Tag: Bijlow

The Dream of Andries Noppert

While the likes of Messi, Neymar, Van Dijk, Thiago, Benzema and Lewandowski will get the headlines this midweek, with the CL in full force, this time a story about a guy who will most likely never play a Champions League match in his career.

But he might play a game at the World Cup!

Andries Noppert. Sent away from FC Dordrecht in the second tier only two years ago. In two weeks, he might make his debut in Oranje.

Coach Kees van Wonderen took the gamble and signed Noppert as reserve goalie for Go Ahead Eagles. Today, Van Wonderen is head coach at Heerenveen and Noppert followed him there. Asked whether he could see the potential in the tall goalie, he said: “No. No one did. Not even Noppert himself. But it was as if he exploded!”

Van Wonderen: “He is a quaint goalie. I saw him at training, where he stopped unbelievable balls only to fumble tremendously in matches. It seemed like he accepted the fact he was not top.”

And yes, everywhere he played Noppert was told he was not good enough. He started at Heerenveen in the youth. They didn’t think he’d make it. He went to NAC in Breda, and was the reserve goalie there. He took a trip to Foggia, in the Serie B in Italy and he warmed the bench there too. Even in the bottom of the Dutch 2nd tier, he didn’t get a game. FC Dordrecht thanked him and sent him home. He was without a club for 6 months until Eagles in Deventer needed a reserve goalie. He spent 12 months on the bench, until he got his chance. The rest is history.

Most of his career, he looked like this… This is at Dordrecht

Ever since, there is a fun chant in the Go Ahead Eagles stadium: “Noppert in Oranje!” and it sounded like a joke. Not something you’ll hear in the Ajax or Feyenoord stadiums, as it is quite logical that the key players of these teams end up in the orange jersey.

These are the anti-heroes, or cult heroes. The players who could have ended up as postman instead, or truckdriver. Noppert is popular, because the average football fan might think: this could have been me!

The friendly giant in the Heerenveen goal, 27 years old now, is suddenly a fan favorite, with chants to his name and fans whereever he goes.

The football world seems addicted to stats, these days, but sometimes something happens that is not easy to explain. Suddenly, Leicester City wins the Premier League, or Iceland goes to the Euros or Greece wins it. And now, this lanky clumsy goalie has the chance to present himself at a World Cup!

Today, coach Van Wonderen sends his goalie into the match with the words: “Show them why Van Gaal loves you!”

Or he looked like this…

His invitation to Oranje seems a surprise, but based on stats, it’s actually logical. Take this stat:

xG on target tegen = Expected goals against

Goals Tegen = Actual Goals against

Verschil = Difference

The savings percentage of Noppert is way above the percentages of the other goalies. He stopped eleven attempts of Feyenoord in the second match this season and won a point for his club.

There is no reason whatsoever for Van Gaal not to select this goalie. We know Van Gaal also looks at the football capabilities of the keepers. Their kicking abilities, their coaching and their eye for tactics and organisation. Bijlow, Cillesen and Pasveer are all three quite comfortable on the ball, this is not Noppert’s strength. Only Twente goalie Unnerstall is worse in his kicking than the tall Heerenveen lad. Only 58% of his passes actually end up at the target.

Noppert will not become the next Manuel Neuer anytime soon. Van Gaal will have picked Noppert for that other reason: his amazing reach and reflexes on the line. Louis wants a penalty killer, to help the team in situations where penalty kicks need to bring the decision. This used to be Tim Krul’s role but Noppert is potentially surpassing the Norwich goalie. Every centimeter counts.

When asking that question, the press chief of Heerenveen comes up with an old video of Heerenveen A1 versus Ajax A1. A penalty series needs to bring the final decision and a lanky Heerenveen goalie can demonstrate his skills by stopping two spotkicks: Heerenveen A1 goes to the finals.

Does Van Wonderen see Noppert as that potential penalty killer? “He did stop one in the pre-season and he also was close to stopping Yilmaz penalty but that just taken with too much power for Andries.” Van Wonderen can understand Van Gaal’s thinking: “Yes, he has everything to be a penalty killer. The length, the reflexes, the mental calmness. But I think Van Gaal will want to test that in more details at the trainings camp.”

Van Wonderen stresses Nopperts mental powers. “He had to deal with so many setbacks and rejections. And he has been booed a lot and now people are cheering him. Either way, he will shrug his shoulders. I hope he’ll reach the final squad and that he has a chance to show himself. What a journey this lad has been through.”

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Oranje: how are we doing?

The month August is a terrible month for Dutch football, usually. Our teams usually struggle so early in the quakification games for European places. We also do not have the world class players who usually would be signed the earliest in the season (Raphina, Lewandowski, Haaland), which means Dutch players/clubs usually get to know their future in the final week of the transfer period. In this season, the Eredivisie will be already 4 games in.

Lets have a look at the Dutch NT players and where they are.

Goalies

The usual suspects are Cillesen, Bijlow, Pasveer, Flekken, Krul as I see them, are all doing ok, but not great. Flekken and Cillesen had some howlers already. Pasveer just got back to fitness and the coming man Bijlow also had a couple of mistakes already. But, I think we’ll find 3 goalies to come to Qatar with us.

Defence

Van Dijk is doing what he does best. Lead the defence at Anfield. Ake is getting quite some games now at City, Dumfries came of the bench to score a dramatic winner with the last touch, De Vrij is playing, Rensch is impressing, Wijndal is doing ok with Ajax, as is Blind. Malacia has yet to play a real series of matches with ill-fated Man United. Hateboer and Karsdorp are getting games in, as does Tete. Botman got his first start as well, while Pascal Struijk is a regular starter at Leeds again. Geertruida also impressed at Feyenoord.

Mathijs De Ligt is the only player yet to start from the beginning, but he’ll be fine.

Midfield

Our midfield is ready for a bit of an overhaul. Wijnaldum has to find a way to get back, while Klaassen and Van de Beek are also still waiting for ample minutes. It seems Steven Berghuis might also lose out now Schreuder seems to enjoy Tadic on the #10 position. Frenkie is not a starter at Barca (yet) but every time he comes onto the pitch, he lifts the game. It feels like – like Cruyff – the midfielder is strengthened by conflict situations. We do see some exciting new names, though and we might see a changing of the guards. Xavi Simons is impressing with everything he does. He’s a real player, great touches, speed, vision, he can score and assist and off the pitch he comes across as a fun, focused and humble professional. I hope LVG takes him to the World Cup. Quinten Timber is another player to keep tabs on.

Another name that established himself in my book is Joey Veerman. In the holding role (next to Frenkie) he can be really good. I love his side-footed finishes, which gives him a lot of control and shows the icy blood in his veins. I think he’s improving positionally as well, so time to give him the nod.

Forwards

Luuk de Jong does what Luuk de Jong does best, at PSV. Bergwijn is shining at Ajax, while Memphis works hard to be a factor again. He impressed me in the pre-season and if his deal with Juve comes off, he’ll be our leader of the line, as per usual in Qatar. Gakpo is going through a difficult spell, while Noa Lang is also not yet settled. These two are typically players who might find a new club late in the window. Malen is yet a bit invisible (for me) while Danjuma is injured (ankle). Weghorst is playing in Turkey and will find the net, but I think it might be a toss up with Brobbey who has been really good in his hold up play as a #9.

Problem cases

I think we all know by now that Ihattaren is going through a really difficult time. His connections with a gangster family is not helping and Ajax, apparently, is ready to move on. Sad. I don’t think Frenkie and Memphis are probem cases, they are too good to be stopped. Malacia though, might have some issues getting into the Man U side, as Ten Hag does well to protect the lad in this tough period.

I do believe he’s way better than Shaw and will make his mark, but is it in time for the World Cup?

My current squad of 27 would look like this:

Goalies:

Cillesen, Bijlow, Pasveer

Defenders:

Dumfries, Karsdorp, Timber, De Ligt, De Vrij, Van Dijk, Ake, Blind, Wijndal/Malacia

Midfielders:

Frenkie, Veerman, Simons, Koopmeiners, Berghuis, Klaassen, Gravenberch

Forwards:

Bergwijn, Memphis, Danjuma, Luuk de Jong, Brobbey, Gakpo, Malen, Lang,

Who do I miss?

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Slot’s new Feyenoord

The price of success. When you do well, as a Dutch top club with money needs (AZ, Feyenoord, PSV), bigger clubs will come and rob you of your top players.

Feyenoord is slowly climbing out of a deep abyss. Financially that is. In the past season, Feyenoord was able to perform well thanks to two loan players (Dessers and Til), among other things. Sure, Slot is a top notch coach, we know this, and Aursnes and Trauner were great signings while Sinistera, Malacia and Kokcu played the season of their lives.

But Dessers and Til left. Sinistera and Malacia made big money moves and now Marco Senesi has joined Bournemouth (…). I think Wim Jansen will turn around in his grave knowing that the Argentine CB thinks a move to newly promoted Bournemouth is a step up. No international tournaments for him and potentially a relegation. And before we know it, Aursnes is off to Benfica.

Sad to see this top class player go. Bought for 450k, leaving for 15M

Nice for the Feyenoord CFO, to see the millions come in, partly to cover the debt and partly will the money be spent on new signings.

Arne Slot can be seen as the man who created all this value. Kokcu was a question mark for long. Malacia was considered to wild and not good enough on the ball. Sinistera was struggling with fitness. But Slot brought confidence, joy and a positive playing style to Rotterdam and the players embraced it.

Can he do it again. Because with more than half the Feyenoord team from last season towards the exit (Linssen is now at Japan, while Raymond Hendriks is seriously injured… Jorit Hendrix never convinced Slot), the Rotterdam behemoth is on the look out for new blood.

New blood

Santiago Gimenez is only 21 years old but the Mexican has already 4 years as a pro under his belt in Mexico. The sports reporters in Mexico compare the tall striker with Graziano Pelle, the Italian striker who mesmerized the Feyenoord legion. He is a left footer, tall and strong. A good target man, but he also has depth in his game and he’s quite skilled too. The madness in Mexico around him is such that ESPN will broadcast every Feyenoord game live in Mexico.

23 year old Danilo Pereira already made an impression. The 11th player in history to go from Ajax straight to Feyenoord. Feyenoord lost 39 goals from last season and needs players who know what scoring is. Danilo is that player. He is effective, threatening and direct. He scored 17 goals in one season for FC Twente and the Brazilian was also on a free, so hardly any risk involved with him. Danilo scored twice in the first game versus Vitesse, last weekend.

Oussama Idrissi is back at the club where he started his career. The Moroccan international worked with Slot at AZ where he had a tremendous time. He’s a right footed Robben, once could say. Threatening to go on the outside, cutting inside with his light-footedness and then curling the ball in to the far corner. He is on loan from Sevilla (which paid 12 million for him but he never played the full 90 for the Spanish club).

Maybe the biggest signing for Feyenoord, Quinten Timber. Also a player who is returning to his old home. He played 6 seasons in the youth academy but moved to Ajax where his twin brother was (and still is). He impressed at Utrecht last season and was on many a scouting list. The youngster finds 21 years too young to make the move abroad. He will definitely make that jump one day – like his brother – but will hopefully spend two good seasons in De Kuip. He would be the natural successor to Fredrik Aurnses. Timber is really multfunctional and reminds me of Edgar Davids. He has grit, he can tackle but he’s also very skillful and has the ability to ghost past opponents Frenkie-style.

Mats Wieffer caught my eye when I saw him play with Excelsior against ADO Den Haag for the promotion game from the lower division to the Eredivisie. A game Excelsior – and Wieffer – won. The 22 year old playmaker was developed at Twente but never broke there. Via Excelsior he’s now a Feyenoord midfielder. As a creative player, he did have the most ball winning actions in the second division. Another multi functional midfielder. He can play the 6 and the 8 role and his former coach used him as a central defender at times as well.

24 year old Javairo Dilrosun has a promising CV: Ajax, Man City, Hertha BSC, Girondins Bordeaux… But he never really settled anywhere. In three seasons in Germany, he only played 29 matches. He will probably do well in Rotterdam, where his speed, his guile and his skills will be too much for most of his opponents. He is a one time capped international and will have the ambition to show himself to the NT manager as well. He scored a tremendous goal versus Vitesse for Feyenoord.

Sebastian Szymanski would normally never play for Feyenoord. The 23 year old is one of the biggest Polish talents and he seemed in the right place at Dynamo Moscow, with 6 goals and 8 assists in 27 games. But the Ukraine situation helped Feyenoord, as Seb is able to play elsewhere on loan as a result of the war. Szymanski is a real left footed #10 but can also play on the 8 position or even as a false right winger, Steven Berghuis style.

The last signing and least exciting one, is 25 year old Jacob Rasmussen, who came in on loan from Fiorentina. The Dane went to the Italian club for 7 million euros and never played a single game there. He played for Empoli, Vitesse and Erzgebrige. His key assets: passionate defending and taking-no-prisoner defending. Rasmussen impressed at Vitesse alongside Bazoer but might lack the speed needed to play in Slot’s system.

Tactical differences

How will Slot’s preferred eleven play? No one knows. Not even Arne Slot. After the last pre-season game versus Osasuna, he muttered he needed to study mathematics, to sort it out. Too many moving parts still, with players still leaving (Senesi, Aursnes) and players still coming in.

Arne did sign a new deal this summer yet again and has commitment towards the club and the process. In the last season with Til as #10, he played with two controlling midfielders behind the current PSV player. With Slot, it’s the players who determine the shape. With Toornstra and Kokcu, Slot plays them side by side. With Aursnes in the team, Kokcu is pushed further up, as the Norwegian midfielder has the legs to control the space in front of the defenders. Til’s exit has a big impact on the Feyenoord structure as the former AZ player was the first player to press. The wingers usually benefitted from Til’s press. There were no other Eredivisie players last season with the many touches Sinistera and Nelson had in the final third. Now, it seems Slot wants his wingers to be the first to press, allowing the midfielders to take control of the ball. It’s basically the same principle Slot used previously. Control the axis of the field and create a man-more situation on the wings. The execution is different, though.

This is already outdates, with Aursnes going to Benfica and Senesi off to Bournemouth. There is also interest in Kokcu and Pedersen…

This season, Slot expects to have more variation in his game. He wants to be able to make subtle changes per match, if the opponent “asks” for it. For this, Slot will need more width in his squad. For the coming weeks, it’s all still wishful thinking. Slot does not have that much to choose from, due to late signings, visas not yet done and injuries.

Still, their first Eredivisie game versus Vitesse tells you they will yet again be a force this season. That is also the expectation the legion has, as they hold Arne Slot in high esteem in Rotterdam.

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Feyenoord close to Conf League finals

It has been a while since I was able to write about my favorite club Feyenoord. Oranje is our first topic always and the exploits in the top by our lads is what will be the next priority. Usually, Feyenoord is not very prolific in that domain.

After a successful spell under Gio van Bronckhorst (now semi finalist in the Europa League), Feyenoord slipped again with the likes of Jaap Stam and Dick Advocaat not able to restore more glory. Yes, Dickie didn’t do too badly, but the quality of the football wasn’t there. Dick is an old-school coach and Feyenoord played old-school football.

The arrival of Arne Slot (and Frank Arnesen) changed matters in Rotterdam. One of the first things Slot said to the Feyenoord board: “Do not sell Geertruida!”. The young right back is essential in Slot’s plans. He loves multi functional players and with Geertruida as right back and Malacia as left back, Feyenoord restored it’s identity and has two local boys as full backs (and a local boy in Bijlow as the goalie).

Slot introduced his style of football (and coaching) to the club and it has paid off big time. The friendly win over Atletico was seen as a fluke victory (Atleti took that game very serious) and an almost stumble against lowly Dritta almost ended Feyenoord’s campaign in Europe, but since that game (Til scoring the essential goal late in the second match) Feyenoord thunders through the Conference League with gusto.

An example of red-market Guendouzi who slots into right back while the right back is slightly visible in the bottom of the pic.

The first leg versus Olympique Marseille ended up an epic battle between two former European behemoths. So many similarities. The cities, both port cities. Both clubs have highly passionate and infamous “legions” of supporters and in both stadiums the atmosphere can be daunting on the best of days. Both clubs won European trophies in the past and both clubs have to make do with a 2nd, 3rd or even 4th spot in the domestic tables.

There are also differences. Olympique can be considered a somewhat older team with a seasoned coach in Sampoli, while Feyenoord can be seen as a young team, with an up and coming coach (in European terms) in Arne Slot.

The first leg ended in a 3-2 win for Feyenoord. How did they get so many opportunities? And how did they allow Marseille back into the game?

Arne Slot analysis. A tactical master class in four chapters.

Marseille Build Up was exactly how Feyenoord liked it

Olympique used right back Rongier and right mid Guendouzi as a tactical trick in the build up. They changed roles to confuse Feyenoord. The right back would push up to mid field and Guendouzi would drop into the defenders space to start the build up with dribbles or passes. This type of positional change makes it harder for the opponent to develop pressure. But as their midfield became quite wide, with Rongier hugging the line, it became easier for Feyenoord to block the passing lines and the intelligence of Kökçu and Malacia resulted in forceful forward press. Slot: “I pushed Kökçu further up field and in this way we were able to control Guendouzi.”

Smart interruption of the usual build-up passing lines of Olympique

This is a good example, in the 5th minute as Feyenoord’s press stops the OM build up. The only way out for the visitors was to play loopy balls to the wide areas, where Tyrell Malacia in particular was ready to be super tight on the receiving player, not giving the opponent time to think. In this example below, Guendouzi loses possession due to a bad take under pressure.

Slot: “In the second half, they changed it and played a more traditional way, with midfielders staying in midfield. We had more issues in pressuring them as a result.”

Geertruida didn’t do what Malacia did….

Geetruida played a fine match but in one instance he didn’t do what Malacia did so well on the left. The 2-2 was the result. Slot: “Here Geertruida decides not to press. And everything we have done so well before, we simply didn’t do in this situation and you see, immediately the opponent gets a chance. Geertruida should have pressed the player on the ball. Not give him time. Now he could dribble forward, look around, look around again and then find Payet free in midfield who had slipped away from Aursnes. When they find the pass towards Payet, anything can happen.”

Where is Geertruida?

This is the moment. Nelson, Dessers and Til are developing their forward press, but Geertruida is not present on the right, offering Gerson time and space.

Ah, there he is ….

What started as a slight omission in the execution of the tactics, ended up a goal for Olympique. This does speak to the tremendous qualities Marseille does have when offered the chance.

The Speedy Wingers of Marseille

The 2-1 was less a thorn in Slot’s side. “The 2-2 really was avoidable. The 2-1, well… A long ball, the second ball was theirs and then there was the explosive sprint in behind. Very hard to defend if it is executed well. We also got chances and goals in this exact manner. Sampoli used Payet as false striker and he was able to launch one of the runners. A good decision by the coach.”

Senesi has to make a snap fire decision. Press up and take the ball or drop back. The Argentinian skipper decide to push up and he missed the chance to intercept the ball. Dieng still had a lot to do and his powerful shot faded away from goalie Marciano, who may have been standing to much in the centre of the goal.

Dieng did get more chances, earlier in the game. Both situation should have been a warning sign for Feyenoord. In the 7th minute he escaped on a Payet through ball as he did in the 13th minute.

Marciano was able to stop the first attempt and Dieng missed the target on the second. Two warning shots at 0-0. Anytime Payet has the ball and the ability to look, the forwards bomb forward and Payet will usually deliver. Not unlike the Robben-Sneijder combination in 2014 Brazil.

Slot: “It was hard to play him, he was their #9 on paper but he goes where he wants and he is not easy to stop. I think we did really well in most situations in the first half, even though he had three great passes, one of which ended up a goal. I think he was even more dangerous in the second half.”

This is a good example, in the 74th minute, when Dieng again is able to escape Senesi. Payet spots it and passes the ball but this time it’s Marciano who is paying attention.

The 85th minute was a nice move from both teams. Marseille did what Feyenoord has done so well. The “running in behind” move (see next point). The forward, in this case Milik, drops to midfield, luring the defender (Senesi) with him. Only to suddenly turn and run in behind, expecting the ball to come.

In this situation, sub Hendrix is able to push OM sub Harit to the side. Harit’s pass is intercepted by Senesi, who immediately finds the pass to start a Feyenoord counter attack. And the open end-to-end game kept on going in this way, with a big chance for Jahanbaksh even, in the 91st minute to make it 4-2. His shot missed power.

The Running In Behind Trick

Slot: “We work hard on our depth. We want the forwards to use their speed and timing to get in behind. Both goals were the result of this. Marseille’s last line of defence always pushes up. Like ours does too. As a forward, you can easily be off side as a result. You need to drop back as forward, maybe even making a run diagonally back to your own half, only to turn and explosively launch yourself when that pass is coming. Today, we had a couple of really good moves this way, resulting in two goals.”

This below is Sinistera’s move for the first goal. He will start his run way on-side to garner speed and bamboozle the defence. When Senesi passes the ball, Sinistera is already on his bike while the defenders seem locked into place.

With the second goal, Arsenal loanie Reiss Nelson demonstrates it even better. Every move deep would have meant off side. So Nelson makes the run back, diagonally, and turns when he knows/feels/sees that Trauner is going to play that pass deep. When the ball reached Nelson, there was no opponent even close. He kept his calm and found Sinistera who scored with a touch of fortune. Slot: “Our movements surprised them, we were able to get through to them a couple of times in the first half before they could fix their problem. The timing of these moves is really important and the boys did really well.

Out of the pic, all the way up is the OM right back playing Nelson on

And he is off… the same recipe we will see next week in Marseille…

As said before, Jahanbaksh got himself into a similar situation late in the dying minutes but his attempt failed. Linssen wins the header, the second ball is pushed in behind by Sinistera and the Iran winger is already on the move to leave the defenders in suspended animation.

Jahanbaksh makes his run from an onside position

This last missed chance means Feyenoord will go to Marseille with a 3-2 win. What can Slot expect there?

Slot: “I need to analyse the game as I haven’t watched it back yet. I don’t know what will happen next week. Both Feyenoord and Marseille have several weapons, so to speak. With Sampoli, you never know what you get. But next week, we’ll know.”

What do you guys think? Will Feyenoord reach the finals?

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What we learned about Oranje is not good…

Like you, I want the Dutch NT to shine. We all want the same thing here, I think, even though we don’t always look eye to eye in the how and the with whom side of the solution.

These past two matches – the Great System Reset by Louis van Gaal of the World Soccer Forum – should have given us some answers.

Lets see what we learned. I’m sure you will all be able to share your thoughts in the comments sector.

The biggest thing I learned is not a very good thing to have to learn…

Our team is not capable of 1) recognising a change in the opponent’s tactics and 2) adapting our own system in such a way that we can counter the opponent’s moves.

This for me is a key learning point and shocked me more than I would want to admit.

Hmmmmm classy….

I believe being able to “read games” and demonstrate leadership as a result by taking action used to be our strong suit. In the days of Cruyff, Van Hanegem, Jansen and Vd Kuylen, this was part and parcel of our teams.

Players like Jan Peters, Ruud Krol and Hugo Hovenkamp were able to do this too and the next generation of players with Jan Wouters, Arnold Muhren, Frank Rijkaard and Ronald Koeman was also able to make autonomous decisions. In the 1998 team, we had players like Cocu and Frank de Boer who would be able to take control as Van Bommel and Sneijder were the ones doing it more recently.

Where are the football brains in this squad??

Surely, players with experience such as Virgil van Dijk, Daley Blind and Gini Wijnaldum should be able to see what the Danes were doing?? And even though Frenkie is still young, a player of his caliber? I can totally imagine that Malacia, De Ligt, Dumfries and Koopmeiners are still a bit timid maybe, but some of the others…

This is the sort of leadership we need

So, Denmark has one world class player (at least) in Eriksen. And we know him well. He played for Ajax and with Blind, and against Wijnaldum. I mean, everyone here knows where Eriksen plays and how.

But when the Danes bring him in, at the start of the first half, Van Gaal wants us to believe the team didn’t “get” what that meant and wasn’t able to respond?!?!? Really?

That Eriksen goal could have been stopped, should have been stopped.

And then it happened against Germany as well. We play with two midfielders (Malacia and Dumfries are wide, while Berghuis plays closer to the two forwards. Guess what: we’re outnumbered! And the team had to wait until the half time break to have Van Gaal explain this to them? So Frenkie didn’t say to Berghuis after 10 minutes: “Yo, Stevie, drop back into midfield ok, we’re being hammered!”. So the team needed the coach to make changes in the second half and then Oranje, and only after Van Gaal’s impressive coaching, was able to fight back?

Ludicrous. Where is Will Smith when you need him?

Van Gaal just found after the Denmark game that Eriksen is an attacking midfielder….

If this is all true, our biggest problem is on the table now: it’s a tactically ignorant squad who need the constant instructions from their master coach, to be told what to do.

This is Problem #1 for me.

What else did we learn?

That the system is a handy thing to have, and it offers a sort of safety net to use, a stronghold of some sort, but…the system doesn’t win you games. The execution of it does.

Whether we played 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 or 3-4-3, if we don’t execute it properly, we will be mince meat after playing a top 10 nation.

So you know, these countries are all going for the title: Germany, Spain, Portugal, France, England, Argentina, Brazil, Belgium… In order to win against these teams, we need the system – whichever – to work AND we need our key players to show up.

I personally do believe in this system, but you can only play it with success if you have either 1) trained it extensively and then you might need the constant coaching from the sideline, Tuchel/Conte/Simeone style or 2) mature players who can take charge during the match. I think De Vrij, Frenkie de Jong and maybe maybe Memphis are able to add this to the game. A bit limited.

Another leader on the pitch, with his finger pointing and his passing….

Lets look at the players…

The Goal Keeper situation is not great. Flekken couldn’t convince and he does deserve more time, of course, but he didn’t look like the guy who ruled the area. His passing is fine, but his main job is to stop balls from going in. He didn’t convince me. As long as Cillesen and Bijlow are fit, with Krul or Flekken, we’ll be ok.

The Central Defenders all play for top teams and we do have a couple more in Botman, Struijk, Timber, Schuur and Teze. Still, I would expect Virgil to be more adaptable and him struggling with the 5 at the back is a surprise. At Liverpool, he plays with a world class goalie behind him, a world class defensive mid in front of him ( Fabinho) and a good solid centre back next to him. He was a bit lost, against the Germans and against Denmark in the second half too. De Ligt was ok, I felt, and De Vrij will probably be Van Gaal’s first choice at the back.

As for the Wingbacks, Daley Blind is no wingback. He can play there but that will mean some adaptations on the left wing in front of him. Malacia or Wijndal or Vilhena will be better options. On the right, Dumfries for me, is not good enough. He is probably one of the best we have, but compared to his colleagues from Germany, Italy, France and England, he is weak. His positioning is weak, his first touch is 50-50, his timing is off at times and he gets lost in confined spaces. We need someone else there. Karsdorp gets my vote.

Another example of a playmaker with leadership skills

I would bring both Blind and Dumfries along to Qatar though…

Midfield positions should be covered with Frenkie, Teun, Donny, Ryan Gravenberch, Marten de Roon and hopefully Joey Veerman. In case of emergency, Daley Blind can play there as can Nathan Ake, or Davy Klaassen.

The attacking mid position needs work. Joey Veerman? Cody Gakpo? If Steven Berghuis is too lightweight, so will Veerman be. Klaassen and Wijnaldum can play there of course, but so can Noa Lang, Danjuma, Memphis and Bergwijn.

Upfront, I was not impressed with Donyell Malen, although I do like him a lot usually. He’s quick, he finds his team mates easily, but in the Germany game, it felt like he needed to do what Bergwijn did versus Denmark? I think Memphis will step up as per usual in the big games. Weghorst will be an ideal super sub.

Cocu, highly rated as a tactical brain in midfield by all his former team mates

I personally cannot see any new attacking players make their way into the squad. Brobbey might be a candidate, other than that I don’t see a lot of emerging Dutch talent up front.

I still think we can have a solid team for the World Cup. But we will need some key players to be fit and in form, particularly in the axis of the team: goalie, central defenders, playmaker, #10 and striker. Or: Bijlow, Van Dijk/De Vrij, Frenkie, Gakpo, Memphis (for instance).

I do fear that the intense approach by the modern coaches (Conte, Bielsa, Ten Hag, Tuchel, Van Gaal, Nagelsmann, etc) result in a sort of straightjacket approach and players are losing their initiative and the balls to take the game in their hands, despite what the coach says or wants.

Cruyff, Keizer, Jansen and Van Hanegem and co did this regularly, but they did make sure they won their games…

We need a player with balls to do this. I don’t think we have many of those. Frenkie is more an ideal son-in-law type (but what a player) so my hope is now on Lang and Danjuma to be those players.

On another note, Ziyech and Mazraoui are on the fringe of the Moroccan team now… How awesome would it be to have both these players wearing Orange in the future…. ;-).

 

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Van Gaal makes his own rules…

The Dutch internationals stumble over each other when they need to talk about the “vibe” in the squad. They’re all mates, they play games together, go on holidays together and in these modern times, players of Ajax are best buddies with players of Feyenoord… Gone are the times when Cruyff and Co sabotaged PSV goalie Van Beveren and playmaker Van der Kuylen… This unity doesn’t result in invincibility, as the Montenegronians (??) have experienced, but Norway has noticed that after one slip, the homogene character of the squad can be re-established swiftly.

Everything that went wrong in Podgorica went well in De Kuip. Wijnaldum told of text messages stating that he “should quickly forget about that dreadful match and move on” but Gini didn’t want to know about it. He was very happy with the focused and frugal performance of his team. Mature, he called it. Result before beauty.

Van Gaal made his entry into the squad some three months ago, knowing that the players initially didn’t want him. He decided to listen. To open up to the wishes of the players. What system did the players prefer? What positions do they want to play? That worked in his favour. Players felt heard. And after his first international weekend, Van Gaal did what he always does: he went his own way.

Bergwijn told Van Gaal he didn’t want to play on the right wing. Fine. But Van Gaal used him on the right versus Norway, and the Spurs forward was Man of the Match. Lang told Van Gaal he was able to play right winger but the Brussels star was tested and Van Gaal immediately added him back into the queue for the left wing.

Van Gaal knows that the players want 4-3-3 but the wily coach knows that Oranje isn’t good enough and additional securities are needed. Also, when you do have three top notch central defenders while doubting your forwards, the 5-3-2 is a logical go-to scenario.

Van Gaal introduced a new term (for the Dutch at least): “Provocative Pressing”. Which means: dropping back a little, allowing them a feel of comfort, give them some time on the ball, but when they get into a particular situation (for instance, an opponent gets a hospital ball, or is played in badly, or is isolated), the Dutch pounce on them like a pack of wolves. This as opposed to counter football (…) or the high press (Man City, Ajax, Liverpool).

Van Gaal believes that the result was key, in this qualification campaign. He started with a deficit, as Oranje lost under De Boer away in Turkey. “I will worry about the quality of the performances later, now it is all about results.”

Van Gaal did what he needed to do. Firstly, he got the confidence of the players. Secondly, he brought a bit of vibe back which seemed lost under De Boer. He did so by listening to the players and giving them initially what they wanted. Van Gaal will have seen however, that this Oranje struggles against weaker opponents (limited spaces) and plays well against stronger teams ( Italy in Bergamo, under De Boer or England in the nations league under Koeman). When there is space, we have the goods. We have speed and vision to work with that. But our world class is at the back, with Van Dijk, De Vrij, De Ligt and De Jong.

Van Gaal has a window in March and in June to play and work on his team. In March, it’s friendlies and in June it’s the new Nations League campaign. And before the Qatar WC, there is one week of prep. “I know exactly how I will use that time and I have already informed my players.”

So what to expect? When the Norwegians went looking for a goal at 1-0, Van Gaal switched to a 5-3-2 (bringing Ake) and immediately space opened up for Memphis and Bergwijn. Van Gaal can indeed gel two or three systems in the team. With the arrival of Gakpo and Danjuma, more options open up. We can play with forwards who want the ball to feet (Berghuis, Gakpo) or with forwards who will go deep (Bergwijn, Danjuma). With Memphis as #9 and Weghorst as pinch hitter, there are options.

Towards the World Cup, there are some decisions to be made.

The goalie. It seemed Bijlow was the #1 but with Cillesen becoming available and pinching the spot ahead of Flekken and Krul it is interesting to see how both rivals will fare in their upcoming matches.

Blind seems to be Van Gaal’s pick for the left back position but it seems Malacia and Wijndal will slug it out for the other opening.

On the right Dumfries is the main man, and Van Gaal used “inner circle” subs to replace any other candidates, leaving Rick Karsdorp out in the cold. That might well chance, depending on the development of Rensch.

In midfield, there will be a spot for Van de Beek should he return to weekly football as he does have something special. Klaassen seems to get closest to that particular profile but in my view, Donny is a tad better than Klaassen.

On the wings, as said before, Louis is able to match and mix a bit, with Lang and Malen also still options.

Do we see any other players now that are so remarkable that they should have a shot? Kenneth Taylor? Pascal Struijk? Bakker of Leverkusen? Geertruida as right back? Let me hear your thoughts…

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Do or Die for Oranje!

It seems Oranje is never able to do things the easy way! We either cruise through a tournament beating big nations only to crash land unexpectedly (1974, 1998, 2021 Euros) against lesser opponents or we find ourselves blocked in a thrilling “play off finals” we end up losing…. Ireland. Belgium. Russia. Sweden…

You will know me to be a positive minded Oranje fan and I like to protect our coaches and players, in particularly if they have had a good record for us all and made us cheer. I find that I can take that really far, at times. Kuyt, Nigel de Jong, Jordy Cruyff, Bogarde, Andre Ooijer, I really like and respect these guys. Now, I clap for Blind, I cheer for Berghuis and I support Koopmeiners.

But…. now the time has come to step up and earn all these credits, all that applause, the fancy cars and paychecks!

Norway is not France, Italy or Spain. Norway with Haaland is a bit like Portugal (with CR7) or Poland (with Lewandowski). Norway without Haaland is a bit like Austria, Ukraine, Ireland and we need to be able to beat them. With or without fans. With or without De Vrij.

There are no more excuses. Not even Van Gaal’s accident, when he crashed with his bike and hurt his hip severely. When he suggested to leave the camp, the players and staff pleaded with him to finish the job, bringing tears to the eyes of the veteran coach. Ah well… we can add that to the mix. Why not.

Van Loen forgets to mark George Grun

I think it’s sad that Bijlow isn’t fit, but Cillesen, Flekken or even Sergio Padt or Marco Bizot should do the job. Even if we concede goals, we simply need to score one more (or the same number actually).

De Vrij won’t be missed: we have De Ligt.

We simply need to show up. Focused. Fit. With courage, forward thrust and using our brain and common sense in the decision making. Playing simple and effective.

Van Gaal will not play around with systems and he will not change too many names on the team sheet.

Spanje with Malta goalie on their side: 12-1

You can expect two holding mids, this time. I wouldn’t be surprised if De Roon is on the bench or even in the team. Him or Wijnaldum next to Frenkie, allowing the Barca man to wander.

I don’t think Blind will be sacrificed. Van Gaal will trust his experience and his pride. The Ajax man wants to redeem himself. Using Malacia in a game like this might be just a tad too much pressure for the energetic youngster.

Bergwijn might start, although Van Gaal could also pick a player like Lang, provided he impresses Van Gaal on the training pitch.

Kluivert sick of it in 2001 v Ireland

Danjuma will start as left winger and Memphis as #9.

Koopmeiners will not get playing time, I don’t think and neither will Gravenberch.

I can even see Blind next to Frenkie and Nathan Ake as left back. It will depend on how Norway is set up and sadly, that is tough to know.

What will they do? They need to win this, so will they start overwhelmingly attacking? Or will they plan for 1 counter while parking two buses?

I know this blog is being read amongst the Oranje players (and staff) and I hope our message to them is clear enough:

It’s ok to F Up every now and then as long as you fix it!

Should Oranje fail to qualify for the World Cup Qatar, I will accept offers for this blog. I don’t think I can go through another World Cup, blogging without Oranje being part of it.

But, Norway is no Brazil or France. I think we’ll win this match 3-0. Memphis, Danjuma and Klaassen…

This is in Dutch, but you can use the subtitle option to let the bots translate…

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No words for Oranje! Amateur hour!

I have no idea where to start. Maybe this whole post should remain empty. No words. No explanations or excuses. No photos. No highlights video (seriously… there were hardly any!)….

I have a very hard time to do a proper analysis.

Actually, I think I need to give Wilson, Orangutan and others their due! It was atrocious. Frenkie couldn’t create. Daley Blind was weak defending (the 2-2). Koopmeiners atrocious. Malen didn’t “get” this role. Memphis keen to play backheels all the time. And the pace was debilitating slow.

Yes, the pitch was tough. Boohoohoo. Hoo. But we played a Montenegro team lacking some key players. In a game that could have gotten us our WC ticket, which we knew already before the game. As Norway dropped points v Latvia.

But all this pre-match gloating might have paralysed our players and definitely took the sense of urgency and our focus away. The series of defensive and positional errors in that final phase of the game… just utterly shambolic.

For all I know, we do need Marten de Roon who was sulking on the stands, no doubt.

We had a left wing that tried hard, but with limited results. A right wing that didn’t perform at all. Forwards wanting to press. A defence keen on slowing the game down. We had runners Wijnaldum and Klaassen highly ineffective. It was embarrassing. Or as Frenkie called it: childish and amateuristic.

I don’t want to say more.

I think we need to realise that 1) we are not that good as we think, 2) Van Gaal failed to impart his instructions well enough and 3) if we don’t qualify we only have ourself to blame.

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Dutch football impresses…

This was a good week for Dutch football. I don’t want to bore you too much with the co-efficiency ratio discussion ( a battle played out in a spreadsheet, not on green grass). In short, the # 6 of the list – best nations in this calendar year – will get 2 CL places in the 2023/24 season and 6 clubs in Europe overall. At this stage, we are #7, with France and Portugal on spots 5 and 6 and very close. Portugal currently has 4 teams in the race, we still have 5 (Ajax, PSV, Feyenoord, AZ, Vitesse).

The many qualification games PSV, Feyenoord, AZ and Vitesse had to play means we collected the most points (!) of all nations in Europe. By December, we should be #5 or #6. Great stuff! Vitesse’s 1-0 win over Spurs B team has helped as well.

So, combine that with Van Gaal’s recent successes and Ajax’ impressive performance vs Dortmund and one can’t escape the feeling we are truly on the up and up.

Van Gaal must be purring with pleasure, as the Norwegian medical team announced Haaland has a hip injury and will be out for week. Ajax will play Dortmund sans Haaland and Oranje will face a Haaland-less Norway in November. What can go wrong?

Van Gaal selected 30 players in his pre-selection now, because a number of players are a bit of a question mark (Ake, Berghuis, Luuk, Klaassen, Rensch, Wijnaldum) and LVG will drop players who are truly out of rhythm.

The biggest gloater this week will most likely be Ten Hag ( honourable mention for Daley Blind of course), after his team took Dortmund apart. Just before midnight a proud Erik ten Hag enters the press room in the JC Arena. His German colleague has just summarized their game versus Ajax in one word: “Scheisse!” (Shit!). Ten Hag: “We have all enjoyed this together. Coaches, players, supporters, everyone. The cross polination was great. But you need an opponent that wants to play, to make a great match and Borussia Dortmund came her to get something. We won, we were dominant and that is great to see. We had so many top performers, I think it was a Collective Men of the Match situation for me.”

You are a critical coach. Can you see points to improve even now?

EtH: “Oh yes, but now it is not time to be too critical. Tonight, after the match, we need to enjoy the win. But tomorrow, different story. We did see some lessons, some positive, some negative. When you want to grow as a team, you will always have to look in that critical mirror.”

So what were some of the negative lessons?

“The Germans are great in the turnaround, in the gegenpress. We had too many moments where we lost the ball too easily. We had a situation in the first half, where Alvarez, Antony and Pasveer lost possession in a row, that is something we cannot accept It’s lethal, normally. In this case, it wasn’t, but we need to iron these things out. Another problem is our effectiveness. We had so many chances and “only” scored 4. That is something we need to work on. Berghuis had two amazing flicks for Haller and Gravenberch. If they score, these two goals will go right across the globe. We could have had 8 tonight. And Borussia maybe 2. It could have ended 8-2. A classic score line for Ajax :-).”

Can you actually enjoy the match, as a coach. Even briefly?

“No not against Germans. They never give up, you know this. It’s part of their DNA. It’s over when the ref whistles three times. And I told the lads at half time. We’re 2-0 up but should they get the 2-1, you can get in trouble. The 3-0 of Antony was super important. Missing chances, or even going with Dortmund in their pace, you can easily lose your head and than a match can pivot. We do need to work harder to kill games off.”

After Antony scored, he had his by now classic celebration with his mate and rival Neres. You immediately coached him. What did you say?

“I love the euphoria and Antony typically wants to celebrate the goal with every squad player. This is needed for a group to bond and become stronger. But, I also told Antony to leave the trickery and the circus act behind. It needs to be effective. Tricks, stepovers, back heels, I love it when it has a function. Like I said, Berghuis could have had 2 assists with a flick behind his leg, but Antony does these things needlessly too and I like him to limit that. No tricks purely for the tricks.”

How do you explain the difference between Ajax and Dortmund?

“That was purely optical. We did a great job and Dortmund did help us a bit, but that was also because of us. We executed everything we wanted to perfection.”

You had to select your #10, Klaassen or Berghuis. Was it a hard decision to make?

“No not really because I go for what the team needs. Steven played really well for us as #10, also in the CL. He has been decisive for us so it’s not logical to sub him. Davy would have been disappointed but he is a top athlete who understands how it works and we know Davy can also play there and be great for the team. But differently. And Steven again was amazing for us tonight.”

Ajax has 9 points and 11 goals (1 conceded) in the CL group now. Are you surprised?

“I never look that far ahead, in all honesty. We go from match to match. We need to simply look in the mirror and try to be as good as possible. We’ll see where we end up.”

Was this the best match under your management?

“Well… I remember a game some time back against Real Madrid away. That wasn’t too shabby. But this was incredible and it gives a lot of confidence. And we need to take the good and work on the not-so-good. We could have a great season, you know?”

It’s amazing, because 3 seasons after that Madrid game, only a couple of players from the current team were there…

“I think we are on the right track. We built a new team and I am very happy with where we are. But we can improve still. And we need to be and remain critical. Against Utrecht, we didn’t have the energy and focus and therefore we lost. But when you show that mentality, as we did versus Heerenveen, we can win. We need to keep on bringing this.”

Daley Blind and Tadic are the leaders who remained from the Madrid game. And they’re both important yet again.

“That is never in question. Any coach wants players he can fall back on. Feyenoord has Toornstra, PSV will see Van Ginkel as the culture guardian, as we call it. These players understand the club, the culture, they understand tactics, they recognise moments in the game where we might get caught, or where we can pounce… But you mention Daley and Dusan, I would like to add Klaassen to that list, although Alvarez and even young Timber are developing more and more into leaders.”

The first 10 minutes, you were very actively coaching. Why?

“Because Dortmund played differently to what we expected. And we made the wrong choices at times. It took a while for the team to adjust. We were a bit nervous, or seemed nervous. Once we got more steady on the ball we started to create chances immediately and as a result we were able to dominate both in possession as without the ball.”

So you had to change the shape during the first 10 minutes?

“Yes, and I would love it if the players would be able to spot it without me interfering from the side. We need to be able to do this quicker.”

This will give heaps of confidence for the PSV match?

“Of course, but we don’t lack confidence. We need to watch out for over-confidence. Sunday is a totally different game. We know and we need to prep for that. We need to be top on Sunday in order to win.”

Goalie Pasveer was also key for you, does this settle the goalie problem in Amsterdam?

“Remko only demonstrates what we know already. He has so much potential still. He did have some glitches in the first weeks, but that is normal. He has been one of the best in the competition now for years and he too will have to keep on making steps up. I am happy that he is growing. At Vitesse, you may get 10 saves to make per game, at Ajax only 2 or so. But you really need to be there for that. I am proud that he was indeed one of the MoTM candidates.”

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Impact van Gaal on Oranje

If all goes well, we only have one more month to wait before we can celebrate our WC ticket for 2022.

NT manager Louis van Gaal worked his magic. As he always says of himself: I am direct and I only speak the truth. Although, he also said he lacked wingers. Danjuma and Noa Lang: “Hold my beer!”.

Lets look at some LVG changes, per line.

Goalies

Only 30 minutes after Bijlow’s key save in the dying minutes vs Latvia, Van Gaal proclaimed: “The goalie situation is still an open question.” And in the same sentence, he hailed he absent Jasper Cillesen, who seems to be back in the starting line up at Valencia.

Mark Flekken’s sudden entry into the squad (and Drommel’s subsequent banishment to the stands) clearly shows that Van Gaal is stirring the pot. Bijlow has played 5 steady internationals for us, but next month we will get more clarity whom Van Gaal picks as his goalie for the time to come.

Defence

Van Gaal spent a lot of time talking to Mathijs de Ligt, during practices. Sitting on the dug out bench, which is symbolical and fitting, as the Juve defender has to accept a benchwarming position. This happened to him at Juventus too, at the start of the season. He did make an impression on Van Gaal: “Mathijs is returning from the darkness. He is clearly getting to the point where I can assess him as a first team player. But he has an extraordinary rival in De Vrij who was my Man of the Match twice now.”

In his ideal system, Van Gaal would play three central defenders. Louis prefers the 5-3-2 but his players asked for 4-3-3. Van Gaal might tweak it once we secured our ticket. He will have time in the coming calendar year to try out new things. Should we fail to qualify, the time to experiment is way less. Louis expects the central defenders to play an active part in the build up. Versus Latvia, Van Dijk and De Vrij played the ball square a walloping 73 times! That is a record for 230 international games! While Van Gaal’s principle is: first ball deep. De Vrij did demonstrate his cross pass just like Van Dijk can. Daley Blind is a a player with the vision and passing skill to accelerate the game and since Pat van Aanholt and Owen Wijndal have not secured a spot under the former Man United coach, it’s Malacia who is Blind’s understudy.

Midfield

Davy Klaassen was in the sticks for 3 years and made his return to the NT under Frank de Boer. But he didn’t get a second of playing time at the Euros. With Louis, Klaassen is a key player. Van Gaal wants to play with two “number 10s” to further support Memphis. And Klaassen ticks all the boxes: he has forward thrust, legs and lungs of a horse, a nose for the position and he can score a goal. And just like colleague Wijnaldum, Klaassen has a good sharp radar for the turn around. He can play all roles in midfield, including the holding position. Against Latvia, he scored and made a crucial goal saving block.

Marten de Roon seems to be the big loser. The Atalanta midfielder was first choice, mostly under Koeman and also under De Boer. He played a mere 17 minutes under Van Gaal. Teun Koopmeiners has passed the former Sparta player in the hierarchy, as De Roon had to take to the stands against Gibraltar.

Frenkie is the only controlling mid now and Van Gaal was highly critical on the Barca player. “The coach wants me to play in the Busquets role but he doesn’t want me to drift too much. As a central mid, you need to always protect the axes. Should I dribble now, I will leave a huge gap. The coach wants me to pass the ball quicker and not be too much of a post delivery man.” Van Gaal: “Frenkie plays on the position where I played and you really don’t need to run much on that position. I also think he can improve his game, someone with that talent needs to have a higher yield.”

Attack

From the start, Van Gaal lamented the lack of real wingers, so he couldn’t play his beloved 4-3-3. Since Robben retired, the coaches used 17 (!) players on the wings up front. “It’s not that we don’t develop right wingers, but the difference is the way we play today, with players and their contra foot on the wing. In my time, I had Roy or Overmars on the left and Van ‘t Schip or Finidi on the right. Today, we use the wingback to fly past and cross the ball in,” said Van Gaal.

He also points to the development trends in football. “We play 4-3-3 in Holland so we do develop wingers, but in some countries, the wingers are players who dribble inside and go for goal. In Holland, when players turn 16 years old, that is when we start introducing other systems.” Van Gaal only considers Berghuis as a real right winger. Bergwijn told the coach he doesn’t want to play there. Gakpo and Malen have not impressed on that flank. Noa Lang told Van Gaal he could play there and was happy to play there but 10 minutes into the Latvia game, the cheeky Brugge player switched flanks with Gakpo.

Under De Boer, Oranje played with Memphis on the left flank and a real #9 as striker (Weghorst, Luuk de Jong). This has immediately been rectified by Van Gaal: Memphis is the central striker and Weghorst and De Jong are Plan B players. And how it worked. In 5 internationals under Van Gaal, Memphis scored 7 goals and had 4 assists. Van Gaal: “When I see the data and the stats of Memphis, wow… I never had a striker like him. The work rate, the miles he runs. He does so much work for the team, he is constantly on the prowl. He is amazing.”

Asked where Oranje now is, he said: “We don’t know. We don’t have really top nations in our group, so it’s unclear. Should we qualify this November, I can organise friendlies against top nations and then we will see. On paper our midfield is European Top but… are they really? We can only tell when confronting European Top and that will have to come, still.”

For now, the winners are Justin Bijlow, Stefan de Vrij, Cody Gakpo, Mark Flekken, Davy Klaassen.

Louis van Gaal is also a winner, for getting Danjuma and Lang as white elephants.

Losers: Mathijs de Ligt, Marten de Roon, Joel Drommel.

Re: the Euros squad: there will be a way back for Owen Wijndal, Donny van de Beek, Joel Veltman and Quincy Promes. I am not sure about Pat van Aanholt and Marco Bizot, while Maarten Stekelenburg already retired from international football (and is currently seriously injured anyway).

I’m quite happy with LvG’s choices up until now. All logical and thought-through. The only big omission for me, is Rick Karsdorp as right wing back but he will get in the squad if he keeps on playing like this for Roma.

Another positive trend that deserves mentioning is the corner kick, under Louis van Gaal.

We would have won vs Gibraltar without corners, of course. But we scored the first from a corner like we did against Latvia. This is remarkable, as the yield from corners in Oranje was typically very low before Van Gaal. We took 20 corners at the Euros and only 8 reached a Dutch player and only 2 ended up as a chance to score.

The only nations worse than us in corner kicks: Sweden, Hungary and Finland.

Against Turkey away, we even conceded two goals (!) from corner kicks. Our corner kicks!!!

Van Gaal started work on the dead ball situations immediately. During his first spell, when Covid was a serious member of the squad, he even practiced this inside, in a conference hall, with chairs, tables and without a ball!!

The first corner versus Latvia was a success. The coaches had seen that Latvia doesn’t really have an overload at the far post, so the plan was to have the air force go to the near post, attracting all the defenders, while Memphis would curl the ball towards Klaassen at the far upright: 0-1.

This is by now means a magical trick, but a very effective, simple way to use a corner.

Against Gibraltar, same story. But the Gibs used man marking, so Oranje executed it differently. This time, our four strongest headers were around the penalty spot and using De Vrij’s block, Virgil came in front of his man at the near post and had a tap in (with his head).

From the other side, similar concept. This time, it’s Dumfries attracking the attention, allowing De Vrij a clear header, which was blocked by an arm. Penalty. Missed by our top scorer for 2021, but hey… He would get another chance.

During Koeman’s reign, considered successful, Oranje scored 7 goals from a corner in 20 matches. Under De Boer, it’s 3 goals in 15 matches and under Van Gaal, 2 goals in 5.

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