Our lively discussions on the forum sometimes show quite a gap in understanding and appreciation of the Oranje games and players.
Just like Daley Blind now (and players like Memphis, Kuyt, Nigel de Jong before them), it seems Steven Berghuis’ contributions are not truly appreciated.
Louis van Gaal said after the Belgium match up that with this 3-4-3 and with a solid execution of that system, Holland will always have a man-more situation anywhere on the pitch. “Whatever the Belgium did or could do, we were always outnumbering them.”
Frenkie de Jong and Steven Berghuis were the key players in this.
Months ago, Van Gaal lamented that “he didn’t have any real classic wingers”. At that point. Berghuis was still a right winger for Oranje (and Ajax) but with the break-through of Antony at Ajax, Berghuis was moved to the spine of the Ajax team. A signal for LVG to consider the same: “Berghuis is not the type of winger that takes on his direct opponent. So I decided to use him in the central part of the pitch.”
Belgium plays in a 3-4-3, like LVG wants. But Van Gaal also has a strong principle, to never play the same system as the opponent. “I don’t want to make it easy for them to make duos on the pitch, I want the opponent to have to think, to have to decide what to do. So I switched the roles in our midfield.” Where Belgium plays with one attacking mid and two holding midfielders, LVG decided to use one holding mid (Frenkie) and have Berghuis and Klaassen free in their movements.
In this way, he presented Belgium coach Martinez with some additional decision making. Now it was up to Kevin de Bruyne to defend against Frenkie, something the brilliant Citizen only did sparsely.
Defensively, it became easier for Oranje: Berghuis kept an eye on Witsel and Klaassen covered Vanaken. Frenkie only had to pick up De Bruyne, whenever he dropped back into midfield. Due to Berghuis’ smart positioning, we never got a man-more situation against us. We were always in control in midfield. As Van Gaal said in the post match presser: “Our midfield won the game for us.”
Berghuis dropping next to Frenkie to offer another option
Berghuis: “What the coach predicted was exactly what happened. We trained like this and we saw it happening exactly this way in the match. I played a bit deeper, at times close to Frenkie. This allowed us control in midfield and with Davy and his movements, we always had an option in midfield and were never outnumbered. I think we executed the plans really well.”
Frenkie moving up and creating man more situation
The 4th minute shows exactly how it all worked. The three Dutch central defenders (Timber, Van Dijk, Ake) are in position at the back, while Dumfries and Blind have moved up along the touch line. Frenkie drops back to assist with the build up, so now Holland has 4 players opposite 3 Belgium forwards. Once the forward pass is played, Berghuis drops back closer to Frenkie who can play in the Ajax midfielder. With Witsel pulled into that zone, Frenkie can come up – leaving De Bruyne behind – and again creating a man more situation. Holland kept on playing this cat and mouse game, luring the Belgium forwards to try and take the ball, without success.
In this situation, Frenkie dropped all the way back to a central defender’s role, luring De Bruyne with him. Berghuis and Klaassen are behind the Belgium controllers, who feel to be in … well… control. But when Berghuis drops deep to receive the ball, he has the freedom of midfield, allowing him to turn and pick his pass. Memphis was already on his bike. As Van Gaal said: “We always have the free man.”
Making Belgium believe they’re in control
Berghuis finding the space….
…and the pass
In the final third, Oranje did similar things: Blind and Dumfries kept the pitch wide and their movements kept at least two opponents busy. The four attacking players (Bergwijn, Depay, Berghuis, Klaassen) kept on changing positions, making the central defenders of Belgium nauseous.
Berghuis as right winger…
Berghuis’ heat map covered practically the whole pitch, as you can see in the following screen shots. Due to his movement, he always found time and space for the forward pass. The yield of his passing was a tad disappointing, with the only success the assist for the 0-2.
Berghuis as #10
Berghuis as left midfielder
Most of the stats show that Berghuis and De Jong were the two key players in Van Gaal’s plan to win the Battle of Midfield, versus Belgium. Only Blind and De Jong created more chances (4 vs 3 for Berghuis). Memphis had more shots (3) on target than Berghuis (2). Frenkie, Virgil and Daley Blind played more passes than Berghuis (44), who was subbed after 82 minutes.
Wednesday, Oranje plays Wales, in Cardiff. The Welshmen has just qualified for the World Cup by beating Ukraine 1-0. The Welsh Dragons will have some celebrations in the legs and might not play their best eleven. Good outlook for Oranje, in other words.
Tough to predict our line up. I think Cillesen will play 2 matches and Flekken will play 2.
I think we will see:
Hateboer – De Ligt – De Vrij – Ake – Malacia
Koopmeiners – Berghuis
Memphis – Bergwijn