Tag: Jetro Willems

New faces in Oranje

We’re starting to get in the thick of things… The competitions have started properly, coaches leave or are fired, players reach their full potential or get injured. Oranje is almost qualified for the Euros and is prepping for the last two qualification games. Due to injuries (Vermeer, Malen, Bergwijn, Memphis), Ronald Koeman did what many here wanted to see earlier: the introduction of some “new” names.

With Kenneth Vermeer injured (and Jeroen Zoet suddenly on a dead end street with PSV), Marco Bizot is added to the squad. AZ talents Calvin Stengs and Myron Boadu are part of the squad too, while Wout Weghorst is also called up, together with rival striker Luuk de Jong.

Interestingly enough though, Memphis did make the trip to the Oranje camp. Initially to “work on his fitness” and “be with the lads” but secretly he is working like a horse to get himself fit and into the team on Saturday. “I want to play. I may be important for the team, but the team is also important for me. After missing two big tournaments, I really want to be part of the team that secures our ticket.”

Koeman will obviously be careful with the Lyon captain but also emphasized Depay’s importance for the team.

The big question for many is: who will Koeman play now Berghuis, Malen and most likely Memphis are absent.

Most punters, analysts and fans feel that Stengs and Boadu deserve the chance to start. I personally think Koeman, conservative as he is, will be tempted to use his trusted players vs Northern Ireland. The Irish are a shrewd and physically tough team to beat. So the experience of Promes and Babel might be needed along with the power and work rate of Weghorst.

A more adventurous coach (Ten Hag!) would probably start with Promes – Boadu – Stengs… But Koeman is not that coach and might wait with using the youngsters once we get that point vs Northern Ireland.

Most of the team will be unchanged, although the right back question is also still unanswered. I think there is a case to make for Veltman and for Dumfries…

Luuk de Jong will probably remain as pinch hitter. Should Memphis be fit to play, it probably means Weghorst will find himself on the stands.

No one debates the quality of the two AZ players. Stengs will probably go and become a top class player for the next 10 years. I can see him end up at a big name team in the future. Boadu is a bit younger and lacks a bit of maturity. In the Eredivisie, it doesn’t hurt so much but he’s too light for the big leagues, at this stage.

Having said that, he’s a very complete striker. Light on his feet, quick, explosive, two-footed…scoring all sorts of goals… And what a great understanding (couples!) with Calvin Stengs.

Boadu and Stengs running riot vs PSV

But Wout Weghorst’s development can’t be ignored. The 27 year old is back with Oranje, for the first time since June 2018. Koeman used the 1 meter 97 centimeter tall striker only as a battering ram in the final stages of the game and has lost the pinch hitter role to Luuk.  But things have improved for Weghorst at Wolfsbutg with the entrance of coach Glasner, who has a strong football vision. The team now attacks more from the flanks, using wide wing backs which is perfect for the tall striker. He also grew enormously in his hold up play and his combination play. He also made the near post his domain, Wim Kieft style. The timing is impeccable, he first makes a move to the far post, to only switch quickly and dart to the near post. It seems he patented this move as he also was successful with this at AZ.

Compare Weghorst with similar strikers (Bas Dost and Luuk de Jong) and you’ll find that Wout creates three times more changes for team mates!

Versus Hoffenheim, 0-1 down, it’s Weghorst who creates the equaliser with an Ozil like backheel! The Weghorst phenomenon. Every two years he steps up to a higher leve. His motto: “I’m not a super talent, so I need to work hard to become part of the squad and then I work hard to become better and better on that level.”

Excellent assist by Weghorst

And this is how he went from FC Emmen to Heracles, to AZ and now Wolfsburg. Next stop? Somewhere in England maybe? Watford? Burnley? Or a bigger club in Germany?

Weghorst could leave Wolfsburg already last summer but he doesn’t want to switch after one season. But after two? Yes… By the way, he knows he won’t force Memphis out of the starting line up with Oranje but , he can be the ideal target man taking attention away from the mercurial Oranje forwards, while battling the central defenders.

With Boadu and Stengs, Oranje has another bossom buddy duo, after Krol-Suurbier, Jansen-Cruyff, Sneijder-VanderVaart, Frank de Boer – Cocu, Seedorf-Kluivert and many other combinations. Colleagues and best friends.

It’s 2016 in Wijdewormer, North of Holland when on a Saturday afternoon AZ is watching the AZ talents play Excelsior Maassluis. Something is brewing. Louis van Gaal is present, as he knows two big talents will play their first match at this level. Myron Boadu is 15 years old and he scores his first goal after 22 minutes. After 70 minutes he’s subbed for the 17 year old Calvin Stengs. And would you believe it? He also needs just 22 minutes to score his first goal. Their names are mentioned for years already in Alkmaar. They’re both born in Amsterdam and both scouted early by AZ. The biggest difference between them, the pace with which they presented themselves. Stengs was a slow burner. He was small in his youth and that made him a question mark. He grew taller when he turned 16 and he was moved into AZ under 19.

A young Boadu vs Ajax, for AZ

Boadu’s development was noticed by Arsenal, Ajax and PSV but the youngster decided he wanted to finish his high school in Alkmaar and thus he stayed loyal to AZ. Stengs and Boadu bonded on the pitch and at their school and their chemistry would develop more and more.

2019 was supposed to be there year and by all means, I think they’re making it happen. They both came back from a horrific injury and they seem to have shrugged it all off successfully. In May 2017, Boadu got seriously injured to the knee in the Euros Under 17. Three months later, a heavy injury for Stengs on the knee, in the first match of the season vs PSV Eindhoven. They needed to dig deep into their character and mentality to fight back. Both players were aided by two world class legends. Boadu worked on his fitness in the US, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic while Stengs was visited often by Ruud van Nistelrooy who suffered a similar injury before he signed for Man United.

When Stengs was ready to make his come back for AZ, faith again struck. In his sixth game for AZ, versus Feyenoord, the striker broke his ankle. This time, he needed 7 months to recover. Both players now have a yearning desire, a hunger, for a consistent season, with more highs than lows and without any more injuries.

This season, AZ as a whole impresses. Arne Slot is doing something really really well. His forward trio, are dynamic in their moves, can score goals, give assists and dazzle opponents. Idrissi might have chosen to play for Morocco, the two other want to be come colleagues in orange. With left full back Owen Wijndal (still at Young Oranje), they are called the three musketeers. In the competition, Feyenoord and PSV have been taken to the AZ sword. There is now only Ajax to deal with. “That is December 15”, says Boadu, confidently. “It’s three days after Man United away. That will be a top week.”

On October 11, 2019, both Boadu and Stengs play for Young Oranje vs Young Portugal. Two assists by Stengs on Boadu and a goal for Stengs. That was Boadu’s first match in Young Oranje (Steng’s fourth). A month later, the world looks different for both. Boadu: “Coach Slot called to tell us. My mum started to cry, my dad was speechless. I also didn’t know exactly what to make of it. I didn’t count on this, at all. It’s going so quick now.” Stengs responded in the down-to-Earth manner we know of him. “You won’t just get an invite for Oranje! This is the highest of the highest. I have no expectations. I’m just going to work my socks off and then we’ll see what happens.”

AZ Coach Arne Slot

So two of the three musketeers drove to Zeist to join in with the big Orange. The third musketeer will one day follow, without a doubt. How did they go to Zeist? “You can paint that picture yourself, no?”, laughs Boadu. “Calvin and I drove up together. Him behind the wheel, me picking the music.”

How can Oranje qualify?

After 6 matches, Holland has 15 points, as much as Germany and 3 more than Northern Ireland. Should Oranje draw vs Northern Ireland, we will be sure of an Euros ticket. When we lose vs Northern Ireland, it depends on the number of goals we concede. There is a scenario out there, in which Holland could end up exactly at the same level as Germany and Northern Ireland. The goal difference will be vital in that case, provided that the results against the rivals is also the same (Oranje beat Northern Ireland 3-1 at home). Oranje has a goal balance of 9-6, whereas Germany has 7-6 and Northern Ireland has 1-5. So even a slight defeat plus a win against Estonia will get us to the Euros. And even if Holland drops out of the top two, we still have the Nations League play-off ticket in hand. In March 2020, these play offs will be played.

Bookmark and Share

Jetro Willems: I promise I’ll improve…

With the KNVB team almost up to speed (surely Koeman will be the man) it’s interesting to focus on the top quality players we thought we had… Jetro Willems came like a comet and disappeared into mediocrity last season. He’s picking up the pieces in the Bundesliga now.

“What is good arrives quick” is a typical Dutch saying. We saw it with JC, with Seedorf, Van Basten, Messi, Rooney… Age is not a concern, it’s all about quality. Giggs could play well into his 30s, so what? Jetro Willems appeared to be another top player who presented himself at top level in Holland at 17 years. And through a stroke of luck, ended up in the – disappointing – Oranje eleven for the EC2012.

Developed at Sparta Rotterdam, he made name real quick. Fast, strong, great technique and a wonderful left foot. PSV didn’t wait for the other clubs to wake up and immediately snatched him up. When Oranje and PSV left back Erik Pieters got seriously injured, Willems took his spot in Eindhoven, and not much later, the youngster was selected by Bert van Marwijk for the Euros2012. In his first 5 minutes in the match vs Denmark, he almost became a legend by hitting the ball like a rocket on goal, only for it to splash onto the bar. In that highly disappointing campaign, Willems was one of the high lights.

His coach Advocaat at PSV called him complacent. His Young Oranje coach Cor Pot called him naive. Willems always listened to the criticism and with his involved parents as advisers, he would improve himself.

After making a name as the youngest player at a Euros tournament ever, he also saw the other side of being a pro. Willems was a little bit too soft on himself. And in the year after the Euros, he even lost his spot in Young Oranje.

He also had to cope with a series of injuries at PSV Eindhoven but the season before last, he shone again. With the highest number of assists, he won the title with PSV, helping Luuk de Jong score and riding the wave with other marquee players like Memphis and Wijnaldum. And while Depay left for Man U and Wijnaldum went to Newcastle United, Willems decided to stay at PSV.

The season following was a dreadful one for the youngster. Hardly any assists, Luuk de Jong forgot how to score, more injuries and as a result, ridicule from the tv pundits for his weight problem. It was time for Willems to move on. But the likes of Chelsea, Barcelona and Bayern Munich weren’t interested…

The 23 year old was still keen to reach the European top, but he has to make a detour. AS Roma and AS Monaco were in the running for his signature, but Willems decided on the Bundesliga. Eintracht Frankfurt. An unlikely decision.

Willems: “And credit to my dad. Because of him, I’m here. Really, I was happy to go with the other clubs, and I never thought about the Bundesliga. I mean, the Bundesliga…that is a lot of running and working, right? I am not a great runner, I’m good on the ball. But my dad convinced me and I think him for it. Frankfurt came late in the game, we basically had decided for another club, we had negotiated the deal etc. It was almost done. But dad started to google Eintracht. Their games, their practices, he investigated the coach and he said to me: “I think Eintracht is ideal for you.”. I didn’t get it… He never ever pushed me to do anything, so when he said this… I took it seriously. And I thought. Ok. Bundesliga it is.”

Willems would discuss this with his dad later on. And his dad was quite harsh. “He never told me off he was always positive. But now, he basically said: let’s face it. You’re good on the ball, you’re a good passer, but in the turn-around you’re hopeless. You let your man go, you jog back, you’re too easy on your self! Now, look at the big full backs in Europe. Alaba. Marcelo. Alvez. They run their guts out. They work like crazy. Yes, all good players, but all hard workers. You won’t make it to the top if you don’t get that part of the game down.” Willems had to concede and went for it at Eintracht.

Willems: “Man, how I found out about that running. The first weeks of pre-season was so harsh. The first session I did was a 3 hour training, and after 2,5 hours I cramped up. So they said, don’t worry, we’ll do some easy running later today, to run it off. Guess what, that was an hour forest run! And I had done the first part of the pre-season with PSV and thus the second part with Eintracht. Incomparable. Seriously. At PSV, you work with the ball. At Eintracht, the ball doesn’t even come along to trainingscamp. We would run 14 kilometers per training day. Every day. Here, you need to be able to play full throttle every match, for 90 minutes. It’s that simple.”

Willems currently is top fit and starts to enjoy the hard work. “I never minded hard work, if I can see it aims towards something, sure. It’s not that I like it, but it’s a matter of just doing it, right? But my body mass index is still the same, don’t get wrong. Some people thought I was fat at PSV? But that is all muscle man. I’m a big boy, but I have a six pack and always had that. The only thing, my neck started to become a bit big, due to the muscle work I did in the gym, when I was injured. I looked fat, but I am fit as ever.”

Playing in Germany is a bit different. “Here, you play a good game, they will say: good game! In Holland, it’s always: good game, but…. this and that was not good. There is always that “but” in Holland. Look at PSV this season. Last season: criticism because they couldn’t get the results. This season, PSV is leader but still people whine and whinge that it’s not good enough… Typical. And my view of football has changed. I loved to do the cool and fancy things, but now, I realise it’s only about winning! I know Mourinho and Conte…they don’t care how they win, as long as they win. It’s time I start focusing on trophies rather than a cool trick or a good shot.”

Willems keeps on going: “In Germany, if you can’t win, the new aim is to not lose. In Holland, if you can’t win, you will try even harder to win. With the result, potentially, that you lose! I grew up with the Dutch school of football and attacking football is my thing, but here I have learned to play for the result. The Bundesliga enriched me like that.”

Eintracht Frankfurt is doing well this season and Willems plays a key part in it. “We are sub top now and we can look up instead of down. But, we’re not Bayern Munich, which can win games at 75% commitment. We really need to work our asses off for a win. The big thing here, like in the Premier League, is that any team can beat any team. In Holland, we only had two real rivals, Ajax and Feyenoord. We were expected to win the other matches. In Germany, it’s a bit more close. But tactically, the Dutch are better. Here, if the build up fails, they just hit a long ball forward. Boom! But in the last phase of the attack, everything goes much quicker here. Zip zip, some passing, first touch and before you know it it’s a goal, or a chance. And it’s constant. In Holland, we had moments in the game, where I knew I wouldn’t be involved. It was predictable, the patterns. I sometimes lost some focus. Here that is impossible. You need to be on your toes constantly.”

Willems is the fourth on the list of players with the most crosses, but he is number 1 in term of accuracy. He is no. 6 on the list of players creating chances. “Wijnaldum always pointed stats out to me, he’d always say: numbers don’t lie!”.

Willems about his position: “I am confident in the 3-5-2 system, which means I play 20 yards more forward and my defensive tasks are less important than in a 4-3-3. But I do need to track back of course, the coach expects me to take care of the whole left wing. So I need to be top fit.”

Life is good in Germany. Willems lives with his 29 year old cousin, who cooks for him and does odds and sodds for Jetro. “We have 17 nationalities in the team, it’s quite a cosmopolitan team. We speak English mainly but I’m learning German too, I can understand it. In Holland, it was all becoming “normal”. Here, both professionally and personally, it’s a new world for me. I’m out of my control zone now. It’s good.”

Willems enjoys being more anonymous. “Somehow I managed to get the attention of some tv pundits. It’s probably my own fault. I remember being interviewed when we were trailing behind Ajax two seasons ago, and I jokingly said – with a straight face – that we would win it, and we did! Hahaha, and I had some more funny interviews but somehow people don’t always get that humour. Football humour. And when I seemed to have gained weight, they were all over me. It’s good to be in a country where I am not important. They still call me a talent here in Germany. At PSV, I was one of the veterans, hahaha. I did play six seasons for PSV, won titles, played the Euros, I was one of the players in the dressing room who’d talk and be present. Here it’s different, with players like De Guzman and Boateng… I know my part here.”

Looking back at the criticism: “I understand the criticism. I simply wasn’t good enough, not consistent enough. I try to be honest with myself. I had this reputation of “he doesn’t care” but that is not correct. I do care. I am highly critical towards myself. I’m not arrogant, but I do speak my mind. In Holland, that is not always appreciated. I am not the ideal son-in-law, true, but I’m always speaking my truth.”

17 year old Jetro signing for PSV, with mum…

He had to make the switch in his head. “When I was young, I played on talent and instinct. I kept on doing this and maybe wasn’t always to responsible with my body. I had to learn this. You can reach the top with talent, but you can’t stay there just with talent. You need to work hard, learn, improve, push the boundaries. I didn’t do that for a while.”

In Germany, the benchmark is higher yet again. “The coach pushes me. He always says, if you train at a certain level, you need to push that level up, otherwise you won’t improve. In Holland, this is lacking. We train exactly how we did 4 years ago. The coach here tells me: “You’re good Jetro. But not as good as you think you are. That helps me, he triggers and pushes me. At practice, I get a lot of kicks. I tend to play a bit, trick the guys, well…they’ll have a go at you here. And the coach allows it. At one stage I was on the ground and said “coach, surely a free kick?” and he waved play on and yelled at me “will you cry and run to your mum!”… That took care of that, hahaha.”

Willems still has his eye on moving up. “Don’t get me wrong, I still have a lot to prove here, but things are going well, so who knows. Gini went to Newcastle, he didn’t wait for a big name club. He played a good season and made a move. I think I could do a similar thing. After two years Eintracht, I’ll still be 25 years old. But key is to be happy and healthy. And I’m both here. I enjoy my football again and that is so important. Particularly after what happened to Nouri, I can say I’m blessed to be healthy and playing.”

Willems played his last international game for Oranje in October 2016, in the 1-0 loss against France. He watched Oranje’s exit from the sofa, at home. “So what can I say? I wasn’t there. I don’t have a right to say anything. My Eintracht coach tells me we are too complacent, we talk tactics but we don’t work hard enough. I get what he’s saying… I will do what I can to get back into it. But I am not the type to ask or to whinge about it. I have to show it week in week out on the pitch. It’s as simple as that. I hope the new NT coach will make a fresh new start now the older key players are slowly drifting out and a new group needs to step up. I hope to be part of it. And believe me, we still have top quality players. I think we’ll be fine.”



Bookmark and Share
header bg

What Willem and Johan say….

The whole nation will be keen to respond to anything that happens around Oranje but at the end of the day people will always be waiting for what the two Oracles have to say… Johan Cruyff and Willem van Hanegem.

Today, both wrote their columns. Have a read… Willem first.

“I have seen the best pass of the whole tournament already. That Sneijder pass on Huntelaar! A shame that Klaas Jan couldn’t finish that one. Everything would have been different now. Unfortunately, I hear a lot of people complaining now.

And I thought we’d win the first one too, to be honest, but let’s not act as if those Danes are a bunch of nitwits. Well, maybe Bendtner is one, but other than that, they played decent football and created opportunities. It wasn’t necessary to lose against them but it’s not a disgrace.

But why did we lose? Let me start positively by the way. Jetro Willems. I was very happy with his game. This is a true asset to the team. Started in his first minutes with a nice shot on goal and a wide pass to Robben. Wonderful. Sneijder was the biggest disappointment to me. Although he played well, I do expect even more from him. Sneijder is so gifted, I would want him to step up more. But, he is improving and in the second half I could see him do many good things. When Huntelaar came and Van Persie dropped a bit, Sneijder was pushed to the left and he seemed to play a bit more freely.

Some people seem to think Robben doesn’t play well? I didn’t see that. All those talking heads on tv, but I think he created a lot. And whenever Robben is in good form, he doesn’t need a lot of support but in this game he did, and he didn’t get a lot. It’s sad to see how his team mates let him drown.

Van der Wiel overlapped him actually only once! And sometimes it was Van Persie who seeked him out. Van Bommel, the right midfielder, should support Robben much more, but the skipper was too busy with his own game. Van Bommel needs to support him, make himself available, play off him. I didn’t get Bert’s subs, by the way? Why did Afellay have to go? And Nigel de Jong’s sub was a mystery to me. He played good. I would have subbed Mark van Bommel. He was struggling and had copped a yellow already.

I think it would have been more logical to replace Van Persie with Hunter and bring Huntelaar. Maybe Narsingh on the flank for Van Bommel and Afellay drops back to midfield. So Robben can play on the left.

Willem as assistant coach in 2004

And now, Bert is a bit in trouble. Because changing your system after one disappointing game is not a good thing. I think he needs to play Van Persie, otherwise you can best send him home. And blame him on the loss. Which would be ridiculous of course. I think Bert should have started against the Danes with one holding midfielder. Bring Huntelaar up front and let Van Persie play off him from midfield.

I think we would have won then. And then you can play against the Germans with two holding midfielders and let Hunter start off the bench. That was logical. Now I would replace Van der Wiel with Boula and play Mathijsen for Vlaar. Who, by the way, didn’t do too shabby.

It’s good that Willem kept his dayjob…

The last thing I want to say: what was Van Persie doing with that phone on his ear right after the match? What kind of impression does that leave to his team mates and the fans? You just lost a big game and you missed a number of huge chances and you take a phone to chit chat about something?? I think it’s ridiculous. I don’t think Van Marwijk should accept that. I don’t care who he had on the phone and why. It’s not done. And I’ve never seen anyone do this. Not Balotelli, not C Ronaldo, not Messi, not Cruyff.”

Speaking of which…. What did Cruyff say?

“Ok, so we lost. It is how it is. But now we need to support the team. This is when the team needs it most. But we also need to learn from the mistakes. We missed a lot of chances. That is never a problem for me. The fact that you create them is key. In the next match, some of them will go in, I’m not too worried about that. But I do think our game play needs further analysis.

One of the causes of our disappointing result is the build up. Our defensive midfielders De Jong and Van Bommel had too much of the ball. That is not their strength. We have other players in the team for that.

And against Denmark, it was clear we didn’t need two defensive mids. Our problem was not in defense. I even thought it was cool to see how debutant Willems had the best kick of our six defensive players. He was seriously the best build up player we had. His direct opponent was the first to be subbed, which says something too.

I enjoyed watching that lad. He’s strong, technically skilled, quick and mentally strong too! He has solved our left back problem, as far as I’m concerned.

It’s a good thing that JC kept his dayjob…

But the way we position ourselves as a team is still a concern. This needs to be improved. At certain times, we played with two blocks: three forwards, six defenders and poor Sneijder. He had to drop to pick up the ball and try and find the forwards. He must have ran too many yards like this. Very tough and ungrateful work. The forwards don’t get the best out of Wesley and he is being physically eroded.

But, to remain positive: we had 5 or 6 really good opportunities. That is good. We normally have players that can finish. And in the coming games, we will. We now have a couple of days to fix things. And to realise that those mistakes can no longer be made.”

Bookmark and Share