Author: Jan

Oranje gets 3 points and some valuable lessons!

After some solid performances by our lads in their club teams (PSV, Liverpool, RB Leipzig, Atalanta, Man City), it felt that we could have a good go at this Euros. The last friendly results were also pretty hopeful. Despite the absence of Frenkie de Jong, Luuk de Jong, Marten de Roon and Noa Lang, I believe we all felt that this could be our tournament. And… it still can be.

But the Poland game did put our noses on the some of the facts (Dutch expression).

If have to summarize the game, I’d say:

  • good start
  • some good chances
  • one moment of lack of concentration and Poland scores
  • we keep on going and get a bit of luck on the Gakpo goal
  • Oranje’s energy drops after 60 minutes or so
  • Koeman needs to make a change in the second half as Veerman and Simons (and others) are less effective
  • Wijnaldum comes on but isn’t found in between the lines
  • with 10 minutes to go, Koeman brings two secret weapons ( Weghorst and Frimpong)
  • Weghorst scores

We can be happy with the 3 points and we can be very happy with the performances of Ake, De Vrij, Schouten, Reijnders, Verbruggen and Gakpo.

We need to be critical on Van Dijk, Veerman, Memphis, Simons and Wijnaldum.

Van Dijk wasn’t terrible but showed some weakness in positioning. Veerman had to deal with a man marker (Szymanski) and had no answer to this. We saw this in earlier matches where Frenkie was manmarked and had to work hard to get away from his man. Veerman is a passer. Not a dribbler. And he doesn’t have the explosive runs Frenkie or Reijnders has. The switch with Reijnders back to the 6 position worked well, as he has more legs and can take a man on. We have seen Veerman struggle with this before and it’s been my ongoing criticism of him.

Simons started fresh but ran out of steam. Memphis tried hard and potentially too hard. That shot he hit hard over the bar was a 100% chance for a player like him and it didn’t need that power. Relax, Memphis!

Wijnaldum, finally, was told by Koeman to not drop deep to get the ball but to stay close to Memphis and find space between the lines, where the midfielders/defenders were supposed to find him. Sadly, they didn’t.

Btw, we did get to 21 shots. The highest number since that dreadful first game against Denmark in 2012. When we had 32 attempts on goal and scored zero goals.

Another fascinating stat: in the 90 minutes of play, Oranje didn’t use a single Ajax player. This is the first time in 95 matches!!

Some conclusions:

Joey Veerman struggles with man-marking

Szymanski wants to hold Veerman’s hand

You need to be dynamic to lose your man. Frenkie would move to left wing or right back or wherever he had to go to make the man marker uncomfortable. Joey is too static. Plays too much in one pace and lacks the dribble and speed to bypass an opponent and create a man over situation. Yes, against Iceland he played well. Why? He didn’t encounter man-marking. This needs to be taken care of.

I wonder if Koeman will use Veerman versus France. Their midfield – no, their whole team – consists of top athletes. My fave line up below.

We defend set-pieces terribly

A free run towards the ball for Buksa

Again, we have to mention Veerman. He was one of the blockers in that situation but he didn’t get a grip on Buksa, who could out-jump Dumfries and head the ball home. Veerman did try to pull Buksa’s jersey, only briefly, but Memphis was totally ball watching. Van Dijk: “We’re sick of that goal. In a dead ball situation, this has to improve. The goal scorer had a free run towards the ball. That needs to improve!” was his opinion. One comment in defence of the Memphis and Veerman (and Schouten). They were facing a number of tall lads in that box.

Nathan Ake is our playmaker

When Frenkie is absent and his replacement Veerman can’t get a foothold in the game, it’s good to know that one of our centre backs can play playmaker. The City player started so many great moves and basically had two assists. The second one for Weghorst doesn’t officially count as the ball got a slight deflection.  Frankowski decided to press on Ake, who was seen as the danger man at Oranje’s side, but that resulted in the Polish wingback to be drowning and offered Gakpo the time and space to shine. The result: Bednarek had to deal with Gakpo. Who is a very agile and elegant player, whereas Bednarek has trouble turning even without an opponent in sight.

Oranje has a strong bench

With Memphis upfront, we actually have Bergwijn, Frimpong, Malen, Brobbey, Zirkzee and Weghorst who can come in to change things around. Weghorst has made the difference already at the World Cup, some friendlies and now also at the Euros. Holland lost its grip slowly in the second half and Koeman has a nice menu of options available to him. Wijnaldum didn’t impress, but his little run was key for the Weghorst goal. In a way, that was an assist. Frimpong and Malen add speed and depth to the team while the strong Brobbey could well be a key player for us versus France.

Bart Verbruggen does his job

The youngest Oranje goalie ever at a final tournament had no nerves. He had 6 more than decent saves, which is the highest number for any Oranje goalie in 5 years. His footwork is also lauded and De Zerbi taught him well. Keep your foot on the ball and pull the opponent in, to create space elsewhere. It seems like the ongoing musical chairs of the keepers is well over.

My musings for the France game

I know it’s early days as the France game isn’t until Friday and lots can happen in between. But, I think the midfield we played versus Poland won’t be good enough versus France. I hope Veerman can accept it, but I would use a different line up versus France.

I’d opt for Memphis on the left. Against two big, strong centre backs, Memphis – who is not 100% – would probably drown. On the left, he will get a chance to roam and get touches. I’d play Frimpong on the right. Allow Simons a rest but don’t write him off! I’d play Brobbey as a 9. Strong, grit, fight, speed. Let him deal with these two monsters and let them deal with Brobbey.

I’d use Gakpo as a 10, with Reijnders and Schouten in the engine room. Gakpo learned to play midfield at Liverpool and will be key to give a 75 minute “give it your all” game. I would also opt for Geertruida as he can play into midfield. There won’t be overly much space for Dumfries, I don’t think and I find him still a dissonant in possession and not necessarily that good a defender.

If Giroud plays, I’d use De Ligt.

 

 

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Why I think Oranje will be the next Euro champs!

There are several responses. 1. because I always think we win the next tournament. 2. Because it will be fun for us and the blog. And 3. because we have a great group of players who – even without Frenkie – can dazzle and win games.

I’m sure that the work of Ten Hag, Slot, Pep, Klopp, Xavi, Xabi Alonso and Peter Bosz will rub off on Koeman and after meddling with 4-3-3 and 5-3-2 and 3-4-3 he finally landed on the best system for Oranje, the 1-4-2-2-2.

Where he used to have the inclination to leave the right flank open (so Dumfries could bomb into space left available by Wijnaldum or Xavi or Lang or whoever played there) today he has the option to do the same at the left side and play with a more contained option (Geertruida) on the right. In this way he can utitlise a proper right winger (Frimpong) and leaving the left flank open for a player like Van de Ven or Maatsen to dominate the left flank.

Koeman would stack the left with ball players (Blind or Ake, Frenkie, Gakpo) and the right with legs and speed. Now we can do this on the right, with Geertruida,

We can play the compact game against dominating teams (Spain, Germany) and play high up the pitch against transition teams parking the bus.

Our goalies are very decent if not more than that.

Our defence is world class.

Our midfield is talented and eager.

Our forwards are getting in the groove. Memphis is hungry (playing for a new deal, remember?), Xavi and Frimpong are exciting, Gakpo has class and with the addition of Zirkzee, we do have a bit of everything. We have a real 9 in Brobbey, a roaming mercurial forward in Memphis, a class act like Zirkzee and of course pinchhitter Wout Weghorst.

It feels like the team has finally realised that 1. winning is everything and 2. we have the goods to be the winner.

So I say, we will probably beat Poland 3-0. I think we’ll have a shock win over France as well ( 0-1 Frimpong) and Austria will end up being our toughest opponent in the group.

I have a good feeling people! Hup Holland Hup!

 

 

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Koeman calls up Jan for the blog!

Hi my friends, the last months on the blog were quite….quiet. My dear friend Tarcisio is having some IT issues and as our boys will be playing for the title soon, I thought it prudent to get back here and commentate on the Oranje games.

Word of warning: I will not go into the deep end for other national teams. Focus will be Oranje and their games.

And a big ASK: I have had to spend more money into getting the site back up and running.

After years of offering this platform, there have always been just a handful of committed fans who would support the blog with some digits. You probably know the cost of running this sortathing?

At the same time, I do see some people really getting a lot of joy/mileage from this platform so I need to ask all who can, to chip in a bit for the opportunity I offer people to share stories, their comments, their comical banter and at times their less than friendly banter.

If we value this orange community, please share a bit of your materialised energy so we can keep it going.

A proper post, soon! For now, please use the link below:

 

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Prelim Squad announced for Oranje

Almost a month to go and we’re starting to leave the club competitions behind us.

You will have seen the squad selection by now? I don’t think too many surprises.

For some, the absence of Bizot was a surprise, as he was called up for the last international games. He was most likely part of the prelim squad, if not for some domestic family issues. Marco decided to forfeit the Euros as his family circumstances have not been resolved and he prefers to be with the family during the summer.

The list of injured players ( Hartman, Wieffer, Lang) might become longer with question marks for Marten de Roon, Frenkie de Jong, Memphis Depay and Zirkzee, while Luuk de Jong definitely retired from the NT.

Calvin Stengs, Thijs Dallinga and Steven Berghuis will have had idle hope and should something happen to Malen or Bergwijn or Xavi Simons, these three might still get a look in.

If Frenkie and Memphis can join the squad, I do believe we’ll be in good shape.

We simply need our key players to be in form and Koeman to pick a logical starting eleven for the games at the Euros.

I mean, our goalkeepers are fine. Our central defenders are top. Maatsen and Ake can cover the left side, even Blind might be able to play against opponents parking the bus. Frimpong and Dumfries will cover the right with Geertruida also on hand.

Our midfield options are pretty good, with Veerman, Schouten, Reijnders and Koopmeiners and when fit, we can expect some fire upfront from Malen, Gakpo, Simons and Brobbey.

As mentioned, we need Koeman to make the right decisions and allow the players to play to their strengths.

It may sound simplistic, but we need two teams: 1 that can dominate possession against the minions and 1 that can play on the transition when playing the strong countries who themselves want to dominate.

I will suggest three at the back in both scenarios and I would personally use Bijlow as first goalie.

My two teams:

 

 

Tell me your fave line up in the comments….

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The State of Orange (Oranje)

As a national team coach, you want to be able to mould your best team, tactics, approach and squad by now, some 3 months before the tournament.

The two friendlies, against serious opponents, should have told us many things. And it did. But not sure if it was what Koeman wanted.

Not sure what the plan was versus Scotland, with the new 3-5-2 set up (or 3-2-3-2).

Disappointingly for Koeman, we won’t know for sure as the execution was not great. Some players didn’t reach their usual level (Wieffer, Simons, Frimpong) while Memphis is clearly not 100% fit.

Add to that the absence – again – of Frenkie and it’s hard to ascertain where we stand.

Versus Scotland, we played under par for an hour or so but still won 4-0. Against Germany , we played well at stages but lost 1-2.

Two corner kicks: two goals. Fixable, sure, but not something Koeman will be happy with.

Koeman was able to use his subs and shift form shape to shape, so the flexibility of the team and the adaptability of the team seems to be getting better.

I think, when all the players will be fit, we do have a very good squad. But I also think that France, England, Spain and Italy are a bit further than us, in terms of solid game play, patterns and key players.

Sadly, as it happens with every tournament, we won’t have all players available at the Euros.

Some conclusions:

Stop the silly systems debate

As always, people spend hours debating which system Holland should play. This is an irrational discussion. We played 4-3-3 versus Scotland, or so it seemed. But it was actually a 3-5-2. Against Germany, we played 3-2-3-2 but again, in the practice it was. four man defence as one of the midfielders dropped back to start the build up. Daley Blind was hardly ever in defence, but played as an extra midfielder and at times as a number 10 even. Joey Veerman dropped back to assist the defenders in their build up. Ake moves to the left back space.

In the second half, Blind kept the pitch wide, allowing Memphis to explore the half spaces on the left hand side.

Ake as left centre back, Blind playing wide wingback in a 4 men midfield.

What system is this? Never mind. It’s about space and how to use the space. Not about numbers on a playing field, when the ref whistles to start the match.

Creating the free man

Koeman is keen to use his midfielders and front men to create a free man in our team. He put Reijnders one v one on Kroos and instructed Memphis to harass Andrich, the Germany holding mid. This forced Germany to build up via Tah. This way Koeman could stack the centre of the pitch with two holding mids (Veerman, Schouten) and always kept three defenders to deal with the mercurial Germany forwards.

Blind playing central midfielder

This chess face-off meant that Germany was still in control on their own half, but were not able to be a threat against us, in terms of goal scoring opportunities.

Here Blind is playing as second 10

Donyell Malen is like a panther

We have quite a number of top forwards or top potentials in the attacking line, with Lang (now injured), Gakpo, Simons, Brobbey, Zirkzee, Stengs and Bergwijn but Malen offers something the others players don’t have. Malen is explosive, fast and very willing to make runs deep. The other players all want the ball to feet. Lang and Simons do tend to go deep, as does Bergwijn, but not as their first instict. Malen is like a panther, lurking and watching for his change to spring into action.

This makes him a unique player in the squad and should cement his spot in the squad if not the team. In the first half, Malen was instrumental in our first goal, even though he never touched the ball. He had two more breaks and in the second half he presented both Memphis and Reijnders with 2 100% chances. Both players mishit the ball and aimed too high.

Yes, Malen played well but goes to sleep here and allows Musiala some touches in the box

Still, he has his moments of snoozing off (like big cats do) and he was at fault, partly, with the first German goal. He didn’t cut off the pass and was a bit late in reacting to their short corner allowing Musiala to be a threat ( who assisted the ball to the goalscorer).

Jerdy Schouten is a keeper

Schouten played against Germany like he does for PSV, all season long. Very tight on the ball, always in control, always with great care. Van Gaal didn’t think he was good enough after half a game for Holland but Peter Bosz and Ronald Koeman are convinced. On top of that, Schouten plays a lot of forward passes as well, in true Frenkie de Jong style, starting a number of threatening moves. When he got subbed, at the 75th minute, he had most interceptions to his name as well. I don’t want to be over the top here, but he would be a top replacement for Toni Kroos at Real Madrid.

I think Schouten passed his exams and will battle it out with Koopmeiners, Wieffer, Reijnders, De Roon and Veerman for the next-to-Frenkie spot.

Our goalies are fine

We don’t need to worry about our goalies anymore. Flekken and Verbruggen both impressed. Bijlow will return. Nick Olij is a fine shotstopper and Bizot has impressed in France.

So, it seems we might be in good shape this summer.

But if we go through to the last 4, I believe it will be partly due to luck and a favourable draw.

I don’t think Oranje deserves to be seen as a top contender but with the right mix and the key players available and in form, we can surprise.

Koeman called this international break “the final exams”. The jigsaw pieces have not all been in place to show the big picture and the former Barca coach is still playing with them.

Verbruggen impressed

His own conclusion: “I have not been able to find the right combinations, and I fear it’s the result of this injury ridden campaign. And as the calendar keeps getting fuller, I don’t understand why we are now being limited to take 23 players instead of 26. We know already from experience that from the date we have to send in our list of names and the first match, players will drop off. That is always the case.”

Koeman said he already knows who his Euros goalie is, and it seems to be Bart Verbruggen. Only Bijlow is fit and plays a series of impressive matches will he be able to replace Bizot as third goalie.

In defence, it is clear that Virgil, Ake, De Ligt, Dumfries and Geertruida are certain of their spot. Frimpong didn’t impress this time around, but used properly, the speedy right wing back will make the squad, as will multi-functional brainiac Daley Blind.

In midfield, a fit Frenkie is on the bus as well, as will Reijnders be. He didn’t disappoint in his Oranje matches and impresses with his legs, lungs, intelligence and technique.

Wijnaldum seems a shoe in as well. Why select him now otherwise. Koeman has loyalty to Gini and knows the former Feyenoord talent gels well with Memphis. Mats Wieffer has mixed results but Koeman rates the midfielder high and he does have some credit. But he’ll need to show it to the coach in the coming matches.

Schouten is in the same boat as Wieffer. Very promising but a thin foundation as yet. Koeman will be focusing on their performances in the coming months.

Marten de Roon will most likely be in the squad as the only enforcer we have. He never complaints and is one of the leaders off the pitch. Koopmeiners however, who had to leave the camp with an injury, is exceptional in the Serie A, but never really impressed in the orange jersey.

Joey Veerman is not for everyone. Very good on the ball, vulnerable without. He played well in the past Oranje matches but was exposed in several CL matches for PSV. Koeman will throw a dice regarding Veerman and Koopmeiners.

Quinten Timber might nog have been able to show enough in this break and might need to focus on a spot after the Euros, to replace Wijnaldum on the road to 2026.

Xavi Simons is one of the few creative sparks in the team and despite a disappointing series, he will be on the bus as well.

Upfront, it seems Memphis, Gakpo, Malen and Weghorst are certain of their ticket. The question marks will be stalwarts Berghuis and Bergwijn, who both need a super strong finish of the season. Koeman mentioned before that he finds Berghuis to be a unique player and therefore potentially a part of the squad. This gives Koeman another option on the right wing.

Calvin Stengs might have a super end to the campaign and also be in the running for the right wing position. Brobbey and Zirkzee will also be right in Koeman’s radar for the coming games and Brobbey will be part of the squad when fit, it feels.

Micky van der Ven, the left footed centre back of Spurs could also make the squad as his speed and ability to play on any spot in defence makes him an ideal squad player.

Some more question marks: Q Hartman, Stefan de Vrij, Nick Olij, Ian Maatsen and Noa Lang.

And what to do with Summerville… He’s on fire for Leeds and is close to a senior call up, in particular when one or more attacking options (Gakpo, Malen, Simons) fall away with injuries…

Strap yourselfs in, we’re heading to an exciting finish of the season.

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Daley Blind, Girona’s metronome

Daley Blind was pushed out of the Ajax squad last season and when he failed to get playing time at Bayern Munich, people expected his career to fizzle out. But the 104 times capped left footer is on his way to fight for the title in La Liga. His first half season there is easy to summarize: he has a coach who uses Blind for his strenghts. The defender is basically the first player in the attack. His team mates give him the ball and he will most the ball exactly where it needs to go, with the perfect weight and the perfect direction. This is a very specific process, which needs a lot of brainpower on the pitch and lots of hours on the training field.

You should probably let Blind play with a microphone and instruct him to say out loud what he is seeing and thinking. That is the best way to understand all that is going on in the intriguiing complex machinations of his football brain. Everything he does seems simple, but it’s not. Blind can’t do much by himself. He’s not Mbappe or Haaland. Blind has limitations. He depends on team mates moving and running and offering options. He is vulnerable due to his frailties.

Put him in a team without structure and limited positioning changes and he will slowly suffocate and his talents will become invisible. All you see are his weaknesses. If you let him chase quick forwards, it even becomes pathetic or laughable. He is like a conductor without sheet music. That is the Blind Ajax didn’t need anymore.

Girona is a team without any stars. And they don’t play their opponents off the pitch either. But what you do see, is a team that stoically is trying to find gaps and openings to hurt the opponent. They are looking at ways to accelerate the game suddenly, to find openings that don’t really exist. It seems. Or to press in such a way that opponent has no options left or situations where they can benefit from a man-more situation. And Daley Blind is the general from the back who oversees it all. Girona’s football comes to life when you decide to focus on what Blind does.

When looking at Blind on the ball sometimes feels like the tv broadcast is stuttering. It feels like he’s not sure, like he takes too much time, as if he doesn’t know what to do. As if he’s at a restaurant scanning all the menu items until a dish really speaks to him. Suddenly he sees his best option and he accelerates the game with a firm pass. A pass with a message, as he himself says. Playing the ball at the right moment, with the right speed, the right weight of pass and direction, it’s an art. It looks simple. It’s not. Most players at the top know how to play a ball from A to B. Blind’s passes have more communication in them. He plays the ball to C and that ball instructs B to make a run in behind. Because B will be receiving the ball from D who gets it played into him via C. If player B, C and D can’t “read” the messages, it is better not to use Blind. Because then he becomes a weak defender.

Daley is constantly asked in all sorts of interviews what magical change happened and the 33 year old laughs and says he’s simply enjoying life in Spain. He is in the autumn of his career and he is taking on Real Madrid, Atleti and Barca. His selection for Oranje is suddenly not longer a strange affair.

But Blind didn’t change anything. He is still the same player. But he is viewed differently and used differently than Schreuder did at Ajax. Blind was signed by Girona as the missing piece of the jigsaw. To start the attack. That is his strength. And if you judge him on that aspect of the game, there are few players better than him. De Bruyne, probably. Frenkie, surely. Kimmich, maybe. Blind can now be considered one of the most important centre backs in La Liga. Not because he changed. But because he is used in his strength.

Thanks to VI Pro –

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Oranje making up numbers at Euros

Well, we made it. We qualified. But the performance quality – or lack thereof – doesn’t instil a lot of confidence in me.

I don’t think I have seen one match after the World Cup that gave me a good feeling. And sure, we miss a couple of big players, but I can’t see how Frenkie or Memphis would have improved the play much, all by themselves. I mean, there were games with Frenkie in the side post-WC which also didn’t dazzle us.

I do think Koeman is doing the right thing in his squad selection and today’s line up, for me, was quite logical.

I personally would have doubted to put Weghorst in, but he did score the winner so people will probably laugh at me.

But i just don’t like him. And I think that another player would have scored if we had Malen as right winger and Xavi as false 9.

I probably also would have played Wieffer instead of Schouten. I’m a big Schouten fan but to put him in in his second game after being shoved aside by Van Gaal quite rudely, I would have used him versus Gibraltar. I think Wieffer is settled more in Oranje and is known to be quite stoic.

I also need to add: I think Schouten played a very decent match and will only improve.

Lastly, I think I would have picked Bijlow over Verbruggen. The latter is a great talent but still so inexperienced. He had to field two shots on goal and one went in through his legs. Ouch. Luckily for him, the Irish attacker was off side.

But overall, I think Koeman’s decisions re: line up and squad are fine.

It’s the execution (and maybe the prep by Koeman) that leaves a lot to be desired.

The excuse that we miss so many players is not a real excuse for me. We missed a lot of central defenders ( Botman, De Ligt, Timber, Ake, Van der Ven) but that area was not where the issues were today. I thought Blind and De Vrij did well. De Vrij was probably one of the best. His passing, some of his footwork, obviously his defending too. No worries at all.

The issues were in build up and the speed of play. We played walking football. Every time there was a chance to accelerate the game, we seemed to not want to take it. Where Frenkie naturally turns “open” when getting the ball and pass through a line or two, the two “6”s were too cautious. Schouten did it a couple of times, but it still was a bit timid. The pass backwards was found too easily. A simple acceleration on the ball, either with the man or by the ball in terms of a pass, was constantly an option and mostly not taken.

Up front, Weghorst seems to “block” forward motion. Every time he comes into the ball, Simons and Gakpo would move forward for the flick, and every time Weghorst would simply bounce the ball back to the midfielders. No flow.

And most annoyingly, none of the players had the urge to make runs in behind. The corner triangles you see so fluidly at Man City, Feyenoord and Arsenal were not there. The only player at times to recognise the space was Reijnders who’d run into it, but the pass never came. It was sterile and flat. There were options enough ( for Hartman, for Xavi, for Weghorst or Dumfries) to make the dart into that space, even to just stretch the Irish. But no.

My biggest disappointment was the post match interview with Weghorst, who was angry at the reporter asking him a question about the lack of flow in the game. As if the great man is above critical questions after doing his heroics for king and country. Pathetic!

There is a lot of work to do. The good thing is: we do have the players. But we need these players to realise they need to up their game two levels if they want to compete with Spain, England and France at the Euros.

 

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Oranje’s bright future…

It’s a bit cynical maybe to speak of a bright future after a loss in the Euro qualifications, but with Koeman’s 3-4-3 and the talents cherished by AZ, Feyenoord, PSV and …. Ajax (?), we should be able to mould a winning team again.

We will need to reach the Euros of course and that is not a certainty yet, but with the Greece game coming up and our escape route via the Nations League standings, it’s hard to believe we won’t be making it.

There have been some good suggestions on the blog for ideal pairings and such. I think it’s best to stay flexible also taking form and the strength of the opponent into consideration.

Goal Keepers

With Bijlow, Flekken, Verbruggen, Olij, Vaessen, Van Gassel, Gorter, Room, Noppert I don’t think we’ll have many issues here.

Bijlow remains my favorite, although Verbruggen will develop into a top goalie as well. If we have 3 goalies who can stop shots, distribute the ball, coach well and remain fit, I think we should be happy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Central Trio

Van Dijk will be beyond criticism, as will Ake be. I think De Vrij will make way soon for Van der Ven/Botman. De Ligt is not ideal in this role as he will have trouble seconding for Dumfries/Frimpong as occasional “right back”. He’s not very agile and needs a direct opponent to bite himself into. I would see De Ligt as the replacement for Van Dijk. With space around the right centre back, the likes of Timber and Geertruida are more suited for that role on the right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Van der Ven impressing in orange and in London

Wingbacks

It’s clear that Dumfries and Frimpong on the right and Hartmann, Malacia, Maatsen will be the main guys for the wingback role. I haven’t ruled Karsdorp out on the right, but he’ll need more playing time of course. Mitchell Bakker can be an option on the left and who knows, Wijndal?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mercurial Frimpong

Central midfield

De Roon will probably always play a role in the squad as coach appreciate his physical strength, his tactical discipline and leadership but from a football perspective, Reinders, Wieffer and Veerman and even Schouten (PSV) will eclipse him at some point.

To me Schouten is a more complete “De Roon”. The PSV midfielder is also a great passer of the ball. Shame that he was overlooked, in particular with Koopmeiners out.

Frenkie will be a certainty. Koopmeiners/Frenkie hasn’t worked too well. Reinders could be a good partner for Frenkie. I personally rate him overall higher than Veerman who remains to be weak without the ball. Schouten/Frenkie can work well too, I believe.

Ryan Gravenberch is doing really in his early Liverpool days and he and Frenkie might also end up being a strong partnership. Not sure about Gravenberch as a 10. I can see Reijnders playing as a 10 though.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jerdy Schouten

Forwards

Up front, it might get tough for Memphis to get back into the team, in particular if Koeman can get Brobby to perform. Gakpo and Xavi Simons are probably solid options for the coach. Noa Lang is on fire at PSV. A forward trio of Lang, Gakpo and Xavi Simons looks really amazing, with Malen, Bergwijn as support. Danjuma is a bit of a dark horse. No idea why he cut his time at Villareal short, as he was doing so well there and then he ended up with Everton??

Zirkzee and Joel Piroe might end up becoming top strikers for us too, in the years to come. Another forward/midfielder I really rate is Ruben van Bommel of AZ, currently in Jong Oranje.

In that squad, managed by Michael Reiziger, players like Kenneth Taylor, Jorrel Hato (Ajax defender), Dirk Proper (NEC) and Isaac Babadi (PSV) look like the real deal, as I’m also impressed with Noah Ohio (Standard Luik). The latter played his youth football in Manchester at United and City.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ruben van Bommel scoring while Mark van Bommel is tearing up

Coaches and playing style

Ronald Koeman seems to have the sympathy factor in The Netherlands, based on his past as a player and based on his last stint as national team manager, as he is seen as the man who got Oranje out of the slumps. He’s not the most innovative or even adventurous coaches, but with Erwin Koeman next to him and more important, Sipke Hulshoff next to him, we should have all elements in place. Erwin is a great field coach and analyticus while Hulshoff offers the more modern coaching aspects to the team (stats, video analysis). Pat Lodewijks is always praised for his wonderful set piece ploys.

As clubs like PSV, Feyenoord, AZ but also Sparta and even Almere City transforming into high press, high octane teams (Ajax currently lacking behind a bit) and with top internationals playing this style of football already under Klopp, Guardiola and Xavi, it’s only a matter of time before Oranje plays in this same vein, forcing the likes of Xavi Simons, Memphis and Lang into the mould as well.

We will only get better.

The Greece game will not be easy. Greece is better than most people think ( we have a couple of these guys in the Eredivisie and they’re good). We can lose or draw that game, I would not be surprised.

We will still have a way into the Euros via the play offs but again: if we can’t beat Greece than we need to wonder what we want to achieve in those Euros.

Still, I say we win 0-2, with Weghorst and Simons on the score sheet.

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Ajax, The Perfect Storm

For decades, ever since Oranje and Cruyff wooed the world with their break through Total Football ( even if it was Happel at Feyenoord who initiated it), Ajax has been synonym with “class”, “technical football” and youth development.

A factory, churning out talent after talent. From Cruyff, Krol, Rep, Suurbier to Van Basten, Van ‘t Schip, Rijkaard, Vanenburg all the way to Seedorf, Davids, Kluivert, De Boer Bros, Van der Vaart, Sneijder and Frenkie de Jong and more recently Gravenberch, Brobby and Timber…

All managed by a host of former Ajax players in top football roles ( Danny Blind, Ruud van Duyvenbode, Arie van Eijden, Wim Jonk, Sjaak Swart, Louis van Gaal, Co Adriaanse), as part of a close knit network, the Fifth Colonne as it’s called in The Netherlands. Scouts, youth coaches, analysts, agents, Ajax always seemed to be a many tentacled octopus, delivering dozens of former youth products to literally every club in The Netherlands.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you recognise all these incredible talents?

Noa Lang (ex Feyenoord as well) at PSV. Quinten Timber at Feyenoord (originally also Feyenoord by the way), Eagles’ captain Bas Kuipers, Mitchel van Dijk at Fortuna, Czerny at Twente (former season), Warmerdam at Sparta, Baas at Twente, Eijting at Twente, the list is long. No one will dispute the majestic impact Ajax’ has had on Dutch football.

They may not have been the first (or last) to win a European trophy but they did win most of them.

That huge Football Emporium is slowly disintegrating before our eyes. With a massive loss versus Arch Rivals Feyenoord 0-4 as the lowest of the low, particularly the off pitch shenanigans with hooded “fans” trying to storm the Cruyff Arena, to lynch a couple of board directors.

So where did it go wrong?

For me, arrogance is a key factor. Ajax always pride themselves as the Sons of Gods, the best of all. This arrogance is typical maybe for the city of Amsterdam, where the street smart bravado has always been a factor. The city of advertising and media execs (as opposed to industrial Eindhoven (Philips), or transport-focused Rotterdam (ports).

“”We are Ajax” is what you need to radiate when you walk onto the pitch, so you’re already 1-0 when the opponent looks at us coming out.” The jersey, the hairdo, the chest forward and chin up attitude. And the Ajax culture truly wants players to emphasize this.

When Ajax was struggling to play attractive football (under Frank de Boer for instance), the legendary Johan Cruyff started his Velvet Revolution, aided by the likes of Wim Jonk, Dennis Bergkamp, Keje Molenaar and Marc Overmars.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It got made into a book! I can see Christopher Walken in the JC role and Stephen Merchant as Van der Sar. Maybe Ricky Gervais as Marc Overmars? Ryan Gosling as Bergkamp?

Ex-players needed to take charge of the club, just like at Bayern Munich. Overmars earned his stripes as a business man and manager, partly due to his hobby to buy and upgrade real estate and trading in classic cars, while acting as technical director at Go Ahead Eagles (where he started his pro career and where he worked with you maverick coach Erik ten Hag).

Edwin van de Sar was being courted to become the new managing director (after his business studies at the Cruyff University), while Jonk and Bergkamp would become part of the technical management triumvirate (with Overmars and Frank de Boer).

The plan didn’t work out too well. Jonk left angrily, as his input to use Academy products was ignored. Bergkamp had to leave after a conflict with Overmars ( he pushed Peter Bosz out and pushed his friend Marcel Keizer for the head coach role) so the management team running the club consisted of Marc Overmars and Edwin van der Sar (and a financial and commercial director of course, but these company officals are not relevant for this particular topic).

And both Overmars and Sar were being monitored by the Board of Directors, which had Danny Blind as the football man. Blind played an important role in the background, as the sounding board for coaches and management, but Blind left the role when Van Gaal was brought back to Oranje as head coach. Van Gaal wouldn’t do it without his lieutenant Danny. So Ajax did not have a football smart director in the Board but this was not so crucial, as Overmars and Sar had a good grip on Ajax, which stole more hearts in Europe under Ten Hag, particularly in that 2019 CL Campaign, with Frenkie, Tadic, Ziyech and Tagliafico in stunning form.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is one of the dick pics Overmars sent hahahaha….

The bubble burst in Ten Hag’s final year. What no one could have predicted happened. Marc Overmars appeared to have sent dick pics (!!!) to several female colleagues on the Ajax marketing desks. And the macho culture within Ajax was such, that the women/girls were afraid to complain about it.

The news shocked the Dutch bonton world and when it became clear that this 1) had been going on for quite a while and 2) Van der Sar was aware but didn’t want to intervene, the popularity rating of the Sons of Gods plummeted.

Van der Sar couldn’t do much different than sack Overmars, but as the lanky manager hoped to re-instate the once speedy winger in this role, he was quite successful after all, Van der Sar never appointed a successor.

So half of the successful due “Overmars / Ten Hag” had to leave the club and the other half wouldn’t stay much longer, as Manchester United lured the champion maker to Old Trafford.

Van der Sar, who already had a string of mismanagement dossiers to his name (the Nouri case, the Quincy Promes case, the Winston Bogarde case), decided to push KJ Huntelaar and scout Gerry Hamstra in the role of “acting Technical Directors”. The problem – Ajax being a publically listed company – was that both H’s didn’t have the authority to sign contracts, so Van der Sar decided that he would be the technical director / managing director and he would be more “hands on” when transfers were concerned.

Ten Hag went. Alfred Schreuder came. There was no technical director present in that transfer window, so an overzealous Schreuder stepped in, together with his agent to help Ajax sign some new players.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That summer, some big names and powerful characters left the club: Brobbey went to Leipzig, Tagliafico to Lyon, Martinez to Man United, Mazaroui to Bayern, Onana to Inter, Haller to Dortmund, Schuurs was allowed to leave for Torino and Antony also left for Man United. Some of these were unavoidable, some of the others (Schuurs, Tagliafico) maybe less so.

In place of these players, Ajax brought in Calvin Bassey, Lorenzo Lucca, Owen Wijndal, Jorge Sanchez and Florian Grillitsch. Schreuder and Van der Sar were also keen to bring Sevilla forward Ocampos to the Arena, but the Board of Directors felt that signing was close to being preposterous and stopped that. They did allow for Ocampos to come on a loan basis. No surprise here, that Ocampus ended up a failure, as any football knowledgable person would be able to predict: Ocampus would probably work at PSV but lacks the skills to play the Ajax style.

The Board of Directors gave a clear signal to the coach/management but allowed for the signing of the others.

Just to give you an idea: Sven Botman left Ajax for 8 million euros. Calvin Bassey came from Rangers for 21 Million euros. Per Schuurs left for Torino, for 9 million euros. Crazy.

Schreuder didn’t have the greatest first season’s half at Ajax and came to clash with club icon Daley Blind, resulting in the international leaving the club mid-season, which in turn resulted in Danny Blind – fresh from the World Cup in Qatar – to sever his ties with Ajax’ Board of Directors. Leaving another great hole of football know-how in the Ajax hierarchy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tadic apparently taking over from Schreuder, last season

So, there is a Board of Directors of people without any real football know-how: Eringa ( resigned this week) is a notorious job-hopper with a career in hospitals and railways. Annette Mosman is an accountant. Cees van Oevelen is a lawyer. Georgette Schlick is a media person.

Apart from these people, Maurits Hendriks was added to management, as Chief Sports Officer. No one knows what the former Hockey coach was going to add to Ajax

Van der Sar had the power but didn’t know what to do with it. Ajax was now a year without Technical Director and during the Schreuder (and later Heitinga) season, the first cracks became apparent. Tadic unhappy, Blind gone, Wijndal never played, Berghuis started fist fights with supporters, Ocampos returned to Sevilla halfway the season and Ajax would finish the season third, only 2 points above AZ Alkmaar.

Van der Sar was now convinced that a true Technical Director was needed (Overmars found a new home in Antwerp) and Maurits Hendriks enlisted the help of an Executive Search (headhunter) bureau to find the ideal candidate.

Now, these things don’t work too well in the world of pro football. There is no linkedin. And the coach resume is simply how he performed with other clubs / teams. In terms of quality of performance, results achieved and how the guy holds up in press conferences and interviews.

By then, it appeared impossible to hold Van der Sar accountable. And lets face it: he’s not the only guilty party. What about the Board of Directors, who were there to check the shenanigans of their GM. But after the different botches affairs, Sar’s biggest mistake was to not replace Overmars. He saw the writing on the wall and announced his resignation (per August 1) but before he was able to truly pass the baton, he suffered a debilitating stroke and is now at home, basically learning how to walk and talk again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Former Hockey coach Hendriks responsible for signing Sven Mislintat

Obviously, no one feels the need to string the former Oranje goalie up for his mistakes. We wish him well.

But the usual suspects  for the TD job weren’t good enough. AZ’s Max Huiberts, Frank Arnesen (who found Arne Slot for Feyenoord), Jordi Cruyff, Wim Jonk, Marijn Beuker, Jan Streuer, Maxwell, Julian Ward… For some reason, Hendriks and the Ajax board decided on a guy 1) no one heard of in The Netherlands and 2) who was known to be a lone wolf (according to former employers Stuttgart who didn’t extend his deal) and who had a reputation of looking for conflict (according to former employers Arsenal). The man who hardly had any experience as technical director but who made a name in Germany for himself as top scout.

As per usual, the technical director selects the new coach. Peter Bosz was keen to return to Ajax, as his nemesis Bergkamp had left, but for some reason Ajax (Mislintat?) decided against re-hiring Bosz. It’s unclear who else was on the short list. Heitinga had blown it ( his results weren’t overly great), Nagelsmann apparently wasn’t interested but we’ll never know who else was on the list. Mislintat ended up with Maurice Steijn, the Dutch coach who had previously impressed with ADO Den Haag, VVV and Sparta Rotterdam and who was considered another Henk ten Cate protege (like Arne Slot and Alfred Schreuder).

Mislintat: “I came to focus on Steijn, because he manages to get results better than to be expected with the material he works with. He let Den Haag, VVV and in particular Sparta hit well above their station and that is what we need to get Ajax quickly back to the top.”

Steijn is also a Dutch coach, which helps with the language and he’s known to be a tough taskmaster, as the The Hague street mentality would work well in Amsterdam, people believed. Steijn was quite adamant that he wanted Said Bakkati as his assistant (formerly Dick Advocaat’s assistant at Feyenoord and Jaap Stam’s second in command at Cincinnati). He was assistant at ajax U21 in 2014 and is no stranger to the club. Former midfielder Hedwiges Maduro, considered a top coach in the making, was also high on Steijn’s list. He got them both.

As per usual, Steijn gave his list of preferred new signings to Mislintat, assuming the TD would work his magic to get the characters and types Steijn wanted. Steijn made a point to say he preferred players from The Netherlands. Like Feyenoord was able to build a success team with players brought in from AZ, Twente, Excelsior, this is exactly how Steijn also believed he could build from the bottom up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How it started…

To Steijn frustration, Mislintat ignored the requests from Steijn and delivered a number of fairly unknown players to the JC Arena.

Branco van de Boomen’s signing (on a free) can be justified. The signing of Sutalo (Croatian international) can also be explained, just like Forth’s move from City to Ajax can be a good one, in time.

But where Ajax saw the likes of Frenkie de Jong, De Ligt, Ziyech, Haller, Tagliafico and Martinez go, they decided to bring replacements in from Viborg, from Eintracht, Molde, Middlesbrouh and Metz…

Literally none of these players were known entities amongst the Ajax supporters and it’s now wonder Mislintat was heading for a rough ride.

When Steijn was asked if he was happy with the players he was gifted, he said the following: “I don’t know, I really don’t know most of them, sorry. I need to check them out and see. I gave my list of preferred players to Sven but sadly, he decided to use his own list. They’re his players.”

A telling interview indeed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How it ended….

Not much later, the news broke that Mislintat had verbally abused the coaching staff and goalie Jay Gorter during a training session. He told the coaches that Steijn would be sacked if Ajax lost against Feyenoord (they did) and he told Gorter he was supposed to make way for the new German goalie.

As if this wasn’t enough, the Telegraaf newspaper broke the news that Mislintat was the subject of an internal investigation. It appeared that he owned shares in a sports marketing company, which has a particular players agent as shareholder as well. Guess what. Mislintat would speak to potential new signings, telling them that if they want to move to Ajax, they were to ditch their current manager and go with the agent who happens to be – coincidence coincidence – Mislintat’s partner in the business. Wow. How low can you go?

On the day of (the first) Ajax – Feyenoord, Ajax decided to let the TD go. The internal investigation is still going, by the way, but despite this, Ajax could see the writing on the wall: this was never going to go well.

The first thing Ajax did, was to appoint Van Wijk and Van Praag (two elderly Ajax statesmen) to the Board of Directors and Michael van Praag immediately called his friend Louis van Gaal with the request to consult Ajax in how to structure the future.

Maurice Steijn is still coach and asked about Van Gaal’s role, he responded positively: “I have worked with him before. When he was national team coach in 2012, I was coach of ADO and Oranje used to train on our grounds. Louis would ask me for ADO players, if he needed additional bodies and we spent quite some time together. I still use his lessons in my coaching and I look forward to his insights and advice.”

 

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Oranje simply not up to it

The cliche “men versus boys” has been used here a lot. In the past. And how I hoped that would remain a thing of the past.

But the games versus Croatia and Italy have yet again demonstrated where we go wrong. Again.

And I wonder who or what is going to change this!

The System

Lets start this two-match review with the obvious: some people claim that due to the losses and the conceded goals we will need to consider a switch back to the 5-3-2 of van Gaal.

One photo will show you why this is nonsense.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As one can see: we had enough defenders in the box (5!). It’s not about the number of defenders. It’s about how the defenders defend and about what they do.

Combine this insight with the fact we conceded two downright idotic penalties versus Croatia and the analysis is done: stupidity, complacency and laziness.

Gakpo trying to turn the best midfielder of the past decade on the edge of his own box. Gakpo losing the ball and then trying to pick up the little maestro from the back (and what… bring him to the kids’ stands??)…. And late in the match, Malacia with a lunge in the box. I mean, a rush of blood to the head of course but I could accept the explanation of Malacia: only minutes left to score a goal and we needed the ball so I took a risk. And failed. But either way: two cheap penalties and very unnecessary.

The Croatie second goal was a typical example of alibi defending. Or pseudo defending.  Making people believe you’re doing what you can. Dumfries, in this case not putting any pressure on the ball and staying at 1,5 yards from the forward. In his own box! That is not something you see Croatian or Italian defenders do. And Ake, Virgil and Koopmeiners all looking at each other. Typically something that happens even more with a 5 at the back system.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not enough pressure on the ball. No communication. Ake can see it all happening in front of him,

Versus Italy, same old same old. Two early goals because no one really defends! No one attacks the ball, no one clears the ball, no one puts pressure on the ball and the key forwards who should track back to cover the Italian wing backs: absent!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dimarco gets time and time from Malen and his defender mates were not able to recognise or communicate the danger to him. Where is a screaming Frank de Boer when you need him?

We didn’t lose because of the system

The quality of the players

I think we all know we have a lot of players who can play some neat, nifty football. Xavi Simons, Noa Lang, Donny Malen, Joey Veerman, Frenkie, all gifted players. But tenacity, leadership, personality and mentality are also part of the complete package of qualities a player requires.

And we lacked it. Again. We did see some good moves, we did see some decent actions and at times we played some nice football. Sure. But it’s about when things don’t go your way. When the opponent finds spaces where you didn’t expect it. When team mates get sloppy.

The quality we need then, is not the step-over of Noa Lang, the shimmy of Frenkie or the dribble of Xavi. We need the leadership of a Roy Keane. The big mouth of Gatuso. The piercing look of Mark van Bommel. I can fully understand that Wieffer, Geetruida, Dumfries and Lang are not the players to demonstrate this part of the game.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But Virgil. Nathan Ake (treble winner!), Frenkie de Jong ( skipper at Barca) and Koopmeiners should do more in this domain. Captain Van Dijk should be in Malen’s face, if he doesn’t track back! Frenkie should be ready to make the tactical switches where need be.

It’s all too sweet. We’re too friendly. We play too many card games at training camp and we focus too much on funny youtube clips with quizes, or raps with cigars and fashion shoots.

Mentality, commitment, leadership

And these are the elements that are missing. Some players came to the Nations League final round complaining that the season was too long and if we don’t win versus Croatia, we can’t be bothered to play the Losers Finals. Koeman should have sent these players home!

If you can’t get inspired for a football game, not hoping the coach will do it for you, then you have nothing to do in an orange jersey.

Every single player of Spain, Croatia and Italy has had a long and tough season! Man up!

We believe we are great football players. But we are only great on the ball. And not great. Above average. And we suck in the mental department.

And this is not something we fix by changing systems.

The Coach

I never believe in getting a coach back for a second stint. It was a success with Michels and Oranje, ok. But not in any other instance. Mourinho at Chelsea. Van Marwijk at Feyenoord. Van Gaal at Barcelona. Van Gaal with the Oranje/Ajax contingent in 2000.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is a sense of “comfort”, working with a coach you know. Whenever a coach says it feels like coming home, you know you’re in trouble. It shouldn’t feel like home.

Why pick Koeman again? Because it worked so well before? Well…. did it? He bailed before the Euros. Not really a success. So in my book, a big cross should have gone through his name.

Peter Bosz was available. Just sayin’.

Koeman has end responsibility and he needs to get his players mentally ready for a match or send the ones that can’t be bothered home. And when Malen doesn’t track back twice in 15 mins and we get hammered twice: immediately sub the dude. Show grit. Show courage.

Just like our team wasn’t able to show courage versus Croatia, our coach lacked courage in his choices.

The Future

I do believe the youngsters we see in Orange will grow into good solid players for the team: Wieffer, Veerman, Geertruida, Simons and even Malen, Gakpo and Lang are still youngsters, compared to Blind, Van Dijk and Memphis. We need to give them a chance.

But we need to give Botman, Frimpong, Schouten, Dallinga and Spierings a chance too.

Bijlow was not 100% top, but was only really at fault with that third Croatia goal. It wasn’t an easy one, but it was stoppable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A back line with Ake and Botman, De Ligt and Frimpong should work. Or Malacia, Ake, De Ligt, Frimpong.

A midfield with Veerman, Frenkie and Wieffer should work. A forward line with Lang, Gakpo and Malen should work. We do have enough quality on the ball. But we need to turn it into a team and we need to wise up really quickly now and start switching that button on in their heads.

Playing for Oranje is not a summer camp outing after a tough season at the club.

It’s do or die now.

 

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