Tag: Netherland

Oranje’s problems for Koeman to fix

This Euros is turning into a really fun tournament. Fans of Belgium, Holland and England might beg to differ but the neutral is enjoying him/herself immensely. It’s not a surprise that some teams (include Italy, France) are not at their best.

Most of the players in those squads have played 45+ games this season at the highest levels. It’s not a surprise that the bow will bend and break at some stage. The international calendar is a joke, really.

I’m sure England has more problems on top of that, with a coach who can’t gel a top team from top players and bemoans the absence of Kalvin Phillips as if he is Frenkie de Jong.

Belgium seems to play with fear. France seems tired. And Oranje… is a bit lost.

But… we do have Ronald Koeman. Not for his tactical skills, but for his luck! He was criticised at Valencia but still won the cup. He had to go at PSV, but still won the title. He’s got a golden d**k as his dad always said.

And his former assistant Gio van Bronckhorst once quipped: “If Ronald Koeman trips, it’s over a golden Rolex, that much luck does he have…”.

We need more of it. Normally, we ended up in the left side of the draw (Germany, Spain, France) but finishing third brings us Romania, Austria, England and who knows…

I will not be the one claiming “Romania is easy” because it isn’t. Remember the Euros under Frank de Boer? We got into the “easy side of the draw”. We only had to beat the Czechs and then Denmark and we could touch the cup. Right. Well, we lost in the first knock-out match. So lets treat Romania with respect.

We all know that we traveled to this Euros with 8 players remaining at home who normally would be in the squad. That is 30%. Frenkie, Quinten Timber, Jurrien Timber, Koopmeiners, Luuk de Jong, Noa Lang, Mats Wieffer, Marten de Roon, 5 midfielders. A pinch hitter and top header of the ball. And a mercurial winger.

So, we need to make do with an older sandpit midfielder and some untested players (at this level) in Veerman, Schouten, Reijnders and Gravenberch. Typically for the fans…they yell for years for coaches to bring new blood in the team and now Koeman finally does so because he has to, and the fans now want to bring more experience in the team. And I wonder… who? Clasie? Adam Maher? Kevin Strootman? Vilhena? Til? Donny van de Beek?

We need to do it with these lads.

So lets focus on where we go wrong tactically. Because we all know the individual skills of these players are there. The lowliest club team we have is probably Burnley ( Weghorst). All the others play for Inter, Man City, Spurs or RB Leipig or the likes.

So it’s tactics. What are the problems?

Against Austria Geertruida was gesticulating and yelling to his mates in the first 60 seconds!

Schouten, Veerman and Reijnders are too far away from the zone where Austria wants to attack and when De Vrij can’t step in due to the presence of Arnautovic, Geertruida is alone in the zone with three opponents coming at him.

Whatever Geertruida does – stay or attack the ball – he is in trouble.

Problem 1. Being a Little Bit Pregnant

These are the words of Ralf Rangnick: you can’t be a little bit pregnant. You’re pregnant, or you’re not.

It’s the same with pressing. You press, or you don’t. You can’t press a little. Rangnick is clear in his idea: three elements are important: ball, team mates and opponents. First you focus on the ball. Then on your team mates and then on your opponents. Against Austria, Holland was a little bit pregnant. Koeman: “We lacked aggression and allowed too much space We are way too focused on the man and defended like headless chooks, one might say. We were terrible and had no control whatsoever. We instructed the players: block the pass line to the sides which means the backs need to remain in their position. But we didn’t and then this is what happens. Malen let his man go, yes, but I didn’t want him to backtrack all the time. When their outside man comes inside, one of the central defenders needed to step in. Because I don’t want my wingers to play as full backs.”

Geertruida yelling at his team mates for someone to pick up Wimmer

And Austria found a quick solution. The central defenders and the backs stretched the pitch so much that Malen and Gakpo couldn’t close the gaps. But the main issue was Oranje being outnumbered in midfield.’

The Austrians played 3 midfielders as well but their wingers joined in. Koeman instructed his wingers, Gakpo and Malen to remain wide. And thus, Austria had two players in the pockets, available to be passed into. And this is why Geertruida’s first contributions to the team was his vocal warnings about the mismatch. It took 20 minutes for Koeman to respond.

Koeman used the 4-1-4-1 same as he did in the second half versus France. This is tough to do against a strong opponent as there is too much space to defend for the 1 holding defender. This is why most teams use two players in the engine room. Morocco used this system with great success at the World Cup. Whenever an attacking mid puts pressure on, another attacking mid needs to drop back to keep the balance.

Koeman and Lodeweges call this “the box” in midfield. Sadly, we hardly saw the box. And instead of defending the space, our midfielders kept on tracking their direct opponent, leaving all this space for the free man from Austria.

Interestingly, Koeman blamed Geertruida for the first goal, claiming he should communicate with De Vrij and force the central defender to take over, so the Feyenoord right back can stay in this zone. But Geertruida tried this. And De Vrij was covered by Arnautovic and simply couldn’t take over.

Geertruida pulled in to cover Wimmer and Prass is about to leave Malen for dead

It seems Koeman saw a different game and I have to say: this match clearly demonstrated that Koeman is out of his depth and should retire and leave coaching in modern football to the younger generation ( Van der Gaag, Slot, Pastoor, Buijs).

End conclusion: Oranje failed to defend the zones and allowed Austria to constantly find the free man in space. The reparations from the coach came way too late.

Problem 2: Plan B without safety net

Plan B was started after 20 minutes. Man marking across the pitch. Austria has great runners but their players are less comfortable in possession. Holland starts to get more control and started to win duels, with the long balls. However, Plan B doesn’t offer a safety net. When a player gets passed or loses his man, the opponent has a man-more situation. And players can be stretched. In both Austrian goals in the second half, the space between Van Dijk and De Vrij is wide open. Both goals were the result of Dutch players losing their man or not going with their man.

Koeman is again being unclear. Initially he blames the players for going too much with their man. And in Plan B, they have to stay with their man First blame, then accountability. No wonder players were confused.

We saw top players (Ake, De Vrij, Van Dijk, Reijnders, Gakpo, Malen) who play for top teams ( Liverpool, Man City, AC Milan, Borussia Dortmund, Inter Milan) completely lost.

Like in the juniors, all Dutch players focus on the left side, with 3 Austrians completely open on their left

And yes Gakpo and Schouten lost their marks, but those actually weren’t their marks! The second Austrian goal sees Gakpo spring 50 meters back and he’s covering for a team mate here.

And the winning goal late in the game was anothe example of bad communication. Schouten steps forward to put Sabitzer in off side but Van Dijk had drifted two yards back and gave the man of the tournament so far the opportunity to hurt Oranje.

Problem 3: build up by the full backs

Rangnick pushed the opponent – Oranje – towards the flanks. We were allowed our buildup there, instead of through the centre. And we did, and in principle, we should be doing ok with this. But the positioning of our full backs was not good enough. Koeman: “The full backs can’t stay at the same level as the midfielder, you need to create triangles. If they were higher or deeper, it would have worked.”

Problem 4: Where is the box?

Koeman talks about his plan of attack, using three midfielders, as this would give Oranje a dominant position, although… it didn’t. Because Austria moves with the ball. If the central defenders of Holland have the ball, their forwards drop back to stop the pass line to the midfield. If the ball goes to the full back, Austria pivots to that side and even the winger on the other flank will move inside. We needed a 4th option in midfield, to get control and Koeman’s “box” would offer this, but the box is non existent. Only after half time does Geertruida move into midfield to become Oranje’s fourth midfielder.

The box restored. When moving properly, we always have at least two options, if not more

Everytime we let go of the box (France, Austria) we lose control. Moving forward, it’s clear we need to get back to that principle.

Problem 5: We have no patterns or “automatisms”

The toughest job of any national team coach is creating patterns. For Spain, Real Madrid and Barcelona have dominated the national teams, so automatisms came natural. Same with Bayern dominated Germany. In the olden days, with many Ajax players in the team, Oranje had a similar advantage (Overmars, Kluivert, Bergkamp, Ronald de Boer, Reiziger, Davids, Seedorf, Frank de Boer, Edwin van de Sar, Bogarde).

Take Geertruida now. He is a certainty at Feyenoord (and will make a big money move this summer). But he lacks the options he is used to at Feyenoord which makes him slower and a bit more uncertain. At Feyenoord, he gets the ball on the half space and he knows: I have a player to my right and and midfielder ahead of me for the forward pass. These triangles are what players need.

Geertruida at Feyenoord, always two forward passing options

But in Oranje, Geertruida only has one option (against Austria): the forward pass to a marked midfielder. And as a result, Geertruida disappoints. And Austria gets the time to press him. This can be said of many players at Oranje. When the box is not used, there are less options and that results in issues.

Geertruida in Oranje: can only go square and opponent is ready to pounce


There are still positive things to say. We created a number of good chances, despite all this ( Malen, Reijnders). We scored twice and we created more shots on goal and got more expected goals than Austria. So even with a less than mediocre performance, we still create. This says something about the quality of our players.

As Koeman said in the presser: “I am responsible for this result” and he is right. He made errors in the starting line up. He made mistakes in judging the Austrian plan of attack and he was not able to instruct his players properly re: their positioning. You could say that Rangnick beat Koeman as a coach. In a big way.

I won’t jump to the same conclusion as journaist Valentijn Driessen who implied Koeman should resign (yet). But in Koeman’s own words: we’re not knock-out. We are still in the fight And Koeman needs to show the world now, that he is capable of getting up.

Sources: VI, AD.nl


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