Tag: Gakpo

Oranje steps up v Qatar

The mood after Ecuador was so low and the performance on the ball was so bad that Louis van Gaal wanted to use the game versus Qatar to go back to the basis foundation of our football.

He also wanted to use the match to start Memphis for the first time and change the personnel in midfield.

As you all know Louis by now, he would never change more than 3 players in his line up, understandably.

And our game was better. Our performance on the ball was neat. We offered options, we passed and moved so we could play forward. The ball circulation was better, the pace and intensity were better and we scored two nice goals too. We got a third one chalked off, but I believe that was a bit petty. The arm was next to the body and the ball was hit against it. If Gakpo had one arm amputated he’d still control that ball but with his side. I will count it as a 3-0, assist Janssen, goal Berghuis.

Van Gaal: “This was a match of two teams playing the same system, leading into a chess match of some sort as they covered our forwards with 5 defenders and the battle was in midfield. Which we won and were expected to win. In those sorts of games, it’s the forwards who need to make the difference and Memphis is the kind of player who can be that difference. You can say what you want about him but he is super important in the team and involved in both goals. I want him to take risks and I want him to keep on trying his actions. This guy, he didn’t play for 2 months and he has played 65 minutes today, meaning he is now getting close to playing a full match.”

Van Gaal is focusing on two things and two things only: winning the game and making sure his team gets a bit better for the next game.

“I think we did really well, looking back, in terms of squad management. I wanted the players who lack rhythm to play. De Roon has been out and I have given him time. Same with Frenkie and Gakpo whom we could spare a bit by giving them a rest by taking them off. The last 10 or 15 minutes of a game is where players start to dig into their reserves, which can have an impact for the next match. Gakpo is on fire, this is why I subbed him. Klaassen and Berghuis haven’t played all matches for Ajax, so I wanted to get them to full match fitness too. Simons is fully fit, I wanted to spare him for when we truly need him. Lang took a knock on training and I also wanted to spare him for now.”

The analysts in the studio were gobsmacked that Lang or Simons didn’t get a chance. Van Hooijdonk, Van der Vaart, Van Basten… They all felt this was the ideal match to bring the youngsters. “Janssen is not in great form, Koopmeiners didn’t play well v Ecuador… If you don’t play him now, when will you??”

Davy Klaassen was selected as Man of the Match, by FIFA. They use some weird algorithm to do this and Klaassen was also confused: “Me? Oh? Why… well, I’ll take it but…. I dunno, it’s not something you think about during the match. But we did ok, we played closer together, we were able to combine better this way. You want to create 10 chances every match but it’s not that easy. These group games are hard, you can see it in other groups as well.”

Klaassen must feel like he’s at an In and Out Burger. Than he starts, than he is passed over. “Oh, that is how Van Gaal works. He has different types of players and he uses us like chess board pieces, hahaha. He will analyse what he needs per match. The good thing is, he will tell you exactly why you play or why you don’t play. We all know his thinking, and that helps.”

Van der Vaart was positive about Memphis: “He is not in top shape, that is clear. But he is always busy, always threatening, he will always work even if he is not playing well. He is improving and that is logical if you were out 2 months. He was important with that second goal so he needs to keep on working and it will come back. Hopefully in time.”

Xavi Simons did not make his debut. Many people thought Van Gaal would use him after his positive words for Simons in the presser. “People think that when I say “he is making good progress”, that he needs to start in the Oranje line up immediately. Sorry, that is not how it works. Ken Taylor is also making steps and he has had three sub turns for us and he has done very well. Players need to be patient. I judge them on their profile and specific contributions and on their form. When these two match and I need to solve a problem I will use that player. Xavi knows this.”

Daley Blind had another important match for Oranje. The wingbacks are supposed to be the key players in this system, and where Dumfries was key for us in the group at the Euros, he’s pretty quiet up until now. He has no shots on goals, he has had no chances created and he has had no successful cross into the box! Blind only had one attempt on goal against Senegal.

Van Gaal: “The wingbacks need to play with the space they get and we need to use them as high as possible but only if we have dominance in the game. Otherwise, you are at too much risk. When we play against a team with 5 defenders, like we did versus Ecuador and Qatar, it’s harder because you only have limited moments to play them in.”

Blind played an important part in the Oranje build up versus Qatar, but this due to the different tactics of Qatar. Qatar does not press the Oranje wingbacks as Ecuador did.

Qatar wants the midfielders to put pressure on our wingbacks so they can keep their 5 defenders all the way at the back. This is perfect for Blind. Qatar gives him all the time and space to come up with solutions.

Here is an example. Blind has the ball on the left flank and can wait for the movement of Memphis or Gakpo. Gakpo and Klaassen run deep making space for Memphis and Blind is the ideal player to play these passes in between the lines.

This is what happens for the 1-0. Blind plays in Memphis in between the lines. Gakpo makes a dart deep and than we get the quick fire combination of Memphis, Gakpo, Klaassen, Gakpo and 1-0.

The second goal is a bit similar. Noppert opens to Blind. You can see the huge distances Qatar has to deal with. Blind can move up the pitch and when Ake plays the ball to the in-between the lines Memphis, he finds Blind who is now close to the final third.

Blind has time again, and when he makes a dummy pass for Memphis and his run, the space opens up for Frenkie, to receive the ball.

Here you also see the value of Marten de Roon, who covers the space behind Frenkie. Frenkie opens up to the right, via Klaassen and Dumfries cross is converted into a goal, eventually by Frenkie de Jong.

De Roon covering for Frenkie

Blind has the most successful passes in the Qatar match, towards the final third (36 passes) and he finds Memphis and Frenkie – our danger men – most: De Jong 20 times and Memphis 10 times. Blind can really benefit from the Qatar style of defending and is the starting point of most of our successful attacks.

What this means for the future. Not much… As it is not likely that Blind will get this much time and space versus Team USA or any other opponent.

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Oranje does what it needs to do

We didn’t expect a glorious performance after the Ecuador game. Just a decent performance, some urgency and no goals conceded and at least one goal scored, is what we wanted. That should be enough.

At half time, the glass is half full for me. De Roon does what he is asked to do. Break up their attack and shield Frenkie. De Roon will not leave the starting line up anymore. Memphis. We need him, a good Memphis. He seemed lethargic v Ecuador but in this first half, Memphis showed an appetite. He played ok but lacks rhythm. Playing him regularly now is smart to get him in form. Gakpo sustains his good form and will be Oranje’s breakout star this tournament.

Blind, Timber and Frenkie play at a decent level. Timber drifted more into miidfield and allowed De Jong to move up a bit more, with the protection of Timber and De Roon in midfield. Klaassen had another assist and that is top, but also had some sloppy touches. Dumfries had a lot of options to make his usual darts but is not making the right choices always and tends to be a bit clumsy.

The intensity is ok, the ball pace is good, the movement is way better, all compared to Ecuador of course.

We’re looking better now, we might improve even more. This is a weaker opponent of course, so it’s important to start playing really well. We’re not there yet.

2-0. Clean sheet. Leader of the group. Bouncing back from a dreadful performance v Ecuador. I will take it. We need to do better but we’re on that upward trajectory. Memphis was better, Frenkie and De Roon as a good couple and Gakpo is on fire.

I think Van Gaal had to bring Koopmeiners and Berghuis to keep them “on board” mentally. If they would be passed they might have become totally deflated after the heavy criticism in Holland after Ecuador. Van Gaal said in the presser that the time for Simons is near but he needs to be a bit more patient.

Lets see who you would like as our next opponent?

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On the road to Qatar to… Qatar

Before the World Cup, all the smart football experts felt that Holland would breeze through the group, winning three games and ending on top of the group. No one expected the chagrin we all feel now.

Van Gaal built a reputation of being a daring, modern, attacking football promoting wizard, who can be viewed as a success coach. We all know better of course. Yes successes at Ajax, at Munich, at AZ but also mixed results at Barca and Man United and a huge disgrace in 2002 with Oranje. Of course, he sort of made amends in 2014, but this time he wants to go all the way. Or as he famously said: We can go an end. Which is the literal translation of the Dutch version of We can go a long way.

The Qatar match is going to be an interesting one. For starters we want and need to win it. But the Senegal and Ecuador matches have not demonstrated that Van Gaal’s complicated 1-3-4-1-2 system works. It may have worked, although in the different matches for the qualification and in the Nations League, he did switch around a bit. So to say that the LVG system is proven and water tight… no.

And now we are at a crossroads. Will Van Gaal use the same core players in his same system? Which is likely to do because 1) his ego doesn’t want to admit he was wrong, 2) he wants to have his core line up use this game as a practice run for when we play the top teams later on. Or will he use the young turks to prove themselves, give them game time and see if there is a new Marco van Basten or Memphis Depay amongst the second tier who could turn this disappointing journey around?

I would play this (if I was the coach) but I think Van Gaal will stick to this tactical guns and only add Xavi Simons to the mix. The country screams for him (87% of the respondents of a VI Pro poll want him to play) and LVG is smart enough to go with that if this means he keeps his dignity. But I don’t believe he’ll use  4-3-3.

As everyone who watched the games will concur that the “without-the-ball” play is decent but the “in-possession” play is dreadful. The players acknowledge that it has to improve, the analysts plug Simons, Lang and Malacia while the foreign press witness a struggling Oranje. The 2 attempts on goal v Ecuador is a new record. Since 1966 no nation was this toothless. The last “low number of attempts” was in 2014, the semi final against Argentina. Seven attempts.

How is it that a country renowned for their attacking creativity be so bad a creating? VI Pro asked Foppe de Haan, successcoach with Jong Oranje, Aad de Mos – master analyst, Hedwiges Maduro – ex international, Marcel Lukassen ex director football development at the KNVB and Jelle Goes, ex technical director of the KNVB.

Foppe de Haan

“We play with 5 defenders. And yes, you can play attacking football with 5 at the back, but you automatically have to start one forward less. So it’s actually a bit more defensive. You will have less options on the ball. And this system works well if you have top class wingbacks and… we don’t have them. I think Dumfries is positioned way too high. He is great if he goes into the space. Not if he’s there, with a man in his back. He lacks the skill for that. I don’t like to see Frenkie going all the way back to pick up the ball. He is the least threatening when he plays there. Van Dijk needs to do more in building up. More courage, more balls. Now, the balls go from left to right and back, it annoys the crap out of me. I don’t see any spectacle. We don’t offer enough bodies in the box, for instance. There is not enough threat, only Gakpo is in decent form up front. I don’t see any wing play with an action to take an opponent on. I see a lot of reality and not a lot of ideals. I think Team USA, Canada and Japan play with more forward thrust than we do.”

Hedwiges Maduro

“The defensive game play has developed enormously, internationally. The result of all the data and stats. It’s now easier to train in defence. How to organise, how to keep your distances in check. Even countries like Saudi Arabia can defend compact and grind out results. And because of this, attacking has become harder. I don’t think Van Gaal is thinking defensively, per se, but he simply doesn’t have world class forwards. We have three creative attackers in the centre of the pitch and the width has to come from the backs: Blind and Dumfries. But Ecuador had those avenues blocked off. They constantly had a man more in midfield and in defence. Then it’s tough to break them down. And they had one striker, Valencia, against three of our best defenders. But we don’t benefit from that man more.”

Marcel Lukassen

“All nations have improved mainly in terms of organisation. They all play more compact and defend and attack with 10. Due to it being so compact, it’s becoming harder and harder for attackers. A lot of our defenders used to be attackers. From Malacia to Karsdorp, from Dumfries to De Ligt. Which means that our defenders can all play, they can all play a good forward pass, like Blind and Ake. But this trend also shifts a lot of the defending requirements to the midfield and even the attack. German development academies focus on winning matches. Don’t concede goals and win! In The Netherlands, our emphasis is on scoring, on attacking. That is a cultural thing. Do we now create better defenders? I don’t believe so. Take Virgil van Dijk. Our captain. Considered on of the best. He should have blocked that Ecuador attack that resulted in a goal. He was running with the attacker. You need to defend. You need to block the attackers progress. Win the ball or force the opponent wide. And don’t wait and run along with him to shield the centre of the pitch. In a 1 v 1 situation, your first task is to intercept the ball when it’s passed. If you can’t, you need to make sure the opponent can not run in a straight line to the goal. You need to put pressure on him. And take De Ligt, versus Senegal. Why did he make all these fouls. Because he is not good at recognising when to pressure high and at what cost. We are not so good as we thing we are. Our attackers grow up with way less resistance. When you play for Ajax or Feyenoord or AZ you will win most of your games easily. As you can see, we know how to dazzle in the Eredivisie, but at this level? In Germany, the under 14s already play in compact systems and they look at things like distances, horizontal and vertical. They create unpredictable situations. In Holland, it’s more about the structure and shape and about individual skills. We need to overhaul our development methods. By focusing on better defending, you also train the attackers in becoming better and you challenge them. And we need to limit the spaces and play more compact. Look at the development of a Xavi Simons, at PSG and Barca, compared to a player like Hartjes or Bannis or Vente of Feyenoord.”

Aad de Mos

“I would not draw too many conclusions. This is a moment in time. Every tournament, you will have a bad game. We played Sweden in 1974 0-0. Was a terrible match. The spaces are more confined, it seems like defending is done better, but it’s not. Some nations do benefit from this, like Ecuador. Once we play better teams, who play more open, we will get more space, I suppose. Our forwards lack form though. Memphis, Bergwijn…maybe it’s time to give Simons or Lang a go. I do hope the players will be real and honest to each other. I think being a good friends group is not always good. I heard from some players from Belgium that they talk a lot about cars and watches, but now it seems De Bruyne is finally confronting his team mates, as is Alderweireld. We need less good vibes and more assholes. I think the Belgians resemble us more, and we are becoming more like them. It’s a good time for a little war in the camp.”

Jelle Goes

“In my view, we play reaction football. When you play 5 at the back, you actually leave the initiative with the opponent. It worked well in 2014. Every chance and a half ended up in goal, with hot shots like Van Persie and Robben and Memphis hot off the bench. But today, we have more quality, we have midfielders playing at top clubs in Europe and I think players need to play on the position they’re used to at their club. It’s not easy to make that switch. Look at Van Dijk, Timber, De Ligt and Ake. Do they play in a 3 at the back? No, not at their club. Are they the key men in build up? No, they’re not. They’re great defenders. And is it not ok to ask from Blind to reach the box of the opponent? Gakpo played his best games as a left winger and I believe Berghuis should play as right winger, in the Ziyech role, with Dumfries bombing forth. I do believe in success for Oranje, but don’t make it too complicated. Make it logical. I will probably take one or two subtle changes and we can win games comfortably.”

I think Ronald Koeman will need to do some restoration work.

I think under Koeman we will say our goodbyes to Noppert (as #1 goalie) and Blind. He might stay on in the squad but its time to bring Malacia. And if Wijndal or Bakker start to perform consistently, move on from Blind.

And go back to a 4-2-3-1. Preferably with Frimpong as well :-).

What do you expect from the Holland v Qatar game? I say 5-0. Brace for Xavi, a goal for Memphis and hopefully a World Cup goal for Virgil and Berghuis. Good for their confidence :-). Although Gakpo is on fire and every goal is another 5 million euros for PSV hahaha….

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Oranje and Van Gaal outplayed

In what is most likely Oranje’s worst performance for decades (even the 2012 Euro matches were better) the team lost the midfield, Van Gaal lost the tactical battle and everone else lost confidence, but we luckily drew vs Ecuador: 1-1.

We don’t do well when we score early. We have seen it before, most famously in the 1974 World Cup finals when we got a penalty in the first minute, only to lose grip and lose the match.

Where did it go wrong?

Well, it was the perfect storm. Their tactics worked well to unravel our tactics. We did not have an answer. And when the teams play similar in shape, it means the workrate, physical strength and meters ran start to really count. Ecuador were superior in this. But, if you have better ball players and better individual quality, you can still win (Memphis! Bergwijn!) but if the key players play below par, well…you’re bound to lose.

So rejoice! We didn’t lose. We stole a point from Ecuador. How sad they must be.

And what a tremendous after-party LVG and the boys will have had, to be gifted a point.

But seriously, what have we been watching? Was it a case of an over-confident Oranje? Too happy with themselves? Or is this simply a mentally and physically weak team, which needs their confidence to be inflated by a pompous coach?

I think it’s the latter.

Before the game, Van Gaal noticed that Ecuador decided to play the same shape as Oranje. To copy Oranje man for man, meaning it would become a man v man battle in midfield. And this is where we went wrong.

Van Gaal: “We will win this. I know this, because we know how to play this system better than them. And we have the better players.”

Wow.

Frenkie tried to solve the midfield problem by dropping back between our defenders, while Klaassen was instructed to push up to their back line and support the forwards, but he was swimming, leaving Koopmeiners at times as the only midfielder.

Here we see how the pass lines to the midfielders are being obstructed by the two attacking mids of Ecuador

One can remedy all this by crisper and quicker passing or using the wide players, Blind and Dumfries. This was attempted but on our right, Dumfries was wasteful whereas Ake and Blind passed the ball sluggish, allowing the opponent to settle in their roles.

This happened when Ake dribbled into midfield. The opponent needs to choose and Bergwijn and Klaassen find space in between the lines.

Van Gaal tried to remedy this by bringing Berghuis in the second half and later De Roon but Berghuis too was pulled away from the centre of the pitch often, still leaving gaps in midfield.

We didn’t create many chances, but neither did Ecuador. When Frenkie forgot he isn’t playing with Busquets at Barcelona, and played in Timber in a crowded midfield with an unexpected pass, the young Ajax defender was pushed off the ball and the defence was…non existent. Poor Noppert couldn’t do much better.

Here you see their holding mid dropping deep leaving Klaassen swimming without an opponent.

There were not many players who reached their usual level. Noppert plays as well as could be expected, with his footballing / kicking skills highly tested. I think Cillesen would have done better in several occasions. His panic kick forward resulted in the loss of possession leading up to their goal.

This is the mistake: Frenkie playing a risky ball to Timber who is on his heels, not expecting the pass and with a man in his back. Not the right decision.

I completely support the criticism by Marco van Basten on Virgil van Dijk. Big Virge thinks he plays with his voice only. His long passes, he knows how to do at Anfield, were not there. At all. Ake was Holland’s best player and that is not a good thing.

Dumfries and Koopmeiners were wasteful in possession. Memphis and Bergwijn close to invisible, while Klaassen should not have played at all in his match.

This is in the 70st minute. Frenkie as central defender. Where is our midfield??

Another example. Klaassen doesn’t even fit on the photo, he is way up the pitch leaving poor Koopmeiners to fend for himself. Where is our midfield?

And why bring Wout Weghorst?? What is the thinking there? We need guile and speed so we bring Weghorst. Not Lang? Not Xavi? Weghorst lacks the speed and skill for a match like this. You need an individual who can break open matters, when the team and the tactics fail. That is not Weghorst. Baffled.

Van Gaal said after the game that his decision to bring Weghorst and De Roon was not to win the game, but to not lose the game. To put some fight into the team. That, I can see.

From a result perspective, we are still in the top 2 of the group. It comes down to the last match versus minions Qatar. So from this perspective, no worries. Just win or draw your last game and you progress. But from the performance perspective, where do we go from here?

Is Van Gaal going to experiment now, with new players? Now? That would be worrysome. But … will he keep on playing this system and with the same midfield?

After the match, Van Gaal was realistic: “This was not good. I am surprised. I thought we would have the better of them, tactically but I was wrong. The main difference is their aggressive play. We couldn’t cope with it and lacked the form, the quality to deal with it. I am not going to badmouth my players, I need to stay positive and support them. I think we still have it all to play for, we can still win the group. In every World Cup campaign, you can have one of those matches. We played a tough second match in Brazil, after the Spain thrashing, but we were able to win that late in the game. This time we didn’t, but a draw is still a positive.”

Asked about the criticism of Van Basten on Virgil van Dijk, Van Gaal concurred: “I can see what Marco means, but we decided to have Ake play the build up as he was our free man at the back. And he did well.”

Asked about the solution, Van Gaal said: “I think our defense is not the problem. That is playing well, and has adapted well to the system but the creativity in midfield and up front is what we need to fine tune. Luckily we have more options to work with.”

Memphis sat on the bench for half the game and was able to watch the team in trouble. “They were better. It’s that simple. What went wrong with us, is that we didn’t manage to offer enough options to one another. The distances were too great and it was easy for them to interrupt our flow. You need to be there at the right time so you can play on. We didn’t manage this.”

About his own game: “I need to touch the ball often and I need to be able to take the opponent on. I was simply not able to do this. There was no space, I never got into my game. We need to analyse this and we need to show a bit more confidence, a bit more courage in our attacking play.”

Pierre van Hooijdonk was clear in his commentary: “After the first match, it was all about “the pressure” and “the first match” etc but now you see it’s not an incident. This must be alarming. But you don’t create anything. It looked lethargic, without life. The opponent was more aggressive and that can’t be happening if you are really good. Virgil said that this Ecuador was a good team, but it is not a good team. It’s an ok team. So what happens if we play against a truly good team? And I know, we have four points, we might simply go on to the knock-out stages, that is great. But we did the same at the Euros and in the first knock-out game we were done. You will have to get to that level where we can all say ” oh wow, so this is what they can do!” because otherwise you cannot make any claim on the title. You have to be able to hurt the opponent, but we were not able to do anything. Nothing. It was so slow, it was walking football.”

Van Basten: “Incredible that you’re being bullied by the number 44 on the FIFA ranking. It’s crazy that they get those chances while we can’t create anything!”

I’d love to see some major changes. A Hail Mary. Forget this 1-3-4-2-1 system. If you don’t have forwards on fire and wingbacks in form, don’t play this.

Go 4-3-3. Let the youngsters deal with it versus Qatar.

Time to play Bijlow now as well.

You lose versus Qatar with this team: you don’t deserve to progress.

You win against Qatar in a bad game, you progress and can re-group and tell the media you did this to give your key players a rest.

If you win against Qatar in a good game, you have yourself more and new options for the knock out stages.

I usually post the highlights of the match here. But I wanted something uplifting for you, this time.

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More Oranje Stats

Football has done a long time without the plethora of stats that seem to dominate other sports, particularly American sports like American Football and Baseball. But stats have crept into the game and are getting more and more important to see patterns and understand how teams play.

It’s relevant to use stats alongside the usual insights, useful to look at your own team and players, and useful to analyse the opponent.

I don’t think Van Gaal and Co (or me for that matter) will go overboard on stats, but it’s a fact that most of our younger players (Danjuma, Malacia, Noa Lang, Frenkie) are all known to be very involved in analysing their own game using the numbers.

These are the stats that FIFA came out with recently from the Senegal game. Interesting indeed.

Two key results: our forwards do not play well together and Daley Blind is the key man for the press.

Steven Bergwijn was on the pitch for 79 minutes and only played the ball to a fellow attacher once! The Ajax forward himself never received the leather once, from a striking partner!! In the fourth minute, Gakpo almost assisted a tap-in for Bergwijn, but the ball was intercepted. There were only four passes between the forwards during the whole game.

From \ To Bergwijn Janssen Gakpo Depay
Bergwijn 1 0 0
Janssen 0 1
Gakpo 0 1 1
Depay 0 0

Another remarkable statistic: Gakpo made 59 runs in order to receive the ball and was only found four times!  One of these four times was the cross by Frenkie, resulting in the 1-0. 30 of the 59 “offers to receive the ball” were runs in behind the Senegal defence and he was more than not ignored, because the team mate with the ball didn’t see the run or didn’t dare to play the ball. The only good thing is that these runs usually result in space for an opponent.

Steven Bergwijn was the quickest Oranje player, with a top speed of 34,6 kilometers/hour.

Player top speed (km/hr)
Steven Bergwijn 34,6
Virgil van Dijk 32,8
Cody Gakpo 32,8
Vincent Janssen 32,7
Matthijs de Ligt 32,7

Yes, Daley Blind was the slowest of the team, but he did have the most sprints of all (59), just behind Denzel Dumfries (60).

Frenkie de Jong had the most kilometers with 11,4 kms with Daley Blind second (11,2 km) and Cody Gakpo third (10,7 km).

Daley Blind was the press king, with 39 press moments and he had the most tackles (5). Frenkie had the most interceptions (2) and re-possessions of the ball (9). Frenkie also had the most passes and the highest pass accuracy and was able to break through an opponent line the most too (16 times).

What does this mean for Van Gaal? Who knows :-).

I think he will use the same eleven vs Equador, with the exception of De Ligt, who will make way for Timber. There is a chance that he rests Daley Blind and will use Malacia against the physically strong South Americans.

Equador is a tough team to beat. In the last 7 matches, they didn’t concede. They’re strong, athletic and resilient. Their coach has a simple philosophy: football is played in blocks. There is High, Midline and Low. Equador will put compact blocks against the way the opponent wants to play and with lots of positional changes and hard work, they will want to wear the opponent down.

Coach Alfaro likes to talk his team up. He plans to defend like Spain does: high up the pitch. And he is proud that he has the youngest squad of the World Cup. Alfaro uses zonal defence, where ever on the pitch and the distance between the players is always very small. There is not much known otherwise, as all public training sessions were cancelled and there is rumour of some key players (among them Valencia) being injured. I think these guys can all play though.

Here you see the aggressive press by the team in yellow vs Qatar

Key for Holland will be the running in behind. Their stern defence likes to push up and the way to deal with it, is by dirty runs. Gakpo did this constantly and I believe Bergwijn and Dumfries will need to do the same. Van Gaal might even consider bringing Klaassen on #10 for this and use Gakpo as forward in place of Janssen.

The offensive strength of Equador is limited. Their forwards play in mediocre teams, Valencia in Turkey, Ibarra in Mexico and Plata at Valladolid, mid tier in Spain. The left side of Equador has the most threats and we might need a more defensive option for Berghuis as the communication between full back and midfielders will be key, for Oranje.

Another aspect is their behaviour when they lose possession. They aggressively want to get the ball back asap and they will use physical strength and duel power to get the ball.

This is the option to run in behind for Bergwijn and Gakpo, as shown by Argentina

As they already have 3 points, I don’t think this will be a game where Equador will want to take the game to us, and play open. I think this Equador will play a bit more compact and deeper than against Qatar and use their counter strength to take us on.

For the Dutch, we need to make sure our passing is crisp and accurate, as we can pass our way through their system, but if we are sloppy, we might get hammered on the counter.

I’d like to see this line up. I think Equador will want to absorb pressure and counter against us. So Janssen can play a role up front. I’d play Koopmeiners for Berghuis and Malacia for Blind. Timber for De Ligt is a non-issue I think.

Do I believe LVG will play like this? I think he’ll probably use Blind instead of Malacia.

Either way, I can see another 2-0 win for us. I hope Bergwijn will score, which will lift him up a bit and who ever scores the other one, I don’t care :-). I hope Memphis, who will get another 30 mins I think.

Tell me your predictions!

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Sluggish Oranje win over African champs

After the WC draw, people felt this was going to be easy. Even last week, some football pundits felt Senegal would be a walk-over. A bit arrogant maybe? I don’t think the players and coaches felt the same.

Senegal – even sans Mane – is a strong nation. This is the champion of Africa. This is not Equador or Greece or Finland. This is a team full of top players, who make their living in England, France or Italy.

Add to that the stress of playing your first World Cup match and it’s not without reason that Oranje didn’t play amazingly well. I even think it is better to grow into the tournament, then it is to start phenomenally well. I remember 2008 and 2006, two times we were in the Group of Death, only to be eliminated in the first knock-out stages.

There are many aspects we can complain about. Is Janssen the ideal replacement for Memphis, over – say – Danjuma? Is the choice for De Ligt over Timber the right one? Should Berghuis play next to Frenkie or Koopmeiners?

I think we’ll see changes in the course of the tournament, but for now I think Van Gaal’s choices are reasonable.

De Ligt was put in the team to counter the height threat of Senegal. They do have quite a number of strong, tall headers of the ball. This is why De Ligt was in the team and on that aspect, he delivered.

But he was quite weak in other situations. Too physical and weak in build up too. He seems to think that defending means wrestling, while Nathan Ake demonstrated that you can defend in a different way. Patient, on your feet, focus on the ball and keep it simple. Ake was one of the best last night, I believe. I expect Timber back in the team soon.

De Ligt plays more on the left side of the centre for Bayern and was pushed in a right back role vs Senegal in Van Gaal’s set up. Not a role he really is comfortable in.

Noppert is another surprise starter of course and we can only guess why Van Gaal and Hoek selected him as the #1 goalie. It seemed very risky, but Noppert did well. He stopped a couple of shots you expect him to stop and had one great save, low in the corner in the 85th minute. His build up play with his feet was risky in the first half, giving the ball away eventually, but his long kick in the 98th minute did allow three subs to combine for the 2-0. Headed on by Koopmeiners, run and shot by Memphis and typically, Klaassen who made the run to help out and pick up the pieces for 2-0.

Would any other midfielder have made that run? Taylor? Berghuis? Koopmeiners? I wonder.

Overall, no one stood out. Frenkie played a good first half, but was wasteful in the second half, trying to keep on playing like he does at Barca, but Senegal had a good tactical solution constantly closing the space with two players whenever Frenkie started to make a run.

Frenkie would be instrumental in the 1-0 of course, with a very “sensitive” cross with his right, offering Gakpo a goal. Normally, it’s Gakpo crossing the ball like this to Luuk de Jong, at PSV.

But Frenkie, despite his loss of possession, intended to play like he normally does. This can not be said of Bergwijn and Van Dijk, particularly. Bergwijn seems to be out of form and Van Dijk’s long passing and build up play was meagre, to say the least. He can be of more importance.

Janssen was not overly great but had some great touches. He was the one to flick Gakpo into the box in the first half, allowing a square pass which Bergwijn could have finished if the pass was better.

There was some more of these Janssen lay-offs, one that allowed Berghuis a shot on goal, which sailed over the bar.

Berghuis played a more controlling role and did well off the ball. He did have some good moves and passes, one was a potential assist on Frenkie, who for some reason didn’t want to finish on goal, but wanted to chop the ball to his right foot. Wasteful. But we do want more from Berghuis.

Daley Blind played ok. No big issues to report. He played with discipline and helped out in attack and he had a role to play in the 1-0, keeping the field wide and offering a option to Memphis and Frenkie, before he assisted the first goal.

Denzel Dumfries too played his usual game. Marauding runs, tough in the duels but his delivery again was left wanting. He had too many crossing options that ended up as waste, at one time hitting the defender in front of him. He will always be good value in the team, but his pure football skills are limited and I think Frimpong might eclipse him in the years to come.

Virgil was solid in defence, but as mentioned: I want him to be more regal in the build up. I see Virgil, I see Beckenbauer, but only in charisma. Not yet in his playing style. I want to see him up the level a bit.

Gakpo was important for the team and has some excellent moves, but there were too many stages in the game where he was invisible. He needs to be more dominant in the #10 role. That is the difference with his role at PSV from the wing. As a #10 you need to demand the ball and find the spots and spaces. The fact he only had 7 passes in the first half tells you the story. Great goal for him of course, but needs to up his game. When Memphis came on, Gakpo played from the right and made a crucial run into the box, when he noticed Dumfries and Klaassen were the focus of the defenders and he was the free man.

Because Senegal used two defending mids, Gakpo couldn’t be found in the centre of the park so he decided to look for space on the wings.

The main story should also be the subs. Koopmeiners made a statement when he came on and might well start the next game. He showed his work rate, his smarts, his leadership and had the pre-assist for the 2-0. When Memphis came on you couldn’t tell he hadn’t played for 2,5 months. He was a threat, he was confident in his touches, he was clearly enjoying being on a football pitch again and had an assist and a pre-assist this game. Klaassen, well, what can you say. The least popular Oranje player maybe, and probably also the least skilled player, but his nose for the position is just amazing. He is always right there where the ball drops.

A word on Senegal, they do seem to be a hard to beat side, with threats going forward. I can see them finish second in the group and potentially make life hard for other higher ranked nations.

Their coach Aliou Cisse, changed his tactics dramatically to counter the Dutch threat. Where he usually defends in a 4-4-2 (two blocks of 4) he now used Gueye as a higher playing holding mid. Why you say? Frenkie is the answer. They decided to block the centre axis of the pitch and not use their full backs too high up. So this opened up the space for Daley and Denzel to be utilised but we didn’t manage to get these two going. The Timber speciality, dribbling into midfield to lure a midfielder or forward to bite, didn’t happen because…. Timber didn’t play. Van Dijk and De Ligt didn’t do this well enough.

In the second half, Van Gaal uses Berghuis higher up the pitch, next to Gakpo and the result is two teams who cancel each other out.

One of the key players without the ball in this situation was Vincent Janssen who managed to break up the passing line to Diallo, who usually is important in Senegal’s build up, but in this match more than half of his passes ended up with an orange jersey. This is the result of the work of Janssen. I’m sure people here will criticise the Antwerp striker but he served his purpose.

For a first WC match, we should be happy. We got the point. We didn’t give a lot away. We suffered no big injuries, so the mood will be good in the Oranje camp. Qatar and Equador should not give us much trouble and if LVG is capable to get this team to play better, we will prove to be that Dark Horse we love to be.

Marten de Roon scored as well, by the way. After the game.

 

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Oranje ready for the first match

We will keep on doing more “The Road to” posts in the coming weeks, unless Oranje and the other nations are really impressing up the gazoo, but if not and I have time and space, I will keep on making profiles for the Dutchies.

The team has arrived in Qatar and LVG has given his first presser, the key thing that stuck out: a confrontation with Telegraaf journalist who had one more question on Cillesen. Louis the Sun King was not impressed and had another dummy spit. And the next thing was Louis raving about the amazing infrastructure and fascilities in Qatar. Oh, the irony…

Yesterday, the team was considered “settled in” and they had a public training session with the token workers and labourers, as a bit of a “thank you” for the sacrifices (…). Where the US, England and the Canada teams all did this too, but behind closed doors, Oranje had their joint training session with the media present.

I think it’s great that the players do this, but I think the real solutions need to come from higher up of course.

Frenkie was seen chatting with one of the workers, using gestures and sign language it seems… After the conversation, the media asked Frenkie what this was about. Frenkie: “I actually asked him about his living conditions here, and how he was doing but he didn’t want to talk about it. He only wanted to talk football. He told me that he thought I needed to go to Liverpool….”.

KNVB’s Gijs de Jong: “This is not just a token gift. We have been speaking to the differend delegations of labourers here and this is what they wanted. They had to wishes: pick a hotel that treats its workers well and keep on talking about this topic in the media during the tournament.”

Van Gaal was open to have his players mingle with the labourers present but then went into Dictator Louis mode during the trining. He played 11 v 11 with the B-team copying the way Senegal is supposed to be playing. This was all behind closed door as he would have selected his starting eleven for the Senegal game. Later they played some kicking and passing practices and the Dictator was really cracking the whip.

In the 8 v 8 practices later, it’s again full speed. Memphis is playing the full session and at full throttle. Another interesting point: Noppert is the goalie behind the assumed back three of Ake, Van Dijk and Timber.

Skipper Van Dijk explains: “The KNVB gets requests from the Qatar delegations to do this or that. They then bring it to the players committee. As a skipper, I am in that. We accept the proposition and then bring it to the squad. We have decided that if 1 player is not comfortable doing it, none of us will do it. For now, we all support what we have set out to do.”

So, we saw the team wear a Football Supports Change shirt at the start of World Cup qualfiers, and the One Love captains band for Van Dijk during the World Cup. The KNVB is also pushing for a compensation fund to be set up by the FIFA. Some people think it’s all not enough, although the Dutch seem to do more than most other nations. The KNVB has set up auctions of jerseys for which the revenue is used to assist migrants with legal aid and social activities. The Dutch labour union FNV is also involved with support internationally.

The KNVB has never hidden their disgust of the Qatar choice for this World Cup. In 2010, we didn’t vote for Qatar and when they got it, KNVB director Van Oostveen said: “It is crap, it was crap and it will always be crap.” Not sure if this was about the FIFA decision or his own role in sacking Hiddink, then Blind, then appointing Van Breukelen who then pissed off Henk ten Cate only to bring Advocaat back into the role…

Louis van Gaal has called the decision to give Qatar the World Cup: ridiculous.

And thus, Oranje played a nice match versus the labourers. There is laughter and taunting. Slidings and tackles are forbidden. Trickery is not. The whole show ends with penalty kicks, which does give the thing a different perspective. The penalty kick debate may have cost Flekken and Cillesen and it’s quite funny to see the Qatar migrants score one penalty after another against the three Oranje goalies.

All nice, fun and games.

Time to focus on the first match!

It’s close now. What to expect from Senegal without Mane?

Coming Monday we play Senegal. They will most likely play with Sarr, Dia and Diatta upfront. Gueye and Kouyate in the midfield and Koulibaly and Diallo centrally at the back, with Mendy on goal. I am telling you: this is not going to be an easy match. Not at all!

The Senegal coach usually plays a 4-3-3.

But in their build up, Senegal will have the centre backs positioning wide, with a midfielder dropping in between while their full backs will move up the pitch. Not unlike Ajax plays. Usually, it’s Mane who drops into midfield a bit to make the numbers work, but with Mane out it remains to be seen if the replacement of Mane will play the same way. In any case, Van Gaal will want his backs to push up high and to take on their full backs, while the rest of the team will pivot towards that side. For instance, if Dumfries needs to put pressure on their left back, Timber will move into Dumfries’ position and all players will squeeze to the right, with Daley Blind ending up on the left centre back position.

When Oranje builds up, Senegal will most likely move into a 4-4-2 shape, to block the spaces. Mane and one of his partners will pressure our defense and the two midfielders will probably press onto the two Dutch holding mids. This will give great opportunities for our #10 (Gakpo or Berghuis) who can use the space behind their midfield to create something.

It could also be that the defensive shape of Senegal changes, due to Mane out. You could also expect a 4-3-2-1, If that happens, there will be chances for Timber or Ake, the free players, to dribble into midfield, to bait one of the Senegal players to bite, allowing Gakpo or Bergwijn to get into space.

My prediction for this match.

I think we’ll have a tough one. This is a good opponent, the conditions are not great and we’ll have the usual tournament stress I can imagine.

I am not sure who will play next to Frenkie. Koopmeiners seems to be the safe bet. He’s a bit in between Berghuis and De Roon.

I believe we will draw 2-2. I hope Janssen will get a World Cup goal and I believe Gakpo or Bergwijn will find the net as well. We’ll need to win our last two matches, which should be doable.

 

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On the Road to Qatar: Cody Gakpo

Come on guys! Join in!

The name is Lowievenkaals Armie (Louis van Gaal’s Army the way Louis van Gaal pronounces it)….

https://www.scorito.com/subleague/592165/wk-voetbal-2022/lowievenkaals-armie/65cd2540-e8ec-4ebc-8734-a2f34c2f6d9c?utm_source=league&utm_medium=copylink&utm_campaign=inv

Cody Gakpo is widely seen as the best player in the Eredivisie at the moment. Again. He’s involved in 29 goals so far in 22 matches (13 goals, 16 assists) and wants to perform at that same level in Qatar and than make a big money move next summer.

Last deadline day was a special one for PSV fans. They knew big money clubs were courting their star and while Gakpo plays a great game versus Volendam, the fans are looking at their phone. Is there a deal being made to lure their favorite son away? Leeds United would have sent a plane to Eindhoven. Southampton just upped their offer. PSV’s board want Gakpo to go. They also want Sangare to go to. PSV needs the money.

But Gakpo isn’t feeling it. He had his mind set on Man United. And decides to stay. The chant “Cody Has To Stay” worked. As a result, the PSV board decides to scold TD John de Jong for keeping Gakpo at the club (what??) and as a result De Jong resigns from his job. Ruud van Nistelrooy is livid. Gakpo is puzzled. And general manager Marcel Brands decides to take it on the chin.

A winter transfer might be on the cards. Due to the Gakpo stats, bigger clubs are circling now. Man United is back on deck and Real Madrid has informed as well. PSV needs the money. But Gakpo can’t be bothered.

The peace he exudes is the result of his disciplined upbringing in a stable family situation. His dad is from Togo, his mum is Dutch. The people who know Cody say he’s not just a unique player, he’s also a unique human being. Deeply religious and highly intelligent. One of his fave books (…) is Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, from 1937. Gakpo has an idol. It’s Pele. How many 23 year olds would carry around a photo of the Brazilian legend? Gakpo calls himself “an old soul”.

Gakpo was tested academically and given the advice to go for a university degree. He decided to stick to high school and focus on football. But with a broader interest. When a group of journalists cornered PSV general manager Gerbrands, back in 2017, in a hotel at trainings camp, Gakpo – then 17 years old – stuck around to listen as a fly on the wall. Like a sponge.

Toon Gerbrands: “He spoke to me in those days about what he would do after his career! He was only 17 years old and wanted to know what a general manager does. We had so many conversations, about how you manage a bad-news conversation, or how you assess people’s values when recruiting. I bought a book on philosophy for him and he was really intrigued. It had questions like “where were you before you were born” and “how do you know what is the Truth”. And he would always come back to me with further questions or comments and we’d have these really fun debates.”

Gakpo is highly religious and prays several times per day. He even once organised a prayer session at the Philips Stadium, for 200 people. Toon Gerbrands was there: “It wasn’t very “biblical” or anything, just a warm session speaking about the higher power and we had four people who previously didn’t believe, who converted! One person even started crying. I never had that experience before with a football player.”

Gakpo started at the PSV Academy at 7 and perfected his dribble and his shooting. “My dad always told me to shoot low. it’s harder for the goalie to get to the ground. My dad was a number 10 and played at a high level in Togo. We discuss football a lot. And we still play together on a little grass pitch here in town. He’s my toughest critic.”

Aad de Mos says Gakpo has canons in his feet. “He has the same kicking technique as Willy van der Kuylen. Today, Gareth Bale does it as well, Harry Kane too. Or Ryan Babel. We call it the hipshot. No back swing. You can’t see they’re going to shoot. Van der Kuylen used to perfection. The goalie and the defenders thought they had another second to block but the ball was already in the net.”

Luc Nilis taught Gakpo never to shoot at full 100% capacity. Always at 80%. Gakpo: “I have learned so much from Luc Nilis. He always said, you gotta know where the goal is. The goal never moves. So if you know where it is, you don’t need to look, you can fully concentrate on the ball. I noticed a lot of players look up to where the goal is, a couple of times. Those are the nano seconds you can lose control or the defender nips in or the ball makes a funny jump and you hit the stands. Shooting at full 100% capacity usually means you lose control. The body stiffens and there is no flow. The speed of the ball is not just the result of the power in the muscles, but also the move of the body, and the swing of the leg.”

With dad

His youth coaches ( Twan Scheepers, Mark van Bommel) say that due to this specific skills, he is very hard to play. And the stats demonstrate it. Below is the “Growth as a Player” overview, of Gakpo in all competitions. It’s in Dutch, but you get the drift, I’m sure.

Growth as a player. Cody in all competitions.

Wedstrijden = matches, basis plaatsen = starting line up, speelminuten = minutes played, schoten = shots, op doel = on target, kansen gecreeerd = chances created, uit open spel = from open play, bal contacten = touches, in de 16 = in the box, passes aangekomen = successful passes, pass nauwkeurigheid = pass accuracy, dribbels aangegaan = dribbles started and voltooid = completed.

Van Gaal can use Cody on different positions. He can play a 10 or a striker in the 3-5-2 system. He can also play left winger in a 4-3-3. It was Van Gaal who convinced Gakpo that he can be a number 10, by the way. About Van Gaal, when the veteran coach was appointed, Gakpo went to see Gerbrands: “You worked for 4 years with him at AZ. What kind of man is he?”

This typifies the player and the person Cody Gakpo. Always prepared, always focused.

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On the road to Qatar: Noa Lang

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.

His Dribbles

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.

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.

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.

Multi-functional

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.

“Plus”

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.

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Jan’s World Cup Squad

Well folks, I promised you my World Cup Squad. I will try to get into the head of LVG but my personal preferences will shine through.

Yes, Blind was hooked by Schreuder for two matches now (apparently they had a bit of a fight) but Blind will obviously be part of the squad. There is no way in hell LVG will drop him. There will be very limited new blood in the squad, knowing Louis, as he won’t want to many new faces to “educate” about the Van Gaal method. So don’t get yourself all worked up. No Bakker, no Struijk, No Botman. He will probably add Xavi Simons for good reasons, but Van Gaal is a hard head and he could even completely ignore what we all want.

Below is the scene from Ajax – PSV that stuck with me most. Not the goals, not the silly hand bag battles, or moves by Kudus. Not the shot on target from Berghuis or the workrate of Xavi Simons. This:

As for the comments on Ajax – PSV. I think the match was pretty even between the boxes. Ajax had the better of the ball there. But when it started to become serious – in the boxes – it was PSV that was sharper and more willing to battle. For both PSV goals, Ajax simply didn’t want to defend. As if they didn’t want to get their shorts muddy. Before the 1-0, Bergwijn is worked to the ground and he stays there, as a spoiled child, watching the ref. Kudus and Brobbey decided to jog a little bit. As a result, the right hand side of Ajax was overrun and the right back couldn’t or didn’t want to pressure Gakpo too much: result? A pin point cross to Luuk de Jong: 0-1. For the second goal, it was a corner by PSV (or a free kick, not sure) and the ball was cleared half, Ajax started to push up, while Tadic lost possession on the edge of the box to Veerman. 5 (!) Ajax players stood still and watched. De Jong went into a duel for the ball, these Ajax players still stood there, watching. As a result, Guti was completely free to pick up the ball and score.

Simply lack of work ethics. Nothing to do with tactics or experience or quality. Everything to do with willingness to fight for every ball.

This is so pathetic… I’m ashamed to be Dutch…

Ok, now my 26 for the World Cup. Some comments: usually a coach picks two players per position. When you play 5-3-2, however, you would pick 10 defenders instead of 8 (in a 4-3-3) so that won’t work. You don’t even need 8 defenders usually, as historical data show that you usually only sub a defender if he’s injured or has a yellow. To change the game, you usually bring a forward, not a defender.

You will find my group of 26 in this image below.

I have to be frank, I thought I’d have a surprise for you, but I don’t. I was thinking to put Clasie in. Why? Because Clasie has 1) experience, 2) is a Van Gaal favorite and 3) brings the passing quality we might need if a player like Frenkie and/or Koopmeiners is out. Clasie is a good organiser, a very decent dueller for the ball and a cool head. Good set piece taker as well.

But right before posting this, I realised that it’s probably overkill. With Koopmeiners, Frenkie and Berghuis we should have enough players who can play in that role. You can even add Blind to that if need be while Ake or Timber could even play in that position.

I realised that there is no alternative if Luuk gets injured or suspended. Yes, you can send De Ligt up top or De Vrij but I decided to pick Weghorst as the joker’s joker behind Luuk.

Simons has to come, and I added Klaassen as well (positioned as LCB but that is only to make the picture symmetric I guess. Klaassen is the only real box to box player and with his goal scoring instinct I felt it was good to bring him along. Klaassen is also a player who will not complain if LVG makes him polish all the boots.

This my preferred start up eleven, based on the fitness of the players today:

Ok, let the insults, criticism and sarcasm begin!!

You know where to put your comments… ( pun intended).

 

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