Like you, I want the Dutch NT to shine. We all want the same thing here, I think, even though we don’t always look eye to eye in the how and the with whom side of the solution.
These past two matches – the Great System Reset by Louis van Gaal of the World Soccer Forum – should have given us some answers.
Lets see what we learned. I’m sure you will all be able to share your thoughts in the comments sector.
The biggest thing I learned is not a very good thing to have to learn…
Our team is not capable of 1) recognising a change in the opponent’s tactics and 2) adapting our own system in such a way that we can counter the opponent’s moves.
This for me is a key learning point and shocked me more than I would want to admit.
I believe being able to “read games” and demonstrate leadership as a result by taking action used to be our strong suit. In the days of Cruyff, Van Hanegem, Jansen and Vd Kuylen, this was part and parcel of our teams.
Players like Jan Peters, Ruud Krol and Hugo Hovenkamp were able to do this too and the next generation of players with Jan Wouters, Arnold Muhren, Frank Rijkaard and Ronald Koeman was also able to make autonomous decisions. In the 1998 team, we had players like Cocu and Frank de Boer who would be able to take control as Van Bommel and Sneijder were the ones doing it more recently.
Where are the football brains in this squad??
Surely, players with experience such as Virgil van Dijk, Daley Blind and Gini Wijnaldum should be able to see what the Danes were doing?? And even though Frenkie is still young, a player of his caliber? I can totally imagine that Malacia, De Ligt, Dumfries and Koopmeiners are still a bit timid maybe, but some of the others…
This is the sort of leadership we need
So, Denmark has one world class player (at least) in Eriksen. And we know him well. He played for Ajax and with Blind, and against Wijnaldum. I mean, everyone here knows where Eriksen plays and how.
But when the Danes bring him in, at the start of the first half, Van Gaal wants us to believe the team didn’t “get” what that meant and wasn’t able to respond?!?!? Really?
That Eriksen goal could have been stopped, should have been stopped.
And then it happened against Germany as well. We play with two midfielders (Malacia and Dumfries are wide, while Berghuis plays closer to the two forwards. Guess what: we’re outnumbered! And the team had to wait until the half time break to have Van Gaal explain this to them? So Frenkie didn’t say to Berghuis after 10 minutes: “Yo, Stevie, drop back into midfield ok, we’re being hammered!”. So the team needed the coach to make changes in the second half and then Oranje, and only after Van Gaal’s impressive coaching, was able to fight back?
Ludicrous. Where is Will Smith when you need him?
Van Gaal just found after the Denmark game that Eriksen is an attacking midfielder….
If this is all true, our biggest problem is on the table now: it’s a tactically ignorant squad who need the constant instructions from their
master coach, to be told what to do.
This is Problem #1 for me.
What else did we learn?
That the system is a handy thing to have, and it offers a sort of safety net to use, a stronghold of some sort, but…the system doesn’t win you games. The execution of it does.
Whether we played 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 or 3-4-3, if we don’t execute it properly, we will be mince meat after playing a top 10 nation.
So you know, these countries are all going for the title: Germany, Spain, Portugal, France, England, Argentina, Brazil, Belgium… In order to win against these teams, we need the system – whichever – to work AND we need our key players to show up.
I personally do believe in this system, but you can only play it with success if you have either 1) trained it extensively and then you might need the constant coaching from the sideline, Tuchel/Conte/Simeone style or 2) mature players who can take charge during the match. I think De Vrij, Frenkie de Jong and maybe maybe Memphis are able to add this to the game. A bit limited.
Another leader on the pitch, with his finger pointing and his passing….
Lets look at the players…
The Goal Keeper situation is not great. Flekken couldn’t convince and he does deserve more time, of course, but he didn’t look like the guy who ruled the area. His passing is fine, but his main job is to stop balls from going in. He didn’t convince me. As long as Cillesen and Bijlow are fit, with Krul or Flekken, we’ll be ok.
The Central Defenders all play for top teams and we do have a couple more in Botman, Struijk, Timber, Schuur and Teze. Still, I would expect Virgil to be more adaptable and him struggling with the 5 at the back is a surprise. At Liverpool, he plays with a world class goalie behind him, a world class defensive mid in front of him ( Fabinho) and a good solid centre back next to him. He was a bit lost, against the Germans and against Denmark in the second half too. De Ligt was ok, I felt, and De Vrij will probably be Van Gaal’s first choice at the back.
As for the Wingbacks, Daley Blind is no wingback. He can play there but that will mean some adaptations on the left wing in front of him. Malacia or Wijndal or Vilhena will be better options. On the right, Dumfries for me, is not good enough. He is probably one of the best we have, but compared to his colleagues from Germany, Italy, France and England, he is weak. His positioning is weak, his first touch is 50-50, his timing is off at times and he gets lost in confined spaces. We need someone else there. Karsdorp gets my vote.
Another example of a playmaker with leadership skills
I would bring both Blind and Dumfries along to Qatar though…
Midfield positions should be covered with Frenkie, Teun, Donny, Ryan Gravenberch, Marten de Roon and hopefully Joey Veerman. In case of emergency, Daley Blind can play there as can Nathan Ake, or Davy Klaassen.
The attacking mid position needs work. Joey Veerman? Cody Gakpo? If Steven Berghuis is too lightweight, so will Veerman be. Klaassen and Wijnaldum can play there of course, but so can Noa Lang, Danjuma, Memphis and Bergwijn.
Upfront, I was not impressed with Donyell Malen, although I do like him a lot usually. He’s quick, he finds his team mates easily, but in the Germany game, it felt like he needed to do what Bergwijn did versus Denmark? I think Memphis will step up as per usual in the big games. Weghorst will be an ideal super sub.
Cocu, highly rated as a tactical brain in midfield by all his former team mates
I personally cannot see any new attacking players make their way into the squad. Brobbey might be a candidate, other than that I don’t see a lot of emerging Dutch talent up front.
I still think we can have a solid team for the World Cup. But we will need some key players to be fit and in form, particularly in the axis of the team: goalie, central defenders, playmaker, #10 and striker. Or: Bijlow, Van Dijk/De Vrij, Frenkie, Gakpo, Memphis (for instance).
I do fear that the intense approach by the modern coaches (Conte, Bielsa, Ten Hag, Tuchel, Van Gaal, Nagelsmann, etc) result in a sort of straightjacket approach and players are losing their initiative and the balls to take the game in their hands, despite what the coach says or wants.
Cruyff, Keizer, Jansen and Van Hanegem and co did this regularly, but they did make sure they won their games…
We need a player with balls to do this. I don’t think we have many of those. Frenkie is more an ideal son-in-law type (but what a player) so my hope is now on Lang and Danjuma to be those players.
On another note, Ziyech and Mazraoui are on the fringe of the Moroccan team now… How awesome would it be to have both these players wearing Orange in the future…. ;-).