Tag: Wijnaldum

Frugal Oranje does the bizznizz: WC ticket secured!

A combination of factors contributed to the abysmal performance and result away versus Montenegro.

And as a result, we saw the worst and the best of this Oranje, in the course of 4 days ( inspired by Louis van Gaal).

The nation was holding its breath, the pressure was on. And as a result of the drunk man’s policies of the Dutch politicians, in an empty Kuip.

So there were lots of questions. Will Louis change the team wholesale? Which goalie would he pick? What tactics will we see? Daley Blind, Wijnaldum, Klaassen underperformed versus Montenegro… Would Louis use Malacia? Or Ake?

With Bijlow injured, was it now Flekken’s turn? Or fall back on Cillesen, the more experienced one? And will Holland go for the win, and try to overwhelm Norway? Or did Louis expect Norway to come blazing on all cylinders?

Well, the answers were actually quite logical (from the Book of Van Gaal): Always rely on experience in big games. He would never throw Malacia before the wolves. Neither would he Flekken. Cillesen has been in pressure cookers before and knows the drill. He also is a tremendous kicker of the ball, so Cillesen in goal was not a surprise.

Van Gaal leaning on the experienced players was also not a biggie for me. He played the same formation as versus Montenegro, but with Bergwijn instead of Malen.

“Malen didn’t perform well. I told my wingers: stay wide and high as much as possible. Danjuma did well. Malen kept on moving out of position which resulted in a very underwhelming right side of the team. Bergwijn did better. So I played him,” was Van Gaal’s explanation.

And no, Louis didn’t force his players to hunt for goals. Keeping a clean sheet was key.

So in other words: dominant, with a provocative press. A Van Gaalism. Which means: invite the other party to attack. Sit a bit deeper and wait for the moment to press. This is 1) when a sloppy ball is played by the opponent, or 2) when a midfielder has his back to our goal when played in or 3) when the ball is played wide to a full back.

In the first half, we hardly got into trouble. And yes, we didn’t create a lot but we still had 3 or 4 chances. Bergwijn impressed on the right. Danjuma was threatening from the left. Blind played his usual decent game, as did Wijnaldum. The midfield was instructed not to run blindly into the opponent’s box and that reluctance made the chances we did create less effective, but hey… we didn’t concede!

And all that mattered was securing that ticket!

Norway didn’t take the game to us. They waited until the second half. Oranje got a bit more space in the second half, when Norway started to push a bit more, but they only managed two shots, of which none on target.

By then, we had seen some headers by Memphis, a Montenegro type flick by Depay as well, a volley from 25 meters from the Barca forward and some good crosses by Danjuma and Bergwijn. Lots of “almost” chances.

In the second half we got more opportunities when Norway went to play with three at the back. Bergwijn and Danjuma were always going to be the danger men, playing from the wide angles.

Oranje was clearly focused on not conceding, more so than scoring. The lack of confidence as a result of the latest draw was palpable. The lack of Oranje support from the stands could well have been a blessing in disguise, as in previous games the home crowd at times yells the team forward in scenarios where that is actually not preferred by the coaches…

Frenkie worked his arse off and probably ran more than 11 kms in this match. Wijnaldum was way more involved in midfield and Memphis was his usual self. Probing, drifting, threatening, while Blind and Dumfries offered good support for the wide men.

Man of the Match Steven Bergwijn made a strong statement with his creative explosive runs and it was befitting for him to be the guy breaking the deadlock. A wonderful little dribble from left back Blind, with a 1-2 combination with his former Man U mate Memphis and Danjuma was able to provide the assist to Bergwijn who found the top corner emphatically.

Norway had some minutes left to get back into it and added more attackers to the mix, prompting Van Gaal to sub Danjuma who was becoming a wing back for us. Nathan Ake was asked to shore up matters. From a Norway corner, a smart little header by Memphis released Bergwijn who ran half the pitch towards the Norwegian goal, with Oranje’s record breaker and future all time topscorer Memphis Depay in his wake. A simple wide pass to the Barca man and he added another goal to his tally, surpassing the likes of Bergkamp and Huntelaar.

And with that, Louis van Gaal – watching the game as an evil conniving Stavros Blofeld from his vip box -saw it was good.

His team qualified as group leaders and demonstrated some grit and effectiveness after a series of interesting matches. We’ve seen them struggle, we have seen them play Turkey off the pitch, we have seen them put to sleep by Montenegro and now we’ve seen them all business-like and efficient.

Congrats to all! We’re back at World Cup Level. Lets discuss what we learned moving forward in future posts.

In terms of player ratings…

Cillesen – 7

He didn’t have to do a lot of shot stopping but his distribution is excellent and it was good to see him confident and relaxed in the Oranje goal again.

Dumfries – 6

Lots of energy and hard work. At times a bit clumsy but always positive and always “on”.

De Ligt – 6.5

Didn’t do much wrong, but also didn’t do much to make us all sit up. Decent.

Van Dijk – 7

Played like a captain. Was the boss in aerial battles and commanded the troops with his booming bariton.

Blind – 7

Some good touches and passing. Not everything worked, but that is ok. His little forward dribble and 1-2 with Memphis broke open the Norway defence.

Klaassen – 5

A bit invisible. Probably working hard, but a tad off the pace at times. Got subbed due to a nasty stamp on his thigh.

Wijnaldum – 6.5

Played in service of the team. Had some good moments and battled like in his best Liverpool days.

Frenkie – 7.5

Frenkie led by example. Covering a lot of space. Always available and snapping like a pitbull at ankles and balls.

Danjuma – 7

Kept the pitch wide. Was threatening always and direct in his actions. A tad unlucky with his crosses and his goal attempts. Had the assist on the 1-0.

Memphis – 7

Scoring, hassling, leading, threatening. Not his best game but in a mediocre performance he will still find the net, he will work his butt off and that volley deserved better.

Bergwijn – 8

Man of the Match. Constantly threatening on the wing, tracking back when needed. Good crosses, and that superb goal. His last minute run to gift Memphis a tap in was excellent too.

De Roon and Ake didn’t have too much time to excel.

Van Gaal – 8

The winning coach. Bringing us back to World Cup finals level. Usually, I’d give him a 7 but his Blofeld impersonation gets him an extra point. If he would have brought a white cat for on his lap, I’d give him a 9.

For now: come back with your comments and insights below.

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Do or Die for Oranje!

It seems Oranje is never able to do things the easy way! We either cruise through a tournament beating big nations only to crash land unexpectedly (1974, 1998, 2021 Euros) against lesser opponents or we find ourselves blocked in a thrilling “play off finals” we end up losing…. Ireland. Belgium. Russia. Sweden…

You will know me to be a positive minded Oranje fan and I like to protect our coaches and players, in particularly if they have had a good record for us all and made us cheer. I find that I can take that really far, at times. Kuyt, Nigel de Jong, Jordy Cruyff, Bogarde, Andre Ooijer, I really like and respect these guys. Now, I clap for Blind, I cheer for Berghuis and I support Koopmeiners.

But…. now the time has come to step up and earn all these credits, all that applause, the fancy cars and paychecks!

Norway is not France, Italy or Spain. Norway with Haaland is a bit like Portugal (with CR7) or Poland (with Lewandowski). Norway without Haaland is a bit like Austria, Ukraine, Ireland and we need to be able to beat them. With or without fans. With or without De Vrij.

There are no more excuses. Not even Van Gaal’s accident, when he crashed with his bike and hurt his hip severely. When he suggested to leave the camp, the players and staff pleaded with him to finish the job, bringing tears to the eyes of the veteran coach. Ah well… we can add that to the mix. Why not.

Van Loen forgets to mark George Grun

I think it’s sad that Bijlow isn’t fit, but Cillesen, Flekken or even Sergio Padt or Marco Bizot should do the job. Even if we concede goals, we simply need to score one more (or the same number actually).

De Vrij won’t be missed: we have De Ligt.

We simply need to show up. Focused. Fit. With courage, forward thrust and using our brain and common sense in the decision making. Playing simple and effective.

Van Gaal will not play around with systems and he will not change too many names on the team sheet.

Spanje with Malta goalie on their side: 12-1

You can expect two holding mids, this time. I wouldn’t be surprised if De Roon is on the bench or even in the team. Him or Wijnaldum next to Frenkie, allowing the Barca man to wander.

I don’t think Blind will be sacrificed. Van Gaal will trust his experience and his pride. The Ajax man wants to redeem himself. Using Malacia in a game like this might be just a tad too much pressure for the energetic youngster.

Bergwijn might start, although Van Gaal could also pick a player like Lang, provided he impresses Van Gaal on the training pitch.

Kluivert sick of it in 2001 v Ireland

Danjuma will start as left winger and Memphis as #9.

Koopmeiners will not get playing time, I don’t think and neither will Gravenberch.

I can even see Blind next to Frenkie and Nathan Ake as left back. It will depend on how Norway is set up and sadly, that is tough to know.

What will they do? They need to win this, so will they start overwhelmingly attacking? Or will they plan for 1 counter while parking two buses?

I know this blog is being read amongst the Oranje players (and staff) and I hope our message to them is clear enough:

It’s ok to F Up every now and then as long as you fix it!

Should Oranje fail to qualify for the World Cup Qatar, I will accept offers for this blog. I don’t think I can go through another World Cup, blogging without Oranje being part of it.

But, Norway is no Brazil or France. I think we’ll win this match 3-0. Memphis, Danjuma and Klaassen…

This is in Dutch, but you can use the subtitle option to let the bots translate…

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Playful Oranje dazzles in De Kuip

Evening matches in De Kuip are a joy. The stadium is big but cosy. The fans love it there and usually, so do the players. It has a real football vibe and usually the pitch is perfect. This season, not so much, but still, the atmosphere is amazing.

Louis van Gaal was not happy with the 0-1 versus Latvia, in the sense that he feels the second goal needs to come swift and as we play at home vs minions Gibraltar, we needed to entertain the fans.

For this, he went with almost the same eleven as used versus Latvia, with the addition of Lang on his fave left winger spot in place of the injured Gakpo and Wijnaldum back in place of Guus Til.

Gibraltar coach protested the use of Lang and Danjuma AND two balls!

Before the match, Louis explained how he expects Gibraltar also to have 1 or 2 chances, how he wants the forward pass quicker and demand more courage and creativity of his players.

He didn’t choose to hussle the team up. It would have been nice to see Malacia in action, with De Ligt and maybe Koopmeiners or Gravenberch, but Lous decided to build on his fave eleven, with the eyes firmly on next month’s key matches.

He also decided not to use a real #9, as was suggested by some experts in the Netherlands. “If you want goals against smaller nations, use a target man like De Jong or Weghorst”. Louis acknowledged the idea as a possible option but decided against it, by explaining the tremendous stats and workrate of Memphis as his key reason.

And the Barca man didn’t let his coach down: 2 goals and a missed pen plus 2 assists for the record breaker. He took Kluivert’s record of most goals scored in the NT in  calendar year (was 12, now 13).

At this rate, the often criticised artist will become the NT’s top goal scorer, top assister and most capped international.

Van Gaal will have been pleased to see how his forwards again were the key players in the 6-0 win over Gibraltar. We did what we needed to do: a quick goal by the captain, and the chance on a quick second goal. The penalty was justified, but Memphis was stopped by the debutant in goal for Gibraltar. Memphis’ 0-2 was a beauty with a tremendous pre-assist by Noa Lang.

And with Lang, we have another one of the top performers. The cheeky and gifted left winger was a constant threat with his dancing feet in the first half, impressing with his skill, his combination play, his dribbles and his through passes. With Danjuma nocking on the door with a sledgehammer, Lang could well play as a #10 as well. That makes me lick my lips. Great player.

So, Louis wanted to see Noa play and boy did he see him.

It must be said, there were no duds against Gibraltar although some players could shine a bit more (Memphis, Noa, Danjuma) than others (Frenkie de Jong, Bijlow).

Skipper leads the way

Van Gaal wanted goals, he wanted a clean sheet, he wanted his players to remain healthy and he wanted to entertain the public.

And he got all he wanted.

After the match, there was a positive vibe at the presser, with Denzel Dumfries and Arnaut Danjuma being feted and Van Gaal allowed the platform to gloat and shower praise over his lads. “This is a very very tight and good group!”.

I think it is clear that the quality will be there for us, right when we need it.

With Gakpo, Danjuma, Bergwijn, Lang and Malen, we have multiple options for the left winger role.

Lang and Gakpo can play #10 as well. Malen is actually a #9 (for me) and Lang and Danjuma can also play right winger, giving Louis options besides Berghuis.

Assist Weghorst, goal Danjuma!

With our central defenders, our goalkeeper, central midfielder and leader of the line Memphis, I think we’re in pretty good shape.

And yes, I know it was against Gibraltar, but I have seen so many matches of big name national teams (yes, our Oranje as well) struggling against the Cyprus/Malta/Andorra/San Marino/Gibraltar type opponents. Usually, you do win, but at times with limited score lines and lots of frustration.

This time, the team kept at it. Kept playing within the shape, disciplined, with frills and trickery.

Weghorst could have had a goal, Danjuma could have had a couple of assists. Danjuma: “I was waiting to come on with Wout and I said to him: where do you want them? He said: near post. I said, ok… Hard and low, near post. Make sure you are there!”.

Memphis Depay led the line like a real world class player that he can be. He fought, he made dummy runs, he assisted, created and scored. And even missed a pen!

Now, fans also want the tie of the coach!!

Lang and Danjuma will not leave the squad any time soon and De Vrij seems to have won the RCB spot from his best friend De Ligt.

For me, the midfield combination and the right back spot are still question marks. I’m a fan of Dumfries’ personality, his energy and mentality, but he is not good enough to play along in these type of tight games (tight as in “spaces are tight”).

Van Gaal will now focus on the last two matches: an away win v Montenegro means we only need a draw at home against Norway.

My player ratings:

Bijlow – 7

Didn’t do much wrong. Didn’t do much. Stopped a shot on goal from an off side Gibraltar player. Showing off.

Daley Blind – 7.5

Was active. Good passing range. Had several ventures in the box as a midfield-type runner. His team tried to reach him with passes over the top but it didn’t fall for him.

Virgil van Dijk – 7.5

Playing very high and was rewarded with a goal, the first one. A captain’s goal.

Stefan de Vrij – 7.5

Playing high up the pitch. Suffocating anything he could. Attacking prowess leading to (missed) penalty. Great long range passing.

Denzel Dumfries – 6.5

Doesn’t do much wrong but lack of technique and touch makes him a stumbling block in the velvety moves on the right. As always: great energy.

Frenkie de Jong – 6.5

Did his thing, let things ticking over. His long passing game was not 100% and he seemed not needed in this game.

Gini Wijnaldum – 7

Working hard as per usual. Made some great defensive sprints, when needed. Always available and close to a super goal after a great move involving Berghuis and Memphis.

Davy Klaassen – 7,5

Great understanding with Memphis. Wonderful timed runs, great energy and a top assist for Memphis.

Noa Lang – 8,5

First start. Dominant from first minute on. Played with discipline but also with a boldness not seen often, playing through balls with the outside foot, wandering across the whole pitch and setting the pace for the attacks.

Memphis – 9

Constantly hassling, probing, threatening. Allowing his team mates to shine with some good assists and demonstrating his skills in the small spaces. Got two goals, two assists, but should have had a hattrick. Passed some great names on the topscoring list and setting record after record.

Steven Berghuis – 7.5

Good performance, but never outstanding. Combination play was sumptuous, his crossing and shooting was thwarted. Great set piece deliveries too. He was booed by a small part of the (Feyenoord) Oranje fans whenever he had the ball. It didn’t seem to bother him much, but Van Gaal was dumbfounded by these “fans'” reactions.

Arnaut Danjuma – 8.5

Very lively play by the football professor. He’s fast, explosive, strong, direct to goal kinda guy. Took on opponents, had some potential assists, demonstrated a great rapport with his team mates and got his goal too. The golden wonder boy is back.

Wout Weghorst – 7.5

Wout does what Wout does and got an assist too. Should have scored with his head, but the ball should have gone 1mm further over the line. So unlucky.

Donyell Malen – 7.5

I feel for Donny. He is not the best left winger nor the best striker in our NT. But he’s an awesome player: fast, also direct to goal in his approach and a good ball player. He played right winger and looked better there now than he did under Frank de Boer. Scored his goal and is a great super sub to have.

Louis van Gaal – 8

He motivated and inspired the troops. He picked the right eleven. He got the tactics right. He used his subs well. If he does this with Oranje versus France, Italy, Germany and Brazil, he will get a higher mark.

Your views?

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UPDATED: Oranje playing for 6 points

We have seen some lively discussions off late, about Berghuis, Lang and Danjuma. Keep the debate going, as I’m sure things will heat up even more, the closer we get to the World Cup!

This is the second to last international break re: WC qualifications and the only break that offers LVG some time to experiment, somewhat. He has 2 days more than normal and he has two relatively easy opponents to worry about.

We have seen freak results in the past (Faroer Islands!!) but surely we can beat Latvia and Gibraltar. With these six points on top of the current number, we are well positioned for the last series of games. Obviously, if Norway and Turkey drop points in this round themselves, life will be easier even.

In a disappointing press conference, LvG discussed the key talking points. I will mention them briefly as most of these have been debated already on this blog.

Here are some key points:

  • Danjuma – the media started to imply that LvG had been sleeping while Danjuma took the European football world by surprise with his dazzling turn v Man United in the CL.
    • “Really? Do you think we don’t have scouts? Do you think I don’t watch La Liga? Oh… well, I am very aware of him. And he is good player, but he made his transfer late in the window, he needed some time to settle and started on the bench. He now has some good games under his belt, that is excellent. And when he can keep this level up, yes, he will be part of the squad again. But this series of games came to early.”
  • Goal keepers – Flekken is now part of the squad, as the fourth goalie, while Cillesen is ignored. Rumours had it that the squad didn’t want Cillesen. That it’s a personality thing.
    • “I need to find the best keeper. And if my scouts tell me there is a 28 year old goalie in the Bundesliga who is all round, I need to check that out. He is a real Van Gaal goalie. Very good with his feet. So this is my chance to test him out and see him at work. Cillesen is not off the radar. He is a very good goalie and he only started playing again recently. He has had two games. Too early for a re-call.”
  • Berghuis – the Ajax player is impressing currently on the #10 position. Van Gaal won’t use him there.
    • “Berghuis was not a starter at Ajax. He was even benched. I played him in three matches which got him noticed in Ajax and he has me to thank for that. I have other options for the #10, and not a lot for right wing, so Berghuis is a right winger for me.”
  • Quincy Promes – the ex Ajax player who is under investigation due to a knife incident (now playing in Russia).
    • “Yes he can play for Oranje, yes on different spots and yes he did wel recently, but by rule, I will not select players who have these things going on in their private lives. It will be distracting. For him, for us, I get questions about it, and it’s not worth it for me.”

What was disappointing about the presser was Louis’ attitude towards the media.

He did this earlier on when talking about the players and the expectations for these two games.

When confronted with close to euphoric comments about how well the clubs played internationally, Louis used his vinegar tactics to put it all in perspective. You see, in the last international break, Louis was charming, warm and funny. He played the game and got the people behind him. Now, he needs to be careful for a too optimistic vibe and he is now using his bad-cop routine to piss everyone off, including the players.

“I have told Lang not to provoke or do things other than football. What he does at Brugge… he can not do this with me.”

“Do you think Dutch clubs perform well? Come on! Only Ajax plays at top level. PSV choked when they could get into the Champions League and failed. They are now in the Europa League, which is fine. But don’t tell me it’s top. It’s not. And the conference league? Really? Feyenoord, AZ and Vitesse are playing games against Punch and Daisy. Of course they perform well. Half of the clubs’ names I can’t even pronounce!”

He also explained how only Stefan de Vrij (of the players who played versus Turkey) won his match, last weekend. “None of the other players won their games. That goes to show that there is no place for complacency, or for arrogance. We will need to be top, also against Latvia and also against Gibraltar!”

This is typical Louis. Getting everybody sharp and on their toes. Bringing goalie Flekken is could well be part of the strategy to tell all his players: if I can find a better option than you, I’ll bring him in! And doing this to Bijlow is a safe strategy for Louis, as Justin won’t balk at Van Gaal. As opposed to a Van Dijk or Memphis who wouldn’t enjoy being treated this way.

Flekken on his feet

Now, Van Gaal extends his dramatic play acting and theatrics towards the media too and that is always pissing me off.

I mean, the press conferences are there for the media to ask questions ON BEHALF OF THE FOOTBALL FANS. They deserve a normal treatment and normal answers. But Louis uses the pressers to settle petty scores with journalists. The NOS (the main Dutch broadcaster) got his traditional “Are you the NT manager?? Or am I? Or do you make those decisions??”. Valentijn Driessen of De Telegraaf (the biggest daily in the country) “Ah you and your little paper…”….

It is becoming quite pathetic as the NT manager is the figure head of Dutch football, to treat the media – and thus the public – like this condescending way is not on. It’s typical Van Gaal.

Danjuma showing his number to his opponent

He has been experimenting a bit with Plan B as he called it. He doesn’t call it a new system, he calls it a tweak of the system, in case we need to force a goal. The solution isn’t hard to predict. At the training of yesterday, his booming voice was clear: “And then we bring Wout or we bring Luuk and then it is BOOM BOOM!”

Noa Lang was a popular player amongst the media. The mercurial forward has been seen as a prodigal talent for many years and now he’s part of the nation’s elite, after a really good spell at Brugge. “In all honesty, I expected the call last season already but I guess the coach was focusing on the squad for the Euros and I missed out. I’m so happy that I am part of it now. The coach did speak to me about not being provocative. I get that. But I told him that it is and always will be part of my game. I try to find the limits. And he understood that too.”

Yes Noa Lang is a character alright.

Frenkie de Jong had to deal with a lot of questions about Barca: ” It is not as bad as the media paint it. Really, it’s not. I mean, losing Messi was a blow and he is the kind of guy that always delivers. We will need to make do without him now and we also have at least 5 other first team players out. So it’s normal that we don’t perform at our best. Real and Atletico have only 2 points more than us, if we win our catch up match. And yes, I played right wing in a match, but that was really because we had no other options and there were chances for us on that side. I am convinced it will all come good. Ansu Fati is back and we will have Pedri again and I am also convinced I will improve more as will Memphis. It will end well, trust me.”

We may not see another post before the Latvia game.

But we will see an update :-).

The last presser before the game, Van Gaal confirmed that he is utterly impressed with Mathijs de Ligt who is working hard to restore his form.  “He has risen from the dark. He is so close to a starting spot, but he has to compete with De Vrij who happened to be the Man of the Match in the two previous matches.”

Van Gaal also mentioned Noa Lang and Mark Flekken. “They confirmed what we hoped for. Noa is a very creative player and we need that to break open opponents like Latvia. I can’t tell you if he’ll make minutes but I don’t see why not? Flekken appears to be an open positive lad. He’s good with his feet and he stops many shots. He has to improve off the line though. He needs to be better with crosses, that is what my current opinion is of him.”

And about skipper Virgil: “He is still not 100%. He played four whole matches with Liverpool and he’s on his way to full fitness. He is very close.”

Oranje is currently in Riga and the coach thought it was vital to train at the local stadium. “It’s always key to know where you’ll play. Get a feel for the place. De Kuip, Anfield, Camp Nou… amazing temples but all different. I need the players to experience this.”

Van Gaal watched and analysed some of the previous Latvia games. “We learned a lot and are well prepared. We have been working on our game plan and the dead ball situations. I hope you will be able to spot that.”

About the right wing role, Van Gaal said this: “Steven Bergwijn has told me he doesn’t want to play from the right. I think Berghuis is currently the only one we have, with Lang. And I think Quincy Promes can play there too.”

This is my line up (the one I think LvG would use… I think I would have included Karsdorp in my personal fave line up).

 

 

 

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Pressing Masterclass by Louis van Gaal

Michels was known to be a burly, surly man. Never a smile. Never a kind word. A disciplinarian. But in his final days as a coach (1988 and 1992) he suddenly emerged as a charmer. An amateur opera singer and a funny guy. He softened up a bit and the world was witness to it.

Louis van Gaal always said Michel was his great example. And like Rinus, Van Gaal is now working on his last (??) trick and guess what: the stern school teacher has become funny, open, generous and warm. What age can do…

The Dutch started their fore-checking – as we called it back then – in the 1970s and it has always been part of the game plan, albeit never continiously. The Germans called it gegenpressing and there are different terms to explain what it is and how it works.

Van Gaal calls it Total Pressing and after the Turkey game he complimented his team: “it is remarkable what they have done. They played total pressing for 90 minutes! And my subs did the same thing. They came into the team and the flow was never paused or anything. I am very proud of my players.”

When asked what Total Pressing is, he was quite brief. “Simple, you play the high press everywhere on the pitch.”

Van Gaal’s Total Press can be seen in two typical situations: when Turkey has the ball or when Oranje looses possession. “The turnaround was managed perfectly,” Van Gaal added.

Look at how the first goal happened. Where the German coaches never seem to care too much about the opponent, when they start the press, Louis is different and ordered his men to play man-to-man in the situation of a press. Three players focus on the ball but the rest of the team (Mempgis, Klaassen, Frenkie) all make sure they cover a Turkish option, making it even harder for the Turks to find a way out.

Van Gaal’s total press concept is more based on the Argentinian school of Bielsa and Pochettino than the German School.

Look at the actions on the other wing.

The Turks are put under pressure on the flank and a bunch of Orange wolves immediately focused on putting all relevant opponents under pressure. This is how Oranje was able to suffocate all potential counter attacks.

Every time Turkey had time on the ball, the options in the centre of the park were covered off, forcing them to go to the wings, where the pack of Orange wolves would immediately force them to turn over the ball.

Optically, the press didn’t appear aggressive. This is because Van Gaal didn’t want to pressure the goalie. This would force him to go long, and Van Gaal wanted him to build up from the back. Interestingly, De Boer played 4-3-3 in the Turkey away game and statistically, it seems our press was more successful in that game. The Passes Per Defensive Action (PPDA) was only 8,4 in the De Boer managed match, and 13.1 in the Van Gaal led game. This image below explains it somewhat.

De Boer instructed Malen to stay close to the right CB forcing the Turks to build up via their right full back. He became the free man.

And it was left back Wijndal’s task to pick up that right back while left central defender Blind was going to take on the Turkish right winger, which resulted in a one v one situation in our defence.

What you see here, is that Wijndal repeatedly was high up on the pitch, sprinting towards his man. This aggressive variant meant that the Turks couldn’t really use their passing game to build up. Under De Boer the Dutch were more successful breaking up the passing, than the Van Gaal Oranje team. But… this forced the Turkish goalie to go long and both Yilmaz and Karaman won five aerial battles for the ball, and this resulted in danger as Oranje played 3 v 3 at the back. In other words, the Turkish coach found a way to undo De Boer’s battleplan.

And it would immediately be “all hands on deck” as our defensive organisation was immediately shot and our midfield couldn’t track back fast enough. The 3rd and 4th Turkish goal both came from a long ball up the park and with our defenders and midfielders unable to deal with it.

Van Gaal learned the lesson. He took way less risk on the flanks with the press.

This moment above shows Turkey trying to play out of the Dutch pressure. A couple of differences with the De Boer tactics come to mind. In the win over Turkey, we were able to pin their midfielders. Van Gaal didn’t want the Turks to shift the game from left to right. This would give Oranje good opportunities to put pressure on their flank and outnumber them. The second difference is the position of our left winger. Where Malen pushed on the central defender, it is here Bergwijn in that role but he is covering the right back and the right centre back by positioning in between them. The third difference being Memphis’ role. He was positioned in front of Soyuncu and not behind him. Memphis didn’t mark him, but simply stopped the pass into him. Turkey was forced to build up using Demiral, a lesser passer.

And another example of the changes, you can see above. Blind in the left back role stayed in his zone, instead of Wijndal in the away game who abandoned that zone. In combination with Virgil’s aerial strength, the Turkish long balls never really got us in trouble.

Another example. No pressure on the ball, but all passing avenues were shut tight, with Wijnaldum even in front of his man. The only player we wanted to have the ball was right footed left back Muldur.

On that ball was played, the wolf pack would kick into gear. Berghuis covering the forward ball, Memphis covering their libero and Wijnaldum ready to knick the ball away too. There simply was no escape.

At times, the Turks came up with a solution. In the above situation, Demiral drops further deep to make the space between him and the right back to big to cover. Interestingly enough, Davy Klaassen recognises it and points to Bergwijn to drop back. The result: Demiral still can’t build up from the back and is forced to play a risky ball.

Here you can see how fluid we played. Klaassen, Bergwijn and Memphis are now the forward three while Berghuis drops in to support the midfield and Wijnaldum tracks back to support his defenders. Daley Blind has taken over the coaching role from Klaassen and instructs Bergwijn in his movements. Demiral plays the risky ball and Oranje gets possession back because the distances between the players were spot on and the passing lines were interrupted.

Just before the break there was a situation where Blind simply had to step up. Memphis pushed onto Soyuncu and Bergwijn pushed onto Demiral. The midfield was marked so the goalie went for a risky pass to the right wing. Yilmaz had drifted to the left side to give his team options so Blind abandoning his zone was not a highly risky move. Van Dijk moved into the role and allowed Blind to press their right back.

That what was standard under De Boer versus Turkey was just an exception in the Van Gaal tactics.

The important thing for Van Gaal is, making sure the right opponent gets the ball. The goalie, the worst build up player and/or the full backs. The left back of Turkey ended up as the player with the most touches and the lowest pass accuracy. In the away game, he had been the player with the least touches.

Van Gaal didn’t play one v one over the pitch and didn’t let his team hunt for the ball constantly. When the weaker players were on the ball in a particular zone, he would order the press. The players asked for clarity, he said before he started his role in this international break. It seems he gave it to them. That he was able to prep the team according to his principles in a week’s time is quite remarkable.

( data via Opta, images via Instat, thanks to Pieter Zwart of VI Pro)

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Dutch devour Turkish Delight

What a night. We had early goals before (WC finals 1974 anyone?) and it hasn’t always resulted in greatness. This time, things seem different. An early goal. Another goal in the first 15 minutes and a very energetic and focused performance.

Things are taking a turn for the better in LVG’s third spell at the helm.

And what a quality goals they all were! Amazing to see how “question marks” like Berghuis, Klaassen, Dumfries and Bergwijn stepped up to the plate and played their key parts in this wonderful win.

The line up was logical. Van Gaal only put experienced Blind back in for Malacia and used Bergwijn in place of Gakpo on the left. He is clearly cementing his favourite eleven (or fifteen, rather) and slowly but surely his go-to guys are making their mark.

Justin Bijlow will be the new #1, hopefully for years to come. Stefan de Vrij was picked ahead of De Ligt and again he was one of the Men of the Match. De Vrij was solid on the ball, focused in his defending and overall Mr Cool at the back.

Frenkie showed his class as did Memphis again and the Oranje right flank, wanting versus Norway, impressed from the start with Dumfries and Berghuis demonstrating their connection.

But it helps, a goal in the first minute of course. And a quick second – also a beauty – helps even more. Oranje demonstrated their swagger without becoming arrogant.

The pace was good, the creativity was visible more and more and the workrate was just outstanding. If the Dutch can keep this mentality up, we are definitely back!

The criticasters on this blog will probably point out Dumfries “hard feet”, or Berghuis’ risky passing, or Blind’s one moment of lack of concentration (letting the ball slip), but overall, I think we can be happy with the step up Oranje made.

There was one moment in the 65th minute which will have made Van Gaal pissed off. Berghuis has the ball in midfield, there is no movement whatsoever. Dumfries is walking, no runs or options. The ball stays there in that zone. Koopmeiners comes to help, Van Dijk comes to help but between the three they suddenly lose the ball for no reason. We tidied it up, without a problem but that little moment must have angered the gaffer.

Being 4-0 up against 10 men, and then exchanging key players (Frenkie, Wijnaldum) never helps the flow of the game of course but these are little moments that need to be ruled out.

Two more goals (subs Til and Malen) and a horrific scare in the last seconds, when goalie Bijlow makes his only mistake in selling Van Dijk short, allowing Under to score a consolation goal, and an annoying knock for Captain Van Dijk. Van Gaal will not be happy (and neither will Klopp be).

The attacking play was excellent. False striker Memphis was everywhere again, Berghuis and Bergwijn played disciplined on the wings. Dumfries was marauding as per usual and Frenkie and Gini kept ticking things over.

A solid performance allround with some incredible moves and exciting play.

Captain Virgil was happy with the performance. It all seemed to fall into place: “This is what we wanted, and the early goal helps a lot of course. We played with intensity, with focus and it’s wonderful when it all clicks.”

Hattrick hero Memphis was less positive. “I think we did well but I think we have room to grow. And I am talking about myself more than anything. My first touches were poor and I feel there is more in us than we showed. And even though we score 6 and I score 3, we need to keep on focusing on improving because we want to do this against the top nations as well.”

Coach Louis van Gaal was beaming from ear to ear: “We have seen an outstanding performance. This group is so good and so great to work with. They have an opinion, they operate as a group, they welcome new players, it’s quite impressive. This is the best group I’ve ever worked with. And sure, I can see room for improvement. We lost the ball too often and we also didn’t play in a very high pace. Against 10 men you need to up the pace and find the free man, but overall we did play some good football and we scored some amazing goals!”

Van Gaal deserves the Man of the Match award, he clearly did everything right. But of the players on field, for me, Klaassen, De Vrij and Memphis (again) were the pick of the bunch.

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Van Gaal focuses on Turkey

Today was the presser pre-Turkey. The fact that Gakpo and Nathan Ake had to leave the trainings camp. Gakpo due to injury, Ake for ‘personal reasons’.

Van Gaal was disappointed, as “we don’t have a lot of wingers in the first place”. Gakpo would probably have played against Turkey. Van Gaal didn’t want to make the Turkey coach smarter, but he did say that Daley Blind returns into the team.

Memphis Depay was Van Gaal’s colleague representing the Dutch, explaining how playing against a compact shaped opponent works. Less space, lots of physical challenges. But Memphis demonstrated his usual swagger and confidence in his response: “We are confident, we know what we need to do. We will get our chances.”

Van Gaal furthermore lauded the Turkish coach, for his smart and his ability to turn the Turkish egos into the team. Van Gaal expects a counter-attacking Turkey and will analyse the way Turkey find their space moving forward.

Furthermore, Van Gaal expressed his belief that the Turkey match is not “a finals” but it is a key game for us. We play at home, and should have that extra to make a difference against Turkey. Van Gaal thinks the Turkey match will be the toughest match for the Dutch.

The question how Van Gaal and Depay were able to mend their relationship was answered in a balanced way by Memphis. “I think I was a different player and a different human being back then. We didn’t have a lot of success together but that doesn’t mean there was a lot of drama. That was magnified by the media.” Van Gaal added: “I can’t say it better than him. I recognised his talent when he was 20 years old and took him to the World Cup. I also took him with me to Manchester United, but that didn’t work too well. But that was partly also the team. I positioned Memphis on the #10 position! Not as winger. I think he, as an intuitive player, is at his best on that position, like he plays with us. As a false striker. The team couldn’t carry him and when I placed him as left winger, he started to get blockages. And my analysis, he didn’t have the orientation qualities he has now. He had trouble with the activities around him, to scan it fast enough. Now, he has developed and he is now as good as I knew he would be. He has unbelievable qualities.”

“Team work is super important. That was the case for Memphis at Man United but also for instance, Berghuis and Dumfries. By playing Dumfries, Berghuis will be able to play better. When I play Klaassen as a box to box player, this will help Memphis.”

Speaking of Memphis: he always cops a lot of criticism. Is it his rapping? His fashion style? His tattoos, or his swagger? No matter, because he just scored goal #29 and 30, getting close to the top 10 of top scorers in Orange. And only one player was younger than Memphis in that top 10.

After the Norway game: “I expected more from myself. I wasn’t able to make a difference, but I do need that ball quicker. I only have half a second of freedom and that is when the ball needs to be played in. Otherwise I have a big defender on my heels and I can’t turn that easily.”

Against Montenegro, this worked better. Although Memphis did start as a striker, but was everywhere on the pitch, except for…the striker position. That was the area where Klaassen and Wijnaldum ended up. The partnership between Gakpo and Memphis is developing rapidly and they both were involved in several goals. The penalty kick Memphis converted is his sixth and he now only had Koeman (8), Van Persie (7) and Neeskens (7) ahead of him. More coming, I’m sure.

Memphis played 70 internationals and was involved in 53 goals. That is superb. Only eleven Oranje platers scored more than 30 goals. Memphis is part of that list now. Only Kluivert was younger than Memphis. Kluivert did need less games though, as did Huntelaar and Bergkamp.

Faas Wilkes in the late ’50s needed 33 matches. Cruyff only 38. Of the modern era, Huntelaar needed 48 matches. Record holder Robin van Persie need 69 matches, just one less than Memphis.

It seems clear that Memphis will topple Van Persie and grab the record. He’s only 27 years old, so should he score 5 goals per season and has another 5 years on the clock, he’ll add 25 goals to his tally, reaching 55 goals for his country. Robin van Persie has 50 goals from 102 matches.

In terms of assists, Memphis is the #5 on the all time assist list behind Sneijder, Robben, Van der Vaart and Bergkamp and #6 on the combined list behind Van Persie, Robben, Sneijder, Bergkamp, Huntelaar. Great company to be in.

I think it is time for all of us to realise that Memphis Depay is becoming another Oranje legend, in the same way Cruyff, Van Hanegem, Neeskens, Gullit, Van Basten, Bergkamp, Van der Vaart, Van Persie, Robben and Sneijder are Oranje legends…

This is my line up (well, the line up I think Van Gaal will use) for the Turkey game.
I expect a 3-0 win (again) with Berghuis, Memphis and Bergwijn to score.

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Tense Oranje finds flow

As per usual, the expectations of the Dutch fans were high. We all want to cheer away the Czech and recent Norwegian blues, while clearly the Covid-restrictions also add to the level of expecations of the crowd. While the race fanatics get to enjoy the first F1 race in Zandvoort with idol Verstappen in 36 years or so on Sunday, the football crowd was desperate to cheer the Oranje players again.

Three matches in 7 days, a new coaching staff, differences in fitness levels and hardly any preparation time. That is what was on the table and like in Norway, Oranje started the match slow, deliberate, a bit cautious and lacking a bit of confidence too, maybe?

Van Gaal had been outspoken in his criticism of the team in the Norway game and will have used that criticism to push a couple of the key players in his plans (Memphis, Gakpo, Berghuis). Van Gaal also had to deal with some forced changes, as Van Dijk’s fitness levels (and hand injury) stopped him from playing, just like Daley Blind was ruled out due to suspension.

So two new players in the back four. Nathan Ake the logical choice at LCB and Malacia the logical choice for LB. The Feyenoord talent did make his debut but Van Gaal opted for De Ligt as LCB next to De Vrij.

Van Gaal decided to give Berghuis another chance (as the coach – like me- analysed that it was Timber who impeded Berghuis in playing his best football), this time with Dumfries behind him. Gakpo started again on the left with Memphis in the centre.

The first 20 minutes or so were dramatic, so much so that I feared for another debacle. Berghuis tripping over the ball, Wijnaldum invisible, Memphis wasteful, and hardly any zip or pace on the ball. The only players seemingly escaping that slow start were De Vrij, Frenkie de Jong and Klaassen.

It was the Ajax midfielder’s header on the cross bar that changed things, and got some confidence and some oomph in the team. Van Gaal needed to get vocal making sure Berghuis and Gakpo would not drop too deep and it was up to vice-captain Memphis to make the difference with his incredible work rate.

So after 20 minutes of slowly passing the ball square, Oranje found its spring in its step, and the answer was: Memphis and his runs.

Like Norway, Montenegro tried to keep the field compact with a 4-5-1 when Oranje had the ball. An easy defensive tactics, but usually not something teams can sustain over 90 minutes. Van Gaal knew his team needed to be patient and play the opponent dizzy over a longer period. A bit like handball: defenders around the circle and the attackers passing the ball around to find a gap.

Memphis played the perfect #9 role, by coming into midfield when possible to become an extra midfielder and to make runs in behind, stretching the opponent. He wouldn’t get great service in the first half, but his movement created space for Klaassen, Frenkie and Gakpo.

Look at this moment here (see above). Frenkie has possession and Montenegro moves into their shape. Memphis darts away, deep, and stretches the opponent. Both central defenders have to react.

You can see below how that opened up spaces in the midfield and via Malacia, the ball does end up with Memphis who plays in Gakpo, who in turn see Klaassen using the space created by Depay, who binds three opponents!

This is the task Frenkie, Wijnaldum and Memphis have against these types of opponents. It’s important to pull the opponent in, as these three will be seen as the danger men in orange, but by their movement, others will get more freedom.

Klaassen and Wijnaldum both switch up their play, from ball in feet to ball deep in behind. Van Gaal was adamant about this: “Find the right timing for your sprints!”. Below two situations, where he comes deep first, pulls a midfielder out of position. Then he moves deeper and forces the defenders to choose.

In the second photo, you can see Berghuis again launching Wijnaldum in the half space, which resulted in a goal against Norway. This time, Gakpo gets an opportunity to shoot.

These moments are typical for the attacking play we need. Runs in behind by the big players, to create space for themselves or for their mates. Look at the first goal here.

Memphis starts his run in midfield and gets the through pass from Gakpo. Klaassen has forced the defence back so the Barca striker is never off side. Gakpo’s pass is perfect and Memphis has the skill to trick the defender: penalty! And Memphis then gives a master class in penalty-taking.

The 2-0 was also the creation of the three attackers. Both Berghuis and Gakpo are instructed to stay wide and stretch the opponent. Memphis lures the right back by being active in the half space. De Jong uses his short passes to suffocate the space and allow room for Gakpo. That results in an attempt on goal by Berghuis, which gets blocked, and in the rebound a great goal by Memphis, who can’t stop scoring it seems.

The third goal also started with Memphis. Gakpo and Berghuis keep their width, Wijnaldum makes his run into the box and after some short passing, Memphis finds Berghuis, who finds skipper Gini with a nifty little through-ball and the 3-0 was there.

The more Montenegro got tired (and the more stalwarts they lost), the more space for Oranje. Look at the 4-0. It’s Memphis and Malacia who now dominate that space on the left and Gakpo makes his way to the striker position. Malacia got his assist, Gakpo demonstrating his glorious kicking technique and it’s 4-0.

Earlier in the second half, Malacia almost also had an assist for Montenegro. It ended well though for the debutant, who saw experienced De Vrij do the same almost, allowing Bijlow to claim the headlines with his highly composed control of that situation. Don’t go to ground, just wait what the player wants to do and deal with it.

The 4-0 was a symbolic goal. It showed the class of this new Oranje. Leader Memphis working his butt off, youngster Malacia and Gakpo with quick feet and a high work rate of all involved.

This is the Oranje Van Gaal wants to see: build up patiently, use the width of the park, and have a high intensity off the ball with lots of runs and movement.

This seems to be the right step up to that next game (Turkey). All that went well can be improved upon, while all we gave away were the result of lazy defending. Something Van Gaal will most definitely stamp out of this squad.

Wijnaldum: “We needed this. The Euro exit is still fresh and we couldn’t really dazzle versus Norway, so the pressure was on. We had to do it tonight and after a slow start, we managed to do it.”

Van Gaal: “I don’t like standing at the touchline to yell commands to my players. I believe you haven’t done your job if you need to do this all the time. But I did step up to instruct Gakpo and Berghuis to push up more, stay wide and high and allow space for others to use. I think that went well. Our first 20 minutes were abysmal, but our last 70 minutes were pretty good.”

My player ratings:

Justin Bijlow – 7.5

Calm and collected. Bijlow’s distribution was fine and when he was needed he did what he had to do. Plays with the swagger of a 28 year old. I think we have our new goalie for the next 10 years.

Tyrell Malacia – 7

Played as if he has been playing in the NT for years. Needing too many fouls in the beginning, but smart in his positioning and using his low centre of gravity in any aerial duels. Showed his quick feet and more than decent cross and worked tirelessly. Good for him to get an assist. He will battle it out with Wijndal and maybe Jetro Willems on the left.

Mathijs de Ligt – 6

Strong enough and good enough, but showing some rust in his passing and did time wrong a number of times, almost repeating his clumsy defending versus the Czechs at one point. But he did play in a role that he doesn’t prefer, and the future is obviously his.

Stefan de Vrij – 6

Played strong, was focused and alert. Tried to dribble in and support midfield where possible but also had a weak moment at the back with a short back pass putting Bijlow into trouble.

Denzel Dumfries – 6,5

Played great for a player who just had Covid and hasn’t played since the Euros. Defensively tricked once, in the first 20 minutes, otherwise a solid performance, although would be wise to play more simple and cross the ball in when he can. Got his usual chance at the far post again but needed a bigger shoe size.

Davy Klaassen – 7

Played to his strength and thanks to Memphis runs in behind, he was able to use his typical qualities more than against Norway. He did have a header on the bar and some close moments in the box but no cigar. A fine performance.

Frenkie de Jong – 7.5

Constantly prowling and hunting and scouting for openings. Strong on the ball, and in my view the player who added some oomph and pace to the game when after 20 minutes or so it was clear that the way Oranje was going was not going to cut it.

Gini Wijnaldum – 7

Added the runs to his game, made dirty yards and connected well with Berghuis on the right flank this time. Got his usual goal and was subbed by Van Gaal to keep him fresh for Turkey.

Cody Gakpo – 7.5

Cody needed some coaching initially re: his positioning but grew into the game and demonstrated his class at various times, whether it’s crossing, dribbling, pass and move or finishing. A glorious goal for him and boy did he enjoy it.

Memphis Depay – 8

Memphis led the line, Memphis gave the right example. He overcame a weak start and pushed himself to glory in this game. His penalty was a masterpiece and the Barca striker ran more than 11 kilometers for the team. Smart passing, some nice trickery for the fans and even an on-pitch selfie with a young fan. A mature performance.

Steven Berghuis – 7

Berghuis too needed some attention from the coach and after a horrid start grew into the game. He will always play his own game: passing with risk, trying to find the opening. I still feel he plays with the handbrake on as he had a couple of options to shoot himself. He created the Wijnaldum goal with a nifty flick and was involved in many attacks.

Steven Bergwijn – 7

Usually, a sub who has 20 minutes or so to play will not be able to impress much but Bergwijn had some amazing runs and great footwork (and a panna) to show the coach he truly is back. An amazing all round athlete, who can most likely play in the Memphis role, if need be.

Louis van Gaal – 7

Louis did what he needed to do. Logical tactics, logical player choices, logical substitutions.

It seems this will be Van Gaal’s system of choice, until he has more time to really work on the 5-3-2 or 3-4-3 system.

Wide wingers, a false #9, a dynamic runner on #10 and creative but ball-sure midfielders. He is right, we don’t have many wingers, but when you have Bergwijn, Malen, Gakpo, Berghuis, El Ghazi and Danjuma, you’re not in bad shape.

Memphis, Malen and Bergwijn can play the false 9. Luuk de Jong and Weghorst can act as pinch hitters when needed.

The dynamic #10 (as opposed to the playmaker #10 such as Bruno Fernandez) is also available in Klaassen, Van de Beek, Van Ginkel and Til, while Frenkie, Koopmeiners, Gravenberch and Propper can play in the creative deep playmaker role.

Tell my your thoughts!

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Oranje World Cup qualifiers: Bring it on!

After what can only be seen as the most electrifying transfer window ( Messi, Lukaku, C Ronaldo, Dumfries, Koopmeiners, Berghuis, Memphis, Luuk de Jong), the Dutch NT will commence their qualification journey for the World Cup 2022.

Louis van Gaal has only 1,5 days to prep the crucial match versus Norway, away, and had a pleasant training session with the squad (see video below). The only player missing from the group training was Memphis, who did an individual training inside. Van Gaal is convinced he will be ready for Norway.

Van Gaal was keeping the cards to his chest, not yet ready to share who will be the first goalie and what approach he will be taking for the Norway game. He did disclose the skipper (Virgil) and the two vice-captains (Wijnaldum and Daley Blind).

Van Gaal explained on the presser that he is grateful for the openness of the players in what they want, how they prefer to play and what their ambitions are. As he doesn’t have a lot of time, he needs to use what the players think, feel and want and he was pleased to see that the Dutch players have an opinion and a vision.

Van Gaal also emphasized that for him, the individual quality is always secondary to the team quality. Which is why he believes Norway is a dangerous opponent.

Asked about how to stop Haaland: “We need to stop and block the pass to Haaland. We also have pretty decent defenders, by the way, but making sure Haaland doesn’t get good service is key.”

Captain Virgil van Dijk was happy to be back and explained that he wasn’t feeling weaker or insecure due to his heavy injury. “I just need matches to get more rhythm.”

Gini Wijnaldum was asked about the Euro defeat: “We were devastated and we analysed what happened. I think looking back that we missed the team element against the Czechs. We wanted to solve the problem individually, but that wasn’t working. We forgot to play as a team. But we also need to be reasonable, we only had 10 days to get a masterclass in 5-3-2 and we did ok, but it’s only normal that we haven’t executed the system perfectly.”

Louis knows exactly how he wants to play versus Norway, but won’t divulge anything: “I am not going to make my colleague of Norway smarter than he is, already.” The players who play know it already. “I believe in clarity, I want the starters to be able to visualise the game, this will help them. And I want the non-players to be in a position to support the eleven starters.”

Asked about how this squad is different from the 2014 squad: “Not much different. These players are joyful, they enjoy what they do, they are very serious and ambitious and they are not shy to share their ideas. That is what every coach wants.”

I believe Oranje will win the game but only just: 1-2. Goals by Berghuis and Wijnaldum.

I expect a cagey and nervous match with lots of battling in midfield.

This is the line up I expect:

 

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Van Gaal presents… The Van Gaal show!

In typical form, Louis van Gaal was presented at the KNVB centre in Zeist, along with his staff.

As per usual, he couldn’t help but show his bluster. “I am not doing this for me. I am doing this to give back to Dutch football. Because, when I am sitting on my sofa and looking at what is going on, I too would not know which coach to call. Other than myself. So, I decided I am the best man for the job.”

KNVB Technical Director Nico-Jan Hoogma mumbled charisma-less into the mic, telling everyone that due to the very short prep time for the three September matches, they wanted someone who could make something out of this squad in no time. Someone with the experience to do it and with the authority to do it. This profile seemingly was made for Louis van Gaal.

When Louis started to say that usually, his strength lies in the gelling of a team over weeks of preparation, the Telegraaf immediately pounced: “Ah, so you are not the right man for the job! Nico Jan Hoogma said they picked you because there wasn’t a lot of time, and you say you usually need a lot of time. You’re the wrong man for the job?”

Van Gaal has a love-hate relationship with De Telegraaf (the Ajax newspaper) and definitely with Valentijn Driessen, the chief editor sports. Probably more a hate-hate relationship.

Louis went on to say that thanks to Zoom and Teams, he could do his usual introduction talks with the players now, instead of in trainings camp. He had spoken to 6 players already (Van Dijk, Memphis, Wijnaldum, Blind, De Vrij, Frenkie are names mentioned, but not confirmed) and Van Gaal could say that they were all “more than enthusiastic about him” (I am not sure what that means… does that mean Virgil was jumping up and down on the coach, in Tom Cruise style?) and that some players had told him they would like to have more clarity… Somehow Van Gaal thinks he is the man to give this and apparently gives a backstab to Frank de Boer…

When asked about the system, he said that 1-5-3-2 or 1-3-4-3 was the best system to play in, but he also confided that the players prefer the 1-4-3-3 (he always mentions the goalie as well). And he said: I always listen to the players.

“But to play 1-4-3-3 you need a strong goalie and good wingers. We don’t have that now. So when I look at our strength and the strength/weaknesses of our opponents, I might have to make a different choice.”

He lamented the fact that hardly any player has played for the full 90 minutes, with Malen a bad example of a player who played 40 mins in one game and 20 mins in another. He will select the team which has the best fitness, so players who fail to make minutes will not play.

When asked about vaccinations, he said he would respect the law. He will not force people to get vaccinated but from a team perspective, he does believe it’s best if players would. The Qatar question came up and he became the old Louis: “Why are you asking me this? Do you believe I might be ok with that situation? Why do you want my opinion? You asked Koeman, De Boer now me? Why?”

He didn’t think the players should generate any actions or statements. “I don’t believe we should use the players for this. They didn’t pick Qatar. It’s the Federations and the politicians who need to address this. Obviously, I can’t condone what happened there, but my role is to manage the National Team.”

Asked what he would do or say if the players do want to make a statement: “I will always listen to them. And if I think it’s appropriate and if the whole squad is behind it, I will condone it.”

Van Gaal also had to answer questions about his infamous speech to wave out the Dutch women team to the Olympics, where he said that “a bunch of so-called stars weren’t able to impress” putting his emphasis on the team interest, over individual interests. When grilled, he responded surprised: “Oh? Did you believe I meant the Dutch team? Why? I didn’t say that? I was referring to the French and the Portuguese. They have a team full of celebrities, but they didn’t perform. Oranje went out due to details. A chance missed, a bounce too many, a pass not accurate… And that was it. Football is decided on details. But my comment about the stars not performing, that was not about the Dutch. You are making these assumptions.”

Asked about his ambitions: “I want to win the World Cup. It is that simple. But it will be hard. I mean, it’s a gamble for me. And I don’t even wanted this for me. I was retired. But who else can do it? You tell me? But sure, today I am the great coach. I have a lot of fans and people who follow me, but when we lose vs Norway, and we could, than I’m suddenly a loser. That is how it works.”

Wesley Sneijder thinks the 3rd stint for Van Gaal will be a failure. “I don’t think he can do it. He really needs months with a group to get them to play like he wants. He simply doesn’t have the time and I don’t think he can cope with it. Also, he said all players applauded his signing? Yeah right! Of course, none of them will say otherwise. What do you expect? And he had an hour long talk with the players? Well, I can tell you that he has been the one talking for 50 minutes. I really hope it works but I fear that first week of 3 games will be a disaster.”

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