The cliche “men versus boys” has been used here a lot. In the past. And how I hoped that would remain a thing of the past.
But the games versus Croatia and Italy have yet again demonstrated where we go wrong. Again.
And I wonder who or what is going to change this!
Lets start this two-match review with the obvious: some people claim that due to the losses and the conceded goals we will need to consider a switch back to the 5-3-2 of van Gaal.
One photo will show you why this is nonsense.
As one can see: we had enough defenders in the box (5!). It’s not about the number of defenders. It’s about how the defenders defend and about what they do.
Combine this insight with the fact we conceded two downright idotic penalties versus Croatia and the analysis is done: stupidity, complacency and laziness.
Gakpo trying to turn the best midfielder of the past decade on the edge of his own box. Gakpo losing the ball and then trying to pick up the little maestro from the back (and what… bring him to the kids’ stands??)…. And late in the match, Malacia with a lunge in the box. I mean, a rush of blood to the head of course but I could accept the explanation of Malacia: only minutes left to score a goal and we needed the ball so I took a risk. And failed. But either way: two cheap penalties and very unnecessary.
The Croatie second goal was a typical example of alibi defending. Or pseudo defending. Making people believe you’re doing what you can. Dumfries, in this case not putting any pressure on the ball and staying at 1,5 yards from the forward. In his own box! That is not something you see Croatian or Italian defenders do. And Ake, Virgil and Koopmeiners all looking at each other. Typically something that happens even more with a 5 at the back system.
Not enough pressure on the ball. No communication. Ake can see it all happening in front of him,
Versus Italy, same old same old. Two early goals because no one really defends! No one attacks the ball, no one clears the ball, no one puts pressure on the ball and the key forwards who should track back to cover the Italian wing backs: absent!
Dimarco gets time and time from Malen and his defender mates were not able to recognise or communicate the danger to him. Where is a screaming Frank de Boer when you need him?
We didn’t lose because of the system
The quality of the players
I think we all know we have a lot of players who can play some neat, nifty football. Xavi Simons, Noa Lang, Donny Malen, Joey Veerman, Frenkie, all gifted players. But tenacity, leadership, personality and mentality are also part of the complete package of qualities a player requires.
And we lacked it. Again. We did see some good moves, we did see some decent actions and at times we played some nice football. Sure. But it’s about when things don’t go your way. When the opponent finds spaces where you didn’t expect it. When team mates get sloppy.
The quality we need then, is not the step-over of Noa Lang, the shimmy of Frenkie or the dribble of Xavi. We need the leadership of a Roy Keane. The big mouth of Gatuso. The piercing look of Mark van Bommel. I can fully understand that Wieffer, Geetruida, Dumfries and Lang are not the players to demonstrate this part of the game.
But Virgil. Nathan Ake (treble winner!), Frenkie de Jong ( skipper at Barca) and Koopmeiners should do more in this domain. Captain Van Dijk should be in Malen’s face, if he doesn’t track back! Frenkie should be ready to make the tactical switches where need be.
It’s all too sweet. We’re too friendly. We play too many card games at training camp and we focus too much on funny youtube clips with quizes, or raps with cigars and fashion shoots.
Mentality, commitment, leadership
And these are the elements that are missing. Some players came to the Nations League final round complaining that the season was too long and if we don’t win versus Croatia, we can’t be bothered to play the Losers Finals. Koeman should have sent these players home!
If you can’t get inspired for a football game, not hoping the coach will do it for you, then you have nothing to do in an orange jersey.
Every single player of Spain, Croatia and Italy has had a long and tough season! Man up!
We believe we are great football players. But we are only great on the ball. And not great. Above average. And we suck in the mental department.
And this is not something we fix by changing systems.
I never believe in getting a coach back for a second stint. It was a success with Michels and Oranje, ok. But not in any other instance. Mourinho at Chelsea. Van Marwijk at Feyenoord. Van Gaal at Barcelona. Van Gaal with the Oranje/Ajax contingent in 2000.
There is a sense of “comfort”, working with a coach you know. Whenever a coach says it feels like coming home, you know you’re in trouble. It shouldn’t feel like home.
Why pick Koeman again? Because it worked so well before? Well…. did it? He bailed before the Euros. Not really a success. So in my book, a big cross should have gone through his name.
Peter Bosz was available. Just sayin’.
Koeman has end responsibility and he needs to get his players mentally ready for a match or send the ones that can’t be bothered home. And when Malen doesn’t track back twice in 15 mins and we get hammered twice: immediately sub the dude. Show grit. Show courage.
Just like our team wasn’t able to show courage versus Croatia, our coach lacked courage in his choices.
I do believe the youngsters we see in Orange will grow into good solid players for the team: Wieffer, Veerman, Geertruida, Simons and even Malen, Gakpo and Lang are still youngsters, compared to Blind, Van Dijk and Memphis. We need to give them a chance.
But we need to give Botman, Frimpong, Schouten, Dallinga and Spierings a chance too.
Bijlow was not 100% top, but was only really at fault with that third Croatia goal. It wasn’t an easy one, but it was stoppable.
A back line with Ake and Botman, De Ligt and Frimpong should work. Or Malacia, Ake, De Ligt, Frimpong.
A midfield with Veerman, Frenkie and Wieffer should work. A forward line with Lang, Gakpo and Malen should work. We do have enough quality on the ball. But we need to turn it into a team and we need to wise up really quickly now and start switching that button on in their heads.
Playing for Oranje is not a summer camp outing after a tough season at the club.
It’s do or die now.