Applause for Oranje and Eriksen…

The first match of Oranje using Van Gaal’s new system was impressive at times. The coach subtle tricks have added more dynamics to the Dutch gameplay.

The Euros were disappointing for the Dutch and many people blamed Frank de Boer’s decision to move to a 5-3-2. Van Gaal and his current squad have demonstrated that it wasn’t the system as such ( 3 central defenders) but the execution there of that makes the difference.

Oranje played a good first half, scoring three goals but having at least 6 good opportunities to score and could have had a monster score after 45 minutes. Defensive frailty and a hesitating debut goalie resulted in the Danish goal.

Eriksen is back!

Van Gaal was not displeased but said he saw a lot of things that could be improved. In particular in the second half, the team didn’t respond well enough to Denmark’s tactical change, which encompassed the return of Christian Eriksen. The fans loved it, also the Dutch ones of course and even the players seemed keen on offering the former Ajax man a star turn by letting him enter the box unmarked to score the 3-2. Not much later, he had the best action of the game, turning away from two midfielders and curling the ball onto the frame of the goal. What a player!

Oranje lost their shape more and more in the second half, partly due to the Danes, partly due to fatigue, particularly with players who lack rhythm ( Depay after injuries and Ake and Bergwijn due to lack of playing time).

Smiling faces…

Van Gaal had three interesting and subtle variances in his tactics.

  1. Dynamic Build up Patterns

One of the negatives of “3 at the back” is the predictable build up patterns. When the three defenders stick to their back line, the opponent basically have a free man. Building up via the wings is also predictable and easy to defend as the wingback is usually alone on the flank and has the line behind him: limited options therefore.

Van Gaal has analysed the tactical solutions well, as he found the ideal way of building up using Chris Wilder’s innovation at Sheffield United. Sheffield let their wingbacks move into the half space and push one of the central backs wide to force the opponent to decide. Even football professor Marcelo Bielsa was surprised by this tactics. Wilder’s trick was followed by many coaches and is even part of the new version of Football Manager.

Strong performance by Teun Koopmeiners

Another team doing this, is Atalanta Bergamo. One of the three defenders will push to the flank, allowing space at the back for one of the holding mids, to drop back and start the build up. Teun Koopmeiners is obviously well up to speed with this dynamic build up pattern. He and Mathijs de Ligt had a key role on the right, in using this in key situations.

Koopmeiners playing right centre back, De Ligt hugging the line. Denmark confused.

Every time Oranje has withstand the first pressure, De Ligt goes to the far right of the pitch. It’s not his natural style of play, it seems Timber or Teze are more suited for that role, but it does offer tactical benefits. Remember the game we lost vs the Czechs? They pressed our three defenders with three  forwards, making our build up slow and predictable.

Space in midfield for the opening to the left.

In this case, the left winger needs to decide. Will he go with De Ligt? In that case Koopmeiners can drop into that space. Or does the midfielder of Denmark, marking the former AZ skipper, follow him? This will give Dumfries or Frenkie an option in the gap. These decisions will need confuse Denmark and create space for the Dutch. Our first goal is the perfect example.

De Ligt almost right winger, Dumfries coming inside, so Bergwijn has space and time

Opening to the left, Denmark loses Bergwijn

Before the 1-0, Oranje builds up in a 4-4-2. With De Ligt as right back, Dumfries as right winger and Blind as left back. Depay is playing like a left winger moving intside. This confuses Denmark. As a result of De Ligt’s and Dumfries’ positioning, Bergwijn becomes the free man. After a good take, he passes the ball to Berghuis who changes flanks and Blind’s perfect cross is bread and butter for Bergwijn, unmarked: 1-0.

In some instances, De Ligt and Koopmeiners can be seen gesticulating to one another. Their cooperation is still a bit rusty but one can see why this tactics can work well for Oranje, in particular with the likes of Teze and Timber available. This results in Dumfries being able to forget about defence and completely focus on stretching the game.

Ex Ajax striker Dolberg versus Blind

In the second half, the Danes make a tactical switch but Oranje scores the 4th goal from a similar situation. This time it’s Frenkie with space to turn in midfield and his burst of speed brings him in a position to launch Bergwijn, this time coming from the left. The Spurs man cuts inside and curls the ball past the Danish goalie, Schmeichel.

2. The Atalanta Trick

In the build up to the second goal, another attacking trick is used, also from Bergamo. Atalanta coach Gasperini wants to have four players around the ball on the flank, in a diamond shape. This creates a man more situation around the ball. If the opponent bites, there will be space in the centre of the pitch. If they don’t, Oranje can move up field using short combination play. Should Oranje lose possession, there are enough players around to hunt the ball like a pack of wolves.

Focusing on the flank

The Atalanta trick. The player combine centrally to open up to the flank where a the goal is to eventually move back to the centre of the pitch. Inside out, to outside in. This tactics work as it fits the Atalanta skill set wonderfully. Where teams like Ajax or Man City have enough skilled players to find space in a crowded centre, Atalanta has players who are more of the physical, running type. It’s wiser to use the flanks as most teams will allow the opponent to use the flank freely. See Atletico Madrid, for instance. Van Gaal seems to want to take the liberty and use the flanks as “his” as well.

Finding space in the centre of the pitch and a run in behind by Berghuis

Before Ake’s goal, we have four Oranje players on the left flank. Frenkie, Bergwijn, Berghuis all squeeze to the left where Blind is hugging the touch line. Denmark brings their players to the flank and it’s a quick pass by De Jong to the more centrally moving Berghuis. This is a frequent occurrence also due to Memphis, who has a natural tendency to move to the left.

3. Circle Pressing

The third variant was already mentioned by the coach. “We don’t need to press every opponent on their box. At times it’s wiser to allow them to come forward and press around the mid circle. This gives us space to attack once we win the ball.” Oranje organises this in their 5-2-3 positioning with the three forwards pushing onto the Danish back three. Not unlike Chelsea’s tactics.

Circle press

De Jong and Koopmeiners push up, Virgil follows into midfield

Hunting in packs

The turn over follows and Denmark is at sea

The 3-1, penalty Memphis after challenge on Berghuis, is created out of that circle press situation. Koopmeiners and Frenkie de Jong both press forward, which opens up space behind them. Virgil van Dijk pushes forward and finds himself in midfield. Holland has a man more situation again and repossesses the ball. Denmark is puled apart and Berghuis and Bergwijn combine in the box: foul on Berghuis, penalty Memphis: 3-1.


The 4-2 can be shelved as not so relevant, as applies to the system debate. The 1-3-4-1-2 can be set up in such a variable manner that the differences to the 4-3-3 classic system are only subtle. This time, the players will come into a position where they’re harder to stop, as opposed to players already being in that position. The priciples of the Dutch School have been re-packaged by Van Gaal, with a hint of Sheffield United, a touch of Atalanta Bergamo and a pinch of Chelsea.

Van Gaal is happy with his team selection

Let’s hope we can see some other players in the match v Germany.

Flekken will definitely start. I hope we’ll see Malacia from the start, with Wijnaldum on the Berghuis spot, Danjuma for Memphis and Malen for Bergwijn, There is no Gravenberch, so maybe Clasie can come in for Frenkie or Teun as the Germany match progresses. I do think Louis will leave the back three and the two holders intact for the Germany game.

Your views?


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  1. It was also good to see Depay drifting to the right and overall both Depay and Bergwijn changing flanks and even dropping back.

    I would like to see Lang in that free role as well and which suits him the best.

    I also think Van gaal will have to rethink about the stragedy when Gakpo is back as well. Like I said all the forwards need to be on the same page and ready to come on at any time.

  2. The germans also look to be polishing the rough edges with new combinations and should be an acid test. These types of games always puts the spotlight on player head to head and also expliots the weak link.

  3. @Jan, great analysis. I watched the game and saw the 1-3-4-3 played out flexibly, with the players moving almost like all over the pitch. Apparently, there are patterns and thoughts behind it which Jan explained well. I am also pleasantly “confused” with the players’ movement.
    Another thing which caught my attention is players were pressing the opponents, and doing as a team. These are what Jan mentioned as Circle pressing, and hunting like wolves.
    As for the goals conceded, I put it down as defensive lapses, which will surely be addressed as the team improves the coming months.

  4. @Jan can you make an article on Berjwin and NT….with Berjwin we beat the shit out of france 2-0 when no one expected us to beat…We beat Germany…when we struggled WCQ he came like angel beat montengro and turkey eventually Norway and other teams as well..Berjwin is massive for NT..We have tons of goals when Berjwin plays.i think he is our romairio/bebetto…
    Blind case…We can blame blind ,he looks like a time bomb in defense..But Blind is massive at defense….then you have winjdal and hateboer ,two average players ,nothing good for defense or offense…Blind should become a substitue player for either Malacia or at midfeild for koopmeiners…thats wher he belongs now..

  5. Great analysis as always. You broke it down to the point where we see exactly what LVG is thinking. Great thoughts indeed but this has always being a strong suit of LVG and he will never be accused of being shallow or a charlatan in regards to his philosophy and how he would allow it to morph to facilitate a greater winning chance. Usually the hardest part for most tactician and coaches, this has always proven to be the easiest for a master planner in LVG.

    LVGs challenge with Oranje has always been personnel and not necessarily lack thereof. One could only conclude that his imagination of how the game should be played draws him to express an unexplained, mysterious affinity for some players. And he can almost be excused for thinking this way given his record of taking a group of kids all the way to the pantheon of European glory. They followed his instructions to the letter and he in turn did not fail them.

    One wonders sometimes if the desire to replicate this incredible feat of tactical and man-management wonder plays too heavy an influence in how he carries himself with the national team in regards to his selection. Take the Rensch selection for example. No coach in the entirety of Europe would have included him in that squad let alone make him a starter. Lvg did and to a certain extent people looked on in baffling awe. We’ve seen this movie before. But Rensch unfortunately did not work. Different time different scenario.

    But has LVG really changed? I would say he has changed as much as his dreams would allow him. Rensch, had he had a good game would have easily been first choice over Dumfries against all reason. Not allowing any type of competition to open up a discussion on Blind’s viability also hearkens to this way of thinking. He sees what he thinks he wants in a player and everything else is secondary.

    The question is when would the negatives outweigh the benefits in his eyes. What is it going to take for him to look at Karsdorp as just a player who is at the pinnacle of his career even though he may not fulfill his criteria of what he thinks a player should be? These are only questions the gaffer himself can answer. Just as he has always done tactically.

    1. Good points Orangutan. So you (and everyone) knows… I am currently in talks with the KNVB to see if they can offer me a press status so I can join in via zoom on the pressers and submit questions. I don’t see why they could refuse me. There are indeed questions needing to be asked.

      As for weird choices: this is what JC used to do. Pick goalies or players no one could have guessed for certain roles. It would usually work out. I think Van Gaal approaches football as a PS4 game. Picking the right characteristics and putting players together with heaps of instructions etc.

      Usually, after 1,5 years with Van Gaal, the players start to get really fed up with him and with this way of working. I think eventually every club he was at, is happy to see him go (Man U, Bayern, Barca, Ajax…only AZ is the exception to the rule I think…

  6. @Jan
    Re:Good points Orangutan. So you (and everyone) knows… I am currently in talks with the KNVB to see if they can offer me a press status so I can join in via zoom on the pressers and submit questions. I don’t see why they could refuse me. There are indeed questions needing to be asked.

    I didn’t know this but I have to say I’m quite excited for you and such prospect. I don’t see why they could refuse you either. The passion, credential and commitment has been there for all to see for over a decade and maybe some real questions will finally get asked now🙂

    Count me in if there is anything that we can do as a collective to enhance your chances cheers

  7. Against Germany this is the line up that I am looking forward to

    Depay Bergwijn


    Malacia De Roon De Jong Dumfries

    Blind Van Dijk De Ligt


    We need more protection from the Midfield for the back line as Germany is a stronger opponent than Denmark.

    If Van Gaal really want a left foot LCB then he really needs to test out Botman and even Struijck both are left foot LCB.Though I think our strongest back three is Van Dijk De Vrij De Ligt, and Van Dijk will cover for Blind.At this point I am really not sure if Blind’s offensive forward pass provides more plus then his defensive liability. Probably need another couple games to tell. We need to find a new LB anyway, we can’t rely on Blind after this WC. I really hope Van Gaal give some more time for Winjdal, Malacia and Bakker, let these three battle it out.

  8. LVG has poked some corrupted people of fifa and qatar..i think LVG will be targeted so does NT…there would be harsh decisions against us from refrees..i am Asian and Indian i but i should admit that corruption is too much in asia..thats the truth…then most asians want Messi to win the WC just like they give to him the ballon d or..when we play against arjentina if its an asian refree i would be worried ,even lineman refree..

  9. Instead of dropping Blind for a game so as to accommodate Malacia(for once), LVG tucks him centre left and drop Ake in the process. Do we have to slice and dice every time we are facing a serious opposition in order to accommodate some players?

    The man can’t defend. And all this passing range that is spoken of is only pronounced against inferior opposition. Against the likes of Germany we take him out of the firing line and pray that he is protected by Malacia. Who is protecting Malacia when he bombs forward as Ake did for him(Blind) against the Danes?

    They are ready to throw the poor kid under the bus for the sake of an immobile, unathletic has-been. God help us.

  10. thanks andrew…they have, hope all is well with you too

    first 15 minutes not that good..germans are strong, not liking the built up we have from defense to midfield atm

    1. Like i said berghuis is a ghost and the Germans are using the space in the middle and left flank to penetrate. Observing alot og pressure. Defending. Havnt being able to dominate offensive. Germss are on them like wild hyneas2

    2. Germans are so strong,we were playing a chess match…koopmeiners and Frenkie are perfectly ok(we play germans)..Malen looking not sharp…Left flank is targeted and both Malacia and Blind are staying back..this has affected our rythem…

  11. The germans are just on another level with pressing football.again the difference is their players and again rememberwhat I said above these type of games always put the spot light on player head to head and expliot their weakness. Exactly whats on showcase.

    1. Berghuis is okay and good…what is happening in left wing???Why Malacia is not strechting the feild???is he covering Blind????Blind is terrified with german pace..he wants malacia with him…even dumfries is more defending than attacking…

      1. Are you serious.? There is big hole in the middle and you are saying berghuis is ok. He cant hold the ball and at most hold the defense so to memphis and malen to get in to spaces. You sure you watching the game. The dutch have to close up and match the germans in that department. The germans are moving through that middle and to that left flank in thr build up.

  12. It wasn’t a bad game, I think the goal we conceded was simply a lack of focus as half time approached.

    To me, Memphis, Frenkie, Koopmeiners, Dumfries, De Ligt and VVD have their spots sealed in this line-up.

    The second striker is up for grabs with Bergwijn proving he can do it for Holland even if he doesn’t show it week in, week out for Tottenham. Malen didn’t have a bad showing, but needs some better finishing. Danjuma could work his way into contention with some good club form.

    The 10 role is a tough one, because with a 3-4-1-2, they’re just playing in a crowded spot of the field, so I don’t really imagine anyone will be able to do much there, whether it’s Wijnaldum, Berghuis or Klaassen. It might be worth trying a Lang or Danjuma in that role, as they have a bit better dribbling and can work their way out of small spaces.

    The two holding mids look great together, honestly, I’m really happy with that decision.

    Dumfries has the RB role and no one will take it from him, barring injury.

    VVD, De Ligt and De Vrij will likely be the three centre backs, but I think van Gaal has shown his 4th choice will be Blind.

    Now for Left Back, everyone was up in arms about Malacia not playing, and then he did play and he really did nothing. He didn’t operate as a left-wing back. Had 0 crosses, and one obscure shot with his right foot. For some reason he kept drifting into the field when we have a full contention of players in the middle. After that performance he doesn’t deserve the LWB role, and I imagine van Gaal will give it to Blind.

    Keeper will likely be Bijlow once he’s back, Flekken always looked a bit shaky.

    1. Aside from the awful shot and the terrible back-pass that almost cost us a goal, I can’t remember anything Malacia did. He couldn’t catch up to the play when Malen was through and crossed it either. And at this point, you personally have been talking about him like he’s the Messiah of Left Backs, so yes the standard for his performance is that much higher. I thought we were going to get Usain Bolt mixed with Marcelo, but we ended up with what was probably a 5 or 6 out of 10 performance.

      Dumfries was alive down the right, creating chances. Nothing happened on the left. Remember the only goal we scored came from Dumfries.

      1. Derek I thought Malacia had a very good game defensively while offensively the team didn’t do much until we scored the first goal. The German high press of Flick really had us in trouble for 70 minutes. Should be said that Malacia had a great run forward and was wide open but Mallen failed to find him in what should have been the 1-0.

          1. @Tomy14

            Derekvdberg91 was watching another game. Malacia played his heart out and he never saw it.

  13. A disappointing watch after a positive win over Denmark. Our midfield exposed. Koopmeiners lost possession way too often and Berghuis simply was invisible.

    Frenkie played really well, as did Malacia for me. Malen was wasteful too and I fear for Wijnaldum. He looked out of sorts.

    Dumfries also showed his weakness on the ball, some stray passes and clumsy moves.

    I thought the back 3 was fine. FLekken still a bit iffy for me.

  14. Van Gaal for me is running out of time and again this game has showed that there is still room for improvement in some areas or if not some players in their respective position still need to get more firm grip on if they really want to have a crack at winning the WC. After the Denmark game alot of people here said that midfield should be build around koopmeiners and frenkie but then that was not effective come vs the germans. this is how its gonna be vs weaker/average Nations and then come the big guns. there was one occasion, the camera focused on them, I think towards the end of the first half and it was clean drop silence and no head moving.

    Van Gaal is still in shallow waters and I dont think he has gained much from this two friendlys except maybe for Bergwijn indivudual acesndency which still we dont know will be consistent come Nation league or no given his club status and also him being injury prone. Van Gaal needs to to really have the back up players to firmly have strong grip in the team which he needs to work on in Nations League. it will be interesting now after this game whether what he decides to ditch this formation or continue or gamble in between because surely this team will not live up to expectation vs other pressing teams out there. brazil, Argetina, Portgual. again based on what we saw vs German, time is van gaal nemiss now. and I dont think he can pull of 2014 this time around.

  15. confirmed

    Pot 1 teams:

    Pot 2 teams (likely)

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