With the lull we had in Oranje football and the newly appointed strong men finding their feet (Hoogma, Koeman) it’s time we see the Orange Lions perform again. The Eredivisie simply can’t convince us of better times to come I suppose… Ajax, the best players but inconsisent (and even worse with Ten Hag then under Keizer at the moment). PSV, on title winning course, but never impressing (bar the Feyenoord game, in which they played very good) and Feyenoord…well… disastrous really.
AZ is getting the kudos and the headlines, and rightfully so, but we’ll need to see if they can do it in big games vs big opponents as well. Usually, the bottle it against Ajax, Feyenoord and PSV.
There are some positives though, some of our Oranje candidates abroad are getting stronger and stronger. Memphis and Tete show promise. Promes shows…well…promise. De Vrij, Hateboer, De Roon, all strong. Davy Propper is getting praise from the Match of the Day punters while Mike van der Hoorn has found his role in the Swansea defense.
The number of youthful talents in the Eredivisie is on the increase as well, with quite some strong talents coming up on the radar. Soon, I’ll post an article with some up and coming stars for us.
Ronald Koeman made some big changes when he started in the job. In the olden days, a former team manager decided to have the NT stay and train in Noordwijk, in the hotel of a friend. Strange of course. Because the KNVB spent millions to build a cool sports centre in the forests of Zeist. Every athlete or sports team (Hockey, baseball, etc) would go there to be secluded, to be able to focus and have all the amenities available. The NT however, had to train miles away from the hotel at the amateur club of Katwijk (Dirk Kuyt’s former club) and logistically, this was always a drama. The players loved it there though, the more “extraverted” ones would slip away from the hotel to go to the vibrant night life of Zandvoort or The Hague to have some party time away from coaches and family.\
Media circus at Hotel Noordwijk
Under Koeman, no more. He was known to be one of those party animals when he was a player and he knows every trick in the book. (If you were a team mate of Ruud Gullit, you definitely would get a master class in slipping girls into your hotel room…yes girls…plural!). So Koeman decided to stop with that ritual of staying in Noordwijk. And he is directing his underperfoming prima donnas to go to the prison camp – a luxurious one though – in Zeist. Boom!
Koeman demands dedication, rest and professionalism on his long and winding road towards the 2020 Euros.
Koeman is quite optimistic. He believes any team or squad needs to play to their strengths AND weaknesses. “If we don’t have the world class talent of Sneijder and Robben anymore, we’ll need to use the strengths we have. If we’re not strong defensively, we need to make sure we don’t need to defend…” Cruyffian statements.
He asked the questions, rhetorical ones of course. “How is Quincy Promes doing in Moscow? Isn’t De Vrij a top defender in Italy? Has Memphis not demonstrated that he can do it? Is Wijnaldum not a highly valued player under Klopp? Didn’t Liverpool break the transfer record for Van Dijk? Can we not all see the amazing lungs and legs of AZ’s Guus Til? Aren’t we excited about Frenkie de Jong, Justin Kluivert, Donny van der Beek?”
Koeman is optimistic. But also disappointend. “When I was called up for the national team, in my days, I was proud. I was exhilarated to be part of it. I would go even when my leg had been amputated. I miss this mentality now. The pride to wear the jersey. The attitude, the mentality. When you have less quality, you simply have to give 110% of what you have. When you’re Messi or Robben or David Silva, sure, you can rely on your skills. But when you are Greece 2004, you need to spit in your hands and work work work. “Missing one tournament is highly inconvenient, but okay, it can happen. Missing two in a row, is really bad.” The only good thing for Koeman is that with Oranje and the KNVB in crisis, he could come in at his terms.
So after barely a month in the job, we can see some impact already.
The move from Noordwijk to Zeist is a big call. The players’ quarters are at walking distance from the pitches. The medical centre is right next door. There are gates around the complex, so Ronald can work in peace and without media people or scouts or managers trying to butt in.
The KNVB Sportscentre
The prelim squad selection is a second big one. No more Wesley Sneijder. Ronald Koeman did it with grace. He flew to Qatar, spoke with Sneijder, our record international, and basically said: Wes, just pull out of international games, otherwise I have to drop you. And with the former skipper and leader’s international career over, the career of new faces Til, Weghorst, Kluivert, Bizot and Padt just started. And if Frenkie de Jong wasn’t injured, his name would be on the list as well. Our team manager simply looks at players who play well consistently, so Ruud Vormer – best player in Belgium and ignored by Koeman’s predecessors – is also finally part of the prelim squad. Hans Hateboer went through a tremendous development at Atalanta and is also part of the 33-players prelim squad. Koeman’s signal is clear: I cast a wide net. If you perform well, I’ll spot you!
The third signal Koeman is giving, is hidden in the age and skillsets of the players. Ryan Babel is the only 30+ player in the squad. Koeman considers to play like Atalanta does, with three defenders and a team of fit, athletic runners (like Hateboer and De Roon). This playing style fits Koeman, who introduced it at Feyenoord and it will fit Daryl Janmaat, back in the squad, and players like Van Aanholt and Ake.
And lastly, the way Koeman organises the accessibility of the players will change. In the past, it was a media circus when the players arrived at the Hotel Oranje in Noordwijk. Not any more. There will be no press conferences to announce player selections, just a press release. There will be one Oranje training where media is welcome, but only for 15 minutes. At Southampton and Everton, Koeman worked like this. He doesn’t like media and other voyeurs to be watching when he is working. He wants peace and he wants to be able to say or shout things that should not be repeated in the papers. In England, this is accepted. In The Netherlands, the media will complain about this as the former NT managers were usually quite open. But the criticism leaves Koeman cold. He shrugs his shoulders…
I personally don’t see too many surprises in the squad. Still a bit surprised that Erik Pieters isn’t called up but we do have good quality on the full back positions, with Patrick van Aanholt finding his old form again. Sven van Beek will probably get a look in later, if he keeps on performing consistently and Frenkie de Jong will also be a no-brainer.
It’s good to see Bergwijn amongst the forwards, a very bright prospect indeed.
At the same time, we have all seen how hard it is to reach and stay at top level. I think our good friend Emmanueal Tiju was blowing the horn of Kevin Diks and St Juste and Bart Ramselaar and Jorit Hendrix in the past year, but one can see how hard it is for a talented youth player to stay at the top and keep on developing. The orange jersey seems a long way out for Kevin Diks at the moment.
I saw some questions on the site about some players. My opinion below:
Bryan Linssen – good sub top forward. Already 27 years old. Quite lazy. Doesn’t give 100% for the sports, always struggling with his weight. Gifted player but not for the top. He’s at Vitesse now and I think that is his ceiling.
Idrissi – was kicked out of the Feyenoord youth and went to Groningen. Was seen as a dissonant there too. Showed promise at Groningen but finally shines now at AZ in a better team. Van de Brom is a coach who can reach Idrissi, so there is still hope for him. Very talented but also full of himself.
Ruud Vormer – also a bit long in the tooth. Lacks pace. Great player on the ball, a bit like Lasse Schone. Not an Oranje international long term.
Guus Til – great talent, wonderful runner, picking his time right and cool in the box. Pleasant personality too. Like Van Ginkel a bit. Will make it.
Wout Weghorst – reminds me of Van Nistelrooy. Hard working, very ambitious, invests a lot in himself. Will make it big(ger) due to his workrate and personality. Will not even be able to stand in the shadow of Van Basten, Kluivert, Van Nistelrooy but can be very useful.
Bart Ramselaar – was a big man at Utrecht and took a long time to find his role at PSV. Finally seems to find his game, played well in the last weeks. Too early to tell.
Expect a post on our former skipper Sneijder and our former playmaker Van der Vaart soon!