask him to stay. That is up to him. When I was 12 years old, he already was the best of the world. He won the Ballon D’Or, right? And now I play with him :-). That is just amazing. And I realise it every day that I play with him now.”

The Spanish media are now also very focused on Frenkie. “It’s extreme, it’s 12 times worse or more intense in Spain. There are tv programs on football that literally broadcast 24/7. And they sometimes just make it up, you know?”

The Dutch football fans will have their eyes set on Frenkie de Jong, but the expectations aren’t that high. Frenkie gets that: “If you do go to a tournament, you need to go to win it. Otherwise, why go? But you need to be realistic too: France – to name one – is favorite I think. Look at that squad! And there are about 8 nations that can win it and I think we are part of that eight. We’ll need to focus on every game as they come and not talk about the title now. Let’s earn that privilege.”


Bookmark and Share

Oranje powerless vs Mexico

The biggest news, for me, this week wasn’t this useless friendly vs Mexico, but the signing of Mario Gotze by PSV Eindhoven. What a great move. This does show ambition and courage. When there is blood on the street, you have to buy, is what investment guru Warren Buffet says. And he should know.

The 28 year old was touted as the next Messi when he made his debut at 18 and despite of some great performances for Dortmund and later Bayern and of course, that winning goal in 2014, the wunderkind got into trouble physically. The diminutive playmaker wasn’t built for the power football of Borussia Dortmund and Bayern and got injury after injury and saw stronger and fitter midfielders (Muller, Goretzka, Draxler) take his spot. His relationship with Roger Schmidt resulted in a 2 year deal with PSV.

Wunderkind Gotze in PSV jersey

I think the Eredivisie is the perfect platform for him and the domestic league will be way more interesting with him in it. We have Robben, Klaassen, Gotze, Berghuis, Stengs and more on display in the Eredivisie and we’re loving it.

What we don’t love, is tedious friendlies. I’m sure coaches can get insights and benefits from it, but for me, it’s not that interesting.

If you play bad, or lose, one can say: “ah so what, it’s a friendly after all. It doesn’t matter now, it matters in the real game”. And if you play great and win, you think “hmmm I hope they can do this when it’s for real, because this is a friendly after all”.

Well, we were not disappointed. It was meagre. Weak. At times awkward. And it’s too easy to blame Frank de Boer. For starters, he was offered this friendly, only 5 days before a real Nations League match. What to do? Play the starting eleven? Too much risk. There is also a second Nations League game 3 days later and you don’t want your big guns to play 3 matches in 8 days. Insane.

So Frank did what he had to do. Play the lads that most likely won’t start for 90 minutes, test the partnership of De Vrij and Van Dijk – as I predicted – and give Memphis playing time to get him in rhythm for Italy (Memphis missed some matches for Lyon).

He also offered a debut to Koopmeiners and Wijndal. The latter made a name for himself as an attacking full back. With the emphasis on “attacking”. The youngster got in trouble a couple of times defensively, and Frank de Boer will probably decide to go with the more solid option of Blind vs Bosnia and Italy. When Van Aanholt is fit, Wijndal might move back to 3rd option.

Koopmeiners, on the other hand, impressed. Cool under pressure. Excellent passing. Good vision. He too made some errors (as they all did!) but overall, he played as if he was playing his 23rd international. A mature midfielder and awesome alternative to De Roon for the spot next to Frenkie.

Another noteworthy mention need to go to Steven Berghuis, who started slow (lots went via the left flank in Oranje….) but grew into the game and almost reached his Feyenoord level. Frank de Boer hinted in the post-match presser that one or two of the “Mexico” players might find themselves in the line up for Bosnia. Could be Berghuis, and could be Krul too.

Tim played his first cap in 5 years and did relatively well. It’s a fact that Cillesen is a better player with his feet, and Krul passing was not full proof, but his shot stopping was excellent. The penalty was unstoppable.

Frank de Boer: “In principle, Cillesen is my number 1 goalie, but I will wait the results of his fitness test. If he isn’t fit, he won’t play.”

Another reason why Berghuis got into the game later, was the lack of forward thrust by Hateboer. I think by now we can all see that Hateboer is a good option in a 3-5-2 set up, where he can play the wide right back, with a central defender close by. He is excellent moving forward and scores his occassional goal for Atalanta but in a 4 man defence he is vulnerable. He lacks the smooth touch we expect from players these days (Ake, Blind), he is defensively vulnerable and he lacks the football vision to play that forward pass (again, Blind, Ake, Van Dijk, De Vrij, De Ligt)…

Dumfries is not much better in terms of pure football skills, but Denzel is strong, tough in the duels, good header of the ball and like Hateboer, great going forward. Denzel is a leader. Hateboer comes across as a “nice weather player”. Better right backs are needed (Karsdorp, Fosu Mensah, Klaiber, Zeefuik).

A remarkable move by De Boer: he decided to tweak the tactics. He says he is still following “Koeman’s line” as we call it, but he did go from two holding mids (Frenkie and De Roon usually) to one (Koopmeiners) with two attacking midfielders in Gini and Donny. So the 4-2-3-1 (actually a 4-3-2-1 in Oranje’s case, not to make it more complicated…) became a 4-3-3.

He did indicate that it probably won’t be used in the coming Nations League matches, as Frenkie will play of course and he needs a holding mid next to him, so he has the freedom to create the play. “I just think it is good to have options to play differently and have some more subtle options at your disposal.” Frank also played with a false 9, with Memphis dropping into midfield as the creator for runners like Babel and Berghuis. Both had an opportunity by finding that space. Babel had some good runs in behind, but wasn’t found often enough for it to register.

Remarkable, that the Mexicans didn’t see this as a friendly. They didn’t come to “try new tactics”, they came to play like they always do. With a lot of little fouls and annoying ways to upset the opponent. Alvarez (Ajax) showed their commitment by fouling Koopmeiners brutally in the first 2 minutes of the game and whenever a Dutch player had sight on goal, they’d nudge him or foul him or take the free kick. The Dutch seemed to want to play a practice match and showed way less resilience and grit.

Ironically, Holland conceded as a result of a subtle foul. Ake did touch Raul’s shoulder/arm when he went for the ball, but that would never been a spot kick in England or in 2010. But rules change, and looking at the opponent with a frown can result in a penalty these days. It also felt Raul was actually off side when the ball was played in but I am not 100% sure about that.

Memphis was his industrious self. It wasn’t good. But he tried. He had lots of loss of possession and tried dribbles that didn’t come of, but still. He did what he had to do in his role. We all know he can do better. The forward saw a transfer to Barca go awry but didn’t seem to be bothered. He took the set pieces, shot from distance, attempted dribbles and one-two combinations and was made captain by De Boer when Van Dijk left the pitch at half time. The big question is: who will replace him?

It seems logical to play Luuk de Jong. Not because he can play like Memphis (he can’t) but because of his form and status. I wouldn’t be surprised if Frank took a tough decision for the Bosnia game. He could replace Memphis by a more explosive player like Malen and use Promes in place of Babel. De Jong could remain to be what he is good at: pinch hitter for more opportunistic play. Because whether you like it or not: De Jong isn’t so quick and doesn’t have the intricate footwork we might need, vs Bosnia.

If indeed De Jong is played, we don’t have a real pinch hitter on the bench (and De Boer will have to use Virgil as the pinch hitter).

De Boer was disappointed. He felt we started rusty, needed some time to get into the game (as the English commentator said: Oranje started sleepy. Again.) but we lost the game due to losing too many duels and making too many personal mistakes. For me, that is part of the story, because we also couldn’t create much.

De Boer made a lot of changes to get an impression from others as well and that never really makes a match better.

Overall, a disappointing, flat performance, with Koopmeiners, Krul and Berghuis as positives.

Now the speculations about the starting line up vs Bosnia and Italy are starting.

Is it sensible to play the same eleven, in principle, against both nations? I think not. Lodeweges tried this too, in the previous match up weekend and the second match is too much for a full fledge performance. Some players will be able to do it (Van Dijk, Wijnaldum, Frenkie) where others (Blind? Malen? ) will probably need a bit more time to recuperate. This is not even taking injuries and knocks into account.

I think Frank will play like this vs Bosnia, who play at home and will need to get a result, with 1 point from 2 matches.

Bookmark and Share

Italy outsmarts weak Oranje

Well, it seems that after a good series of games and increasing positive vibes around the team, our lads manage to help us level our expectations and get us back with our feet firmly on the ground.

It was at times a shocker. A really sobering experience.

It was well known beforehand that 1) Italy would freshen up the team and 2) they’d come with a mission, as they dropped two points at home. A response was to be expected.

Lodeweges set up the team almost exactly like Italy (as I said before: both teams try to play a similar style of football with a similar type of tactical plan), but instead of putting fresh legs in, he decided to use the team that had a confidence boost vs Poland. He also figured that Hateboer and De Roon would find something extra vs the players they see every week.

Bergwijn, who struggled after an hour vs Poland, was rested and Wijnaldum played as a false right winger, in what was probably a 4-3-2-1. Promes and Gini close behind Memphis, with a block in midfield ( De Jong, Van de Beek, De Roon).

Italy executed the plan to perfection and coach Mancini’s only real issue was the lack of more goals.

Oranje received a football lesson from the Azzurri and will need to get its act together really fast, as the matches will come thick and fast.

The issues.

I think for starters, Lodeweges made the mistake of using 10 of the starting 11 against Poland. Two big matches in 3 days with players who are not 100% match fit… Why? Dumfries was fit. Wijnaldum can play for De Roon, and give Frenkie some protection and help as holding mid (Davy Propper was injured and not part of the squad). Bergwijn could have done another 45 minutes and Ihatarren could have easily had his debut. He’s young, fresh, eager and has that surprise factor.

Anyway, that was just one issue. Italy is also not 100% match fit but still I think the risk of injured players was relatively high and it was visible that some players (Memphis!) were struggling at times.

Secondly, the team played to expansive. The spaces between the players was too big. Putting pressure and chasing the opponent is harder this way and costs even more energy. And once you do have the ball, there are less options to find a team mate. We lost the ball constantly, after 2 or 3 touches.

Example 1: Marten de Roon pushed up while right winger Wijnaldum has no direct opponent and seems lost in space. Big hole behind De Roon, for Hateboer and Veltman to deal with…

Thirdly, the right flank was in disarray. It’s easy to criticize Hateboer. And I personally also think he is not good enough for the NT. I do believe Dumfries, or Karsdorp, or Tete or even Janmaat (when fit) are better options. Yes, he has great lungs and keeps on going, but his crosses are mediocre, his touch lets him down and his decision making isn’t great. Having said that, him being the weakest link, he wasn’t helped that well by his team mates. De Roon and Wijnaldum should have made sure he was never playing against two opponents. Wijnaldum in particular was highly disappointing. But Joel Veltman also didn’t play like De Ligt or De Vrij would. He’s too much on the back foot, tracking back and never really pushing forward.

So Hateboer became the weak link, but this was partly the fault of the team (incl Lodeweges!).

And again. Van de Beek and wijnaldum both cover one Italian, while Frenkie is pressing high up, with gaps behind him. 

Some players (Memphis!) want to overcompensate the fact we’re not playing well by making it all even more complicated. Half volleys on goal from 35 meters out, bicycle kicks and more. In these situations, one needs to play simple.

And then this… A gap between defense and midfield. Frenkie pushing up, Van de Beek and Wijnaldum lost. The Italians can find a free man all the time.

Italy could have had 4 goals, in all honesty. Their finishing wasn’t up to speed (they also are not fully fit) and Holland really had very little to show for itself in the final third. A shot by Wijnaldum in the first half. An attempt by Van de Beek in the second half. Some weaker attempts by Memphis and Promes. Luuk de Jong came to play for Ake (cramp) in the final minutes of the game and had one decent heading opportunity, but overall it was piss poor.

This happened all the time. Huge space on the right. Look at the pairings. Wijnaldum or De Roon should be covering.

Frenkie de Jong did what he could, Memphis tried a lot, Van Dijk kept his head up and kept on commanding the troops, but it was just not good enough. We looked leggy, we kept the pitch to wide, we didn’t help each other out… we never deserved anything from this game.

This is the goal. Four Dutch against three Italians. Ake is marking his man. Van Dijk should have control. But it will go horribly wrong.

So now what?

Well, in terms of standing in this group: we still have control. We need to win games, and the away game vs Italy is a game we probably have to win, but I think we can. There is nothing lost yet. And make no mistake, it is going to be worth our while to perform well in this Nations League as it could help us get a ticket for the World Cup.

In terms of playing style and players: I think we need to keep on going on this road, but we need to learn from this match and learn fast! We need to stay more compact, have less space between the midfielders and the different lines. We also need players to stand up, and read the game and take charge. Lastly, I think it is safe to say we do need Propper, De Ligt, Blind, De Vrij, Malen, Stengs, Danjuma, Karsdorp, and maybe even Berghuis.

In terms of coach: I think this will probably urge the KNVB to sign a big name heavy duty coach. Lodeweges is probably a great assistant. But doesn’t seem to have the fire in his belly and the confidence to take charge because it didn’t take me more than 10 minutes to see what the problem was.

I also believe another – more experienced – head coach wouldn’t have started the same eleven (well…ten). Louis van Gaal or Henk Ten Cate. One of those two seems needed to guide and lead this still young team. My preference is Ten Cate (it was the same three years ago, when Hans van Breukelen fukced up so gloriously).

My ratings (I got some flak for the generous ratings for the Poland game, but I took into account the fact it was the first match and we ended up winning, so….).

Cillesen – 7 – was there when he needed to be, his passing was ok, not great, and I don’t think he was at fault for the Italy goal

Ake – 6 – couldn’t bring a lot moving forward, looked leggy

Van Dijk – 5 – Not sure where he was when that cross came in.

Veltman – 4 – Very sloppy, gave balls away needlessly, wayward passing and letting Hateboer drown at times

Hateboer – 5 – Got himself in trouble, had one major howler, but fixed it again, worked hard but was left in the lurge

Frenkie – 6- worked hard, tried hard, but struggled

Marten de Roon – 4 – didn’t protect his Atalanta team mate Hateboer

Donny van de Beek – 3 – almost invisible, kept the field to long, tactical positioning was weak, had 1 good chance

Gini Wijnaldum – 3 – Wasted as right winger, hardly any threat, lost in space between players and leaving Hateboer to drown

Memphis – 3- Tried hard, seemed to be very motivated but lots of wrong decisions and not enough team play

Quincy Promes – 3 – Almost invisible, sloppy in possession, weak in his positioning

Steven Bergwijn – 4 – Could affect the game, had a through ball for Frenkie but overcooked it

Luuk de Jong – 6 – Did what Luuk de Jong does

Dwight Lodeweges – 5 – he probably had a good plan but the execution sucked and he wasn’t able to change it around. Was late with subs and should have started fresher legs

I can’t play the high lights of this game. So lets look at a game that got us all cheering!

 Bookmark and Share

Lessons learned for the Italy game

Well, we learned Italy coach Roberto Mancini needs his glasses, before he puts Donnarumma in the striker role or something. Italy underestimated Bosnia & Herzegovina and dropped two points. Or won 1 point even.

Oranje, on the other hand, snatched the leader position, even after a long spell of no play, an empty stadium, three starting defenders injured or otherwise disposed and a new coach.

Some conclusions.

Playing in an empty stadium sucks. The Dutch starters asked their substitutes and training staff to cheer the lads on. They were so used to the passionate and loyal Oranje fans that they hoped to get some form of substitution via there peers. Lodeweges: “The players really valued it and they thought it was great. It really helped. At a certain point, Hateboer was running past and he must have felt like he was Leo Messi, that was how much we cheered him on, hahaha.”

I will never get used to it. Only a limited number of press and some officials were allowed in. Not even the family of the players. There was a questionnaire, a temperature gauge, masks. There were checks of bags and personal items and the majority of seats were blocked by an alarming red banner.

In this atmosphere, the players need to find the motivation somewhere. This is not a big issue for this generation of players. We had a very gloomy couple of years with Oranje and the players are very focused on making history. Steven Bergwijn: “It is not easy without the fans. But you do have to remember that millions are watching infront of the telly, and it’s them who we want to give joy and make proud.”

Virgil van Dijk sounds like the boss. The advantage of playing in an empty stadium, is that one can hear everything that is said (or yelled more). It was interesting to see/hear how Virgil grew into that leadership role. His charisma is known. But in the Poland match, he was very audible with his coaching. Him and Jasper Cillisen are constantly coaching. But Van Dijk stands out with his bassoon voice and he guides the team through the match. He is the one deciding when to apply pressure, and when pacing is more important. He will give the start sign for the press (Yeah Yeah!!), he points the way in possession (Forward!!) and coaches players who are played in (Turn! or Time!) and he gives compliments when something worked out (That is it!!).

Players taking charge is wonderful for a coach. Lodeweges: “I lost my voice already, and I am not even Antonio Conte! I tried to analyse, observe, think. And I usually sit quiet on the bench. Having a player or players doing this is vital.” Steven Bergwijn: “This is Virgil! I don’t know better. He is the man, our leader. And he has that voice, hahahaha.”

Lodeweges follows the Koeman doctrine. Not a lot changed, with Koeman leaving. The former Oranje captain organised the whole new Oranje protocol and Lodeweges has zero reasons to change this. Lodeweges impact as a coach was already huge. “Ronald was not a dominant leader. He delegated a lot. He would let me analyse opponents or prep training sessions and two weeks before the game, he’d ask me: so, what is your plan? And we would tell him what we believed we should do. He would listen and would decide which parts he agreed with, and which parts he didn’t. And he was always right, you know. 95% of the time, he knew exactly what would happen.”

The players’ council is very content with this way of working, and they (Babel, Van Dijk, Strootman, Blind, De Ligt) have informed the KNVB that they want to keep on traveling on this road.

If there is one thing that Lodeweges wants to streamline, is the press. “I think there is room for better choices to be made, by the players. I noticed that pressure sometimes gets translated to “running, hassling, sweating and panting. Putting forward pressure on was such hard work. So much energy used up. I think we need more control, we need to position ourselves better and be more selective in the moments to put pressure on. There are better chances to repossess the ball and it will cost less energy. We are working on that. Against Poland, that went well. Considering the circumstances, I do believe we actually played really well.”

Lodeweges is known to be a serious and passionate coach, but also very down to Earth. He likes to use language to put things in perspective. Asked about his new role, he calls it “a fun job”, when asked about the group, he says “it’s a hungry bunch of players”. He described debutant Owen Wijndal as “a good little lad, with a nice left foot”. And after the 1-0 win over Poland, he ended his presser with “we had a pretty decent evening, all in all….”

Some automatisms between players never fade. Memphis was scanning his options, ball at his feet. His peripheral vision was looking for runners and he was on the prowl for Frenkie. Vice versa, Frenkie knew an opportunity was coming if he timed his run right. Memphis eyes see, Memphis minds races, and Memphis feet execute. Their dance was unrehearsed but perfect. The run was made, Memphis chipped the ball his way, Frenkie controlled on the chest, turned and half-volleyed. That one deserved a goal. The dynamics between Memphis and Frenkie hasn’t suffered from 9 months no game. Their connection was clear from the first minutes they played together. Frenkie is always looking deep, for his passing, Memphis is always looking to get the ball. They have this telepathic understanding, like Jonk and Bergkamp, or Sneijder and Robben. Frenkie, Memphis and leader Virgil ended up being the best players on the night.

Lodeweges used 4 practices to show the players what he wanted, in terms of variance. “You don’t always have to play intricate and short passing. You can play long, you have to vary your approach. I like to see quick, deep balls over the defence.” The players enjoyed the intense training sessions, as both Bergwijn and Wijnaldum commented how hard it is to not play together for 9 months, and then suddenly needed to be a team again.

Lodeweges declared every one in the squad fit and ready to play Italy. Daddy Dumfries also returned to the squad.

It is not easy to look into the head of the coach, but I think he won’t change much for the Italy game. I think he’ll keep Hateboer in the side, as he knows his opponents well and has that tandem with De Roon happening. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Babel start on the left and maybe Van de Beek instead of Wijnaldum.

I was asked for player ratings, for the Poland game. Here they are :-).

Cillesen – 7 – he was there when he needed him and he had some good long balls too.

Hateboer – 8 – he wasn’t too successful in the first half, but his second half was fine, and the assist gave him an extra point

Veltman – 7 – played an invisible game, which is good for a centre back. Solid on the ball.

Van Dijk – 8 – Virgil is always focused, always leading. Good interceptions and overall leadership.

Ake – 7 – Played well, understands his role, great on the ball and an aerial threat too.

Frenkie – 7 – Played a tough first half, came into the role in second half. Created the goal but has way more in him.

De Roon – 7 – played faultless, was there to take Hateboer’s position, was dogged and good on the ball too.

Wijnaldum -6 – A bit invisible. Doing his work, making runs, and being a threat by his shere presence, but not effective.

Promes – 6 – Missing rhythm, his crosses didn’t connect, his dribbles were a bit off, but he played his role and had this one chance on a goal in the first half

Bergwijn 8- Played well, drifting into space, coming centrally to wreak havoc and worked hard. Scored his first goal, giving him an extra point.

Memphis – 8 – Still not in 100% shape/form but working his ass off, trying to dazzle, to entertain, to find openings. Everything he does is focused on creating something. Any opponent will use 2 players to stop him.

Van de Beek – 7 – showed glimpses of his qualities.

Luuk de Jong – not enough time on the pitch for a rating

Lodeweges – 8 – I can’t fault him for anything

I think Italy will be another scalp for us.

They are also not in 100% shape of course, but they will have to try and take something from the game.

Italy plays a bit like Holland does, and the game will be more open. Confidence is high in Oranje, which might be our biggest threat, actually. I think 3-1 for Holland. Own goal by Van Dijk. Memphis, Promes and Van de Beek on the score sheet for us.

Bookmark and Share

Rusty Oranje gets solid win

The circumstances were a tad less than perfect.

No fans to cheer us on. A successful coach who bailed two weeks before the games. Four defenders (three starters) missing. A mixed bag of fitness and rhythm. Veltman hadn’t played for weeks. Memphis returning from injury. Cillisen lacking rhythm. Untested pairings.

But, the boys came through. The team tactics worked. Particularly in the second half. And clearly the players were highly motivated. Working hard. Eager to find openings. Good pressure on the ball and disciplined execution (Ake, De Roon, Veltman, De Jong).

Poland came to not lose. They were compact. Defended deep. And hoped for a counter attack. Oranje dominated but couldn’t create a lot. In the first half, we had trouble breaking them down, partly because the forward pass (behind their defense) was played too late. We saw runs by Bergwijn, Memphis, Ake and Hateboer but the back four didn’t want to play the ball. First they wanted to find their rhythm.

The first shot (not on target) was by a Polish player and the first shot on target (saved by Cillesen) was by Poland as well.

Dwight started with Ake on the LB spot, playing like his disciplined and absent colleague Blind. The more experienced Veltman took the De Ligt role and Hateboer played on the right, in an interesting combi with De Roon. Particularly in the second half, Hateboer was the false right winger while De Roon played the right back holding role. Like they do at Bergamo.

Memphis seemed to have a good chance – stopped by the goalie – but in an offside position. The second chance was for Promes, who missed the target and it was late in the first half when Oranje finally had it’s first real creative opportunity, with Frenkie’s run into the box, who got served by Memphis in perfect manner. Memphis vision, his ability to chip the ball, Frenkie’s chest control and half-volley…all perfect. But the upright thought differently.

It was clear what Dwight would want to see in the second half. That forward pass must be played quicker. Find the space behind their defence. Don’t make it too easy for Poland to defend.

Van Dijk used his deep ball to good use and even Marten de Roon started to spray some long balls. Ake was able to push up higher too, while Frenkie was taking more risks as well and took on players more and more.

For me, the outstanding player was Memphis. Everything we did in an offensive way, was through him. He hunted, he pressed, he hassled and prodded… He tricked players, went for the 1-2 combination, and was continously threatening, even if his set pieces didn’t really connect and he missed a big shooting opportunity with a complete un-Memphis like mishit. But, he might not be 100% yet, he is well on his way to get there.

He did get a massive chance to score on a great Bergwijn cross but it felt like Memphis didn’t expect the ball to pass through the first defender and as a result he mis controlled the ball.

Holland was the dominating party and after an hour we broke through their defences. Promes moved back inside from the left wing and found Frenkie. He spotted Hateboer’s run and put the ball on a plate. The former Groningen man flicked the ball back across goal, where Bergwijn was ready to tap in his first Oranje goal!

Poland brought Milik and wanted to hunt for a goal but it was Oranje that came closest to a second, it feels. Wijnaldum and Van de Beek were close to a second but it wasn’t to be. Still, the new adventure started well, after 290 days of not being together and this performance definitely gave us a good foundation for the future.

Memphis was limping in front of the camera, after the game. The startled interviewer asked him about it and he laughed: “Sore muscles man, my first full match in a long time. How great  to be back and play 90 minutes!”

Memphis was already quite successful for Lyon in the league 1, but he failed to score this time, even though he was involved in everything. He had six shots, created three opportunities and was involved in nine out of the 14 attempts on goal. He had 4 successful dribbles and was fouled 8 times. No one had better stats on the night.

The eight free kicks he won were actually a record. Since 2013, no other Oranje player was fouled as often in one match. “They were petulant, they stepped on my heel, they tried to provoke and the ref seemingly didn’t see it.”

He was not 100% satisfied. “We can play much better. But i have to say, joy is the overbearing emotion for me after such a long time. Some things went automatic, with some players you have that invisible click, but we can do better and must do better. Me as well of course, but I don’t want to be overly critical now. I was away for months and I am just grateful to be back.”

Interim coach Lodeweges was confronted with the fact that he is the first Oranje coach since Rijkaard to win his first match. “Oh, I didn’t even know that. That was a while back then? It was a tough match. Poland was here at full strength, except for Lewandowski of course. They play this way, and it was on us to break them down and we did. When you score earlier in the game, you might get a couple more, but I think we can happy with this, as the team did look rusty at times.”

Captain Virgil van Dijk spoke of a mature win. “It was not easy to predict how our form would be. One players had hardly had any minutes, other players have been full on in pre-season mode. But we managed a professional win. We let the ball go, also under pressure. And we kept a clean sheet. I think we can be pleased, even if we had to reward ourselves with a goal or two more.”

Bookmark and Share

Oranje back on the field!

We were without NT football for 10 months! The last time it took this long, was during World War 2!

Oh, before I forget, due to the plethora of football matches in the past weeks and due to a very busy worklife, I was not able to “moderate” the blog as often as needed and this debate ensued re: antisemitism ? Or something racism? I read the posts, and even though Tiju makes my head explode at times, I don’t think there was any racist malice implied and I have emailed the upset poster to share my position with him but I haven’t heard back.

I hope we can put this beside us soon, as it seemed to be a case of misunderstanding.


Interim coach Dwight Lodeweges is thrown in the deep end but the experienced coach doesn’t flinch. He is missing some players at the back, as Dumfries, De Vrij, Blind and De Ligt are all missing ( not a bad back four). Dumfries will become father, De Vrij came into the camp with a slight issue and Blind and Mathijs’ stories are well known.

CB options Nathan Ake and Perr Schuurs

Lodeweges decided not to call on another defender: “We did use Teun Koopmeiners as a fill in at practice, borrowed him from Young Oranje, but no. The guys we have now will have to do it for us. I think we have enough to be ok.” Asked if he was ready to give the debutants (Schuurs, Wijndal) a go: “Oh for sure. They are ready. Otherwise I would have invited them. Wijndal is positive, good left leg, quick, recognises the opportunity. Schuurs is open and like a sponge. Then we have Ihatarren, they’re all good kids. And you want them to play, don’t you. They’re so keen.”

So who is Dwight Lodeweges?

I wouldn’t be surprised if the KNVB will hang on to Dwight in this role, particularly when the two upcoming games go well. The players seem to enjoy his style.

Lodeweges was born in Canada, in Turner Valley. His parents were looking for a brighter future in Canada, post World War 2, but returned to Holland when he was 7 years old. Lodeweges was developed as a talent at Go Ahead Eagles and was a youth international for Holland. When Hans Kraay Sr went to play for Oakland, he jumped to the opportunity. When he arrived in California, it appeared the club didn’t exist anymore and Kraay and Lodeweges went to play for Edmonton Drillers in Canada. This was the start of the life of a football nomad. He played in Northern America and in The Netherlands. As a coach, he also had stints in Canada, in Japan, back in Holland and for Al-Jazira in Abu Dhabi.

Dwight in the middle, for Go Ahead. Left on the photo, Nigel’s dad Jerry de Jong

After a dramatic and painful season at FC Groningen in 2003, where a horde of hooligans jumped him with baseball bats, he decided to only work in pleasant environments. If something didn’t work for him, he’d get up and leave. He left NEC after three months in the job and also closed the door voluntarily at SC Heerenveen. Hans Schrijvers was his assistant coach at FC Groningen, Edmonton and Jeff United in Japan: “He is a pure person. What you see is what you get. If you trick him, or lie to him, he’ll pack his bags. He is totally honest and loyal and the way people treat him and one another is key for him. He has high expectations of himself and the people he works with, as he will give every inch, every drop of sweat he has. When he realises a group isn’t open to his football ideas or philosophy, he’ll end the relationship and moves on. Contracts or money don’t interest him.”

Henk ten Cate is, like Dwight, a kid of Go Ahead Eagles and in the 1960/70s, Go Ahead was the shining light in terms of youth development. The typical Dutch school was perfected there: build up from the back, good positioning play and combinations to create chances. Ten Cate explodes when we call Dwight “a good field trainer”.

“What is that?? People say this of others. I have been told this! And now Alfred Schreuder gets that label too. Because we were once loyal assistant coaches? But a field trainer can not be a good trainer and a bad coach? How does this work? Dwight is a complete coach. He is a great field trainer, but also a solid tactician. Very driven and professional.”

What is his strength? Ten Cate: “What every coach must be able to do, Dwight does really well: he can create practice forms that fully support his football vision. So he tells the players, this is what I want to see, and then he gives them many tools and ideas and practices that will support them in that goal. He is also open with his staff, he wants them to challenge him and create an even better level. Players who play under him usually realise during the game that everything Dwight predicted, is happening. Like Louis van Gaal.”

Dwight at amateur club VVOG. He is happy working at this level, and at Oranje level

Lodeweges works this way at Oranje, but also at Edmonton when there were no balls, no jerseys, no field… “He is a football fanatic. I’d love to be a fly on the wall when Dwight talks with Frenkie about football. The level of detail and insights. Must be wonderful. I also think he deserves a job at the highest level,” Ten Cate goes on.

Sef Vergoossen worked with Dwight as assistant at Al-Jazira, Nagoya Grampus8 and PSV Eindhoven. “I am not surprised with Dwight at Oranje. He’s a top professional. He reads games amazingly fast and can tell you within minutes where the problems lie. He can correct this swiftly too and control the game. That note was a typical example.”

It’s November 2018. Holland is trailing 1-2 vs Germany. Koeman gets a note with some line up and system changes. Koeman takes the notes and instructs his captain to make the changes, with 15 minutes to go. Right at the death, Van Dijk scores the 2-2 and Holland reaches the finals! The note is found and auctioned of for 35,000 euros for a good cause. Dwight thinks the humbug of the note is all hogwash. But he smiles when he learns that his note results in a Cruyff Court in South Africa!

Vergoossen: “In the past, players would come to Oranje for a little reunion and R&R. Seeing mates, playing golf and prepping mentally for a match. Under Dwight (and Koeman), it was different. They would come to the training camp and work with laser focus on the specifics needed for that particular opponent. Tactical training sessions, aimed at the little subtle details needed to win a match.”

Van Dijk scoring after some tactical changes by Dwight

Cambuur CFO Gerald van den Belt has seen a different side of Dwight. “He is extremely down-to-Earth and won’t get carried away. I think he is all these things that Ten Cate and Vergoossen and others tell you, but he can also be an absent minded professor. He was successful with Cambuur, and when our big rival Heerenveen offered him a step up to the Eredivisie, he took it. This was so sensitive here, that the club and the fans almost exploded with frustration. He never expected that. He didn’t realise how big his impact was here and how he was loved. He is authentic as a person and has always remained the same Dwight Lodeweges. One has to respect that!

Expect some cool stories soon re: Donny’s Man U move and Nathan’s Man City move. More info on Barca and Frenkie and way more :-).

Bookmark and Share

Oranje fans: e-unite!

Hi all, this is our safe space. This is where we can hang out all of us, safely, without fear of contamination. I mean, COVID19 contamination of course. Because we do have some other viruses going around here, which hopefully are not contagious… The Kuyt-is-bad-virus. The Daley-Blind-Is-In-Oranje-because-his-dad-used-to-be-virus. More dangerous than Corona, of course.

Enough jokes! I hope everyone is well? Safe? At home with family? And taking care of business!

I read that this virus has the most dramatic impact on men!! No more football, no more pub crawls, no more music events or partying, while women can still do what they do: cooking, ironing, vacuum cleaning, laundry… It’s not fair!


Let me know how you are all going, below in the comments. There is still a lot of fun for us Oranje fans. Youtube is filled with super dooper clips. And we have this blog of course…

The news will come to you faster via other channels, so I won’t even try to be bringing you scoops.

But we do need to talk Euro tournament and the impact of the virus.

So I think common sense prevailed, we will not have the Euros this summer. A big bummer for most, but the Dutch will probably count their chickens… Memphis, Malen, Bergwijn… And more time for Zirkzee and Karsdorp and Wijndal and Boadu… It’s not that bad.

I do hope the competitions will be finalised properly and I hope this particularly for Liverpool!

I’m not going to go into conspiracy theories here or what this whole panic pandemonium means, there are heaps of comments and posts on social media and tweets and what not to deal with this.

So, we’ll keep our eye on the ball here, as far as I am concerned.

There is stuff to read, this blog to get with and start interacting more often, there are amazing youtube clips and classic games to enjoy too.

LONDON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 19: A general view (GV) of the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium as Davinson Sanchez of Tottenham and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris clear up toilet paper thrown on the pitch by the Leipzig fans during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg match between Tottenham Hotspur and RB Leipzig at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on February 19, 2020 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Charlotte Wilson/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)

Tell me below how you guys get through all this.

I’ll start:

I’m working from home, in a remote little beach town in Australia. Life is going as per usual, with the exception of the availability of toilet paper!

I spend more time watching movies, as opposed to watching football and I probably hit the sack earlier. I can freely check the sports sites without the risk of seeing a final score of a game I have yet to watch.

I’m intrigued by this whole global shit show and focus – as an amateur anthropologist – on that, on American politics and other geo-political stuff.

We are not stocking food and supplies but take it all as it comes.

And you?Bookmark and Share

How Oranje can beat Belarus

This coming away game vs Belarus could well be the one cementing our spot at the Euros 2020.

What a new sensation that will be. Talisman Memphis Depay will not be there to guide us. The Lyon forward with the dazzling stats has a hamstring scare in his thigh and decided to let this one go. Koeman: “It’s not good. He simply can’t play. It’s not a serious injury but we can’t risk it.”

And despite the importance of the former Sparta talent in previous games, we all think that Oranje should be able to beat Belarus without him, as we do have enough goals in the team anyway.

On Sunday, we’ll be playing against the sturdy and rugged Belarussians and against the pitch. Koeman decided not to train in the stadion to protect the pitch as it is in pretty bad shape. “October is typically a month where more rainfall and colder temperatures affect the circumstances here,” Koeman knew.

We might also be playing against ourselves again, as we did against Northern Ireland. Ronald Koeman has been able to repair the issues again, as he did before, but the former Everton coach admitted after the match that when the Northern Irish scored, he didn’t think a win was possible. He also gave credit to assistant coach Kees van Wonderen as he was the one who suggested some changes. Apparently, former Feyenoord captain Van Wonderen is focusing on Oranje’s play without the ball while Dwight Lodeweges focuses on Oranje with the ball. Van Wonderen found the subtle changes needed to regain control, last Thursday.

Koeman will need to find a replacement for Memphis and it’s not likely that he’ll start with Luuk de Jong. Sure, the Sevilla striker broke the deadlock for us but bringing him into the starting line up will mean Koeman foregoes Plan A and goes straight to Plan B. I don’t think he will.

He will either use Promes in the striker role (as the former Ajax talent did for Spartak Moscow and Sevilla) and keep Babel on the left, enabling him to bring Malen off the bench as impact player. Or he will bring Babel to the centre in Memphis spot and start with Malen on the left flank, rewarding the former Arsenal talent for his wonderful turns in Orange.

Ronald Koeman might not change much more. As Koeman isn’t one to change quickly. “I don’t have a lot of time before matches to try out different things. These qualification games are played to win. Not to try out stuff, or to experiment or to give another player a chance. We are playing these games to qualify and once we qualified, another situation starts. People who know me, know I won’t be changing for the sake of change. I trust the core group we have and I also look at – what I call – couples. It’s never about one player vs another player. It’s about the specific qualities of a player in combination with his team mates. That whole De Roon – Van de Beek discussion for instances. It’s rubbish, but it’s what the media do. I don’t mind, but I am not playing along. For starters, I don’t want to take the coupling of Memphis and Wijnaldum apart. So these two are in the team. Frenkie is a midfielder who wants to dribble and who wants to find space to roam into. With him, I simply want the other midfielder to hold the space. De Roon is very disciplined like this, like Propper. Propper is also a very good passer of the ball, while De Roon is better in the personal duels. Van de Beek however, is a different player. He also wants to penetrate and run forward. I can’t have this with Frenkie exposed. It is that simple.”

People here think Nathan Ake could be a better alternative than Blind. Could be. There is no evidence that he will. Ake is a strong header of the ball and a good defender. Blind is not a strong header of the ball, but a tremendous passer of the ball. Here we are comparing apples with pears. Blind is in the team, also because he is used to playing alongside Mathijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong (and Donny van de Beek or Promes should they play). That coupling, as Koeman calls it, is important for the coach.

Stefan de Vrij is seen as a top defender in Italy and the media there can’t understand why he doesn’t play. But Koeman will not bench De Ligt for one bad touch, and select De Vrij. Because if he does this, Koeman will have to be changing the team constantly.

So, Koeman is not going to replace Blind for Ake “because that could work”. Or De Vrij for De Ligt. That is not good enough. Blind is the experienced defender who has played most matches since 2014 and that experience will not be foregone by Koeman because he made an error. I think we only had one player in Oranje who hasn’t made an obvious error. That is Frenkie de Jong. De Ligt had a number of howlers.  Virgil van Dijk had one vs France (Giroud’s goal) and so has Dumfries, Babel and all others. Koeman will not replace a player for making a mistake. Football is a game of mistakes. Koeman will replace players only if an alternative has been significantly better for games on end than the existing player.

Now Koeman has to replace Memphis. This will probably make the odds that De Roon doesn’t play smaller. Koeman doesn’t like to change much. I do hope Dumfries will make way for Promes as wing back. Against Belarus (and Northern Ireland) we really don’t need a fourth defender. The space will be limited so Dumfries will not be able to play to his strength.

I would go for the following line up:


Promes – De Ligt – Van Dijk – Blind

Van de Beek – Frenkie de Jong – Wijnaldum

Bergwijn – Babel – Malen

Although I do think Koeman will play De Roon and start with Van de Beek from the bench. Wijnaldum will be #10, but with Memphis missing, I would opt for Wijnaldum in his Liverpool role as holding mid and Van de Beek behind the striker on #10.

The former Barca centre back said recently he does like to have options on the bench to bring in, so if Malen starts, I think Van de Beek will be used as impact player.

Tell me how you would want to see it?

Bookmark and Share

Player Ratings and Future Stars

I had this post on future Oranje players getting ready to go and decided to start with some Player Ratings for y’all, as I am seeing so many Anti Blind comments…. I simply have to respond to that.

Thanks to all for joining in and I am totally ok with discussions and differences of opinions. That is all fine.

But some of you (Wilson being one, Tiju being another) simply keep harping on against – usually – one player. Like a hate campaign. As if that player can’t do anything right. Wilson has it with Daley, Tiju had it with Dirk. I think both had it with Memphis.

We can all safely say that Dirk Kuyt is a Dutch icon. Memphis’ stats are through the roof and Daley is the connaisseur’s player.

Yes, Daley made a defensive error this weekend vs Heerenveen (and they scored) but he also had an array of superb passes. Any coach will take the defensive weakness, as no defender is 100% tight. Look at De Ligt at Juve. Or this weekend Pique allowing two goals at Barca. Just score one more up front, guys!

Again, I am fine with people pointing out the negatives, but I believe it becomes a witch hunt when:

  1. they can’t add anything positive, but just keep on repeating the same old stuff… Wilson on Blind’s defensive weaknesses and Tiju did this with Kuyt’s lack of technique (both are wrong, by the way… Blind is a tremendous defender, but simply slow… Kuyt had magnificent match technique, but he wasn’t a circus artist, like Vanenburg or Davids)
  2. irrelevant things are brought into the discussion (like Danny Blind protecting son Daley)
  3. disrespectful arguments are used (“Sonny Boy” which points to the Danny – Daley family link)

Every player has negatives, apart from a couple world class players we have… That – for me – applies to Virgil and Frenkie. All other Oranje players do have some weaknesses… Memphis, Gini, De Ligt, Blind…all of them.

Coaches tend to pick the team which is able to 1)strengthen each other strengths and 2) compensate each others weaknesses… This is probably why all Dutch NT coaches pick Blind. His weaknesses can be compensated, while his strengths are really needed.

Frank de Boer, Louis van Gaal, Guus Hiddink, Ronald Koeman, Erik Ten Hag… what connects these coaches? Answer: They all rate Daley Blind really high.

Why? Because of his speed and his goals!

Just kidding. They rate Daley really high because of his 1) ability to read the game, 2) his exquisite passing range, 3) his thrifty possession, 4) his positioning.

Erik Ten Hag: “Daley Blind is my extension on the pitch. He sees what needs to happen first and gets the message across to the other players.”

Dusan Tadic (Ajax #9): “I love Daley Blind behind me. He is our Beckenbauer.”

Blind’s last season at Ajax (centre back) is considered to be one of the key performers for the Amsterdam club. By analysts, football commentators, supporters, ex-players and by coaches. The only two people who don’t seem to see this are Wilson and Tiju. Apparently. But who knows? They might have way better insights in football than Van Gaal, Ten Hag and Koeman….

Complaining about Blind’s lack of speed is like complaining about Overmars’ lack of header goals. Or complaining about Bergkamp not stopping any penalties. Or complaining about Dumfries not being able to dribble past 3 opponents. Or complaining about Memphis weak sliding tackles.

We should be grateful to have Blind in our squad, like the coaches are all grateful and most of the Oranje fans are. I’m fine with people not “liking” a certain player… I’m personally not a big fan of Strootman, but I am a huge Oranje fan and I support the lads and the coaches and I would never vomit all this negativity about players without any real substance.

So, lets have a look at our squad.

Jasper Cillesen

Maybe not world class (like Neuer, De Gea or Ellison) but definitely a top notch goalie. Good enough for Oranje. And with Vermeer, Krul, Bizot and Zoet all at the right age and a couple of youngster making their name (Bijlow, Scherpen, Kelle Roos) we should be ok for shot stoppers.

Daley Blind

World class versatile player. Master in reading the game and positioning. Great passing and distribution. He sent Memphis away for a corner and delivered it on Van Dijk’s head, leading up to the 1-2.

Virgil Van Dijk

Needs no further kudos. World Class with capital letters. Will win the Ballon D’Or. Strong. Tall. Quick. Composed. Leader. Concrete. Tower. Goal threat in the opponent box.

Matthijs De Ligt

On his way to become Virgil Mark II. Only 19 years old. Courageous. Tall and strong and quicker than you think. Great build up pass. Needs to develop tactically and in terms of positioning. Looked great at Ajax thanks to mentor Blind (something he’ll miss at Juve).

Denzel Dumfries

Still in development. Late bloomer. Strong body, quick, athletic, tall and good header. Still lacks smooth technique and is probably the weak spot in the current team. Alternatives Veltman and Tete lack the forward thrust Denzel offers. Karsdorp is probably a better option on all counts, bar the header capabilities.

Frenkie de Jong

The brains in midfield. Oozes class. Velvet touches, great dribbles and that winner mentality allowing him to win balls back. Explosive speed. Tremendous vision and courage.

Marten de Roon

Strongholder in midfield. More destroyer than creator. Has had great moments and has had terrible moments. Passing and technique are average. Work rate and tackling is top notch. A water bearer in the team. Good to have in the squad but we should have a player on his spot who can do it all (like Davids, Cocu or Van Bommel before him).

Gini Wijnaldum

Marathon Man. Strong in possession. Fierce without the ball. Amazing mentality and wonderful technique. Works and sacrifices himself without a problem. Needs a cooler head in the box and should score more. Does need too many chances for a goal. Could use a bit more vision to aid the team in the build up, Frenkie-style. When on fire, good for 1,5 player.

Quincy Promes

Jack-of-all-Trades. Good runner with and without the ball. Can score goals. Can assist. Can play alsmost everywhere on the pitch and never complaining when moved from left winger to right winger to right full back. Positive mentality and unpredictable. He is the first to have to worry for his spot with Bergwijn and Malen on the up and up.

Memphis Depay

World class potential, suffering a bit from ego and overconfidence. Can work magic if all goes his way and can be agitatingly annoying when things don’t work out. Sensational right foot. Confident. Cheeky. Wonderful vision and superb ball skills. Strong body as well.

Ryan Babel

The Come Back Kid. Had a great spell in his younger days, with his speed, his hip-shot and opportunistic playing style. Came back from the cold and is more a team player now. Covering the left flank, tracking back, supporting players with dummy runs and scoring important goals. Tremendous work rate and the wise old mentor in the squad. Might lose his spot in the starting eleven but Koeman will probably keep on selecting him due to his off-pitch qualities in the group.

Davy Propper

A light version of Frenkie de Jong. Has similar ball capabilities, has tremendous vision as well and great in the build up. Should score more (like Frenkie!) and lacks Frenkie’s explosiveness and speed. Should be player at a better club as he will definitely play better in a stronger team. Quiet achiever and in my view a better player to start with than De Roon.

Nathan Ake

The perfect 12th man. Can slot into midfield, central defence or left back. Perfect mentality, focused, more than average ball skills, strong header of the ball and great team player. Won’t get into the team as long as De Ligt and Van Dijk are ahead of him but a great utility player to have.

Donyell Malen

Brings something fresh and new. Very quick, with and without ball. The ability, smarts and willingess to make dummy runs and keep the opponent busy. Cold as ice in the box and has eye for the team mate in a better position.

Steven Bergwijn

All round attacker. Quick, good ball skills, dribbling ability and knows how to score a goal. Used as a winger, striker and #10 at PSV, and still looking for his best position. Might be the ideal stand-in for Memphis, or he might push Promes out of the team.

Patrick van Aanholt

Highly athletic full back, covering the whole flank. Defensively vulnerable but strong going forward and the ability to score. Has a canon of a left foot but tactically naive.

Joel Veltman

Versatile player, able to play right back, left back and centre back. Lacks length for the centre back role but still a strong header of the ball. Overall a good player, without any real apparent strengths. Focused and mentally strong. Lacks speed and won’t cover the whole flank. Tough in the personal duels.

Luuk de Jong

Wonderful header of the ball. Courageous and a real leader. Can score goals, but lacks speed and technical skills in the smaller spaces. Useful as pinch hitter, not as a starter. Beats Weghorst in the pinch hitter category. Good in hold up play too.

Stefan de Vrij

No nonsense defender. Fully focussed and mentally strong. Good build up pass and great header of the ball. Not the quickest but also not the slowest. Lacks the “Virgil” charisma but could well be a starter in the Oranje eleven. Keeps head above water as a defender, in the Land of Defenders.

Tonny Vilhena

Again, multi functional player. Can play in all positions in midfield and left full back or wing back. Will warm the bench (like Ake) without complaining. Will always earn his Heineken. Amazing energy and work ethic. Good left foot and tremendous drive. Sometimes over does things with his abundant energy and tends to run with the ball too much. Perfect team player.

Steven Berghuis

Top technical skills, wonderful vision and winner mentality. Lacks speed and wants the ball in his feet. Has a wand of a left foot and tremendous goal scoring and assisting abilities as a result. Lacks body and power at times and loses his temper easily. Still looking to find his ideal spot in the team. Not an out and out winger, but also not a real midfielder. Ideal #10 in a 4-3-3 with two holding mids. Probably never headed a ball in his life.

Justin Kluivert

Prodigal son. Wonderful speed and almost perfectly two footed. Can play left and right up front. Needs to play more consistently and decision making needs to improve (quite normal for a young player). Still a lot to develop but unpredictable and has great confidence and composure. This needs to be his season with Roma.

Kevin Strootman

At times a pitiful picture. Was considered the natural successor to Mark van Bommel and even given the captains armband at some point but two massive knee injuries took the sharpness away and Strootman without the legs to do what Strootman does best is not a good Strootman anymore. Lost his starting spot and might lose his spot in the squad once Van de Beek and players like Rosario or Eijting, Ihattaren and/or Stengs make their way into the squad. With De Roon, De Jong and Propper in the midfield, Strootman will not much longer be needed… Koeman does hail his attitude and leadership off the pitch and will probably not write him off until after the EC2020.

Are there players out there that should be in the squad in place of some player above?

I don’t think so. Wout Weghorst, some say. He would be used as pinch hitter, I don’t think Koeman will pick a team that would suit his “normal” game. And for pinch hitting tasks, I agree with Koeman: Luuk de Jong is better.

Obviously, I am not in favour of taking Daley Blind out. Within months, I do expect Stengs to take Berghuis position soon, while Van de Beek will push Strootman out, I think.

But it takes more than a list of names… It’s up to Koeman to pick the players that form the best team, not necessarily the eleven best players. And to concoct a tactics that works with the players, and offers us the best chance to win, while playing attractive football.

Future Stars of Oranje

We were so spoilt for choice in the past. We had Ruud Geels, Dick van Dijk, Johan Cruyff, Cor van der Gijp and other going for the striker role in the 70s. Or we had Van Basten, Boskamp, Kieft, Gilhaus in the 80, Makaay, Kluivert, Van Hooijdonk, Hasselbaink, Van Nistelrooy in the 90s and the likes of Huntelaar, Van Persie, Kuyt, Robben and more in the 00’s… Where are the world class strikers of today? Weghorst, Dost, Luuk de Jong? Nah… not world class.

Vincent Janssen? Nope. But we do see some amazing talent coming up, able to take some pressure of golden wonder boy Memphis Depay (just look at his stats).

Donyell Malen PSV (20 years old)

The obvious choice, after his amazing run in his first two matches for Oranje and the 5 goals he scored last weekend! Boom! Developed at Ajax, made his way to Arsenal and returned to Holland (PSV) to get some playing time. His key quality: skill in confined spaces, speed and the willingness (!) to keep on making the dummy runs!

Cody Gakpo PSV (20 years old)

Blessed with a right foot like David Beckham. Long legs, good stride. Amazing vision and a cool head. Like with Robben, you know he cuts back to his fave foot but he’ll keep on doing it and he’ll get away with it. Very elegant player, who could well go the same route as Phillip Cocu (from left winger to strong holder in midfield and ending up as skipper at Barca).

Myron Boadu AZ Alkmaar (18 years old)

Lightning quick player at AZ. returning from tough injury, but scoring easily again. Nose for the right spot and cool as ice in the box. Still missed easy chances so needs to work on his decision making. Very likeable chap too. Down to Earth. The real deal, this one!

Mitchell van Bergen Heerenveen (19 years old)

Was 16 years old when making his debut for Vitesse, the youngest player ever (for Vitesse). He ended up warming the bench and made a move to Heerenveen where he is a starter and he plays for Young Oranje. Compared to Robben when he broke through but his key strength is his speed. Mitch is one of the quickest players you’ll see, capable of scoring and providing the assist.

Calvin Stengs – AZ Alkmaar (20 years old)

A highly playful winger, a one-of-a-kind player whose perfect position needs to be found, as Stengs can play central striker (and score), play winger and provide and play midfielder and make the play. Very gifted, great vision, athletic and effective. Missed the Young AZ experience due to a terrible injury keeping him out a full season. Everything is effortless with Stengs and it’s only a matter of time or he’ll claim the right winger role in Oranje, like Ziyech plays that role for Ajax.

Mo Ihattaren PSV (17 years old)

Not a real forward, but an offensive midfielder / playmaker but for me, the most impressive talent since…well…Frenkie de Jong. Ihattaren’s name presented itself already some years ago when he impressed in Oranje under 15 and his reputation keeps on building. Once you have watched him play 45 minutes, you can see what a potential world class player he is. He is young, but he reads the game, plays without fear, has the physique of a 24 year old and has everything to end up at Real Madrid or Man City within 2 years and be a force at those clubs to be reckoned with. The only issues with him: 1) keeping him healthy, 2) keeping him grounded and 3) making sure he will pick Oranje to play for, as Morocco is very keen to enlist his services.

The next pack is on its way….

And there is more coming, in the group just below the lads described above. We know the names: Tahith Chong (19) at ManU. Joshua Zirkzee at Bayern (18), Daishawn Redan (18) at Hertha. Brian Brobbey (17, Ajax) and Naoufal Bannis (17, Feyenoord) impress as well and are on the verge of making more minutes in the first teams.

Bookmark and Share