Tag: Rene Meulensteen

The Dutch School – the ongoing debate

A topic that has been discussed here many times. And will be discussed many times too. In essence, that is what this blog is about, isn’t it? And under Van Marwijk’s reign, we debated this, as we all felt Bert’s way of playing – no matter how successful – was not paying hommage to the Clockwork Orange of yesteryear.

Bert taught Oranje to play business like. He brought grit to the team. Or better still: he brought “Team” to the team… Suddenly, egos of the likes of Van der Vaart, Van Persie, Sneijder, Robben were able to play together. And with destroyers like De Jong and professionals like Van Bronckhorst and Van Bommel, Bert was able to bring the winning ways back to Oranje. And truth be told, in the qualification series, we played attacking football too. Only at the World Cup, we got stuck in playing “German”…

Although I will never forget the quarter finals against Brazil, for sure. In what some will call a mediocre series of games, that was a real high point.

So, the Dutch school suffered under Van Marwijk. Left footed right wingers? Slow build up from the back? Limited Boulahrouz playing right back? Two holding mids?

But with good old LVG on deck, people could be fooled into thinking that Louis would bring the Dutch School back.

The players enjoyed putting a hungry mouse into Van Gaal’s underpants

But has he? Will he?

Profile descriptions? Robin van Persie can only play deep central striker? Nigel de Jong centrally against Andorra? Four defenders against Andorra?

Louis van Gaal, by the way, claims to be told by the Federation to play with one holding mid. “But, if we don’t get the results, I am supposed to adapt. And if you look at the Belgium game… We lost because we made too many personal mistakes. No system can prevent that.”

Van Gaal doesn’t forget the personal elements in this whole discussion. “I was able to play dominant football with Ajax in 1995, because my wingers (Overmars and Finidi) were able to play like midfielders if we lost possession, and like wingers if we had possession. If players lack that fitness, you can’t play like this.”

This was also the reason why Nigel de Jong, Rafa van der Vaart, Greg van der Wiel and Ibi Afellay were left out of the squad for Belgium. Van Gaal deemed them not fit enough.

Frank de Boer

Let’s see what Frank de Boer (Ajax), Ronald Koeman (Feyenoord), Gertjan Verbeek (AZ) and Rene Meulensteen (Manchester United) have to say about it.

Does Dutch Football still have a unique position in the world?

Koeman: “The Dutch school is very much alive. Dutch players are being developed really well and scouts from all over the world are scavenging on Dutch youth parks. Our way of thinking about football is pretty specific. We are pro-active, we don’t play what I call response-football. Look at Borussia Dortmund-Ajax for the CL recently. They have more quality on every position and probably twice the money Ajax has, but they allow Ajax the ball. At their own turf!”

De Boer: I was a typical example of a Dutch School defender. I was a left winger in the youth system and being transformed to defender. In our case, we have 60% ball possession per game, so defenders need to know what to do when they have the ball.Typical Dutch beliefs. Defenders need to be able to do more than defending.”

Gertjan Verbeek: “It’s genetics too. We are an adventurous and entrepreneurial people. It’s how we are. Loud mouths too. Have an opinion about everything. The only concern I have is the age at which top talents leave the country. Their development stops too early. Adam Maher is a top talent. But he still have years of learning to do. If he’d now decide to make a big money movie to – say – Benfica, he’d suddenly lose his development. Parents are being worked on by agents… It’s not a good development. Altidore told me. He left for Europe at a young age. Started in Spain. Couldn’t impress. Was loaned out to Turkey, to England. Didn’t work. When he doesn’t score, they sell him. They don’t analyse it, work with him… He told me that AZ is the first club that focuses on his strong points, his weak points… And then I hear from Bas Dost what he is going through at Wolfsburg. The first weeks he was sick every day from all the running and working. If Magath would work in Holland, at least five players would put their hands up and say: Coach! Why the hell are we doing this??? And then you better have a good story to tell…”

Always happy go lucky Gertjan Verbeek

Meulensteen: “As I’m working abroad, I have a different view. If you want to be unique, you need to be able to see it in the results too. Otherwise you can be unique by dressing up as clowns too. And the results of Dutch clubs in Europe are…non existent. The last success was 10 years ago. The results of the Dutch national team have shielded that a bit. We do have our own identity. We do develop lots of very creative players. Unique players. Robben, Van Persie, Sneijder, Van der Vaart and coming up a couple of wonderful youngsters too. But Holland now only develops great attacking players, while in the past Holland also delivered superb defenders: Krol, Suurbier, Israel, Hulshof, Mansveld, Spelbos, Jaap Stam, Rijkaard, De Boer, Koeman, Blind… Where are these guys??”

Is playing with one holding mid and a left footed left winger and a right footed right winger, is that the Dutch School?

De Boer: “No, for me it’s wanting the ball, wanting to dominate, wanting to attack. Whether you play 4-2-4 or 4-4-2 or 4-3-3… That depends on the players at hand. AC Milan played Dutch style football with 4-4-2. Wasn’t bad to look at. And Dutch teams and players have this naturally. We played AA Gent once, with Ajax and it’s was in Belgium. We were 0-1 up and they didn’t attack us. They didn’t press. Blind and I could pass the ball hundreds of times to each other, they simply didn’t put pressure on us at all. It’s culture, isn’t it? We had a Brazilian national team striker at Ajax once. Marcio Santos. Great player. Lovely bloke. But whenever we lost the ball, he’d track back. Without thinking. It took a long time to explain to him, that he needed to commence the forward pressure, immediately.”

Ronald Koeman couldn’t find another employer and had to settle for Feyenoord…

Koeman: “That is a system question and that depends totally on the material at hand. If you don’t have great wingers, but you have great midfielders, you adjust to these players at hand. They key objective is winning. The strategy then is: have the ball, dominate, attack. The tactics are depending on the players.”

Verbeek: “I think you need to find the right system allowing you to use your best quality players. I think it’s a disgrace that Huntelaar can’t play if Van Persie plays. No one in his right mind would put Huntelaar on the bench. It is ridiculous. It’s all about improvising and using what is at hand. Look at Michels in 1974, using Haan as defender. And knowing that his team would push up, wanting a goalie with great footballing skills. That is Dutch School. Or take Johan Cruyff, with this tactical prowess. Using Stanley Brard as left winger at Feyenoord instead of Vermeulen.Cruyff played central striker, but dropped to midfield to distribute the play and allow midfielders like Neeskens or a winger like Rep to penetrate that space… That is the Dutch school. Tactical smarts supported by technical brilliance.”

Meulensteen: “I think those “system debates” are utter bollocks. I heard that Van Persie can only play as the central striker? What an insult! It’s bullshit, and Van Persie proves that every week in Man United, creating as much as scoring. He can play everywhere! That is how we use him. He drifts to the wing, to midfield… That is not Dutch school but it’s being rigid. The system is supposed to serve your best players. If this system in Oranje doesn’t allow Huntelaar and Van Persie together in one team, than the system sucks.”

What is the future of the Dutch School?

De Boer: “We will never lose this mentality. The Dutch supporters simply won’t allow it. Do you think we get applause if we win a game after scoring 1-0 and then playing the game out? They’d throw chairs at us…”

Rene Meulensteen and his boss Sir Alex

Koeman: “I think it will only go better in the future. The financial limitations make that clubs will become more creative. The 1987 revolution Johan Cruyff started at Ajax, which resulted in Van Gaal’s success team in the early 90s was the result of financial stress. And at Feyenoord, great prospects come through, because there is no money to buy. Somehow, this is a wonderful stimulator.”

Verbeek: “Funny that Koeman should say this. They sell Vlaar and El Ahmadi and suddenly Feyenoord signs Pelle and Verhoek and some other mediocre midfielders while they could have allowed the youth to play more…. Hmmmm…. Funnily enough, some clubs make totally wrong decisions like this. I heard some clubs have scrapped the youth prospect team to save money. Wrong!! Now there is no platform for the ones close to the big team. Would I sign for such a club, as a talent? Of course not! Clubs need a long term strategy.”

Meulensteen: “The thing is, Holland has a lot of benefits over other countries. We have a flat country, so pretty good amateur fields for the youth. And the clubs are relatively close so the best talents will play each other often. This is different in for instance, France. The best talents of Marseille hardly ever play the top talents of Paris or Strassbourg. On the other hand, amateur clubs in Holland are folding. And the focus should change too… the youth, they dribble a lot while in the seniors, it is all pass and move. At Barcelona, Messi gets to dribble. Whenever. While Xavi, Iniesta and Pique are the only other ones who can dribble with the ball. The rest needs to pass constantly. This is law. We have the know-how in Holland to develop like this. We need to use the Wiel Coerver method in the youth and deploy the Johan Cruyff philosophy when they get older. Those are the two key visionaries Holland brought forth. Coerver and Cruyff. And both have been systematically ignored by the Dutch Football Federation.”

Willem van Hanegem, Wiel Coerver and Johan Cruyff

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Open Letter to the KNVB

Dear KNVB,

I am assuming you want our Dutch National Team to do really well…

That is the basis for this letter. If you don’t want this, please disregard.

I do believe good results by our national team can turned into euros, correct? Sponsor money? Trips? Merchandise? Ticket sales, etc?

And clearly, euros is what’s driving this. From what I understood, Mr Van Oostveen was quick to comment after our loss against Portugal that the financial ramifications for Oranje were tremendous.

So let’s put it all in perspective.

If Holland plays well, we gain standing. Opponents want to play us. And sponsors want us. If Holland plays according to the Dutch School ( you might have seen the Euros finals between Spain and Italy?), the Dutch football export product ( coaches, players, methods) will become more and more in demand.

Now, what is important is for you to accept responsibility for the fact that our football has deteriorated while a competitor has adopted our playing style and is kicking everybody’s arse.

You see, we had people like Michels, Cruyff, Van Hanegem introducing a new style of football.

We had the Gullits/Van Bastens/Rijkaards doing their magic in the 1980s, with true believers like Arrigo Sacchi following suit.

And Louis van Gaal and his Ajax and Ajax-crew ( Co Adriaanse, Blind, Mourinho, Frank de Boer) impressing even more in the 1990s.

We also had a tremendous coach like Wiel Coerver (winner of the UEFA Cup with Feyenoord) who developed a masterful method for skills-training and today one of his biggest followers is second in command at Man United (Rene Meulensteen). But like Johan Cruyff, Wiel Coerves was pushed out. “Too difficult to deal with”.

I can’t remember all the arguments and reasons you had for not allowing Johan Cruyff in the team manager’s role but it had to do with salary and the fact that Johan wanted to have his own staff… Man man, how pathetic and agricultural you guys were thinking back then. Look at today’s situation. No coach takes on a job without his own team or without at least 1 Mio euros as a yearly salary…

Shame on the KNVB, in other words!!

After Rijkaard, you gave the job to self-kicker and ego-centric Louis van Gaal. Who made a mess of things. Louis is a club coach. (And are you SERIOUSLY considering him AGAIN???).

You resorted back to easy-going Dick Advocaat, who went two steps back in time with his ugly result-football. But he didn’t bring the results. Neither did he in 1994, by the way, so why he was given the job in 2002…. no one knows.

Young, unproven Marco van Basten got the job in 2006 and he was allowed to insult and character-assassinate Seedorf, Davids, Van Nistelrooy and Van Bommel. He even told the media himself, recently: “I was much too young for that job. I didn’t know what happened to me.”

Poor Marco. Poor players. Poor fans. Poor Oranje.

Again, shame on you!

And now Bert had the job for 4 years. The results were great until the Euros 2012. But the quality of football deteriorated. The Dutch School of football evaporated. And slowly, the only aspects keeping this team together ( spirit, team, mentality, joy, desire, will) disappeared as well and as a result we were humiliated Ireland style.

Bert had nothing to fall back on. He hadn’t tested younger players. He didn’t have a Plan B ( which should have been Plan A in the first place: 4-3-3) and he simply failed.

Now the KNVB will have to make a smart move. As there is a lot at stake.

Not just “winning or losing”. But re-building our football culture.

Which means, defining our style of play. The characteristics of our football. And making sure we play like this with all our rep teams. From the 14 year olds to the pros.

Think in terms of: forward pressing, dominance, ball possession, pass & move, depth and width in possession, tight without possession, wingers and full backs using the space up front, defender with speed and build-up qualities, etc etc…

So we need a team manager for the big Oranje, that adheres to this playing style. Selects players for it.

Shouldn’t be too hard, as most players if not all can play in a 4-3-3 or 3-4-3 system.

And works on getting these lads to play together as a unit. If we identify two or three young defenders that might have “it”, work with them. Talk to their club coaches. Make a development plan. Invite them for sessions.

So, our friend the team manager needs to focus on tactics, on mentality, attitude and desire.

And what he does, fits in perfectly within the football culture of the KNVB. In terms of practice material, supporting functions such as physiology, nutrition, video analysis and other supporting facilities.

I think the KNVB needs a “culture management team” of three of four wise men who protect the Dutch football culture. They oversee (like a Board of Directors) the management team: Team Coordinator ( the current Hans Jorritsma role), National Coach and the Head youth teams manager.

These wise men aren’t too hard to pick: I’d go for Cruyff, Van Hanegem (both 1974), Rijkaard, Wouters or Gullit (1988) and Frank de Boer or Philip Cocu (1998).

And instead of taking trips to South America, Asia, Australia in the off season, you forget about those $$ and you allow the coach to work on his team for a day or 10 in the peace and quiet of Hoenderloo. To build and create a winning team.

It is your job to select the best man for the challenge. Or best men for the challenges. It’s also your job to create the ideal circumstances for these men top operate in.

So, do your job!

Orange regards,

Jan of Jan’s Bleeding Orange Blog!

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