Tag: Janssen

Season end musings…

Crunch time in most leagues now. It’s the business end of the football season. Some trophies are handed out already, many still have to find an owner. And yes, I do think qualifying for EL football or not being relegated counts as a trophy too.

Let’s face it, the work coaches like Stijn Vreven (Nac), Fons Groenendijk (ADO Den Haag) and Mitchell van der Gaag (Excelsior) have done at their level might well be more impressive than what Cocu has done at PSV or Pep at Man City.

In these last weeks, there will also always be fascinating rumours of players coming and going of course.

The key news for us Oranje fans is the prelim squad for Oranje’s next two friendlies.

No big surprises for me. It’s nice to see Elia back in the prelim, as he is playing very well for his Turkish side (still in the title race) while Memphis might well start centrally, like at Ol Lyon. Allowing for another left wing player to join in.

Kongolo back in the squad is logical too. He’s holding his own at Huddersfield, who are safe now in the EPL. And he can play on three spots in the NT if needed.

A bit like Daley Blind, who’s also present and might make the definitive squad as Koeman will rely on him moving forward. Purely based on his recent performances, he doesn’t belong in the NT (as he didn’t have any performances) but he’ll need some rhythm coming back and he might need a mental boost. Koeman ignoring Daley now might make things worse for the ex Ajax man, who will probably leave United this summer.

The AZ threesome Til, Weghorst and Bizot are part of the prelim squad but I doubt that they’ll make it into the final squad. Koeman also invited some Young Oranje talent to the camp, as some players are still in the fold for silverware or other big decisions. Denzel Dumphries, the assist king of Heerenveen, will join, as will AZ’s Teun Koopmeiners, Groningen’s Juninho Bacuna, Feyenoord goalie Justin Bijlow and AZ’s Thomas Ouwejan.

Potential changes for the Dutch Eredivisie coming season…


At PSV, it seems Arias might be on his way to Juve, which would be a good move for PSV’s best player of the season. Jeroen Zoet wants to leave too, while TD Marcel Brands is on the hitlist to become Everton’s technical director. The former Feyenoord player has had a massive run as TD for RKC, AZ (won the title with Van Gaal) and now eight years at PSV.


Van der Sar, Overmars and Ten Hag will stay on but heaps of rumours are going around for some of the key players. Ziyech wants to go and if he plays a good World Cup, he will land somewhere nice. Justin Kluivert has expressed his wish to stay, as his manager Raiola is making life hard for Ajax, in their quest to sign the youngster for a longer spell. He wants Justin to get 1,5 mio euros p.a. and 30% of any future transfer fee. Ajax says NO. Several Italian clubs (AS Roma, AC Milan) are in the race, as is Man United. Mathijs de Ligt can sign everywhere it seems and Man City seems to have the best papers to do so, but Barca and Bayern are after his signature as well. Frenkie de Jong is alleged to sign for Barca this summer, but will remain with Ajax for one more year. Goalie Onana is on hit lists too as is Neres, for whom a German bid of 27 mio euros is in the making. Zakaria Labyad (ex PSV) will make the move from FC Utrecht to Ajax to be reunited with Erik ten Hag. Fortuna’s central defender Per Schuurs already joined Ajax, as did left winger Bande.


Jorgensen will have the focus during this World Cup and several English clubs are scouting him. Vilhena will want to move away too (Italy?) while Karim El Ahmadi might be in the position to make a big step for the last time in his career, particularly when/if Morocco does well vs Spain and Portugal. There is interest for Sven van Beek too and Steven Berghuis has had a sensational season for a right winger, with several Spanish clubs keen to jump in.


The wonderful performances of AZ will have caught the eye, with Wout Weghorst on his way out and Jahanbaksh (in the same group at the World Cup with Iran as Morocco) will definitely be swooped up (Lazio Roma? Napoli?).

There’s a lot of debate about this on Holland at the moment. Should Kluivert really go already? Is De Ligt really ready? Can Weghorst survive outside of the Eredivisie?

We’ve seen so many “top” players from the Eredivisie struggle in bigger competitions. Alves of Heerenveen for instance, scored for fun in Holland, never made it anywhere else. Kezman, top striker at PSV, didn’t score anywhere else. More recently: Depay at Man United, Janssen at Spurs, Luuk de Jong at Borussia and Newcastle, Van Wolfswinkel at Norwich, the list goes on and on…

There are some good examples too of course. Wesley Hoedt and Virgil van Dijk never played for a top 3 Eredivisie club and they did well. And a bit longer ago: Roy Makaay and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink of course. But Kluivert might do better just hanging a bit longer, as his first season at Ajax wasn’t that sensational.

Let the games begin!

In the meantime, Louis van Gaal claims to have an offer he can’t refuse (no one knows who that might be, but Arsenal fans held their breath when he made the statement), while Dick Advocaat is on the Zenit St Petersburg short list again. Peter Bosz – who played in France himself – is most likely moving to Nice.

In other news, Arjen Robben extended his stay at Bayern, while Belgian magician Luc Nilis will move from PSV to VVV as assistant coach. Stefan de Vrij allegedly signed a 5 year deal with Inter. Hans Hateboer is on the wish list of Borussia Dortmund.


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Memphis: bright star!

Memphis Depay was traveling with the Olympique Lyon Foundation last January, for some benefit dinner for the homeless… They drove past a Roma camp outside of Lyon, a desolate little community of old caravans and rotting huts. Memphis asked the driver to stop. He’d seen this before and was intrigued. This time, he decided to step out of the car and check it out. The Lyon forward started talking to some kids in the camp and asked about their plight. A couple of days later, Depay revisited the camp with several of his friends and went to deliver a huge trailer with clothes and food.

“The Bible says: love thy neighbour like you love thyself,” Memphis says now, a few months later.

This interview wasn’t about the visit to the Roma camp. This interview was about his return to form at Lyon. “I love myself, a lot. So I can love others a lot too. You too, everyone. God created us all.”

When Memphis talks about his faith, he is open and genuine. Spontaneous even. And this takes some time to process, as the street player from Moordrecht is usually stern, unapproachable and aloof. he does mention his faith, on his insta account for instance, but every time a reporter talks to Memphis, it’s a short talk and it hardly ever is about the Bible or loving thy neighbour….

It’s always about his football, his image and his ambition. And in those talks, he’s headstrong, unfathomable and sometimes downright annoying. “God was there for me, always, but I wasn’t always there to recieve. But it has changed. I haven’t changed so much, my personality is the same, but things are added to me, I learned things. I developed. I think I changed for the better.”

And, maybe a coincidence, Memphis is better on the pitch than ever. For months already. The player who seemed to play with a straightjacket on at Man United and in his first months in Lyon, looks like a player liberated. And it shows in his stats: 16 goals, 12 assist. But the metamorphosis is best observed by watching him play 90 minutes. He plays in a free striker’s role, and he plays wonderful and full of confidence. The Dutchman is involved in every goal threatening situation by Lyon and might well be solely responsible for delivering CL football to Lyon.

“I’m playing my best football, ever? I appreciate it. I do think I’m going alright, I’m on the right path, but I don’t know where my ceiling is. No one knows, really. Only God. But I don’t play with fear, with uncertainty. I play without the brakes on and I will get to a new level at some stage. That, I am sure of.”

His tone of voice is completely different compared to our last conversation, at the end of 2015. Memphis was just at Man United for 5 months. He was fired up, he was eager to show his skills and he had a lot of anxiety, impatience and swagger.

Back then, he said: “I’m not sure what it is, but I don’t want to be average. Mainstream is not my thing. You get hit by a car, on the middle of the road, hahaha. And you, my dream was never to become a football. My dream was, to become the best footballer. That is my goal. And I can manage that, the pressure will never squash me.”

But the former Sparta talent did struggle, in the years after. With himself. With the plethoria of tasks he got from coach Van Gaal, playing from the left. If Memphis even played. Under Van Gaal and later under Mourinho, Memphis drifted out of the picture more and more. The confident top talent became a doubter, and this was visible at Oranje as well. He was unreachable, or he was vulnerable, or he was not interested… When he moved to Lyon in January 2017, he made his debut vs Lille with a crucial mistake. Sport paper L’Equipe was devastating in their opinions about him.

Memphis was struggling and his circle started to get concerned. He might have the image of a rapper with a lot of tattoos and gold and a guy with a difficult personality, but the forward is also hyper ambitious and very serious about his game and working extremely hard to reach his goals.

Memphis is working with a small circle of advisers, for years already, such as his manager Kees Ploegsma jr (son of the famous PSV technical director of the 1970s and 1980s) and sport psychologist Joost Leenders. They know his specific character, and his complex background. They looked for different ways to reach Memphis, but nothing seemed to work.

Memphis now: “The people who love me and care for me tell me things that are meant well. I am always polite to people who mean well, but the last years, I have closed myself of a bit. I needed to fully focus on football.”

His current way of celebrating, two fingers in his ears, is the symbol of that. It doesn’t mean he’s deaf for criticism, as some think. He usually does his fingers thing, and then drops to his knees and points to the sky, in thanks. “I only listen to God” is what he seems to say.

“I’m not religious in a way that I go to church or make Catholic crosses. I am fine with others doing what they do. For me, God is everywhere. I have a direct relationship with God, not via a church. God is everywhere.”

His faith helps him. Helps him find a way through the complex jungle that is top football. His fiancee Lori Harvey is the daughter of American tv star and comedian Steve Harvey. The Harveys are a devout Christian family. And Memphis mum was very religious as well. As a teenager, Memphis wasn’t.

“I met someone who showed me the way. I am super happy with this and highly appreciative. Not everyone has that peace, and neither did I when I was younger. I see players go onto the pitch in fear, with fear of making mistakes. Not that I had fear, so much. But whenever I played one or two passes wrong, it would get in my head. And I would think, ok next time, I need to play without risk… I don’t have this now, my head is free.”

The ones close to him saw this changes earlier when he dropped to the bench at Lyon. Usually, he’d drown in his own frustrations, like at Man United, but now, as a sub, he had massive value.

“Against Nantes last week, I missed a sitter. And when you start analysing this, your game will be affected by it. Now I think, ok. I missed. There is heaps of time left for me to set that right. And I was able to. I want to entertain the fans, I want to enjoy myself as well. And it’s not just goals. It’s also assists or dummy runs. That does give me something extra.”

Memphis is in a good space. And it shows. Last, when Oranje came together with Ronald Koeman as coach, Memphis was a happy-go-lucky fella. He was joking around with a reporter, was smiling for his interviews. And debutant Guus Til (AZ) said after the practice session that Memphis had come up to him directly, to bid him welcome at Oranje.

And now, at Lyon, he’s no longer the stern and stoic player we know from the past, eyes down and mumbling responses. He is now calm and positive. “It’s not in my football that I made changes. It’s also outside of the game. I can tell I’m changing. As a human being, I grew just by relying on my faith.”

We will have to wait and see in what way Oranje will benefit from his current form. But for Koeman, it would be golden, as Oranje can use a new key player with special skills. Against Portugal, the new Memphis was already visible.

And funnily enough, that might have been the game that changed the rest of his season, also at Lyon. His coach Genesio was on the stands in Geneva, at Portugal – Holland. He saw Memphis shine as a false number 9 and the next Lyon game, he gave Memphis a similar role. In this new 4-4-2 system, Depay is making a tremendous impression.

“I love playing freely in space, I need to be able to follow my instincts. Not that I don’t want to defend but playing strictly as a left winger is to limited for me.”

His popularity in France and The Netherlands is huge, particularly with the youth. He’s a sort of king on social media, in street fashion and in football. He was the centre of attention recently in Amsterdam, when Under Armour – his clothing sponsor – opened a new store. “I love it, talking with fans. I will take the time for it, and they tell me everything. It’s special. I do love to be alone but at times I have to give back and connect with the fans. And I do realise I can inspire people. I don’t think I’m that special, apart from football, but I will aim to inspire people if they need me to.”


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The Hand of Ronald Koeman

It’s that typical question, when a coach takes over at a club or nation: “Is the hand of the new coach visible already?”

Well, Ronald Koeman clearly puts a line in the sand lets the past be the past. “That is the only way for us to qualify.” And he did so on the second anniversary of the death of his friend, mentor, former coach and neighbour, Johan Cruyff. During the press conference before the Portugal game, Koeman said: “I miss him a lot. There is not a day that goes by on which I don’t think about him. He’s in my heart.”

But, the heart is not the head. Maybe 3 seconds later, the former Everton coach says that all Cruyff stood for is currently not so relevant for Oranje. Not because Koeman doesn’t want to play the JC style, but simply because there is no alternative. “You have to play according to the abilities you have.”

Any NT coach knows this, you’re totally dependent on your material. As a club coach, if you miss a good left winger, you can sign him. Or several. Not with the national team. “But, what we can have and must have, alway, is the right attitude, mentality and focus. We need team spirit, first and foremost. Look at Iceland. Look at Wales. Greece in 2004. They compensate lack of top quality with mentality, focus and team spirit.”

The first signal Koeman gave to the players, was the move from the loose Hotel Oranje to the more enclosed “East Germany” style camp of Zeist. Most internationals hated the move, prior to experiencing Zeist. They like what they know. But Wijnaldum said it well, after their first week: “It was actually great. In Noordwijk, players go to their room or stroll with their mates on the boulevard. This time, I actually had to hang out more with players I don’t know so well. And it was fun. Now, we just got the room to rest or sleep and the rest of the time, we’re together. We play cards, we play darts. I had my thoughts prior to coming here, but it’s actually really good.”

Koeman had to start somewhere and this is was his first step. “But, we need to see it on the pitch, at the end of the day. A coach is right when he wins and he’s wrong when he loses.”

The first demonstration against England was a losing one. One of the worst international games Oranje played. Solid in the organisation but not creating anything. And sure, Jeroen Zoet should stop that Lingard shot and in that case, we’d have a 0-0 draw vs a strong England. Not that bad.

But 4 days later, a rejuvenated Oranje counters the arrogant Portuguese off the pitch, in 45 minutes. Koeman does see that Oranje is a quick learner. The ex Barcelona libero saw some aspects to hold on to.


Against England and Portugal, Oranje didn’t give away a lot. “Against two top nations, I think that’s positive. Our central defence played really well. You do need to start with the fundaments at the back and I’m positive. We have two more games of course, Slovakia and Italy and I do believe we will see more progress. We have more good players for these positions (Van Beek, Rekik, Bruma, Van der Hoorn) so I’m happy with that.”


Koeman was satisfied with the team discipline. He worked on the training pitch with them and he did see the results in the game. “Tactically, we did well, against England as well by the way. I focused on certain aspects and I saw that come to life in the match. And sure, we still make mistakes, but I am not complaining.”

Player Development

Matthijs de Ligt was one of the guiding lights vs England and Portugal. With Van Dijk and De Vrij/Ake at his side, he was fantastic. “At that age, he is remarkable. But we have more great talents. The key is to use them properly and allow them to grow.”


Koeman picked seven different players against Portugal but the most important change, was the set up of the team. Against England, it was a 3-4-3 with two wide players, resulting in two midfielders to cover the midfield. The 3-5-2 vs Portugal resulted in three midfielders and these three bossed the game. But individually, the differences were significant as well. Davy Propper has grown tremendously in England, from an elegant attacking mid at PSV to a leader and controlling midfielder at Brighton. Donny van de Beek and Wijnaldum at his side, a bit further up the pitch, all three players who can control the ball under pressure. All capable of one/two touch football and all players with good awareness of what’s around them. Both Tete and Vilhena played very disciplined in their wide roles and Ryan Babel appeared to be much better in holding up play, than Bas Dost. And obviously, the team played more compact and defended and attacked as a whole. With key roles for central defenders De Ligt and Van Dijk in the attacking moves.

Koeman can be highly critical and he wasn’t happy with the lack of response of his team, whenever Sterling of England dropped to midfield to strengthen the England engine room. None of the central defenders pushed up and the two wide backs (Hateboer and Van Aanholt) were playing too high up the park. Koeman adapted the system in the second half, letting Promes drop into midfield and go with two up top (Memphis and Dost), but Holland couldn’t play compact enough to control the game and was constantly one step too late.

After the Portugal game, he was unhappy with the fact that Oranje couldn’t capitalise on the red card for Portugal and create even more.

Koeman watched both games back on video with his analysts and realised that in possession, Holland still can’t impress. “When you’re on the bench you see the game as a coach and as an Oranje fan. I thought we did ok in possession. When I saw the games again on video, I realised we have a lot to improve on that. We need to improve in the football playing, but then again, I am sure we have the right players who will become available (Daley Blind, Frenkie de Jong, Vincent Janssen). We do have time to build on this.”

Holland isn’t the only nation to have to rebuild significantly. Germany had to do it from 2000 onwards. Portugal had a failed World Cup in Brazil and ended up winning the Euros. England was played off the pitch vs Germany recently and made drastic changes. “I think we’re at that same juncture. We need to make changes, we did, and now we need to build on this. I’m not satisfied, but I’m optimistic. We will keep on working on the 3-4-3 and the 5-3-2. Against lesser countries, we need to play 3-4-3, against the Germanies, Spains, and Frances of this world, we need to adapt.”

An analysis of the different players Ronald Koeman used.

Cillesen vs Zoet

Jeroen Zoet repeatedly voiced his frustration how he – as a regular- was bypassed by Cillesen, a benchwarmer. Cillesen got his change against Portugal and was one of the key players, with six saves and in particular the stretched reflex on a C Ronaldo header. Zoet was less tested by England but he did allow a goal that seemed very stoppable. Lingards shot from outside of the box passed Zoet by 1,5 yards. Any goalie should stop that shot. Of the 7 goals Zoet conceded in Oranje, 5 were from outside the box…

Tete vs Hateboer

In Koeman’s system, the wingbacks need to cover the whole flank. Enter Hateboer, who impressed at Atalanta with this style of playing. Tete is always seen as the typical defender and has always been seen as a weaker offensive back vs Karsdorp, Janmaat and now Hateboer. But the stats say differently. Tete had 5 assists and 1 goal for Lyon whereas Hateboer only had 1 assist and zero goals in the Serie A. Both backs were both playing well for Oranje, with Hateboer winning more duels and Tete being more precise in his passing. With Karsdorp and Janmaat also in the running, we’ll have options here.

Ake vs De Vrij

Even though there was not to cheer about re: the England game, the back three played very well. De Vrij is probably more complete and more experienced than Ake, but Ake does have to left foot. De Vrij and Ake won all their personal duels vs England and Portugal respectively. De Vrij intercepted more than Ake and his passing accuracy was very high (92% vs 80% for Ake).

Van Aanholt vs Vilhena

Vilhena is normally a midfielder although used by Gio as a left back every now and then. Koeman picked up on this and Vilhena played a perfect first half vs Portugal. Van Aanholt has tremendous legs and lungs and also knows how to score. Having Vilhena as another alternative (Kongolo, Willems, Pieters, Daley Blind) will be a plus, as the Feyenoord youngster might just have more in his locker in terms of positioning play and ball control over Van Aanholt.

Strootman vs Propper

It remains a mystery. Strootman is a leader in Roma’s midfield. He’s seen as a key player and has been for 7 seasons in the Italian capital. But in Oranje, we hardly see that player.  Strootman has excuses of course, for the England match… No midfielder would have impressed in the set up Koeman chose, as England created a man more constantly. But Strootman does seem to slow the game down and does go for the obvious pass. His first touch needs a lot of work. Propper on the other hand is a real gifted technician, with good vision for the forward pass. He was constantly open, his first touch impeccable and his head always up.

Van de Beek vs Dost

This is not a fair comparison as they played in different roles of course. But with an extra midfielder instead of a striker, the positioning was much better. Dost’s problem is that Oranje doesn’t play to his strength. He’s a classical centre forward, needing service. Whenever Dost drops back to midfield, he’s arguing with the ball. With Van de Beek, Koeman gets what he wants: dynamic movement between the lines and a player coming into the area instead of a player statically waiting there. Donny’s runs even got us our first goal vs Portugal, when his failed attempt was turned into an assist by Memphis.

Babel vs Promes

When you can’t play dominant football but want to use the turn-around to counter, you need speed. Ryan Babel, not having played in the jersey for eight years, does have that versatility. He’s fast, strong in the duels and can score, with his left and right and with his head. Babel’s relationship with Memphis is developing well and he was key in blocking Portugal’s build up. Promes and Memphis weren’t as helpful in that part of the game and Promes – key for Spartak Moscow – was never able to impress in Oranje, in the two recent friendlies.

Yes, these were conclusions based on two friendlies and particularly Promes, Hateboer, Ake and Van Aanholt will surely have more value for us in the future. With the likes of Daley Blind, Steven Bergwijn, Frenkie de Jong, Jetro Willems, Calvin Stengs and Vincent Janssen on the fringes, this Oranje can only become stronger and better.

I personally am still a fan of Adam Maher. He got lost at PSV and is currently playing relegation football with FC Twente, but with the right club/coach, I think Maher might surprise us all still.

And if we do need a strong central striker in games vs lesser opponents, lets not forget the qualities of ( a fit) Robin van Persie.

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Ruud Gullit’s football vision

Ruud Gullit aimed to bring Oranje to the World Cup alongside Dick Advocaat. It didn’t work out. Gullit’s story, on his time with Oranje, the crisis in Dutch football and the hope he feels inside him.

When Gullit walks into the lunch restaurant in Amsterdam, he’s got a big smile on his face. As per usual. He just had a body-scan, a preventive medical examination. “Man, I had to be all empty for that. You can’t eat for 24 hours and anything that is left in your body, got to go out. They put tubes in your mouth, in your ass, in every body-opening a tube, hahaha. Well, they tell you afterwards what’s going on and in my case: all clear. Super healthy!”

He orders a soda water and a salad. “Now I’ll do a bit more even to stay this way, hahaha.”

So, when did you – uber positivo – lose faith in Oranje’s chances for the World Cup?

Ah, the night Sweden thrashed Luxembourg… My faith got a big blow. We were in the bus for our Belarus game, towards the Johan Cruyff Arena. And we heard ping after ping on the mobile phones. That was a big downer.”

So how can you then motivate the players to have them play with confidence?

“That’s hard. But we stayed positive. Look at yourself, focus on the tasks at hand. We have quality and we will beat Belarus! This is also how we approached the Sweden game. But we didn’t make it. The series we played weren’t too bad. With normal rules (the results between rival Sweden would normally be the decider instead of goal difference) we would have qualified. In the CL, it’s about the result between the two clubs who finish at the same level of points. Our results vs Sweden were better but still we’re out. That is wrong!”

Did you do enough though, to get our goal difference up?

“I do believe so. It’s so easy to say you gotta start with four attackers. We played against Belarus with four, at some stage and we gave away chance after chance. You can’t just say “now we’re going all attack!”. The contrast is crazy, we needed control first and we actually did well considering the circumstances. And while we were trying to get more confidence in the team, the people and media around us had all this negative energy going out way. It becomes really hard to overcome all that.”

When you and Dick were presented, it wasn’t about the Dutch School, but all about winning. That was a conscious decision?

“No not really. Dick and I have a similar vision and approach. Winning is all that matters. I get annoyed with all that talk about attractive football. We are not in a position to want to play attractive. I played for AC Milan, which was at that time one of the most attractive teams on the planet. But seriously, three quarters of all our matches were won ugly. Just get the points. And I’m talking absolute top! And yes, Pep Guardiola spends 500 mio euros to get the football he wants, but we believe we can play like that with our national team? Don’t make me laugh!”

Have we been too much focused on all this, in Holland?

“For sure! We see ourselves as the inventors of modern football. I will never forget Carlo Ancelotti’s words, whenever Dutch reporters would come to Milanello. “Ah, there are the Dutch football professors again!”. And that still is our image abroad. A couple of know-it-alls who talk about tactics as if it’s some holy topic, but never winning trophies. And its our own doing.”

Is that why we don’t see top coaches from Holland in the big leagues anymore?

“Partly, yes. And it’s no surprise to me. Dutch coaches stay in their bubble too long in other leagues. And we go into another football culture and tell them they’re doing it wrong. But adapting to other circumstances is key. There is not just One System, there are more ways leading to Rome. And sometimes we get a shock and wake up. Like, when Dutch clubs are without a hope in the world in European competitions. Or when a coach gets fired. We all start yelling how is it possible that we are so far behind, but then we shrug our shoulders and keep doing what we were doing.”

You couldn’t make it happen for Oranje though.

“We did turn the results around. But it wasn’t enough. We don’t need to be all dramatic about it. It’s like the economy. There are waves of talents and periods with lesser talent. When we won the EC in 1988, we hadn’t performed at 3 major tournaments. In 1988, PSV won the European Cup, KV Mechelen with a couple of Dutchies won the EC II. A year prior, Ajax won that. Marco and I were at AC Milan. But when we were younger, we didn’t qualify either. And Robben, Van Persie and Sneijder also needed time to become the world class players they ended up becoming.  And we’re in one of those phases now. But we still ooze talent.”

So how hard will we miss those big name players going forward?

“You will miss Robben for sure. He was a top player for us, and a role model. And in the last matches, Sneijder was there and he did ever so well. A fantastic mentality. He was on the bench, and usually a player like him can’t handle that too well but he is no fool. And he wants to keep on fighting for Oranje. He really pushes the quality up at practice. And after the friendly against Scotland, he got me in stitches. He wasn’t used by Dick and he walks into the dressing room after the game and says “Wow, I didn’t know you can only sub two players in a friendly!”. Typical Sneijder. And you could wipe me of the floor. Others will have to step up now.”

How is it that top players like Wijnaldum and Strootman are vital for their top clubs but are so disappointing in Oranje?

“Good point. The good thing is, these players know this too and they’re working on that. It’s a first step. I have visited Kevin in Rome and discussed it with him. The contents will remain between us, but it’s too easy to just point at the difference in teams they play in. There is more to it. The meeting I had was good, open and honest and Kevin thanked me afterwards. Players need to look in the mirror first. I also spoke with Wijnaldum about it. And they’re top players and smart too. They now have the experience and status to be the leaders. Like Virgil van Dijk, that lad has everything to be world class: length, speed, strength, a good build up pass, but he can be a little complacent at times. He needs to focus. Once he focuses for 100%, he will be a top top defender. Daley Blind, he is a super player in the role we used him in, just in front of the back four. Tonny Vilhena is also a player I rate high. I expect him to grow once he makes his move from Feyenoord. I think he’s ready for it. And Stefan de Vrij is top at Lazio, Memphis is reborn in Lyon, I think we have amazing players. It’s not all bad news.”

Which young talents do you see emerge?

“I see many. Matthijs de Ligt, he copped criticism after Bulgaria, but I told him not to worry about that. See, he’s developed at Ajax, and at Ajax they are used to have the ball 70% of the time. At Ajax, you have the ball. I told him, in Oranje it will be different. The focus needs to be on what you do without the ball. His attention needs to be 100% when we do not have possession. Anticipate what can happen when the opponent wins the ball. What are his tasks when we lose the ball, his positioning, etc. You need to be mentally and positionally ready for that. The other 30% in Oranje, is easy. That’s when we have the ball. It’s another mindset. In the Eredivisie you can pass the ball nicely, but against France or Denmark or Portugal, you can’t. He is like a sponge, he loves that input. Like Donny van de Beek. They want to learn. Justin Kluivert has massive potential. He now needs to be more constant in his game. These lads need time. Dennis Bergkamp wasn’t extra-ordinary when he was 20 years old. He started to become super good at 24 years of age. Paul Pogba, same story. Talents who are world class at 19 years old are rare.”

Our talents leave Holland too soon?

“Yes, I would advise them to stay longer. It’s better for your development, you will play more games and the scouts will find you anyway. Look at Lozano and Neres, they’re in the Eredivisie for a reason. They want to learn here and use Holland as a stepping stone. In the top leagues, you either need to be top notch already otherwise you are on the stands or loaned to a lower club on a lower level. Look at what happened to De Bruyne at Chelsea. Or Salah at Chelsea. Or Loftus-Cheek. If these lads have trouble initially, it’s not strange that our talents are having a hard time there as well. So don’t leave too soon, even despite the artificial pitches.”

What is your biggest problem with that?

“If I tell people abroad that we have so many clubs playing on artificial surfaces, they think I’m pulling their leg! It’s something you can’t explain. No one does this, only Holland. You get different types of players, the football is different. When will people act? When will the licensing requirements change? Clubs with artificial pitches should not play top level football. So, simply don’t sign that right back from Slovakia, but fix your pitch. Make the right choices. Same with youth academies. If a club does not want to invest in youth academies, then don’t let them compete at the top level. Full stop. You can’t just look at your own interests. The new KNVB Technical Director has a big job fixing all these things. I wish the guy all the luck in the world.”

How is your relationship with Hans van Breukelen?

“It’s fine. I forget and forgive. I can get pretty angry, but it goes away quickly too. That is my personality. Swallow the turd and move on. Don’t keep on walking around with a turd in your mouth! I told Hans in his face what I thought about it all and that’s it for me. He should have told me that Marco was about to leave for FIFA. Easy. And Marco agrees with me. All that silly stuff of secrets and hidden agendas. But, it’s not an easy job, he had. I wonder who will step into that role now. Because you get the blame for everything.”

What do we need to change at youth level?

“Kids are being told everything. It’s all made so simple for them. So stop with those positioning games and those pre-programmed methods. Most youth coaches kick the creativity out of the player. You can hear them yell at the players. They need to pass, they can’t have a failed dribble activity or all hell breaks loose. Let those kids play! This is how they learn, let them develop their technique. And let them sort out things themselves, let them choose teams etc. Ger Blok, who was our youth coach at the time was good at that. He would always ask us: so what is your idea? What do you think we should do? Forced us to think about it. My son plays in the AZ youth. They get it there. They make the talent responsible for his development. You create independent and intelligent players like this. Because on the pitch, players need to make the decisions.”

How can you make this part of the training?

“It’s important to use match situations in training. Even at the highest level, this is lacking at times. Typical example with Oranje. After the training, some players took time to do some finishing. Memphis, Promes, Vilhena and some others. So they were on the edge of the box and someone would play the ball to them from next to the goal post. And then they’d hit the ball on goal. Good fun! So I asked them: How often do you get a pass from next to the goal post, in a match? The answer is clear: eh..never… Ok, so why practice this? So I said,  we’ll do this different. Stand with your back to goal, with a defender – me – in their back. And then you get a ball played into you, which is not perfect. At hip height. At knee height. With a bounce, to the wrong foot. The first touch needs to be so that they create space, turn and then shoot on goal. Those are the situations you get in a match. These are the details I’m talking about.”

Was that your role, typically?

“Yes, Dick said: just work with the players and that is a good role for me. Take Locadia. I asked him: what are you, a winger or a central striker. He said: I’m a striker. So I said: but you run so much. All that running… That is easy to defend for a defender. He didn’t believe me. So I called out to Rekik and asked him: What do you think is harder to defend: a striker on the move, or a striker who basically leans into you and you don’t know when or how he’ll run? Rekik said: a striker running is easier to defend, you know where he’s going, he won’t surprise you that much. You should have seen Locadia’s face! I want to make players aware of their job. Take Daley. Blind is a tad introvert. So I asked him: what playing style do you prefer? He said: I’ll go with what the coach wants. I said, no I want you to think about it and express it. It’s important that players are accountable and they need to learn to communicate this. Some players started to give their opinion and wanted zonal marking. I’m personally not a fan, but hey… The players need to do it, and I’m not a dictator.”

Is this something that happens enough between players and coaches?

“I think it can be done more and better. I think players with an opinion are being told to shut it. But you need to cherish those, these kids think out of the box. The cherries on the cake. A talent needs to be a bit difficult. All good players have their weird things. I was a bit crazy too. In Holland, Hakim Ziyech is one of those. He’s “difficult”. He’s got an opinion. But he dares to think differently and play differently. And he has the skills to execute it. He can be the difference. And as a coach you need to find the balance, of him playing in service of the team or the other way around. And he will need to find that too. It all starts with the material you have, as a coach.”

Do coaches make their vision too important?

“I think so yes. They play and act as if they invented the game. The game is evolving constantly. It’s faster, more physical. So you ask yourself, how do I get the optimal result from this team. How to create a man more situation. How to pressure. How do you avoid being taken out by a counter? Now suddenly, the 5-3-2 is being heralded as the new thing. Nonsense, I used that at Chelsea already, 20 years ago. And Liverpool played like that back then too. The system is just a starting point. And Louis van Gaal apparently made a wonderful discovery for the WC2014. So he did it for Man United too but that never worked and he went back to four at the back. It all depends on the material you have. You find the system that fits the players, in particular with the National Team.”

Is Memphis potentially the best player we have?

“He has tremendous qualities. He’s now making some good steps. But it’s not about playing. A top player needs to be aware of off-pitch things as well. These guys are like rock stars now and the world has you under a magnifying glass. And you can’t let that distract from what it is about. Memphis is a totally cool lad. A very sweet guy. And a fantastic player. We see this in Lyon and now we see it at Oranje as well.”

Did you discuss his performances vs his image?

“Absolutely. I had many really good talks with him. He has his own view on things. He feels people should leave him be. His private life, is his. And I get that. But, he does put private pics on Instagram and social media, and you can’t have it all. If you do this, people will judge you. So, either you don’t care what people say about you, or you don’t give them ammunition. No matter what you do, you can’t change other people. And it all comes down to results and performances. But, he’s doing well now at Lyon, and guess what: people talk about his performances again. That is what he needs to keep up.”

And how about your social media exploits with that little film you published after the Bulgaria game?

“Yes man, much ado about nothing. Neymar does this all the time, and in American sports it’s also very common. People love a little look behind the scenes. Everyone had an opinion about it, well fine… Whatever. It’s not the most important thing, is it? And you know what, we had just lost 4-0 against France. We had to get the players’ chins up in 4 days. And they did, and we won. Well done and I felt it was a rightful thing to do and say, to support the players. In that sense, it was a fantastic game.”

Would you have wanted to go on with Dick, with Oranje?

“For sure. If I was the top man at the KNVB, I would have said: “Dick, it’s going well, why not keep it going?” The results were good, the players responded well to us, Frans Hoek and Fred Grim are top professionals. Why not keep it going? No idea…”

Dick Advocaat even suggested you as the national team manager….

“I loved that. Dick believes in me, but he is not the decision maker. And it’s like, every coach that gets fired in bigger leagues is suddenly a top candidate for Oranje? Is that a recommendation than? Being fired? Well, if people think they’re better qualified, so be it. And I would love to remain as assistant of course, but it has to come from the new coach. I think any new coach needs the freedom to pick the assistants he wants to work with. I will not push myself forward. I have ambitions and want to coach. At a club, a country, whatever works. I will respond to what comes on my path.”

Thanks to VI Pro

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Ten Cate: the one that got away….

In our series of posts on the vision of (young) Dutch coaches, we had upcoming coach Lijnders, the vision of Ten Hag and we’ll see more of that for sure. We also have time for an old hand. Maybe one of Holland’s best underrated coaches. Won the CL as assistant with Barcelona and has been able to look into many kitchens, on many levels. Henk ten Cate was offered the NT coaching job by Hans van Breukelen, only to see it retracted a day later. In suspicious circumstances. We covered that story. Let’s cover Ten Cate’s football vision.

To refresh your memory. Henk ten Cate started as youth player at Ajax, but never made it to the first team. He played professionally for Go Ahead Eagles and in between seasons left to play for the Edmonton Drillers in Canada. After his playing career as a winger, he started as assistant manager and later head coach of several lower level clubs, such as Go Ahead, Heracles and Sparta. At Vitesse he impressed which got him the job at Bayern Uerdingen and later MTK Budapest. He became Rijkaard’s assistant at Barca before he took the Ajax job, at the insistence of Johan Cruyff. He also was assistant coach at Chelsea. He ended up coaching in China and the Middle East where he enjoys success with Al-Jazira.

Henk ten Cate is one of the few if not only Dutch coaches who does coach a team at a World Cup. Not the 2018 Russia one, but the World Cup for club teams. His Al-Jazira made it to the semi finals where they were facing behemoth and title favorite Real Madrid. They fought like lions and even got in front, but the Madrid class won it from the exuberance of Ten Cate’s team.

Ten Cate: “I think the performance and results I got with Al-Jazira is the high point in my career re: results. I think it is underrated elsewhere, but it was really against all odds.”

You could have coached Holland at the real World Cup. Does that still hurt?

Ten Cate: “Time heals all wounds right? My biggest problem was not missing the chance to go to the World Cup. My biggest issue was with the way it was handled. The procedure, the twisting, turning and lying. And eventually, their aim to blemish my reputation. I was forced to do stuff I normally wouldn’t do, like having a reporter listen in on a conversation with Van Breukelen. Not my style, I’m very open and direct but I knew he wasn’t playing a fair game and I was right. But I won’t linger on this too much. Al-Jazira was happy it didn’t happen and shoved a new contract under my nose to sign, haha.”

Why did you want the NT coach job?

“Well, that would have been the pinnacle of my career and would have loved to have led Oranje to the World Cup. I think and still think it was possible. But, I’m not going to talk about that anymore. The KNVB wanted a different course, without me. Fine. But missing this tournament, wasn’t necessary in my view.”

Do you think this affaire has damaged your reputation at all?

“I think the technical director’s (Van Breukelen) reputation is damaged. He’s the one that left. But I think he was merely being clumsy and inexperienced. I think he might have wanted it all differently but other forces were at play. I don’t think Van Breukelen is a bad man. Out of his league. And my reputation, well… I know by now how people see me… Street fighter, etc etc. I don’t care. I do know how people in football look at me: coaches, players, ex players, world class players… I value their opinion.”

Johan Cruyff said in his authorised biograpy many positive things about you as a coach. About how you work on your teams. Piet Keizer was a fan, Willem van Hanegem is a fan. Is that valuable to you?

“Of course. These people are icons. Giants of football. And always highly critical. So praise from them is valuable and touches me. And other people can call me a streetfighter. Fine.”

How did the Al-Jazira experience develop you more as a coach?

“Us Dutch coaches, we believe we are called in to get the Dutch football culture into these clubs and teams, but that is not the case. We need to adapt when we go abroad. And I have learned to do this. I have learned here to change my philosophy. Winning ugly here is accepted. I had two massive games, where we have more than 60% possession but we lost both games. That made me think. And when I worked in China, I had a translator. The guy was a previously working for the courts, didn’t understand nada about football. So when I spoke about forechecking, he was at a loss. It ended up in a long Chinese discussion between him and the players and before I knew it, the training session was over. Crazy stuff. And coaching is all about communication. And here, with Arabs, you cannot be too direct. You cannot call them out in front of their team mates. They’ll be massively offended.”

Is the wealth and wellbeing standard of Holland a problem for the development of top players?

“I do see that young kids from immigrant families in Holland have the tendency to play outside more. Buy one football and your kids are happy all day long. Whereas more affluent families might have playstations for their kids, and computers, or access to cars etc. And football players are made on the street. Not at the club, and certainly not at the KNVB. All top athletes in the US are born in the poor parts, the gettos even. If you don’t have the money to go to college, you can get there by sports scholarships. The best boxers in England are from rough parts. But it’s not just that. I mean, Germany. They are even doing better than us, right? Their economy and wealth? And look at those talents there.”

So what is the problem?

“In Germany, discipline is taken more seriously. In school, at the homes, in football too. And the training intensity is much bigger. That weird trend in Holland, the Verheijen method, to have less intensive training, I don’t buy it. You need to push boundaries. What is wrong with players being totally buggered and empty after training? The KNVB uses that Verheijen method as a a bible, but I feel it makes us complacent. Players and coaches. But it’s not just that of course. I work according to the Foppe de Haan method and Foppe makes distinctions between stages in the competition. Verheijen creates stop watch coaches. It’s a method for insecure and inexperienced coaches. I sometimes let practices go much longer. When I see that the lads like it or are doing it really well, I keep them going. And it’s not just the physical aspect of football we need to take care of, also the mental aspect. The mind is stronger than the body. So you need to be able to gauge what is going on with a player. In his private life, is he happy, etc.”

You were one of the people interviewed for the “Winners of Tomorrow” report. Do you see anything back in the report of what you suggested?

“My contribution was on the education and development of youth players. It hasn’t become a strong report, I don’t think. It feels like they asked a number of prominent football people about their opinion, to give the world the impression they want to listen. And then they wrote it down the way they see it anyway. I had three conversations. I explained it all and in the report I read that they want kids to play 2 v 2. Why on earth? I think they need to learn to play with a team. To get them used to a form of organisation. Of course, you need individual coaching and practice, but give me a group of 15 players and I can all have them do things individually. There’s ways to it. Remember in our youth, we played bricks-football or bottle-football, on the street? Perfect practice! Every player has to protect it’s own bottle and has to score by knocking over the bottle of another player. It’s quick, it defence and offence and it teaches them about space and awareness. You can easily do this at the club! At Ajax, I had youth teams play and practice on the parking lot. The surface isn’t level. There are obstacles. Go for it! There are ways to bring the street back to the club.”

What do you miss when you see Dutch football?

“Good positioning play under pressure. There are no situations on the pitch where you have two man more. Coaches train this: 6 v 4 and 6 v 2 and 5 v 3 and all that. Nice. But in the match, it’s usually 1 v 1 and if you’re lucky 2 v 1. In matches, it’s usually 2 central defenders vs 1 striker. So I coached with 3 parts of the team. We did practices on the left channel. With a left full back, left central defender, left mid and left winger. Four players. And three opponents putting pressure on the central defender. That sort a thing. Then you need to switch quickly, either to the right or centrally, as in this scenario you will have the man more at some stage and you can move up a line. When I practice, I always simulate situations from matches. In Holland, the central backs have the most possession, they are now the passers whereas the midfielders need to get in that position. Our midfielders are not open, they position themselves with the back to the forwards. Too many balls go back to the last line of defence. They can’t see the depth, they can’t see the forwards. And then it ends up with a long ball – a hail Mary – to the striker. I think the physiological coaches, the laptop statisticians have taken over too much. In our time, we had full press and half press. That was all you needed. In half press, you play compact, you keep the lines and spaces tight. You put pressure on the ball on the side where the opponent builds up. But that’s tactics. That is step 2. You first need to build the skillset of players to position themselves properly. To be open, to be ready for the follow up. I miss that.”

We now lost Arjen Robben. Do you see a successor on the horizon?

“We destroyed that. We destroyed intuition and creativity. It’s all about the positioning now. A player that can take on two defenders and score is what wins you games. Messi, Griezmann, David Silva, Sanchez, Ziyech, Berghuis. I did a guest session as a coach at an amateur club. The players were playing Playstation football. Pass square, move, open up, turn back, pass back, etc etc. Predictable. But neat. But no surprise, no creativity. I asked their coach afterwards: What do you think? He said: Yep, went well! Then he asked me, what I thought. I said: it was terrible. All programmed. But the coach said, hey, I’m expected to win games. Play for the result. He told me that in the first four games, he let the players go and do their thing. They lost four matches and the club board summoned him in. So, result became the priority and the creativity went out of the door. On the other hand, I do know that Oranje under 17 and 19 is oozing with talent. There’s incredible talent at Ajax and AZ. You can see the Cruyff Vision now coming through, in Kluivert, Frenkie de Jong, Dolberg, De Ligt. These kids all made their debut at 17 or 18 years old.”

And then they leave for a big club….

“That’s a disaster. Ajax has a striker, Redan, who left for Chelsea. 16 years old, a super talent. But what will happen now? Like Bruma, he should have stayed at Feyenoord. This is what Stefan de Vrij did and see where it got him? De Vrij had three years experience in Feyenoord when Bruma finally started to play regularly for PSV. I even think that Dutch clubs need to let the young talents ripen at their amateur club. So he can play on the street, after school. And be with his mates. You can still sign him, but let him be for the first years. If he’s good, he’ll come to the surface anyway. So many kids that are picked up at 12 years old or younger and who are brought into that Ajax or Feyenoord Academy don’t make it. Not because they don’t have it, but because the routine is too heavy for them. I think talent is wasted this way. Not just the physical pressure, but also the mental pressure. Let them be kids.”

So leave them at the amateur level much longer?

“Yes, so they also have that push effect on the kids they play with. If all amateur clubs could keep their talents, a couple of years longer, this will push the level of all these teams up. We erode already at that age and at amateur level. These kids go to Feyenoord or Ajax and then only a handfull makes it. The rest gets deflated and is sent back to the amateurs. Most of these kids will never make it again. Players need to be tested constantly, and when you are the best of your team and you play a lot, you will not only get better but you’ll learn to be a leader.”

Our educational structure needs change?

“And that is tough to do, I get that. I think the best players from the amateurs need to be brought together in regional teams and play regional games. Maybe create a new competition. Amsterdam vs Rotterdam. Tilburg vs Breda. Utrecht vs Zwolle. Etc. City teams. Regional teams. We are developing coaches but we should be developing trainers.”


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Memphis, most scoring left winger in Europe

It took less than a year in the Ligue 1 for Memphis Depay to become one of the key players in France. Although his image might not always be too positive in the Netherlands. It’s time to analyse how he managed to resurrect his career with Olympique Lyon.

If one hears something repeated often enough, it will become the perceived reality. This applies to all these Dutch football fans and pundits claiming that Arjen Robben can never be replaced in Oranje and we – Holland – currently do not have any top quality players anymore.

Strangely enough, the most threatening left winger in the five Top Leagues in Europe (Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A and Ligue 1) is actually a Dutch player. It’s also the most critiqued player of Oranje of the past years: Memphis Depay.

Usually, the news items are about the hats he wears, the messages he puts on Instagram, the car he drives, the tattoos on his body or the rap songs he produces. This all doesn’t take into acount the amazing comeback he made to the top as OL player. In Lyon, Depay seems to have recovered from his failed adventure at Man United. The playing style of Lyon could well be the blue print for the plan Oranje needs to execute. The effectiveness of Depay in that system of Les Gones seems to be a worthy aim, as Oranje is looking for new leaders of the line.

Memphis Depay’s stats versus all left wingers in the Top 5 European Leagues, 2017/18:

Goals: 8 1st
Directly involved in goals (goals + assists): 11 3rd
Shots per match: 2,1 26st
Scorings percentage shots: 29.6% 1st*

* Only taking into account players with more than one shot on goal per match

The year and a half Memphis played for Manchester United, in hindsight, can be seen as the perfect storm of what could go wrong for a young lad at a big club. He came in with a huge weight of expectations on his back, not helped by the Jersey #7. Van Gaal immediately gave Depay a starting berth in a team that the coach couldn’t get to dazzle. In the first season of energy-less games, Memphis was instructed to put more energy in his defensive game, while the slow ball circulation meant he was usually facing two opponents. Having to stick to the byline, Depay usually was one of the last players in the tedious build-up to receive the ball, not having any space or time for the creative element of surprise. All things he never had to cope with at PSV. And to put insult to injury, on the last transfer day, Man United signed French super talent Martial for 60 mio euros, a direct rival for the left wing. In two years, the coach who signed him was told to leave and Jose Mourinho came in. He demands more physical and tactical discipline of his players and more defensive duties of his wingers. Not a game plan Memphis would thrive in.

He gave his football management the instruction to find him a team inwhich he could excel. They went to SciSports and asked the statisticians to do the work. Olympique Lyon was on the top of their advisory list and Lyon signed him for 16 mio euros. Lyon was a club where the two wingers are free to roam, free to express themselves and are relatively free of defensive duties. After one year, it’s clear to see why this club suits Memphis.

Coach Genesio uses the 4-2-3-1. And Depay gets the space to do what he does well, explosive runs from outside to inside, preparing his killer right foot for a hammer blow. In the final third of the pitch, Memphis hardly ever plays close to the by-line. The left channel is the territory of a forward thundering left wing back or shadow striker Nabil Fekir drifts to the left to use that space.

Defensively, Depay does not have a tough job. Lyon will drop in, back to 4-4-2 and Depay does need to track back to his defensive position, but apart from forward pressurising when Lyon lost possession, there aren’t a lot of other defensive tasks for him. Last weekend, against Nice, Lyon scored 5 goals. As Fekir was not available, Lyon went back to 4-3-3 in possession and 4-5-1 when they lost possession. Four of the five goals (two by Memphis) were made out of quick turnaround moments, from defence to offence. Whenever Nice had the ball on their left flank, it was clear what Memphis’ job was. Being ready to break once Lyon took possession back.

Memphis, positionally defending but ready to pounce

This season, coach Genesio has four explosive forwards. And with destroyer Gonalons off to AS Roma, Lyon plays a little bit mor passive this season. Happy to give the ball to the opponent at times. Lyon had 59% and 57% possession on average, in the last two seasons. This season, the average is closer to 50%. This shift to a more counter-attacking style fits the team and in particular the explosive Depay. Combine this with the fact when Lyon does have the ball, the left winger is able to show up in time in the danger areas, and it is clear to see how he reaches the level again where he left off at PSV.

It also helps that Memphis is playing next to one of the best false strikers of Europe: Nabil Fekir. The French international is in the form of his life and scored eleven goals in as much matches and had 4 assists. Fekir’s qualities are well-known: great dribbler and a devastating shot.

But with Depay being overly right-footed, Fekir is a southpaw and as a result likes to drift to the left flank, enabling him to cross the ball in with his left. Depay uses this with glee, using the space vacated by Fekir to play in the #10 role.

Memphis coming inside, with Fekir drifting to the left

Fekir also likes to move up to become the central striker, which is possible because striker Diaz has the speed and control to play on the flanks as well. This dynamic triangle – with Fekir as #9, Depay as #10 and Diaz on the left – can be seen often in Lyon games.

The positional freedom Depay has in the Lyon system is the exact opposite of the straightjacket tactics of ManU’s Van Gaal, who instructed his players to remain in certain areas of the pitch and never to cross over. This style can easily be adopted by Oranje, as we also have quite multi-functional attackers in Promes, Babel and Berghuis.

Another positive aspect to Depay’s game is that he has tremendously improved in the two areas where he spoke of in an interview in 2014. The 20 year old back then said his initial pre-action needs to improve and his running in behind without the ball needs to get better. Two aspects he clearly worked on.

Memphis playing the #10 role

“Guus Hiddink and Phillip Cocu think I need to be more alternating in my pre-actions. I need to be more focused. For instance, I should be able to spot the ball coming to me, 10 seconds earlier. The ball comes in my direction, my team mate opens up his body, I can read that he’ll play me in. I need to move before this happens and make my opponent nervous. I used to be static on the byline. Receiving the ball into my feet and then I’d make the action. By making the right initial move, I should be able to stretch the defence.”

Goals Assists Shots Dribbles Chances created
2013/14: 0,4 0,23 5,4 3,4 2,9 7,4%
2014/15: 0,77 0,18 5,7 2,8 2,1 13,6%
Manchester United
2015/16: 0,12 0,12 3,5 1,3 0,5 3,4%
Olympique Lyon
2016/17: 0,41 0,57 3,8 3,3 2,6 10,8%
2017/18: 0,75 0,28 2,5 1,9 1,9 29,6%

In Lyon, Memphis demonstrates to have this down pat. In the match vs St Etienne he scores a goal with the exact same pre-action as his first goal vs Troyes, only two weeks earlier. Depay starts on the right flank when Lyon’s counter starts, but makes his way diagonally to the left. When Fekir playes the ball to the right, to Aouar, Depay will pass a defender’s back and move to the left. He knows the defender will be startled and will turn towards his own goal to sprint back to cover Memphis. When the defender takes his eye off him, in that turn, Memphis takes the opportunity to move away and create space for the shot on goal with his right, whenever the ball gets to him.

He also said in the 2014 interview that national team manager Van Gaal insisted on more depth in his runs. Today, Depay seems to be aware of the damage his speed can do to an opponent’s defence. Diaz and Depay were up against 6 opponents at the half way line, but when he gets the ball and full speed the four Troyes defenders are helpless against the finishing of the left winger.

Memphis moving from central to the left flank away from the defender in behind

Some players make huge steps when they get to a bigger club. Leroy Sane at Man City, Mo Salah now at Liverpool… This usually happens when they realise they can be threatening and useful without the ball as well. It seems Depay reached this point now as well. And he’s only 23 years old, which means he has the 5 or 7 best years of his career ahead of him. So we best get used again, to the moniker “Memphis Depay, world class player” soon. And watching him play for Lyon is a joy, indeed.

Enjoy some snippets of an interview from last month, from Simon Zwartkruis, October 2017.

Memphis: “So tell me honestly, do you write 24 hours per day? No, right? Well, I have a life besides my work as well. I enjoy fashion, I like posting on Instagram, I love nice cars. What’s wrong with that? But people see that and don’t seem to see how honoured and priviliged and blessed I feel to play for my country.”

“As a boy, I fell in love with football and that will never go away. That passion is the core for me. Practice, laughing with the lads, prepping for a game, getting the best out of yourself, nothing is more beautiful than that. And I do know that at pro level, other aspects count. Of course. Football is number 1 for me and will always be. But the judgements people have about me, are about more than football. Some people don’t get me. But what is so wrong what I do? I’m 23 years old, I’m growing as a human. We all do right?”

“I’m a positive guy. And I believe I can influence my life in a positive way. But the things I do outside of football aren’t regarded as positive. I don’t really care, but it surprises me. I am focused on football and my career, no one needs to doubt that. But there’s other things that make my happy. I’m not a pro player 24 hours per day. And it’s different for every one. But when I’m happy, I perform better. I go full throttle at practice.”

“And when I’m free in my head, my game is freed up. It’s actually good for my career, all these things I do. If I would live like a hermit, I’d be unhappy. And that is also top sports: to find the modus that works for you. I treat my body as my temple, I rest a lot. But I still have time for other stuff. Like a musician isn’t always making music, right?”

“It will also have to do with my background. I’m a street kid. My family was always in survival mode. I love nice things now, as I wasn’t used to it. And in the neighbourhood I grew up in, all lads were little “bosses”. We needed to find our way. And some kids came out wrong. Some went the criminal path. Others worked with their talents. And when you do this, whether its sports or music, you need to invest in yourself first. Some kids from the street opt for the quick and easy money. But I never walk alone. God is with me. That is how I am raised. My trust in my faith is huge. And I’m blessed. I grew up in the jungle, and that is a huge contrast to where I am now and where I want to go to.”

After a failed stint at Man United, Memphis found his happiness with Olympique Lyon. “It was a conscious decision to go there. It wasn’t happening for me at Man United. I was more involved in defensive actions that in the attack. Now, I am free to perform my actions, which is my strength. I play on intuition, I can’t perform well with a list of chores on my back. But I do look for the balance and it’s getting better and better.”

When he’s confronted with his excellent stats this year, he frowns. “It’s not bad, but it’s not great either. I demand more. People say I’m too critical and I might be, but I know what I am able to do. I want to be the best. And I’m not, at the moment. But stats don’t tell the full story. I could play a disastrous match but still score twice. It doesn’t tell me too much. Look at our campaign to qualify for the World Cup: I scored three goals and had an assist in four matches. Decent stats. But I wanted to have more contribution than that. And I look in the mirror. It’s up to me to prove my worth also in Oranje.”

With Oranje, most people hope and expect that the mid 20 year old and older players will take the reigns: Blind, Wijnaldum, Strootman, De Vrij, Van dijk and – the only forward in the list- Memphis Depay. “I want to be important in this new stage. We need to create a more positive vibe around Oranje. We are in a tough spot now and we don’t have the quality we had – say – 7 or 4 years ago. We have lots of young players and we need the support. But I see glory for Oranje again. We will need to build a strong team and with the support of the nation, we can build something beautiful again.”

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Friendlies Schmiendlies for Oranje…

eleven start


I have been having a go at friendlies for years… I do see the point of them, for sure. But it’s not for us, so much. It’s usually for the coaching staff and players to test things, to get rhythm, to play together. Sometimes it’s a benefit game for something…

Holland will now play two friendlies in this international break without any meaning whatsoever. And it shows. Numerous absentees… And the media turning this into a “Farewell for Dick” kindagame.

Farewell for Dick? Gimme a break… One farewell for Dick (in 1994) was more than enough for me.

Yes, he did what we felt he should be doing, at least. Lose vs France, win the rest.

But he didn’t qualify and he made some awkward mistakes in the games played. Not that he is to blame for the Big Mess, but he definitely didn’t do a great job, all in all.

advo coaching

Dick Advocaat was even giving silly soundbites at the press conferences… “I will tell everyone after the two friendlies what I will do!”. Huh? What do you mean? It’s not up to you, Dick, to see what YOU want to do.

The KNVB needs to 1) appoint a TD first, then 2) the new TD will select a coach. No one is interested what you want now, because your contract is done after Romania. Don’t flatter yourself.

Dick is starting to take himself very seriously.

And to make it even funnier: Ruud Gullit let slip in another tv program, that he will stop as assistant coach “and go with Dick”. So, Dick is trying to keep us in suspense, for some reason, while Ruud spilled the beans.

Does it ever stop?

So now the squad has to travel to Scotland. To play on that paddock of a pitch in Aberdeen. In the cold. Against a bunch of Bravehearts! And then we get Romania. Because there is no real football nation anymore in the world keen to play against us…


I can totally understand that players like Janssen, Locadia, Dost, Hoedt and Tete decided not to come. Some are desperately trying to get playing time at their clubs and can fully appreciate a week off, instead of being knocked about by some Scots in kilts or Romanians. Some are obviously actually injured. But if we played the play-offs this weekend, I’m sure Dost and Janssen would be present.

Advocaat got Tim Fosu-Mensah in as replacement for Tete and Luuk de Jong for the striker position.

Gini Wijnaldum has a point to prove. For starters, he’s a regular at Liverpool so no worries there but in Oranje, the former Feyenoord junior needs to step up. With an ankle injury on the way out, he came to the Oranje camp. “I told the coach I wasn’t 100% but I want to be here and play with Oranje.”

Some players are keen, on the other hand. Steven Berghuis wasn’t part of the Oranje squad for a spell but the right winger is in top form for Feyenoord and Oranje does lack its regular right winger. What’s his name… ? Eh… Robben! Steven Berghuis: “I’m really happy to be back. I feel good and Oranje can use a new right winger, right? Not that I’m Robben… There will never be a new Robben, he was off this planet, but I think I can offer my qualities for the team.”


Memphis Depay is another player happy to be in the Oranje camp. “I want to show myself. I had a difficult time but I’m getting stronger and stronger. I enjoy playing in Lyon and I am important for the team. I want to do the same for Oranje. I still feel so much joy when I’m on the pitch or even in training. I am very eager to play and very grateful to be here.”

With the key strikers missing, the big question is, how will Dick staff his forwards?

Some options.

Luuk de Jong, the obvious choice. He’s a classic number 9 and won the golden boot in the Eredivisie in the past. He had a goal drought for 8 months but scored last weekend again for PSV. He scored for Oranje in the past vs another British nation: Ireland (1-1).

Memphis Depay, not obvious but he has played central striker before. He played there for PSV and he played there in Oranje. Against Italy in the friendly right after Blind’s exit. And that went well. He’s eager, he can be physical and is always threatening.


Quincy Promes, quite obvious. As he scores prolifically in Moscow and plays easily in different roles in different systems. He might not have shone as much in Oranje, but he would definitely suit the #9 or #10 role.

Ryan Babel is the fourth option. He is “a typical winger” said Dick Advocaat last time around. But, the tall athletic forward has played in the striker role for Ajax and he demonstrates week in week out that he can score goals.

The final option is: no striker. Using the space for the running man/men. Memphis, Promes, Wijnaldum, Sneijder… Oranje might be able to play more compact and use that pocket to come into, instead of being there already.

Another big name is Virgil van Dijk. Belonging to a big guy, with a massive future. The 26 year old seems to have the right attitude, physicality and role in the team to become our next captain. With Arjen Robben gone, the hierarchy is going to change. “I have always coached and stimulated colleagues. I play central defender so I will have to. Whether I wear the band or not. But yes, if the staff thinks I’m ready for it, I won’t say no.”

players schot

The last word is for the current captain. Wesley Sneijder, he doesn’t know when to stop… “I won’t be seeing these friendlies as my farewell. I will stop one day, but that day is not now. So I will not answer any questions about that any more. This week is not about me or my final match.” Arjen Robben said his farewell after the game against Sweden. “I would have loved to be there for that. Well, also to play of course but it wasn’t to be. We had a wonderful partnership all these years. But hey, I didn’t play, so that is all behind us now. I play now and I’m fit and eager. It hurts not to be there but it also stimulates me even more to make my mark now.” He’s not open to what his future will hold. “I want to play as long as I can. Simple. And yes, the next big tournament is in 2020, I’m 36 years old then. We’ll see.” And on the question who he’d like to see as his new coach. “I want a coach who can bring us to the next big tournament. Whoever he is. Ronald Koeman? Great choice, but I would say that about any name you bring up. Because it’s up to the KNVB, not me.”

wes sneijder



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The New Oranje Coach…

KNVB General Manager Gudde, coach “inbetween jobs” Koeman and Feyenoord TD Martin van Geel

While Feyenoord got the maximum result out of the Champions League (getting on the score-sheet), we will keep our focus on the National Team.

Names. It seems the problem of Oranje will be fixed by yelling out names. “Van Gaal!” “Koeman!” “De Boer!” “Advocaat!”

Luckily, the new board of directors (chaired by Jan Smit) has made it clear. “We won’t start by appointing a coach. We will first introduce the new Technical Director”. And that new role will be key. That man will come up with the strategy for the KNVB in football development and support. And he will appoint the new coach.

As it is supposed to be.

We have had to deal with a KNVB without a technical director for too long and most of our issues are the result of this. Our coaching training, our youth system structure, the scouting and development programs, the selection and guidance of the Oranje coach, you name it. I don’t even count Hans van Breukelen as TD, he was a joke.

Rutten Fred

Fred Rutten

So, people without any real football insights or network just picked the popular name from the hat and basically said: “Play Dutch school football and get us to the tournaments”. That was all.

And these same people then went out and assessed the work of the coach. Bert van Marwijk, Guus Hiddink, they all had to suffer those morons. Danny Blind even had to deal with Hans van Breukelen…

The new general manager, Eric Gudde, has worked extensively in football. He knows club football inside out. He has a network. And he has the experience.

The Technical Director will need to be the man for the long term. This is why I think Van Gaal and Adriaanse will not be the right choice. Yes, if they would have been in their 50s. But Co is 70 years old. Van Gaal is also getting on in life, but for him I have more reasons why I think he’s not the right man. Too dictatorial. No real experience in this role. Tends to look too closely over the shoulders of the coach. Etc etc…

Time for new blood. Time for people with a long-term vision, with knowledge of coaching and player development. Good communication skills. Good management skills.


Jordi Cruyff

There are some excellent options around. Fred Rutten could be the man. He’s heavy on the football content and less charismatic and communicative maybe than other candidates, but he would be perfect for the role. He is highly respected, breathes football, has experience in different roles, hardly has any enemies. A real pro.

Martin van Geel and Marcel Brands are two good candidates as well. Both have a history as player, they have managed the technical affairs of big clubs (AZ, Feyenoord, Ajax, PSV) and have authority.

Jordi Cruyff could be a candidate too. Ex-player, son-of, coaching and management experience. Great network.

I hope it will be one of those. Van Geel and Gudde worked well as a team for Feyenoord for 10+ years. An outsider could be Robert Eenhoorn. He does not have a player background (but he did play for the Dutch baseball team for years) and he’s the man behind the tremendous success of the AZ Alkmaar academy. A good communicator, highly respected and a strong personality.

I hope that, whoever it will be, the new man will include people like Rene Meulensteen and / or Gert jan Verbeek in his team. Meulensteen should take the role as Innovation and Performance Manager (now taken by ex Volleyball coach/icon Peter Blange) and Verbeek could be awesome in coaching training development. Verbeek is always on the bleeding edge of coaching development. But sadly, he went to work for his boyhood dream club FC Twente.


Rene Meulensteen

Once that team is settled and the new direction of our football becomes clear, the new coach will need to be appointed (before March 2018), based on a clear profile description. Not just based on yelling a popular name.

The generation of the 1970s is done. Advocaat, Van Hanegem, Ten Cate, Jol, Adriaanse, Van Gaal… Forget about them. The gap with the current generation is too big. Some are too anal (Van Gaal, Adriaanse), some are too old-fashioned… “Go out there and enjoy yourself”. “No bullshit, just play football!” These are Happelesque and Michelsian statements that won’t cut it today.

The generation of the 1980s did not deliver too many great coaches. Rijkaard and Van Basten are out of the game. Gullit had a hit and mostly miss coaching career. Wouters decided early in his career that he is more an assistant than a head coach. Muhren prefers to be youth coach. Kieft is analyst on tv. Van Tiggelen is assistant coach. Only John van ‘t Schip has progressed his career relatively well. Success at Ajax 2. Less so at Twente. Relatively good with San Marco at Oranje. Successful with Melbourne Heart/City. Less successfull in Mexico. And now successful with PEC Zwolle.Peter Bosz might well the ideal candidate but I can’t see him depart Dortmund and this stage.


John van ‘t Schip

And there’s Ronald and Erwin Koeman, of course. They are the obvious choice for many. I can see that. Experience, the right age group, authority, discipline, huge careers as players, and Ronald worked only recently with some key Oranje players.

However, it would be terribly opportunistic to go and pick the ex Everton coach, just like that. I am all for a proper profile description matched to a job description. And a thorough assessment of the fit.

Maybe there are elements in Koeman’s approach or vision that won’t work with Oranje? Maybe there are better candidates? Maybe the new Technical Director has reasons not to want Koeman? Let’s do it properly.

There definitely is a new emerging generation of coaches. One could call them “laptop coaches”. Who – like Verbeek and Guardiola – use modern tools and techniques and have a fresh tactical outlook on coaching.

Koeman’s transfer summer and resulting season start were not too great and he was responsible… Being a club coach is totally different than being an NT manager so I would definitely tread carefully with appointing Koeman.

The new generation has names like Cocu, Frank de Boer, Gio van Bronckhorst, Erik ten Hag, Alex Pastoor, Fons Groenendijk, Jaap Stam. All these coaches have demonstrated to work well with the current generation of players. Erik ten Hag in particular – protege of Pep Guardiola – has demonstrated to work really well with “difficult characters”. Quincy Promes, Labayad, Haps, many disgruntled players were taken in by Ten Hag and turned around. He confronts them, stimulates them, “reaches” them and like Peter Bosz and Pep has a very thorough tactical approach and vision.


Erik ten Hag

I have never been open to a foreign coach. For obvious reasons… football culture, know-how of Dutch players, language… But these days, I think why not? We have had many foreign NT managers in the past, and nowadays, coaches from Argentina, Germany, Spain and Portugal have taken over our role as go-to innovators. Wagner, Klopp, Conte, Silva, Pochetino, Preud’homme, you can’t say these guys are struggling…

But here’s the problem. For the foreign big names and for the likes of Koeman and Bosz… The KNVB will not pay the fee that coaches get paid in other nations or at clubs. Koeman was on 6 million. Bosz is on 4,5 million. The KNVB will pay 800,000 max per annum for their NT manager. Maybe 1 million tops.

Based on the fact that we need to build for at least 4 years, using the utility talent of Wijnaldum, Blind and Strootman, and allow the young talents to shine, Koeman might well be not the right man for the job. Koeman, like Advocaat, is a result driven short-term thinking coach. I think he is good at club level (not great) but potentially not the man for the national team.

Like Italy did years ago and Germany with Low, maybe we should forget about the big name club coach and appoint a guy who can build. Who can instill a new Dutch football vision into the KNVB and the club academies and inspire a new style NT towards trophies.


Alfons Groenendijk

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The moment of truth for Oranje….

In 5 days we’ll know. Whether we’re out of the World Cup or whether we are still hanging in.

It’s been a while, since Oranje missed both an EC and a WC. Tension is rising and the Dutch media (and people) are edgy.

Dick Advocaat has not made the ironclad impression we are used of him. At PSV, his earlier stints at Oranje, the Sunderland escape, the Zenit successes… The headstrong and confident sly fox has been slipping up since taking over from the much maligned Blind and his current choices also result in frowns all around.

Against France, he failed to make defensive changes when we were 2-0 down and without a hope in the world. The search for a late goal resulted in two more goals conceded with the known impact on goal difference. After the match, it appeared as if Dick was unaware of the goal difference importance. His gamble to hope for a Van Persie moment of brilliance also didn’t work out, with the Fener striker out with a knee injury.

Against Bulgaria, with 25 minutes to go, again, Dick failed to make changes. This time, offensive changes were needed as every goal counted and we could have gone for a 5-1 win, for sure.

arjen dick

Surely, Dick is now fully aware that every goal scored counts, but after a courtship of Klaas Jan Huntelaar, the Ajax striker saw his name omitted from the squad. Dick didn’t believe in too many central striker and he opted for Janssen and Dost, with either Babel or Locadia as the pinch hitter. Babel deserves his call up for me, but Locadia only impressed once this season with his four goals vs an unlucky FC Utrecht.

And now Dost is sidelined thanks to a practice injury to the knee, Huntelaar would have been a great option B for the striker position. Too late.

I personally believe we have one defender too many (Veltman?) and we are one forward/midfielder short. Locadia won’t be the Oranje saviour. I would personally always selected Sneijder, if he’s fit. The fact that he hasn’t played for weeks… Against France, I would not have used Sneijder (but would have opted for a 4 man dynamic midfield of Vilhena/Van Ginkel/Klaassen type players. But against Belarus, surely, Sneijder could be of use for the last 25 minutes? The opponent getting tired, bring in Sneijder and let him play his passing game. His corner kicks and free-kicks will always be threatening. I’m convinced he doesn’t need weeks of match-play to hit a dead ball.

DOST knie

His leadership off the pitch will be missed too. He’s been our talisman for so long and Oranje’s true skipper.

Another player I’d like to see asap, is Frenkie de Jong. Maybe not as a starter, but this kid has something unique (like Sneijder). His first pass is always vertical and he has the balls to play with risk and pizzazz.

According to the media, Cillesen will start. Janmaat and Blind will be full backs and Hertha’s Karim Rekik and Virgil van Dijk are the central defenders. The midfield will consist of Vilhena, Propper and Wijnaldum, with Robben/Janssen/Babel up top. As you know, Strootman is out.

I can see this work. Robben and Babel will keep the central defenders busy allowing Janssen to roam. The full backs will provide the wide option, like Blind demonstrated versus Bulgaria and like Janmaat does where ever he plays.

Wijnaldum will play in a controlling way, like Vilhena, with timed runs into the box. Propper again, will play the false striker behind Janssen.

I believe a 0-4 win will be possible, but the circumstances aren’t great. The team lacks cohesion, confidence is brittle and we lack options (Dost, no Huntelaar, no Sneijder). And it’s cold in Belarus. Very cold.

If we score in the first 20 minutes, we can get to a 0-4 or better score, but if it remains 0-0 for a long time, we might have to keep the fingers crossed for a 0-1 win.

janssen francde

It’s tempting to believe that Luxembourg will contain Sweden (in Sweden) but it’s wishful thinking. Normally, Sweden will win this game with at least 3 goals difference. And don’t think France will slip up again. Won’t happen.

There is one thing I’m uncertain about. The rules are not that clear. Once the group games have been played, the results against the worst nation will be scrapped. Including the goals. If that is Belarus – which makes sense if Holland beats them with good numbers – the goals will be taken out of the equation. Sweden scored 8 goals vs Belarus. Which means we will have a better goal difference than Sweden, provided we beat Sweden coming Tuesday. Which is also not a cert, by the way.

But this does mean that we need to look at the different scenarios, because Luxembourg could also be the last in the group. We took 6 points from them, while Sweden drew against them. We will lose more points in this case.

I am not sure if this is all correct, so I’m open to your comments.

But even if we end up second in the group, we could well be the worst second of all. In which case, we won’t get a chance to go to the World Cup. Otherwise, we do get this play-off game and we’ll most likely get an opponent of strength (Italy for instance, or Portugal). Qualification is still a long way out.

robbe promes

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Oranje: The Final Countdown….

It seems like I simply can’t take a little break. A lot happening in football, alright. Frank de Boer and Bert van Marwijk sacked, media campaigning for the inclusion in Oranje of Frenkie de Jong and Sophyan Amrabat. Ronald Koeman under pressure. Dutch champions given football lessons by England’s #3…

And in a couple of weeks time, it’s game time! With Dick and Ruud announcing their pre-lim squad.

Frank de Boer became the first victim in the Premier League but most likely not the last one. The Palace board wanted to radically change the way the club has been playing for more than a century. They did their homework, they made the plans and signed Frank de Boer for 3 years. The owners were ecstatic. And after 4 matches (!) the club panics, the board suddenly doesn’t want to change anymore, the long term vision get torn up and Frank de Boer (and Orlando Trustfull) can pack their bags.


What a disgrace!

Frank de Boer, former world-class libero and NT captain, won 4 titles with Ajax and is now suddenly incapable of turning a mediocre club around? It simply takes time. Disappointing decision by Crystal Palace who have dug up old-hand Woy Hodgson.

Bert van Marwijk’s exit was different. Now the Saudis have qualified, everyone wants a piece of the pie. Bert did the work but several yesmen are now putting their hands up to finish the job. Bert was offered a new deal with non-negotiable terms that Bert didn’t like. For instance, Bert had to live in Saudi Arabia and ask for permission to leave the country. Bert didn’t think that was a good plan and as a result he is now out.

Of all Dutch coaches working in top football at the moment, Van Marwijk’s achievement is most likely the most impressive.

Feyenoord lost 0-4 vs Man City. And deservedly so, even though Feyenoord helped City in the first 10 minutes with their woeful defending. Three goals from set pieces. Boys vs Men.

But the media slashed Feyenoord with terms as “shameful” and “Appalling”. But was it? Sure, the first goal was a shocker. Not enough pressure on the ball with the cross, Botteghin not attacking the cross and Vilhena allowing the ball to roll through his legs. But no matter how silly it looked, a player can be wrongfooted. Vilhena switched his weight to the other leg, just when the ball ricocheted through his legs. It can happen.

tony mancity

But Man City scoring four is not a disgrace. It would have been a disgrace (for Man City) if they didn’t. They brought in two subs during the second half, two players valued more than the whole of the Eredivisie!

And despite Feyenoord’s loss vs PSV Eindhoven, they outplayed PSV in the second half, with only 10 men. I think we needn’t worry about Feyenoord.

Oranje is a different matter. Dick and Ruud have two games left to win, score a lot of goals and pray that we won’t end up as the worst #2.

For this, we need to play in a system that makes sense to the players (4-3-3) and with players in form and capable of doing what we need to do: win and score.

Dick called up Ryan Babel and Klaas Jan Huntelaar. Babel is in top form. He’s fit, physical, opportunistic, can play on several positions and has his mojo back. Huntelaar still lives for goals and he played himself into the Ajax 1 starting line up. Good decisions. Daryl Janmaat is back too. Got his fitness and starting berth back. Scored a goal and is his ever dynamic self, bringing experience to the squad.


Kenny Tete will most likely be the best choice for the RB spot. Cillesen should be the goalie, for me. Dick could use Blind with De Vrij in the centre of defence with Fosu Mensah on the LB spot. Blind’s build up from the centre is needed and Tim Fosu Mensah will use his power to dominate the channel.

Up front, Babel, Huntelaar and Robben will do nicely, with the biggest question marks left open for the midfield. Wijnaldum and Strootman disappointed. Sneijder doesn’t seem fit enough. But it’s not the right time to experiment with Toornstra or Van Ginkel, while Klaassen simply doesn’t play enough. Frenkie de Jong could be an option as playmaker – albeit it an experiment as well – but the 20 year old is not selected.

Dick has to make some decisions here. Maybe Robben in the Sneijder role? With Babel on the right and Memphis on the left? We do need goals.

More good news: Vincent Janssen scored a goal from open play in Turkey and Virgil van Dijk has rejuvenated his career at Southampton, making his first minutes again.


Lastly, the KNVB has started to turn things around.

New chair of the board of directors is no-nonsense man Jan Smit. This entrepreneur (debt-collector) has led Heracles Almelo for decades before. Never got into trouble financially, knows a lot of people in football, is highly respected and an experience football manager.

Eric Gudde is the new general manager. Gudde was in this role for Feyenoord for 10 years. He started in the dark days, when there was no money at the club, lots of losses, and no success whatsoever for the once biggest club in the world. With Martin van Geel as his technical director, Gudde turned the club from a struggling behemoth into a financially healthy and highly successful and popular side. Plans for a new stadium are in a final stage, the youth academy is rocking and Feyenoord boasts to have the finest pitch in Europe. He was the man, last season, who decided to support the young coach (Van Bronckhorst) who failed to win in a series of 7 matches. And he left, after the same coach won three trophies in 15 months.


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