Well, we’re at the business end of the season… Things are heating up nicely in Spain and France, while the champs in Italy, Holland and England are known already. Still heaps to play for. Practically every club in the Eredivisie has something to play for still. There’s a lot of excitement in the EPL still on both ends and this weekend is a killer weekend for Barcelona!
And when the dust has settled, we’re all gearing up for two major tournaments in summer: the Euros and the U21 Euros.
From this position, a bit congrats to Ajax, who had a masterful season. Winning the double with pretty good football and quarter finals EL is usually a season to be very proud of. It’s typical for Ajax at the moment, that most people are actually disappointed with Ajax’ European campaign. That says something about the expectations.
Another big feather in Ajax’ cap is the break through of some exceptional young talents: Gravenberch, Timber, Rensch, Brobbey and lets not forget Noa Lang in Brussels (technically also developed at Feyenoord, like Timber).
Ajax found the right balance: young exuberant talents, masterful experience in Tadic, Blind, Stekelenburg and Klaassen and the grit and bravado of the South Americans (and Mexican). Record signing Seb Haller wasn’t even that influential, so it goes to show what we can expect in the next season.
Erik ten Hag stays at Ajax, which will most likely result in another adventurous season coming up, hopefully with more CL results. I do expect a lot from Kudus, who had a difficult injury-laden season while Ekkelenkamp is touted as even better than Gravenberch. We also have Schuurs, Traore and most likely some new signings this summer. It’s believed Tagliafico and Onana are on their way out, but the Argentine left back has said time and time again, “I don’t need to leave, I’ll only go when the club is right and it is financially good for Ajax. I love playing here and living here, so staying at Ajax would work for me too.”
Onana has his own issues (won’t play a competitive match till March 2021) and might also not find a club.
PSV and Feyenoord both struggle. PSV has to deal with a coach who only wants to play one style, while the PSV players might well not be the right material for that German disciplined tactics. Feyenoord simply lacks quality, both in the squad and on the trainers bench. Advocaat truly is old school. Only Berghuis and Senesi represent real value (albeit with a limited fee for Berghuis!) and Bijlow, Malacia and Kokcu will represent more value in the future. They should stay a bit longer in Rotterdam.
AZ has impressed massively as well. Their start was rocky, they dropped at least 8 points which they shouldn’t have by conceding too many goals in the first matches. Add those 8 point to the table now and they’d be a title challenger. The likes of Wijndal, Koopmeiners, Midsjo, Karlsson all have a massive future ahead of them. Stengs and Boadu are still question marks though, and when Wijndal and Koopmeiners leave (while Svensson is leaving on a free, I believe) it remains to be seen if and how AZ can sustain their position.
Vitesse can also be proud of their season, with German coach Letsch capable of what Schmidt at PSV is failing: inspiring his players – even the difficult ones, like Tannane and Bazoer – in playing for the team. Those two, in combination with goalie Pasveer (on his way to Ajax!) and a couple of loanies, propelled Vitesse back to the top and into Europe (most likely).
This weekend it’s Feyenoord-Ajax, a last option for Feyenoord to give the season a bit of shine (although Ajax probably wouldn’t care too much if they lost).
And while we gear up for the European finals (with potentially a starring role for Ziyech, Ake, Donny van de Beek), our focus will shift to the Euros.
Sad news for the pundits and criticasters who were sharpening their knives for the Weghorst-Luuk debate: Frank de Boer is allowed to bring 26 players to the tournament, which most likely means that the NT coach will bring 3 more attacking players along.
Louis van Gaal made headlines in 2014 when he decided to bring less defenders and more forwards. Logic and statistics got him to do that and now it seems almost a natural decision to make. Statistics show that the majority of substitutions are about bringing game changers onto the pitch: strikers, wingers, creative mids.
Another reason to change players: fatigue or injuries. It’s usually the forwards that will struggle with this. Statistically, defenders are less likely to have to go off due to fatigue.
It simply doesn’t make sense to stack the bench with the likes of Hateboer, St Juste, Holman or Struijk.
And Frank de Boer has experienced this in recent matches with Oranje where he ended up sending defenders (Ake, Dumfries) forward in order to force an issue, as he ran out of attacking options. See photo below.
So I can imagine Wout Weghorst getting a spot in the squad. And De Boer will have to work through the scenarios: who do you want on the bench when you’re still 0-0 vs Bosnia-Herzegovina with 10 mins to go? Which midfielder can you bring late, to add some energy to the proceedings? Which skilled dribbler do we have to play the same part as Memphis did in the 2014 World Cup?
Goalies: – Cillesen, Krul, Stekelenburg
Defenders: Dumfries, Karsdorp, De Vrij, De Ligt, Ake, Veltman, Wijndal, Van Aanholt
Midfield: Frenkie, De Roon, Gini Wijnaldum, Klaassen, Van de Beek, Gravenberch
Forwards: Malen, Babel, Memphis, Luuk de Jong, Berghuis, Bergwijn
Additional three: Weghorst, Stengs, Danjuma
I have left Bijlow, Koopmeiners, Lang and Gakpo out as I believe Van der Looij will select them for his Young Oranje tournament.
Based on today’s form and fitness, this would be my starting eleven for the Euros (Blind and Van Dijk not considered):
And against stronger teams (Italy, Spain, England, France) you could play Memphis on the left with Luuk de Jong or Weghorst centrally.
Should Daley be fit in time, I think Veltman is out.
Should Van Dijk be fit in time, Van Aanholt will be left out.
What are your thoughts?