The first match of Oranje using Van Gaal’s new system was impressive at times. The coach subtle tricks have added more dynamics to the Dutch gameplay.
The Euros were disappointing for the Dutch and many people blamed Frank de Boer’s decision to move to a 5-3-2. Van Gaal and his current squad have demonstrated that it wasn’t the system as such ( 3 central defenders) but the execution there of that makes the difference.
Oranje played a good first half, scoring three goals but having at least 6 good opportunities to score and could have had a monster score after 45 minutes. Defensive frailty and a hesitating debut goalie resulted in the Danish goal.
Eriksen is back!
Van Gaal was not displeased but said he saw a lot of things that could be improved. In particular in the second half, the team didn’t respond well enough to Denmark’s tactical change, which encompassed the return of Christian Eriksen. The fans loved it, also the Dutch ones of course and even the players seemed keen on offering the former Ajax man a star turn by letting him enter the box unmarked to score the 3-2. Not much later, he had the best action of the game, turning away from two midfielders and curling the ball onto the frame of the goal. What a player!
Oranje lost their shape more and more in the second half, partly due to the Danes, partly due to fatigue, particularly with players who lack rhythm ( Depay after injuries and Ake and Bergwijn due to lack of playing time).
Van Gaal had three interesting and subtle variances in his tactics.
- Dynamic Build up Patterns
One of the negatives of “3 at the back” is the predictable build up patterns. When the three defenders stick to their back line, the opponent basically have a free man. Building up via the wings is also predictable and easy to defend as the wingback is usually alone on the flank and has the line behind him: limited options therefore.
Van Gaal has analysed the tactical solutions well, as he found the ideal way of building up using Chris Wilder’s innovation at Sheffield United. Sheffield let their wingbacks move into the half space and push one of the central backs wide to force the opponent to decide. Even football professor Marcelo Bielsa was surprised by this tactics. Wilder’s trick was followed by many coaches and is even part of the new version of Football Manager.
Strong performance by Teun Koopmeiners
Another team doing this, is Atalanta Bergamo. One of the three defenders will push to the flank, allowing space at the back for one of the holding mids, to drop back and start the build up. Teun Koopmeiners is obviously well up to speed with this dynamic build up pattern. He and Mathijs de Ligt had a key role on the right, in using this in key situations.
Koopmeiners playing right centre back, De Ligt hugging the line. Denmark confused.
Every time Oranje has withstand the first pressure, De Ligt goes to the far right of the pitch. It’s not his natural style of play, it seems Timber or Teze are more suited for that role, but it does offer tactical benefits. Remember the game we lost vs the Czechs? They pressed our three defenders with three forwards, making our build up slow and predictable.
Space in midfield for the opening to the left.
In this case, the left winger needs to decide. Will he go with De Ligt? In that case Koopmeiners can drop into that space. Or does the midfielder of Denmark, marking the former AZ skipper, follow him? This will give Dumfries or Frenkie an option in the gap. These decisions will need confuse Denmark and create space for the Dutch. Our first goal is the perfect example.
De Ligt almost right winger, Dumfries coming inside, so Bergwijn has space and time
Opening to the left, Denmark loses Bergwijn
Before the 1-0, Oranje builds up in a 4-4-2. With De Ligt as right back, Dumfries as right winger and Blind as left back. Depay is playing like a left winger moving intside. This confuses Denmark. As a result of De Ligt’s and Dumfries’ positioning, Bergwijn becomes the free man. After a good take, he passes the ball to Berghuis who changes flanks and Blind’s perfect cross is bread and butter for Bergwijn, unmarked: 1-0.
In some instances, De Ligt and Koopmeiners can be seen gesticulating to one another. Their cooperation is still a bit rusty but one can see why this tactics can work well for Oranje, in particular with the likes of Teze and Timber available. This results in Dumfries being able to forget about defence and completely focus on stretching the game.
Ex Ajax striker Dolberg versus Blind
In the second half, the Danes make a tactical switch but Oranje scores the 4th goal from a similar situation. This time it’s Frenkie with space to turn in midfield and his burst of speed brings him in a position to launch Bergwijn, this time coming from the left. The Spurs man cuts inside and curls the ball past the Danish goalie, Schmeichel.
2. The Atalanta Trick
In the build up to the second goal, another attacking trick is used, also from Bergamo. Atalanta coach Gasperini wants to have four players around the ball on the flank, in a diamond shape. This creates a man more situation around the ball. If the opponent bites, there will be space in the centre of the pitch. If they don’t, Oranje can move up field using short combination play. Should Oranje lose possession, there are enough players around to hunt the ball like a pack of wolves.
Focusing on the flank
The Atalanta trick. The player combine centrally to open up to the flank where a the goal is to eventually move back to the centre of the pitch. Inside out, to outside in. This tactics work as it fits the Atalanta skill set wonderfully. Where teams like Ajax or Man City have enough skilled players to find space in a crowded centre, Atalanta has players who are more of the physical, running type. It’s wiser to use the flanks as most teams will allow the opponent to use the flank freely. See Atletico Madrid, for instance. Van Gaal seems to want to take the liberty and use the flanks as “his” as well.
Finding space in the centre of the pitch and a run in behind by Berghuis
Before Ake’s goal, we have four Oranje players on the left flank. Frenkie, Bergwijn, Berghuis all squeeze to the left where Blind is hugging the touch line. Denmark brings their players to the flank and it’s a quick pass by De Jong to the more centrally moving Berghuis. This is a frequent occurrence also due to Memphis, who has a natural tendency to move to the left.
3. Circle Pressing
The third variant was already mentioned by the coach. “We don’t need to press every opponent on their box. At times it’s wiser to allow them to come forward and press around the mid circle. This gives us space to attack once we win the ball.” Oranje organises this in their 5-2-3 positioning with the three forwards pushing onto the Danish back three. Not unlike Chelsea’s tactics.
De Jong and Koopmeiners push up, Virgil follows into midfield
Hunting in packs
The turn over follows and Denmark is at sea
The 3-1, penalty Memphis after challenge on Berghuis, is created out of that circle press situation. Koopmeiners and Frenkie de Jong both press forward, which opens up space behind them. Virgil van Dijk pushes forward and finds himself in midfield. Holland has a man more situation again and repossesses the ball. Denmark is puled apart and Berghuis and Bergwijn combine in the box: foul on Berghuis, penalty Memphis: 3-1.
The 4-2 can be shelved as not so relevant, as applies to the system debate. The 1-3-4-1-2 can be set up in such a variable manner that the differences to the 4-3-3 classic system are only subtle. This time, the players will come into a position where they’re harder to stop, as opposed to players already being in that position. The priciples of the Dutch School have been re-packaged by Van Gaal, with a hint of Sheffield United, a touch of Atalanta Bergamo and a pinch of Chelsea.
Van Gaal is happy with his team selection
Let’s hope we can see some other players in the match v Germany.
Flekken will definitely start. I hope we’ll see Malacia from the start, with Wijnaldum on the Berghuis spot, Danjuma for Memphis and Malen for Bergwijn, There is no Gravenberch, so maybe Clasie can come in for Frenkie or Teun as the Germany match progresses. I do think Louis will leave the back three and the two holders intact for the Germany game.