In the last years, heaps and heaps of questions arose around Dutch football, the national team, our development and football vision and more.
When Koeman came on board as the new NT coach, we expected him to come up with the answers, at least for the NT.
Koeman wanted to use the four friendly games, to come up with clarity, to give the answers.
Now, with those four matches behind us (1 loss against WC contenders England, 1 victory over Euro champs Portugal and two draws, both “games with two halves”), it is time to make up the balance. And lets look at the questions that were answered and the questions that remain…well….questions.
It’s clear that Koeman opted for the “5 at the back” system from day 1 and he wasn’t going to be persuaded to change that. It is a good system to use (5 in defence when loss of possession, 4 in midfield when in possession) and a system for which we definitely have the players.
The mental strength and desire
Koeman was also clear about the mental attitude of the players. “You really need to want to play for Oranje”. And Koeman is the man to send players home who are not committed. Memphis Depay was the typical example of the rogue lad, the larrakin as we say in Australia, who didn’t take discipline to seriously in the past. If he is someone to go on, it seems the players take their coach and their own job seriously now. Memphis is open and friendly to the medium, can be seen laughing at practice and is coaching and supporting is mates on the pitch. It seems he’s also developing a nice partnership with the older Ryan Babel.
It seems to me Koeman will go with Cillesen. The Barca goalie might not play every week but when he does play, he’s solid as. More so than Zoet, who should have stopped that England goal. And Cillesen distribution and footwork is just top class.
Apart from these two, we will have enough young goalies coming through to act as third goal keeper, should we ever make it to a tournament again….
From what we’ve seen, it seems De Ligt has the future under Koeman. He played all four friendlies. Van Dijk is captain and most likely a cert as well. De Vrij, as a right footer, will be duelling with De Ligt for the right centre back position, while Blind will most likely have the upper hand on Nathan Ake. Ake did get the equaliser for Oranje vs Italy, which was nice for him and he does have a bright future. Voted player of the year for Bournemouth of course and a very able player indeed. For now Blind is more solid in his build up play and football intelligence but Ake might fancy the battle with the slower Blind. For De Ligt and De Vrij, it will be interesting to see what De Ligt will do with his future. When he came into the media zone after the Italy game, 14 Italian reporters cornered him to ask if he will pick Juve as his new club. According to the rumour, Barca, Bayern Munich, Man City, Spurs, Juve…they all want De Ligt. Should he decide to go for a big move, he might not get the playing time he needs to get his starting spot in Oranje.
Other candidates to keep in mind for the CB role: Jeffrey Bruma, Terence Kongolo, Karim Rekik, Sven van Beek and Mike van der Hoorn.
Left Wing Back
Vilhena and Van Aanholt were the players used most recently, but Willems and Erik Pieters are candidates as well, as are Nathan Ake and Daley Blind. This might simply come back to the opponent we play. Van Aanholt has more speed and seems to penetrate more. Vilhena is probably better on the ball but lacks the real depth and speed in his game. Pieters is the solid defender but not as able on the ball. Willems is a weak defender but has a tremendous left foot. Terence Kongolo is an option here as well.
Right Wing Back
Daryl Janmaat made a difference coming on for Hateboer vs Italy. The Atalanta right back had a tough first half and still lacks a proper final ball. Janmaat is definitely the better crosser of the two and seems to have more football intelligence (experience). Kenny Tete is definitely a candidate, as is Fosu-Mensah, although Rick Karsdorp, when fit, might have all the tools of the trade for this position.
This is the weak spot of the team at the moment. We do have a lot of midfield options, but they are all a bit similar. Wijnaldum for me is the best of the bunch. The opinions were mixed with is game vs Italy, but I think he did well. Mentality is top, his touch impeccable, always knows what is where and won’t lose the ball too often. Strootman to me is less solid might well lose his spot. Propper is another player I rate. Wonderful vision and technique, and developed very nicely in the physical and tactical side of the game. But, add Vormer, Van de Beek, Van Ginkel and De Roon to the mix and they’re all solid team players but none of them has the world class you’d want to see in a team like Oranje. Where’s our Sneijder, Ronald de Boer, Seedorf, Davids, Van der Vaart, Jonk, Van Hanegem, Cocu, Jantje Peters? I think Van de Beek can make the step up. I’m convinced Frenkie de Jong could be that player. We need at least one. Vilhena can play in the midfield of coure, and Ruud Vormer has demonstrated to be an option as well. And who knows, the real Adam Maher might even find his mojo again…
For now, I’ll go with Propper, Wijnaldum and Van de Beek. In due time, Frenkie de Jong will take the position of one of these three…
I think Memphis will be the sure fire choice for one of the two strikers. Babel has something special but Promes has the future. Agile, skilled, quick, can score goals. His partnership with Memphis will need to improve but I have faith. Nothing wrong with Babel as pinchhitter. The former Ajax and Liverpool man can play anywhere up front.
We do have some exciting players that can bring some spice coming off the bench. Elia is always unpredictable and Bergwijn might have a similar profile. Steven Berghuis seems to be the victim of this 5-3-2 system but everytime he comes on, something happens. He’s all class with his left foot. Looking for the top corner or finding a team mate, as he did with his assist on Ake vs Italy. Against Slovakia, he had the assist on Vormer who aimed straight at the goalie. Luuk de Jong, Wout Weghorst and some others might well be useful in certain emergency scenarios. And who knows, Vincent Janssen might move to a team where he can play, score and remain fit…
After the Italy game, Ronald Koeman said this: “I got a lot of clarity after these four friendlies. In certain positions and with certain players, I think I know what to do. But, there is now a summer and pre-season ahead of us and then also a transfer period. I will not make any public statements until September. Too much can change and I will talk to the players first, in September.