Analysis: Why Oranje Fails….

Yay! The poisonous chalice is empty! Now all we need to do is live through that ratchet World Cup and we can start anew. VI Pro is doing us all a huge favour publishing very good and insightful stuff on Dutch football. I will borrow their insights for you in the coming weeks.

This article was published by VI Pro and explains exactly what I tried to say many times but haven’t been able to express as well as the man quoted in this article. The original article zoomed in on Gini Wijnaldum. But the context applies to the whole national team.

And the man to shed light eloquently on our woes, is not Louis van Gaal. It’s not Johan Cruyff, or Wim van Hanegem or Frank de Boer. It’s a guy most of you won’t have heard of: Pepijn Lijnders. In case some of you wonder how to pronounce his name: in English you would spell it like this: Pepine Lineders.

Who the hell is Pepijn Lijnders? Read about it here

The introduction anecdote is about Wijnaldum and Liverpool FC.

The Reds have been practicing a different system in the run up to the West Ham game. The 4-3-3 will be replaced by a tweaked 4-4-2 to stop the ongoing defensive issues. Wijnaldum got injured in the CL match, so Henderson and Can are supposed to play the holding roles in midfield. But Henderson gets injured on the day of the match. Milner, multifunctional, is picked as his replacement, but does he have the legs still, for this role?

Liverpool’s medical team comes with surprising news though. Wijnaldum is fit to play! Jorgen Klopp doesn’t hesitate. He picks Gini for the Henderson role. Wijnaldum did travel to London with the squad but didn’t take his football boots as he wasn’t supposed to play at al… And without having had a minute of training in the new system, Wijnaldum plays the West Ham game, the full 90 minutes, as if he never played in another system his whole life. He is very neat in possession, with Can, he shield and guards the backline and coached and talks to his team mates. Wijnaldum is seen as a key player in Klopp’s Liverpool.

And how different is all of this at Oranje? Wijnaldum seems lost. Like a University student trying to find his way at Primary School. But he can’t make sense of this once so familiar environment….

It’s time to listen to the man who works with him daily. Liverpool assistant coach Pepijn Lijnders.: “Gini is terrific in running and moving. But he needs to have clarity where to move to.”

So, we have four different NT managers and Gini played with seventeen (17!!) different team mates in midfield in different systems and in different roles since that summer in 2014.

With Daley Blind, Gini is the only constant factor in the ratatouille that is the Dutch NT. In this context alone, it’s not strange that Wijnaldum can’t flourish. If the farmer would plough his soil everyday, seeds won’t get the chance to grow.

These are the players Gini played with since the WC2014: Nigel de Jong, Wesley Sneijder, Daley Blind, Leroy Fer, Jordy Clasie, Davy Klaassen, Jonathan de Guzman, Davy Propper, Ibrahim Afellay, Riechedly Bazoer, Marco van Ginkel, Kevin Strootman, Tonny Vilhena, Jorrit Hendrix, Stijn Schaars, Bart Ramselaar, Marten de Roon.

Pepijn Lijnders mentions this lack of consistency as the first reason why there is now flow. “You can’t judge and compare players without the context. Everyone yaps about “lack of quality” but I disagree strongly. What lacks, is stability and leadership. Players need two things: clarity and confidence. And these two elements were lacking.”

He goes on: “The lack of consistency is or was dramatic. in the coaching staff and in the squad. Continuity and a clear match plan to play the opponent in the key moments in the game are highly important factors. Maybe the most important aspect. This is how you go from eleven good players to a very good team!”

And the worst part is: it doesn’t seem all this swirling and swaying hasn’t ended yet. Dick Advocaat hopefully moves on after these friendlies. And the new coach will have to find a way to create a winning team for the Euros 2020. Which means the shuffling about hasn’t ended yet. Lijnders: “Everytime you point one finger to one player, four fingers point to the collective. Problems are never the result of one player, but the result of a failing collective. A simple example: it makes a huge difference if a player needs to defend a space of 10, 20 or 30 meters on the pitch. The bigger that space, the bigger the chance he’ll make an individual mistake. But it all starts with the positioning of the whole team.”

Individually, Wijnaldum is not a great defender. Not at Liverpool, not at Oranje. He doesn’t have the positional smarts of Matic (Man United) to excel in interceptions. Nor does he have the duelling strength of Kante. Put Wijnaldum in a big space in a badly organised Oranje and he looks more and more like the 17 year old Number 10 of Feyenoord: hard working, dynamic, but also wild and without control. That is the Wijnaldum we see in Oranje: a lost footballer in a team without a plan.

But, Wijnaldum has all the tools and ammo that make his so perfect for top football. He has tremendous legs and is extremely disciplined. Ask Wijnaldum, like Van Gaal did in the WC2014, to track his direct opponent for 90 minutes and he will. As if his life depends on it. Wijnaldum hasn’t played for seven months due to injury at that stage, but Van Gaal picks him to make his 5-3-2 work. Since then, the only game in which he excelled was the friendly in June 2016 when his role is to press forward in the Number 10 role. When there is a structure and he has a specified task, Wijnaldum can impress. And this will definitely apply to Strootman, Klaassen, Clasie and many other players who tend to disappoint in the orange jersey.

Lijnders summarizes: “Gini is a wonderful runner. But you need to make it clear to him where and when to run. Everything starts and stops with the distances between the players and the right shape of the team. Clarity amongst the players. So they know what they have to do, and what they can rely upon from their mates. If we practice this time and time again, quality pops up. The individual development will move up. The joy and confidence returns. We never lose a single minute at training to work on this. Our strength, as Liverpool, is this aspect in combination with energy and pace. But you can say this about Napoli, Man City, Bayern, Chelsea…any modern football team. A top team without energy and pace is like driving a Ferrari without fuel in the tank.”

Wijnaldum was on the radar of many big clubs already when he was 14 years old. His family didn’t allow him a big move, where his mates succumbed for the financial carrot. He stayed at Feyenoord until the Rotterdam club needed to sell him to survive financially. Fer and Wijnaldum’s fees saved the club but Gini remained in the Eredivisie. And when he finally did move to Newcastle, Jorgen Klopp and Maurizio Pochettino immediately recognised his skillset for the top level. Both did all they could to persuade the midfielder to move to their club. Both coaches love aggressive pressing play and both needed a catalyst in midfield. Spurs decides to stop the bidding war with Liverpool and Klopp was the victor.

At Liverpool, Wijnaldum is given a speed course defending. Jorgen Klopp: “At Liverpool, no one is responsible for one opponent. Everyone is responsible for everyone.” In other words: all positions need to be taken, all the time. It doesn’t matter by whom. Wijnaldum: “Klopp is very clear about his ideas. And I picked it up quickly. It’s actually great fun to play in a team like this. And when the ball is on the other side of the pitch, I don’t even watch my direct opponent, because I know we pressure the ball so well, that we’ll have it back in no time.”

And all this happens at Liverpool in a playing area on the pitch which is never more than 25 meters. In the Klopp model, Wijnaldum isn’t so much the man who wins the ball back, but the man who ignites the fires. Lijnders: “Exactly. The team wins the ball, preferably as high up the pitch as possible. So Gini doesn’t play man to man, he is responsible for the covering of passing lines and he takes the initiative to push up and forward.”

Pepijn Lijnders and Jurgen Klopp

A good example, against West Ham. Fernandes wants to dribble forward with the ball and it’s Wijnaldum stepping up around the middle line to put pressure on the West Ham player. He has two options, go for the short pass or play a long ball. If he picks the short pass option, two or three Liverpool players will be ready to corner the West Ham player. He decides to play a long pass, hastily, which sails over everyone into the safe hands of Mignolet. The stats won’t show the work and contribution of Wijnaldum, but no one at Liverpool needs statistics to understand Wijnaldum’s value in the team.

But the minute he strolls into Hotel Huis ter Duin to join the Oranje squad, the value of the midfielder diminishes as Oranje lacks all these patterns. In the Premier League, he’s responsible for a zone and passing lines. In Oranje, he is responsible for a direct opponent. Lijnders thinks this is not necessarily a problem. “He is a top pro and an intelligent player. The only change for him, is to change his focus.”

Wijnaldum himself: “Klopp alway says: it’s not the best players that win the title. It’s not the best team that wins it, but the team with the best plan.”

And there is the problem. A plan, that is exactly what Oranje has been lacking since the World Cup 2014. Since Wijnaldum made the move to Liverpool, he only scored one goal for Oranje: against Liverpool. Pretty poor for a player whose strength is to penetrate the box at the right time. This strong suit of the midfielder is well hidden in Oranje.

Whenever Wijnaldum changes from red to orange, he shoots less, he is less often in the opponent’s box, he passess less and creates less opportunities. Lijnders: “That is such a waste. Gini is a quick passer. Always ready to press and ready to switch the play. But, when he has less options, like any player, he becomes predictable and loses his strength. He is such an amazing pass & move player, has eye for the forward pass and is very solid in possession. Jurgen Klopp has a lot of faith in him.”

Lijnders and Wijnaldum

Strootman, Memphis, Robben, they’re all the victim of the poor positioning game of the Dutch national team. The bad positioning results usually in square balls instead of depth. Robben is forced to dribble against multiple opponents. And the more the defenders play square, the easier it is for the opponent, even the weaker ones, to keep their shape.

Lijnders sees that Wijnaldum is at his best when he can trust his intuition in the turn-around situations at Liverpool. “We have a very tight organisation with Liverpool, with lots of movement around the ball. Add the talent of our players and we can give colour to the game in specific moments. This is where you need practice practice practice. To create the circumstances in which our talent can blossom. And that is exactly what Oranje needs. Speed is the result of movement. By having options. Through spaces being opened up. Timing. By picking the right spot to move into, there are more options for a player on the ball to pick the pass. Unpredictability is the result of movement. There is no easy way to do this. It takes practice practice practice. That is the only way.”

A very hopeful analysis and conclusion. When Oranje can start to build a new team with a solid plan, we will be able to see the Wijnaldum of Liverpool, the Memphis of Lyon, the Quincy of Spartak and the Dost of Sporting…


Bookmark and Share


  1. Jan:

    This is a good article. Maybe Pepijn Lijnders should be our new NT coach? 😀

    Ultimately, though isn’t he really just saying what we already know? Club teams have the time, resources and flexibility to assemble players, put those players in the best positions to be successful and form a coherent system of play around them that they practice extensively. National teams don’t have those luxuries.

    Can it be the case that Wijnaldum is not given sufficient instruction for the NT? Or maybe that he just doesn’t fit as well in the system that our team plays or with the Dutch players around him. You might say that Messi has the same problem at a slightly different level.

    Unfortunately, we can’t just buy new players to fit our system…

      1. They might have the time but the NT should also realize to change up the plan if it clearly isn’t working. They just keep going with the exact same guys generally and same system

  2. There were a lot of player changes during the Van Gaal era as well but of course there was a plan. The WK campaign was mostly doomed during the EK campaign. How? the EK qualification group was so easy that was the right time to make the transition from the old guard to the new guard (yes even with the less talent they are still capable).

    Van Gaal used the minions of the WK2014 qualification group to build a solid team. We got very lucky we had more minions in the EK2016 qualification group but we squandered the chance. If the team was given to Koeaman, Advocaat or any other competent coach during that time the results today would be different. The KNVB played a role too in the confusion of objectives and plan …

    I can see how some of you hate DA, but you have to admit after just 6 months of averaging coaching if you will, things look already better. Imagine if a pro coach had the team for 2 years and some opponents of the caliber of Turkey to build a team on.

    I am sure with a better plan from the KNVB and with a more suitable coach selection we will return very soon to the big tournaments.

  3. I have a question:

    Did Danny Blind know all these things Lijnders said?

    It’s evident the reasons why Strootman or Wijnaldul fail: the system.

    And I am sure that Blind knew this. But why he didn’t create a plan, a system, pick a bunch of players and gave them the necessary regularity. I mean, Lijnders is not discovering the wheel!

  4. @ Nicolaas:

    Continuing our conversation from the prior thread:

    Your problem is that you’re seeing nothing but your dreams come true when you’re staring at the world in your rearview…

    With you it’s now you see him, now you don’t
    Some managers are here for the moment and then they gone
    What happened to ’em?
    Well let’s see, it seems to be a mystery,
    But I never let the money get to me…

    1. Aloysius:

      Are you actually trying to start a rap battle with me? Wasn’t our body paint war enough?

      I don’t think you have the street cred to keep quoting mid-90s hip hop, particularly Tupac.

      I think Taio Cruz may be more apt for you. You can get us to the WC finals, but…

      You’re only gonna break break our break break our hearts…

      1. Hahahaha, you ain’t knowin’ what I mean by starin’ through the rearview
        So, since you ain’t knowin’ what I mean, let me break down understandin’ the world
        The world is behind us. Once a manager get an understandin’ of the game, and what the levels and the rules of the game is, then the world ain’t no trick no more,
        The world is a game to be played.
        So, now we lookin’ at the world from, like behind us.
        Managers know what we gotta do; just gotta put our mind to it and do it.
        It’s all about the papers, money rule the world.
        Players make the world go round.
        Real managers do what they want, bitch managers do what they can…

        Guess which you are?

  5. Jan I don’t think we need to hear from this Lijnders guy to tell what wijnaldum can and can’t do. If you look at the forwards for Liverpool,they are world class and can match any top team right now. This is where alot of work has been cut out for the midfielders and if look at the forwards,they hit teams hard on counters while the midfield can maintain defensive line assisting the backline. This has been the highlight for Liverpool thus far. I have watched many Liverpool games where wijnaldum has been unanimous but you have to except,AT Liverpool wijnaldum best position has been at 10 but again in a more defensive role because as soon as Countiho cuts in from the left,that central midfield area gets overcrowded. This was something that we saw when both sneijder and vaart used to be on the pitch together and vaart would fade out jus because sneijder would intrude his territory.

    This is very and only reason why he fades out in NT. The world load in NT is double and he jus can’t balance it out. I have said this before in every second successive game you will find him lost.

    In 4 years if a player cant establish himself,its simply no use dragging with him.even from the Newcastle days its was evident that he was a very versatile forward player and this may be one of the reasons why he has not been able to establish himself in NT. He continusoly has being playing out of position both at Club and NT level and at the same timr hasnt established what is his preferred position. Under Blind he featured a lot at BTB which again didn’t help the situation at all.

    Even in another 4 years,I still don’t think he will be able to establish himself in NT,given how things are unfolding for him at Liverpool.he will always be an integral member of the Liverpool team just because he blends exceptionally well around the current players and come NT he again will have to balance the work load which again could a big factor in the outcome of his performance.

    Also agree what JB has said on top.

  6. Wilson, thank you dismissing the article I did on Lijnders.

    Clearly, you knew all this already and you probably have put it eloquently into words many times here?


    I think his comments (and even the responses on this article by some of you) clearly demonstrates the problem.

    Apparently, some of you think that what Lijnders is saying and suggesting can only be done at club level and not at NT level?

    Well, I will tell you you are wrong.

    Typical example: Oranje 1974. Ajax, Feyenoord and PSV all played a similar style. Wim Jansen and Johan Cruyff had no issues playing together.

    Another example: Germany’s NT. Spain’s NT.

    Did they have more time to work together than Oranje?


    Their competitions, clubs, youth development systems all sing from the same songsheet, and as a result, Low has players from different ages and different clubs all gelling together nicely.

    We have made ourselves obsolete with old-fashioned ideas about systems, ball possession and rigid running lines (Van Gaal!).

    If people like Lijnders could start at the KNVB to work on the coaching training, the youth competitions and the tactics of the youth squads, you’ll get players who can make the decisions on the pitch, players who can and dare to play the forward pass, etc etc.

    In Germany, they now use the “half space” as a new area on the pitch (I think the term is) which is not the wing but the channel between the wing and the axis of the team.

    We have fallen behind and we need vision to bring us back into the 21st century.

    So don’t give me that crap of “oh, we can not do this at NT level”. Yes. We. Can!

    And we need to.

    1. Jan:

      I clearly don’t have all the answers here (otherwise I would have a different job and we would have already won the World Cup).

      But to put myself in the role of the Dutch player to your Dutch coach, I will say “Yes, but…”

      I respect what Lijnders is saying and doing, BUT I think that Wijnaldum and Klopp may not be the best examples to use.

      I respect Wijnaldum as a player, but what is he really? A CDM, a BTB, a #10, a wing? He doesn’t neatly fit into any of those roles. Should he have to? No, but he needs to be able to fill a role within the system we play as the Netherlands. He provides lots of energy and movement and defensive cover. I’m sure we can devise a system that allows him to have more success at the national team level, but is that the model we want going forward? Is he the type of player we want to build our system around?

      Turning to Klopp, his Dortmund / Liverpool style is dependent on furious work rate and gegenpressing. They don’t need playmaking in the midfield because their pressing wins them the ball in dangerous situations to begin with. Yes, again we could play that way internationally, but does it suit the style and abilities of the players we have (or will have)? We have traditionally relied on patience in possession and individual attacking brilliance. Chile plays this way to some extent internationally, but it requires complete buy-in and commitment from the players and a high fitness level.

      You are correct about the old-timers as well – they were not all from one club, but the majority were from Ajax and had great success and confidence playing together. The others filled in to their respective roles and adapted to the system. Virtually all were playing domestically as well and thus had some ongoing familiarity with what was becoming Dutch school football at the time.

      More recent successful national teams – Germany and Spain — have had a similar luxury of a starting line-up comprised predominantly of one or two clubs – Bayern or Barcelona and Madrid. Those players play with great confidence and familiarity because they are used to playing together in a similar system at the club level. Scatter the Barcelona or Bayern players throughout Spain or Germany and those countries have a much tougher road to the final.

      Even our recent “Fantastic Four” had some experience playing together at the club level – Sneijder and VdV at Ajax and then with Robben at Madrid. And when you look at our qualification efforts this time around, when we put a few Feyenoord players together in the midfield, suddenly things begin to flow and automatisms occur.

      I completely agree that we need to modernize and to embrace more of a positional play approach and tactics so that all players are familiar with the same style, objective and structure. They will then react in the same way when the ball is played to certain players in certain areas and then can move and play with confidence knowing where and when others will arrive. And yes, that can be accomplished at the national team level. But it is a lot harder to do so in a compressed time period and especially when it doesn’t already exist at the club level. LVG was able to implement a 5-3-2 system on the fly in 2014, but that was done out of sheer necessity and still really relied on the individual improvisation of Robben, Sneijder and RVP to make things happen in attack.

      Finally, half spaces are fantastic – one of the best places to attack from. The changes that occur in passing angles, field of vision, level of pressure and available options from that particular location make attacking in the half spaces extremely advantageous, and even my younger girls team has been introduced to the concept.

      And so, ultimately, I think I agree with you and Lijnders. We can no longer take the Marc Wilmots / Harry Redknapp approach of just relying on our attacking talent to figure things out on their own. There has to be a tactical system and understanding among all of the players in order for the team to operate efficiently and effectively. Football is becoming increasingly complex and is more and more run from the touchline. But we can still keep it simple too. if we can work to instill these notions at the youngest ages on up, less work will need to be done at the highest level. As Lijnders says, you need to practice, practice, practice! And if similar systems and understandings (and practices) are already happening at the club level, it makes the national team manager’s job that much easier.

      1. Just as a final point – these days it really is all about a coherent structure / system that the manager brings. This was certainly the case with Michels back in the 70s and in the late 80s when we had great talent. And just look at the difference in results once DA took over from Blind this year. Advocaat’s system isn’t really even innovative, but there is a structure to it.

        Guardiola is really the perfect example. Guardiola played under, and learned and developed his system from, Cruyff. He got rid of the deadwood at Barcelona and implemented his system utilizing homegrown youth team players who worked seamlessly together and played with great confidence (plus Messi :D). Barcelona became the world-wide model for footballing excellence. Spain won the 2008 Euros, the 2010 World Cup and the 2012 Euros. Were they already good internationally? Yes. Did all of their players come from Barca? No. Was this merely a coincidence? Perhaps…

        Guardiola moved to Bayern, adapted his Barca system and taught it to Bayern’s players. Bayern dominated in Germany and Germany won the 2014 World Cup. Were they already good internationally? Yes. Did all of their players come from Bayern? No. Was this merely a coincidence? Perhaps…

        Guardiola moved to Manchester City, adapted his Barca / Bayern system and taught it to City’s players. City has begun to dominate in England… But City has very few English players.

        Meanwhile, Pochettino is developing England’s national team at Spurs…

    1. Jan there is one thing I can’t understand,why bring the past to the present when NT is clearly in a you seriously think what unfolded in the past can be repeated again with this batch of players.its a joke.Why not clean the mess in the backyard first before going down the road again.
      Like you mentioned in one of earlier post,its about ” total football in new style” and you need the right players for jus can’t expect somebody to say something to somebody and expect things to materialize

      The only thing I agree with you above is on the mentality of the old dutch coach.

      Also I don’t see any reason why there is a need for a better person for the development at youth level. I think most are doing good job.the problem is the transition part from U21s to the main team.the other countries are enjoying a smooth flow while NT is stuck in 70s and 80s.this is why I wrote about england and southgate who vs a team like Brazil gave the opportunity to their upcoming talents to upgrade and show their potential.this is how the transition needs to take place.

      “Another example: Germany’s NT. Spain’s NT.Did they have more time to work together than Oranje? NO!”
      I think it is jus a perception that all are from the same songsheet. You have look at players individually before pointing at the system that they came through.Barcelona yes,but others its a big question mark.after 2014 dismal performance that too is fading with most of the players now in the Spain team not being Barcelona graduates and are scattered all around in other leagues. Isco,Asensio,Saul and others who are doing well in another top leagues.

      Germany, I can’t see it from any angle.

      1. The German system is legendary, Willis, and the dominance/composition of Bayern is… definitive. The training discipline and consistency across Germany is unequaled.

        It’s quite a fecking songsheet.

  7. @JB

    Do you think Pep will be able to use his Barcelona/ Bayern style and take an average team to the top.again what ever he has learnt needs the right players to execute it and this is why he prefers to go to clubs where he can get the the players he want and those who can fit in his style. At city he went and cleared the dead wood and brought in new players who can execute what he no genius give the same money to Wenger he will come up with another invincibles.

    1. Wilson:

      So this is really the $1,000,000 question, right? I have lots of thoughts on this, so I will try to be succinct. In short, I think the answer is most definitely “Yes” (although my answer has probably changed over the course of the years). But that answer is also qualified because for Guardiola to go to a team / players not prepared for his style, it will just take a lot longer to fully implement his system.

      2008 Barcelona was in some ways a perfect storm for Guardiola. He became the first team coach after having managed the second team, and upon arrival, kicked out Ronaldinho, Deco, etc., allowing Messi to step into the spotlight. Further, Barcelona already had veteran players to provide leadership and stability, such as Abidal, Puyol, Marques, Eto’o and Henry. Finally, you had the emergence of Barca’s golden generation of Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets, Valdes, Pique, Pedro, etc. at just the right time. And like our 1974 World Cup team changed the way the world played football, so did Barcelona in 2008.

      At that point in history, diminutive Spanish midfielders were not highly sought after. The biggest transfer signings of the following year were Kaka, Cristiano Ronaldo, Ibrahimovic, etc. Guardiola changed the game entirely, but he had a built-in framework and foundation for doing so, but which by today’s standards was not comprised of high-priced international superstars (the most expensive players on their squad were Henry, Alves and Eto’o (all in the mid €20s)).

      At Bayern Munich, the challenge would be whether he could replicate what he did at Barcelona – could he play the style he wanted with a group of players that had not been brought up in that system (and in fact had won the Champions League the previous season using an entirely different approach)? And the answer was again “Yes”, sort of. The Bayern players adapted to his system and he also adapted to them, as through Robben and Ribery, emphasis shifted to play on the wings and their inverted winger roles. Neuer came into his own as the world’s best keeper (and sweeper) and both old and young players (such as Lahm and Kimmich) thrived under his tutelage. Yet still, Guardiola needed to import additional players who understood his approach and could implement his system in an expedited way – Thiago, Xabi Alonso and Bernat joined and Gomez, Kroos and Mandzukic left (they also of course added Goetze and Lewandowski just to kill off any potential competition from Dortmund as well). All of these players were not necessarily high priced superstars, but were intelligent, highly skilled players who could operate within his system of positional play.

      Manchester City is the next challenge, where Guardiola took on arguably his least talented club. He also entered a league with a fundamentally different approach to playing the sport, where speed, physicality and relentless running were in vogue.
      Incoming players were Gundogan (€20 — who essentially didn’t play the first season), Sane (€37.5), Stones (€47.5!!!), Bravo (€15) and Gabriel Jesus (€27). Outgoing were Dzeko and Jovetic (combined €23). Joe Hart, Nasri and Bony were all loaned out.
      This season more culling – Bernardo Silva, Ederson, Kyle Walker, and Benjamin Mendy (at approximately €190 total) arrived, and Caballero, Clichy, Navas, Sagna, Zabaleta, Kolarov were out (mostly on free transfers). And so, while City spent a great deal this summer, there was virtually no market demand for all the players they released – which says a lot about who was there when Guardiola arrived. And now the existing attack, comprised of Aguero, Silva, de Bruyne, Sane, Jesus and even Sterling are thriving in his system.

      The reality is that Guardiola understands the type of players who will flourish in his system. At Barcelona, he had most of them ready-made for him (as his philosophy paralled that of Cruyff and the La Masia academy). At the other clubs he’s moved to, he didn’t have that youth system in place and so he’s had to teach his positional play to the existing players and bring in compatible reinforcements.

      In the interest of disclosure, I’m a huge Johan Cruyff fan, but somewhat ambivalent about Guardiola. I was enthralled by his 2008 Barca team, but the successive iterations became increasingly frustrating and boring to me, as Guardiola began to experiment with all-midfielder line-ups and attempt 100% possession, which takes a lot of the fun out of the matches. Further, Bayern has such an unfair advantage in Germany that it’s hard to root for them, and City is such a product of oil money that they’re pretty unlikeable as well. And despite City’s current dominating record, I still see plenty of room for improvement in their play and don’t feel like they’ve hit top gear yet.

      So, in summary, I think Guardiola and his system will succeed anywhere, but if the proper players aren’t in place to implement it, it will just take a lot longer to develop organically. And the proper players are not necessarily the Ibras, the Pogbas, the Ronaldos, etc. They are the Iniestas and the Mullers and the de Bruynes, who are not physically dominant players but rely on skill and intelligence to prevail.

      Personally, am I frustrated the Guardiola has hopped from powerhouse to powerhouse, a la Phil Jackson in the NBA? Certainly. But I understand his selfish (reputation, time and effort) reasons for doing so, and I concede that he did walk away from Messi (arguably the best player in the world) to compete in different leagues and learn to speak entirely different languages, and has succeeded everywhere he’s gone. And the best part is that, while Guardiola’s evolving style is changing the way the world plays the sport, its roots and lineage trace directly back to our Dutch football.

  8. Wilson, I struggle to communicate with you.

    You seem to claim you knew already what Lijnders said. But you also claim this can’t be achieved at NT? And you keep on commenting on things I supposedly have said, but it’s unclear what quotes you are referring to??

    I’m sorry man, I’m lost.

    What makes you say I bring the past in to the present? What does that even mean?

    What mess, in what backyard?

    All I know is, that our players are developed in “old style 4-3-3”. In the Eredivisie it’s fine. They can cope (Fer, Berghuis, Memphis) but when they move to a bigger league, they clearly need a strong coach to gel them into their system.

    Memphis failed at ManU, because whole ManU failed under Van Gaal.

    At Lyon, he’s found his feet.

    Players like Strootman, Blind, Wijnaldum, Promes, Van Dijk do really well in bigger leagues but when they come to the NT they play a lot worse.

    The reason is staring us in the face.

    “Germany, I can’t see it from any angle”. What do you mean??

    Frank de Boer said this week he’s not ready for the NT yet. He wants to have a club team on a daily basis.

    1. Jan,I think JB has already put what I was trying to point out,in better words however will jus clarify few things which you couldnt get it.

      “Past to present”you mentioned on wim Jansen and Cruyff having no problem playing together to wijnaldum playing both at club and NT level . Some of you earlier blogs also has being a comparative one between the past era to the present day ones. From modern day soccer point of perspective,you have to ask whether, is it applicable?.Present day everything is in a mess. No transition, No smooth flow, player quality,management etc then why compare ot to the era where things were totally opposite to what present day is unfolding.

      “Clean the mess in the back yard”

      I think this jus been discussed in detail after the failure of both Danny,Dick and as well as KNVB leading to WC qualification failure.

      “Germany,can’t see it from any angle”

      Basically the influence of total football.present day,the club academics in bundasliga are steaming at max thrust and producing many talents whom bundaslisga will always be a solid platform to develop compared to eredivisie and you can expect this to continue at a considerable rate in years to come. Don’t think these has something to do with “all are from same song sheet as you mentioned.low is lucky to be at the helm at this point in time and any coach replacing him will have the same luxury going forward.

      Adding on if I’m not wrong than in an interview Johan Cruyff said,you can use total football in any formation,if you can execute it to the fullest. The dutch have sticked to 4-3-3 from 70s and 80s era while other countries including club teams have improvised and moved on. You look at players like Van Ginkel,clasie,Proper,klaassen,wiwijnaldum,all fade out when playing in 2 man holding mid.this is simply because they have been groomed in that traditional style of point backwards or point forward midfield in eredivisie.I think its high time they also starting looking at other formation and try the same philosophy so that they can produce overall midfielders rather than jus a particular type.they need to realize this at eredivisie levels especially with foreign players who are not around in NT or unless deploying 3 midfielder playing together at club level.

  9. And to JB:

    You write really good posts and add terrific value here. Thanks.

    But we agree to disagree. Some of your comments:

    “I respect Wijnaldum as a player, but what is he really? A CDM, a BTB, a #10, a wing? …. Is he the type of player we want to build our system around?”

    No, I didn’t say that. I used Wijnaldum as Lijnders is with Liverpool and able to give an indepth analysis of Gini’s play.

    But this applies to practically all players: Dost, Promes, Strootman, Propper, Memphis, a lot of players not really peaking in Oranje. And this post is not about Wijnaldum specifically, but about the lack of system/approach in Oranje that is of today and gives clarity to players as to what is needed.

    I don’t believe in the so-called box to box/playmaker/destroyer midfield. See how most teams have midfielders who can do all of this. Matic, Pogba, De Rossi, Thiago, Vidal, Ramsey, etc. All dynamic, all good tacklers, good runners, can give the assist and score goals.

    “More recent successful national teams – Germany and Spain — have had a similar luxury of a starting line-up comprised predominantly of one or two clubs – Bayern or Barcelona and Madrid. Those players play with great confidence and familiarity because they are used to playing together in a similar system at the club level.”

    Yes, but if the Dutch development style will develop into a modern consistent system (like in Germany) it doesn’t matter too much where they’re from. In the NT France, they all play somewhere else, but they can do it too. And in Spain, it’s players from Atletico, Man City, Bayern, Barca, Real, Chelsea, etc. Not just from two teams.

    1. Jan:

      I think we typically agree on 95% of what we discuss. I think you have a great tactical understanding of the sport, with a sense for the subtleties as well that others don’t often take the time or effort to try to understand.

      When I read your posts, I find myself nodding along with the virtually everything you write, and when I don’t, my reaction is typically “wow, I hadn’t thought about it that way”, or “that’s a really good counterpoint to where my thinking was headed”.

      And so, when I step away I feel like I am much better informed and thoughtful in my own views. I really enjoy this blog and the time and effort that goes into it is greatly appreciated. It’s probably pretty easy to write puff pieces when everything is going great, but this is an especially compelling period, as we try to figure out what has gone wrong and how we fix it.

    2. Jan:

      Just to follow up more substantively as well – Wijnaldum is, on one hand, frustrating in his lack of a clear role with our team, but his versatility and ability to play virtually anywhere is also a huge asset. He could almost be another (maybe better) Kuyt for us.

      My only point was that, although everything that Lijnders says about Wijnaldum is true, and how his fit and direction in Klopp’s system at Liverpool is far better than with our national team, I just don’t think that Wijnaldum and Liverpool are necessarily the right example to use when analyzing the current state of Dutch football internationally (and our alleged lack of a system). I’d be much more interested in understanding how Memphis is once again thriving at Lyon and how we can make the best use of his talents in our developing system – is his recent success just due to the level of the French league defenders or is he actually better utilized / more confident in Lyon’s system of play?

      And I agree with your thoughts on midfielders as well. Some of the guys you mention – Pogba, Vidal, Ramsey – are so valuable because of their completeness / versatility as players. Wijnaldum can be like that and perhaps Strootman too, but with specialists like Sneijder, RVP and Robben ahead of them historically, we’ve perhaps forced those players into overly defensive roles for Oranje.

      On your final point, we’ll have to wait and see. Spain’s 2008-10-12 team was a product of the quality and cohesiveness of Barcelona (and Madrid), but they have not been the same since. Germany in 2014 was the same way with Bayern (and ex-Bayern players such as Kroos). As for France, we will see. They came close in 2016 but ultimately disappointed. But they do have a lot of continuity with their manager and regular starters, and they are just oozing with young talent as well. My point really is just how much easier it is to have a national team where the majority of your players have played together for years in the same system at the club level. Until they got old, Italy’s back line and keeper were another great example of this. And so, I’m not saying that we don’t need a system overhaul or that we can’t succeed without those club-level synergies, but it is undoubtedly a tremendous competitive advantage to have those in place and to be able to practice and play together year round apart from international duty.

  10. El Ghazi is starting to flourish under Biesla now after not happy with coaches tactics initially.two assists for him and looks like he will better his form if he continues to play with the same confidence.has been featuring for lille regularly now.

  11. Hi guys, as for comparing past with present, I do agree that times have changed and all that. But at the same time, there are certain “football laws” that simply haven’t changed. Football is still a game of time and space. More so than speed or trickery or physical strength.

    We had a massive generation in the 70s (as did West Germany, Italy) who were not developed by any comparable modern standard. It was street football.

    Without a perfect ball, without video refs, without perfect pitches. And it was the smarts of the players (!) who made it work (that, and luck).

    Cruyff and Van Hanegem never played together before the Oranje matches. But once they donned the same jersey, just one look would be enough to read each others minds.

    Football intelligence. It was important and still is important.

    I’m actually disappointed that none of our current top players (Strootman, Sneijder, Blind, Wijnaldum) wasn’t able to express what they saw as lacking to Hiddink and Blind… Surely JC and De Kromme would not have let it come this far. Even Wouters and Gullit, in the 80s.

  12. Well this is exactly why I don’t rate Wijnaldum. Mediocre players are those as yourself Jan and Pepjin have described, those who always require instructions and familiarity before they can perform

    Yes everyone needs some guidance sometimes, but top players have that natural confidence, intuition and intelligence to react, sense, see, be spontaneous, adapt to fluctuating environment.

    Personally Wiljnaldum and Strootman (especially Strootman) would be nowhere near my team.

    I do agree that there is too much chopping and changing in Dutch team for the young players especially, and this mediocre generation of players like wijnaldum and Strootman get too much game time in my opinion.

    I’d like to see a brave coach who is willing to stick with a core of say 15 young players like van de Beek, Frenkie, Drongelen, de Ligt, Stengs (if he’s the same when comes back) etc. Kadioglu, kluivert and keep a small quartet of experience like Blind and van Dijk (such a shame Robben retired), and then let the last 7/8 squad players be up for grabs.

    Play a year like this, starting with the next friendlies and see if this team can gel and create fluidity, understanding (which both help play attractive football), trust, fight, desire and teamwork between themselves.

    Finally, someone in Dutch football needs to talk to these kids about making stupid transfers abroad when they are too young. This killing our game. Remember what happened to Drenthe? Look at all those who’ve followed a similar path. Van Dijk aside (Mensah might come good), the rest that have gone to especially England so young like Bruma, Rekik etc. I don’t rate. Malen is back in Holland. Kongolo and Chong will never get a first team chance at their respective clubs. Talents wasted.

  13. Also, why are we using Liverpool as some sort of benchmark/yardstick.

    Liverpool are not a top team. They are a decent premiership side pretending to challenge for the premiership title.

    If you want to be the best, go watch the best and not a fake alternative.

    1. Well, in all honesty. We tend to talk about more than Liverpool here, don’t we? The thing with Liverpool is this: Wijnaldum plays solid week in week out at Liverpool and plays terrible for Oranje. The point wasn’t “Liverpool”, the point is “Why does Wijnaldum thrive there and never in Oranje”.

      I could have written about AS Roma. But then you are all saying “we are not AS Roma” or something.

      Also, I happened to find the interview with Lijnders, who is Dutch and therefore on the radar for us. I don’t know any assistant coach from AS Roma.

      There is a lot of nitpicking going on at the moment, isn’t there? Or is it me?

  14. The biggest problem Oranje has is defensive weakness. Unless defense is given the proper focus and attention it deserves, the team will always struggle.
    In the past, Dutch teams were able to overcome their defensive weaknesses because the offense was so potent. Now, opposing teams are not afraid of the current impotent offense. They don’t have to resort to parking the bus or counter-attack techniques.

    We have good defenders now and decent goalkeepers. Defense needs to be worked on all the way down to the grass-roots level. In football, you don’t lose a game for not scoring goals (probably the only sport were that is true) but you definitely lose if you concede goals. That’s why most World Cup games are boring where teams play not to concede a goal and head to penalties. I’m not suggesting we should do that at all. Fixing our defense doesn’t mean playing boring, it means that players need to craft their skills man-marking dangerous opposing players, being able to competently clear dead-ball situations like free kicks and corners.

    Bottom line, start fixing the defense first!

  15. The reasons we reached bottom can be divided into persistent and circumstantial.


    1. “obsolete with old-fashioned ideas about systems, ball possession” (Jan). Soccer has progressed, we didn’t.

    2. Soccer increasingly becoming moneyball, Eredivisie loosing relevance.

    The talented generation of the big 4 masked temporarily both of the above.


    3. The trio stooges of KNVB/Blind/Hiddink

    4. The fade away of the Big 4 and the lack of plan playing without them – transition to the new generation. If there was a plan it looks like a joke.

    5. Less talented new generation.

    3 and 4 can quickly be fixed and improve things substantially as the change from Blind to DA showed to everyone (or almost everyone I should say LOL). We can achieve qualifications to the big tournaments and with a lucky draw something more.

    1 should and will be fixed,I am sure but it will take more time. KNVB seems to be taking the right first steps.

    5 will change over time going back and forth. We have no control but as long as 1-3-4 are there we will still do well.

    2 will not change and it will get worse. That’s life. You can’t get always what you want. But if everything else is in place we will mitigate this factor.

    We should fix the things that we have control on and do our best. The results will come. See the improvement of the last 6 months without even touching some of the above and with a coach who is at best average + (but at least a pro competent experienced coach).

    1. Demi:

      I agree with a lot of this. I think a thoughtful and well thought out approach is needed to improve in these areas, and that may take some time. Fortunately, with no major international tournament on the horizon for us, we can take the time to sort out solutions and learn from others’ experiences.

      I think we should resist the knee-jerk, short-term solution, however. We brought in Advocaat in an last-ditch effort to qualify and again cover over these flaws, but now that that chance has passed, we have the time and opportunity for a more critical analysis and we should take advantage of it.

      Just watching a few Premier League matches yesterday, it’s amazing at how single results or seeming trends can be so potentially misleading and lead to rash decision-making. Similarly, the presence or absence of a single player can make such a huge difference.

      My sense is that we can’t be distracted by short term gains or losses. We need to play the long game here with an eye towards developing teams for 2020 and 2022, and that should be our primary focus.

      1. JB,

        insightful analysis as usual. I chose to see DA not as a short term solution but rather as a temporary example of what can be done when rational decision making takes over. We missed two big tournaments, what’s done done… We are looking forward.

        There is a good test coming in the newly found UEFA Nation’s League in a year from now. Every long term strategy needs some mid term testing for validation and corrections.

        Soccer has changed a lot and Jan has analyzed it I can say better than I have seen anywhere else, especially the September post about how Napoli plays.

        But at the same time the gap between the powerful and the lesser teams at the national level is smaller than ever. The recent EK was a good example and the WK that follows will show some of the same I think. There is going to be new Wales and new (or the same?) Island.

        With some reasonably good decisions at the KNVB level I am sure we will be back in action in no time. Nederland is one if not the most athletic nation on the planet. This modern way of athletic soccer actually suits us as just as good as the 70s one.

  16. Clasie had some minutes for Club Brugge and was deployed at CM in
    3-5-2.I would like to see him in forward role like Isco and insigne.don’t think DM role suits him.he has a quiet feet and is an excellent fitter. 3-5-2 really suits him especially behind the two strikers. Vormer also with a goal helping brugge win 3-0.

  17. Any body watched Southampton and Liverpool.both hoedt and van Dijk- started the game. Any one with the analysis of this game.from the highlights Mo salah was too hot to handle.

  18. De ligt is clearly showing he’s too good for the Eredivisie. He needs to take a step up to a new league by January or the latest the summer. I was hoping he would join Barcelona because he could easily start there and the league is hardly better than the Eredivisie. It would be a good transition before he moves to the premier league

    1. I’d rather him going to Dortmund/Inter/Lazio/Napoli/Atletico.
      he’ll have minimum time at Barca as long as Pique still fit.. DeLigt-Umtiti would be great, but the timing is just not right.

      actually Spurs would also be great destination. Alderweireld is rumoured to be transferred, giving him a vacancy.

      1. Well, Salvator Mundi was believed to have made his debut in Florence around 1500, so he does have some years on him. He was soon transferred to England (probably leaving Italy a bit prematurely) and spent many years bouncing among the the most royal of clubs there. He then disappeared for a extended period of time before being re-discovered in America in 1900. He was then acquired for £45 in 1958, and was subsequently sold again for €8450 in 2005.

        After extensive work in restoring him to his original quality, he was purchased and transferred in 2013 to Switzerland for $75 million and then on to Russia for $172.5 million. Last week, he was transferred again for a record $450 million.

        Bearing a striking resemblance to the Son of God, and reportedly produced by perhaps the greatest Italian master (a renaissance man in his own right), it is believed that PSG is now interested in making a record-breaking offer.

        Although at this point his mobility is extremely limited, “Sal” is still reputed to be in fine form and his artistry and strength are commonly referred to as “oil on walnut”.

        Unai Emery, PSG’s manager, is hopeful that Salvator Mundi can form an attacking trident of unprecedented glory that will see Neymar move left, Mbappe move right, and their anticipated new acquisition provide exceptional hold up play and perhaps some wall passes to send his wings in on goal, provided that his frontline mates can accurately put the ball on his approximately 26″ x 20″ frame.

        Real Madrid was believed to be in the running as well, but PSG is said to be obsessed with acquiring the world’s most expensive transfer target, and have assured UEFA that his acquisition will be in full compliance with Financial Fair Play requirements.

  19. Another exciting Eredivisie weekend. The quality might be way below Bundesliga or EPL but the games are highly entertaining (highlights!!). PEC Zwolle deserved the win vs PSV. Feyenoord deserved the win vs VVV. Ajax got lucky against NAC. Tight win for them 😉

    It’s not the greatest competition but it’s a fun one…

  20. I’m going to be posting a piece on Erik ten Hag soon.

    I will prepare myself for comments like: “Why are we looking at FC Utrecht?”

    And “I don’t need Erik ten Hag to say these things”.

    Sharpen your pencils people.

    1. My understanding is that City is already through to the next round but that they have not yet won the group.

      Shakhtar is currently second and should advance with a win or a tie.

      Napoli has to win both remaining games and need Feyenoord to beat Shakhtar.

      Feyenoord cannot advance at this point, but need to points to have a shot at the Europa League.

      What a group to be placed in…

    2. Dortmund is beating Tottenham 1-0 at the half, but since Real Madrid is up 4-0 on Apoel Nicosia, I think that Dortmund is pretty much eliminated at this point…

    3. 15 minutes into the second half and I don’t think Feyenoord has had the ball until yellows against Mangala and de Bruyne. Larson with the free kick…

      But sails it over

  21. ALmost a very nice combination involving Vilhena and Berghuis

    However, with Napoli now up on Shakhtar, it’s looking grim for Feyenoord in terms of even the Europa League

  22. Ugh! So disappointing! And to top it off, just a classic / classless foul by Danilo on a break. That’s the one flaw in Pep’s teams is they really don’t defend at all…

    1. I don’t think so. Firstly both first and second runner up will have to go through qualification rounds. There is something else that caught my attention. Two teams form Russian premier league will now directly qualify for CL with 3 place going through the qualification.I think this had to do with coefficient.

      Also PSV need to sell Luuk and bring in s good striker. Few defenders also.

  23. Jan:

    I hear that the Australia job has suddenly come open. Of course it has always been my dream to manage national teams on all seven continents (no, it was not Guus’ dream, it was my dream first). So far I’ve managed six nations on two continents.

    I’m not sure if New Zealand is its own continent now or not…

    Anyway, I was hoping that you could put in a good word for me.

    As a reminder, all I do is win, win, win no matter what!

    I also know a lot about boomerangs and kangaroos, and Mad Max: Beyond THunderdome is one of my favorite films.

    1. Jan:

      I know that we’ve had our differences, and I’m sure right now you’re thinking — Dick Advocaat in Australia? How’s that going to work? Let me just say that I am quickly becoming an expert in Australian culture and traditions. Ruud and I just ate at an Outback Steakhouse last week. Further, I can quote extensively from the Crocodile Dundee movies and some have described my physical appearance as similar to Perry the Platypus from Phineas and Ferb.

      Additionally, I’ve studied indigenous Australian music extensively and have reached some compelling conclusions regarding the synergies I can bring. First of all, despite having already qualified for the 2018 World Cup, without an experienced manager like me, the Australian national team will be on a highway to hell. In fact, I assure you that I am what you need. As my managerial history suggests, my specialty in any competition is stayin’ alive. Further, while you may find yourself asking “who can it be now?”, and perhaps getting nervous about your prospects in the 2018 tournament, please don’t dream it’s over. And when you think you’ve seen everything under the milky way tonight, I just want you to know that with me as manager, even the nights are better. So please don’t talk to strangers. Let me be your choice as your new manager. You might ask “what’s my scene”, and my response to you is Russia with the Socceroos! And in case you have any doubts about my loyalty, just know that I am hopelessly devoted to you!

  24. Wow, check out this list

    We have two talents from the list, could be optimistic for a bright future

    Beside de Light & Mesah, we still have a list of talent who have already played senior level or have big potential at their very jong age

    Kluivert, Raidewal, Drongelen,Hoogma, Juste, Diks, Til, Stengs, de Beek, Bergwijn, de Jong, Bazoer, Mallen, Chong, SCHUURS,
    Daishawn Redan, Juan Familio-Castillo, ter Avest, Troupée, Dumfries, Pierie, Kongolo, van Bergen,Kadioglu

  25. Im really enjoying this thread lads, a lot of well made points on where we are going and how we should get there. I do agree with most of the comments with regard to changing the system, or in fact , having a system. There is one thing that mostly determines the system that is played, it’s called the ball!
    The ball determines where your position on the field should be both in attack and defence, particularly in the midfield hence the comments (Jan) about versatile midfielders make a lot of sense to me. JC made it clear that any system should be fluid, I still think that this applies in today’s game, less fluid at the back but more so as we move up the pitch.
    If we build our team on a solid spine, (players with football intelligence) the gaps can be filled with skill players and workers.
    Who can pick the next coach?

Join the Conversation

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.