LVG has made his final decisions. Lots to discuss. I will give my insights here, and will continue with the Road to Qatar series discussing a suprise – for some – inclusion: Club Brugge’s Noa Lang.
But first the 26 squad.
The shock was the omission of Cillesen. Something that would have made the goalie furious and I get why. The argument that Cillesen is not in form is BS. He is as much in form as Pasveer, who had some howlers in the past months. Cillesen is playing really well for NEC Nijmegen, so this was a white lie.
Later in the presser, Van Gaal let slip in between the lines, that Cillesen is poison in the squad when he doesn’t play. I think this is the real reason. Wesley Sneijder opened up about Cillesen’s behaviour at the WC2014: “When Van Gaal subbed him for Krul he got really mad. We all remember the kick against the water bottle, when he walked off. But it went further. He didn’t congratulate Krul afterwards and kept away from the team celebrations. He called his parents and his management and they went back to Van Gaal. I remember the coaches were about to send him home, but decided against it due to the media spectacle that would become. He is not supportive towards his colleagues. When he is #2, he will undermine the #1 goalie. I can understand why he is not part of the squad.”
Ok, so can I. But if this is the case, why wait so long with letting him know? That was unnecessary. When you have good options in Bijlow, Pasveer, Flekken and Noppert, why not let Cillesen know weeks ago that he won’t be in the plane? Strange.
Then for some (me too), the exclusion of Danjuma seems odd. He is fast, explosive, strong in the duels, he makes runs in behind and he has ice in his veins. When you need good penalty kickers, he’s one of your men. But Van Gaal opted for an extra midfielder in Taylor. I would have taken Danjuma as replacement for Memphis who simply is not fit and could well be a huge gamble. It’s a muscle injury. Muscle injuries can look like their gone, and then suddenly return with a vengeance.
Janssen is not a replacement like-for-like for Memphis.
The reasoning to leave Danjuma out: he was not part of Oranje when Van Gaal made his big shift from 3-4-3 to 3-5-2. He said it then: players who were part of that experience – which LVG sees as crucial – have an extra plus behind their names. Danjuma was not there due to injury and will have missed the tactical instructions.
Whereas Noa Lang was part of that squad. Even better, Club Brugge plays in that exact same way! And even betterer: Noa Lang excels at Brugge as a sub, which is exactly what LVG has in mind for Lang. A game changer off the bench.
Janssen v Brobbey is another debate. The Ajax man is more explosive and quicker and a better header of the ball. But… he wasn’t part of Van Gaal’s “masterclasses” and Janssen was. It’s also a known fact that Janssen is a popular lad amongst the players and the coaches: articulate, intelligent and loyal. Brobbey can be a wild card in this respect.
For me, there are not any more surprises. I would have loved to see Clasie but not sure who I would have sacrificed.
Lets look at Noa Lang. The rebel forward who started his career at Feyenoord, made the move to his fave club Ajax, and from there got himself a transfer – sort of forced – to Club Brugge.
Last season, he established himself as a force to be reckoned with, both in Oranje and in Club (remember the PSG games in the Champions League), and he gambled on a transfer. He felt AC Milan would be a nice next step on his way to Real Madrid.
But the transfer didn’t happen and he got injured in the summer, which cost him his spot in the starting line up. Despite being fit only for a month, he made it in the WC squad.
It may be a surprise for many, but not for me.
We used to have many players in the past who could take on opponents and dribble their way to success, from Rensenbrink, Cruyff and Van Basten all the way to Robben and Elia. Today, we have a couple of fast paced, direct forwards (Malen, Danjuma, Bergwijn) and a couple of target men (Luuk, Weghorst, Janssen, Brobbey) but we desperately need a guy who can take on an opponent to create a man more situation. We have Gakpo, Memphis and, yes… Lang who can do this. Of all the Oranje potentials for attack, Noa is the number 2 on the list of successful dribbles, just behind Gakpo, and in front of Depay. Bergwijn, Brobbey and Luuk de Jong are quite a way behind.
— Ziggo Sport Voetbal (@ZS_Voetbal) August 14, 2022
Van Gaal: “Noa has always delivered in my teams. He is a creative player who doesn’t need a lot of time or opportunities to break open a defence. And at Brugge he now demonstrates he can do it as a sub too, which is exactly what I have in mind for him. He will be my impact player off the bench.” As mentioned before, Lang also is accustomed to the 3-5-2 LVG is planning to use at the World Cup. Definitely a plus.
Running in Behind
It seems LVG sees the trio of Gakpo/Memphis/Bergwijn as his preferred attacking three. With subs like Luuk de Jong and Wout Weghorst and Vincent Janssen, Oranje has different types of strikers, but still need a player with speed and depth, with the ability to run in behind. Malen is considered not good enough at the moment, so it was between Danjuma and Lang. LVG chose Lang.
Wat een voorzet en wat een afwerking 🤤
— Ziggo Sport Voetbal (@ZS_Voetbal) September 10, 2021
Lang has explosiveness also without the ball. Most of his goals come from his runs in behind, from the left flank. When Oranje is pushed back against strong opponents, Lang can definitely be a strong weapon.
LVG loves multifunctional players. The likes of Blind, Klaassen and Berghuis fall in that category. When Lang was used in his debut v Latvia, Van Gaal put him on the right wing position. He was clear in his pre-match announcements: “I want to see how Noa plays from the right”. Within 5 minutes, the extraverted rebel pushed Gakpo to the right and went to play on his fave left position. Van Gaal was gobsmacked! “Isn’t that incredible? I had to correct that immediately. That was not my plan!”. LVG could laugh about it though, and have him another chance later. Against Wales, LVG changed his system from 3-4-2-1 to 3-4-1-2 and Lang’s introduction was key to that. As Van Gaal has three traditional central strikers in De Jong, Weghorst and Janssen, Lang offers the veteran coach something different, with the various positions Lang can play in. Even a return to 4-3-3 is an option with Lang in the squad.
Van Gaal likes to use the “plus” and “minus” labels when explaining his selection process. He wants the following aspects: form, rhythm, personality and tactical knowledge of the LVG Philosophy (huh?). It seems form, rhythm and personality are quite on par between Lang and Danjuma, but the Brugge forward has an extra plus as he was part of the squad that worked on the 3-5-2 model ( 3-4-1-2) LVG prefers these days.