Evening matches in De Kuip are a joy. The stadium is big but cosy. The fans love it there and usually, so do the players. It has a real football vibe and usually the pitch is perfect. This season, not so much, but still, the atmosphere is amazing.
Louis van Gaal was not happy with the 0-1 versus Latvia, in the sense that he feels the second goal needs to come swift and as we play at home vs minions Gibraltar, we needed to entertain the fans.
For this, he went with almost the same eleven as used versus Latvia, with the addition of Lang on his fave left winger spot in place of the injured Gakpo and Wijnaldum back in place of Guus Til.
Gibraltar coach protested the use of Lang and Danjuma AND two balls!
Before the match, Louis explained how he expects Gibraltar also to have 1 or 2 chances, how he wants the forward pass quicker and demand more courage and creativity of his players.
He didn’t choose to hussle the team up. It would have been nice to see Malacia in action, with De Ligt and maybe Koopmeiners or Gravenberch, but Lous decided to build on his fave eleven, with the eyes firmly on next month’s key matches.
He also decided not to use a real #9, as was suggested by some experts in the Netherlands. “If you want goals against smaller nations, use a target man like De Jong or Weghorst”. Louis acknowledged the idea as a possible option but decided against it, by explaining the tremendous stats and workrate of Memphis as his key reason.
And the Barca man didn’t let his coach down: 2 goals and a missed pen plus 2 assists for the record breaker. He took Kluivert’s record of most goals scored in the NT in calendar year (was 12, now 13).
At this rate, the often criticised artist will become the NT’s top goal scorer, top assister and most capped international.
Van Gaal will have been pleased to see how his forwards again were the key players in the 6-0 win over Gibraltar. We did what we needed to do: a quick goal by the captain, and the chance on a quick second goal. The penalty was justified, but Memphis was stopped by the debutant in goal for Gibraltar. Memphis’ 0-2 was a beauty with a tremendous pre-assist by Noa Lang.
And with Lang, we have another one of the top performers. The cheeky and gifted left winger was a constant threat with his dancing feet in the first half, impressing with his skill, his combination play, his dribbles and his through passes. With Danjuma nocking on the door with a sledgehammer, Lang could well play as a #10 as well. That makes me lick my lips. Great player.
So, Louis wanted to see Noa play and boy did he see him.
It must be said, there were no duds against Gibraltar although some players could shine a bit more (Memphis, Noa, Danjuma) than others (Frenkie de Jong, Bijlow).
Skipper leads the way
Van Gaal wanted goals, he wanted a clean sheet, he wanted his players to remain healthy and he wanted to entertain the public.
And he got all he wanted.
After the match, there was a positive vibe at the presser, with Denzel Dumfries and Arnaut Danjuma being feted and Van Gaal allowed the platform to gloat and shower praise over his lads. “This is a very very tight and good group!”.
I think it is clear that the quality will be there for us, right when we need it.
With Gakpo, Danjuma, Bergwijn, Lang and Malen, we have multiple options for the left winger role.
Lang and Gakpo can play #10 as well. Malen is actually a #9 (for me) and Lang and Danjuma can also play right winger, giving Louis options besides Berghuis.
Assist Weghorst, goal Danjuma!
With our central defenders, our goalkeeper, central midfielder and leader of the line Memphis, I think we’re in pretty good shape.
And yes, I know it was against Gibraltar, but I have seen so many matches of big name national teams (yes, our Oranje as well) struggling against the Cyprus/Malta/Andorra/San Marino/Gibraltar type opponents. Usually, you do win, but at times with limited score lines and lots of frustration.
This time, the team kept at it. Kept playing within the shape, disciplined, with frills and trickery.
Weghorst could have had a goal, Danjuma could have had a couple of assists. Danjuma: “I was waiting to come on with Wout and I said to him: where do you want them? He said: near post. I said, ok… Hard and low, near post. Make sure you are there!”.
Memphis Depay led the line like a real world class player that he can be. He fought, he made dummy runs, he assisted, created and scored. And even missed a pen!
Now, fans also want the tie of the coach!!
Lang and Danjuma will not leave the squad any time soon and De Vrij seems to have won the RCB spot from his best friend De Ligt.
For me, the midfield combination and the right back spot are still question marks. I’m a fan of Dumfries’ personality, his energy and mentality, but he is not good enough to play along in these type of tight games (tight as in “spaces are tight”).
Van Gaal will now focus on the last two matches: an away win v Montenegro means we only need a draw at home against Norway.
My player ratings:
Bijlow – 7
Didn’t do much wrong. Didn’t do much. Stopped a shot on goal from an off side Gibraltar player. Showing off.
Daley Blind – 7.5
Was active. Good passing range. Had several ventures in the box as a midfield-type runner. His team tried to reach him with passes over the top but it didn’t fall for him.
Virgil van Dijk – 7.5
Playing very high and was rewarded with a goal, the first one. A captain’s goal.
Stefan de Vrij – 7.5
Playing high up the pitch. Suffocating anything he could. Attacking prowess leading to (missed) penalty. Great long range passing.
Denzel Dumfries – 6.5
Doesn’t do much wrong but lack of technique and touch makes him a stumbling block in the velvety moves on the right. As always: great energy.
Frenkie de Jong – 6.5
Did his thing, let things ticking over. His long passing game was not 100% and he seemed not needed in this game.
Gini Wijnaldum – 7
Working hard as per usual. Made some great defensive sprints, when needed. Always available and close to a super goal after a great move involving Berghuis and Memphis.
Davy Klaassen – 7,5
Great understanding with Memphis. Wonderful timed runs, great energy and a top assist for Memphis.
Noa Lang – 8,5
First start. Dominant from first minute on. Played with discipline but also with a boldness not seen often, playing through balls with the outside foot, wandering across the whole pitch and setting the pace for the attacks.
Memphis – 9
Constantly hassling, probing, threatening. Allowing his team mates to shine with some good assists and demonstrating his skills in the small spaces. Got two goals, two assists, but should have had a hattrick. Passed some great names on the topscoring list and setting record after record.
Steven Berghuis – 7.5
Good performance, but never outstanding. Combination play was sumptuous, his crossing and shooting was thwarted. Great set piece deliveries too. He was booed by a small part of the (Feyenoord) Oranje fans whenever he had the ball. It didn’t seem to bother him much, but Van Gaal was dumbfounded by these “fans'” reactions.
Arnaut Danjuma – 8.5
Very lively play by the football professor. He’s fast, explosive, strong, direct to goal kinda guy. Took on opponents, had some potential assists, demonstrated a great rapport with his team mates and got his goal too. The golden wonder boy is back.
Wout Weghorst – 7.5
Wout does what Wout does and got an assist too. Should have scored with his head, but the ball should have gone 1mm further over the line. So unlucky.
Donyell Malen – 7.5
I feel for Donny. He is not the best left winger nor the best striker in our NT. But he’s an awesome player: fast, also direct to goal in his approach and a good ball player. He played right winger and looked better there now than he did under Frank de Boer. Scored his goal and is a great super sub to have.
Louis van Gaal – 8
He motivated and inspired the troops. He picked the right eleven. He got the tactics right. He used his subs well. If he does this with Oranje versus France, Italy, Germany and Brazil, he will get a higher mark.