Well, it seems that after a good series of games and increasing positive vibes around the team, our lads manage to help us level our expectations and get us back with our feet firmly on the ground.
It was at times a shocker. A really sobering experience.
It was well known beforehand that 1) Italy would freshen up the team and 2) they’d come with a mission, as they dropped two points at home. A response was to be expected.
Lodeweges set up the team almost exactly like Italy (as I said before: both teams try to play a similar style of football with a similar type of tactical plan), but instead of putting fresh legs in, he decided to use the team that had a confidence boost vs Poland. He also figured that Hateboer and De Roon would find something extra vs the players they see every week.
Bergwijn, who struggled after an hour vs Poland, was rested and Wijnaldum played as a false right winger, in what was probably a 4-3-2-1. Promes and Gini close behind Memphis, with a block in midfield ( De Jong, Van de Beek, De Roon).
Italy executed the plan to perfection and coach Mancini’s only real issue was the lack of more goals.
Oranje received a football lesson from the Azzurri and will need to get its act together really fast, as the matches will come thick and fast.
I think for starters, Lodeweges made the mistake of using 10 of the starting 11 against Poland. Two big matches in 3 days with players who are not 100% match fit… Why? Dumfries was fit. Wijnaldum can play for De Roon, and give Frenkie some protection and help as holding mid (Davy Propper was injured and not part of the squad). Bergwijn could have done another 45 minutes and Ihatarren could have easily had his debut. He’s young, fresh, eager and has that surprise factor.
Anyway, that was just one issue. Italy is also not 100% match fit but still I think the risk of injured players was relatively high and it was visible that some players (Memphis!) were struggling at times.
Secondly, the team played to expansive. The spaces between the players was too big. Putting pressure and chasing the opponent is harder this way and costs even more energy. And once you do have the ball, there are less options to find a team mate. We lost the ball constantly, after 2 or 3 touches.
Example 1: Marten de Roon pushed up while right winger Wijnaldum has no direct opponent and seems lost in space. Big hole behind De Roon, for Hateboer and Veltman to deal with…
Thirdly, the right flank was in disarray. It’s easy to criticize Hateboer. And I personally also think he is not good enough for the NT. I do believe Dumfries, or Karsdorp, or Tete or even Janmaat (when fit) are better options. Yes, he has great lungs and keeps on going, but his crosses are mediocre, his touch lets him down and his decision making isn’t great. Having said that, him being the weakest link, he wasn’t helped that well by his team mates. De Roon and Wijnaldum should have made sure he was never playing against two opponents. Wijnaldum in particular was highly disappointing. But Joel Veltman also didn’t play like De Ligt or De Vrij would. He’s too much on the back foot, tracking back and never really pushing forward.
So Hateboer became the weak link, but this was partly the fault of the team (incl Lodeweges!).
And again. Van de Beek and wijnaldum both cover one Italian, while Frenkie is pressing high up, with gaps behind him.
Some players (Memphis!) want to overcompensate the fact we’re not playing well by making it all even more complicated. Half volleys on goal from 35 meters out, bicycle kicks and more. In these situations, one needs to play simple.
And then this… A gap between defense and midfield. Frenkie pushing up, Van de Beek and Wijnaldum lost. The Italians can find a free man all the time.
Italy could have had 4 goals, in all honesty. Their finishing wasn’t up to speed (they also are not fully fit) and Holland really had very little to show for itself in the final third. A shot by Wijnaldum in the first half. An attempt by Van de Beek in the second half. Some weaker attempts by Memphis and Promes. Luuk de Jong came to play for Ake (cramp) in the final minutes of the game and had one decent heading opportunity, but overall it was piss poor.
This happened all the time. Huge space on the right. Look at the pairings. Wijnaldum or De Roon should be covering.
Frenkie de Jong did what he could, Memphis tried a lot, Van Dijk kept his head up and kept on commanding the troops, but it was just not good enough. We looked leggy, we kept the pitch to wide, we didn’t help each other out… we never deserved anything from this game.
This is the goal. Four Dutch against three Italians. Ake is marking his man. Van Dijk should have control. But it will go horribly wrong.
So now what?
Well, in terms of standing in this group: we still have control. We need to win games, and the away game vs Italy is a game we probably have to win, but I think we can. There is nothing lost yet. And make no mistake, it is going to be worth our while to perform well in this Nations League as it could help us get a ticket for the World Cup.
In terms of playing style and players: I think we need to keep on going on this road, but we need to learn from this match and learn fast! We need to stay more compact, have less space between the midfielders and the different lines. We also need players to stand up, and read the game and take charge. Lastly, I think it is safe to say we do need Propper, De Ligt, Blind, De Vrij, Malen, Stengs, Danjuma, Karsdorp, and maybe even Berghuis.
In terms of coach: I think this will probably urge the KNVB to sign a big name heavy duty coach. Lodeweges is probably a great assistant. But doesn’t seem to have the fire in his belly and the confidence to take charge because it didn’t take me more than 10 minutes to see what the problem was.
I also believe another – more experienced – head coach wouldn’t have started the same eleven (well…ten). Louis van Gaal or Henk Ten Cate. One of those two seems needed to guide and lead this still young team. My preference is Ten Cate (it was the same three years ago, when Hans van Breukelen fukced up so gloriously).
My ratings (I got some flak for the generous ratings for the Poland game, but I took into account the fact it was the first match and we ended up winning, so….).
Cillesen – 7 – was there when he needed to be, his passing was ok, not great, and I don’t think he was at fault for the Italy goal
Ake – 6 – couldn’t bring a lot moving forward, looked leggy
Van Dijk – 5 – Not sure where he was when that cross came in.
Veltman – 4 – Very sloppy, gave balls away needlessly, wayward passing and letting Hateboer drown at times
Hateboer – 5 – Got himself in trouble, had one major howler, but fixed it again, worked hard but was left in the lurge
Frenkie – 6- worked hard, tried hard, but struggled
Marten de Roon – 4 – didn’t protect his Atalanta team mate Hateboer
Donny van de Beek – 3 – almost invisible, kept the field to long, tactical positioning was weak, had 1 good chance
Gini Wijnaldum – 3 – Wasted as right winger, hardly any threat, lost in space between players and leaving Hateboer to drown
Memphis – 3- Tried hard, seemed to be very motivated but lots of wrong decisions and not enough team play
Quincy Promes – 3 – Almost invisible, sloppy in possession, weak in his positioning
Steven Bergwijn – 4 – Could affect the game, had a through ball for Frenkie but overcooked it
Luuk de Jong – 6 – Did what Luuk de Jong does
Dwight Lodeweges – 5 – he probably had a good plan but the execution sucked and he wasn’t able to change it around. Was late with subs and should have started fresher legs
I can’t play the high lights of this game. So lets look at a game that got us all cheering!