Tag: Steven Berghuis

Steven Berghuis: European Top!

Trust me, I didn’t write this post after Ajax – Besiktas. I started this post a day before. But Berghuis’ goal and assist do carry weight of course, considering today’s topic.

This is also not to keep on hammering home a point. This article was in Voetbal International this weekend and it seems only fair to bring this to your attention. As I know this blog has a number of Berghuis fans and Berghuis haters.

Only a month ago, Davy Klaassen position as Ajax’ #10 seemed not open for debate. Mr 1-0, as he is called, seemed to cruise in that role and last season he got 12 goals and 2 assists for his club, as midfielder.

And yes, Kudus and Berghuis could also play the #10 role, but Klaassen wouldn’t be easy to replace.

Berghuis was signed as a right winger, as alternative for Antony. And friend and foe knew, that was going to be a hell of a competition for Berghuis.

In the 3rd Eredivisie match vs Vitesse, Berghuis was even benched and he saw the Brazilian mercurial winger explode, scoring 3 assists.

Ten Hag did use Berghuis in that match, but as sub for the #10 position. Ten Hag: “I said it before, we have to start the competition while we are still trying to gel the team together. We have several players for the #10 role but they’re all a bit different in their execution. I will keep on trying things out when we can, because we need to be as flexible as possible. This particular move worked well and I might try this more often. But it takes time for players to get used to each others moves and patterns. But good players always find a way to play together.”

After the international break, with Berghuis in a key role as a winger, Klaassen returned with a slight injury and the former Feyenoord captain was placed in the #10 role again. Against PEC Zwolle, he had two assists. In the Sporing Lisbon game he scored his first goal and created several chances. Against Cambuur he scored and assisted and versus Fortuna Sittard he scored as well while creating two goals against FC Groningen.

And thus, the discussion started: does Klaassen deserve a protected role? Ten Hag: “No one has a protected role in our team. Davy is a starter, yes, but we have many. We simply look at form and fitness. But we also check what the match needs and what the opponents’ strengths and weaknesses are.” Is Ten Hag able to keep all his players happy? “That is the job of a coach. You don’t control that, 100% but you have to manage it anyway. The team is always more important than the individual. Every player needs to realise this.”

The Berghuis stats are imposing. He was involved in 8 goals in the Eredivisie this season. The only one bettering him is team mate and captain Dusan Tadic, who was involved 9 times. Bryan Linssen (Feyenoord) and Seb Haller are third.  Berghuis created 16 chances for team mates. Tadic, Veerman (Heerenveen), Sinisterra (Feyenoord), Wittek (Vitesse) and Gakpo (PSV) are the only ones doing better than Berghuis.

But when we look at his previous seasons in the Eredivisie, Berghuis appears to be a guarantee for hoals. Since he came back from Watford in 2016, there was no player in Holland with more goals (72) than him. Linssen has 64 goals and Tadic has 57 since that time. The latter played less game though. There is also no player with more assists than Berghuis: 54 in 156 matches, followed by Ziyech and Tadic.

Lets look at Europe now. The big Five competitions and the Dutch Eredivisie. Since the 2016/17 season, Thomas Muller is the master assist king: 76 assists in 161 matches. Kevin de Bruyne is second with 68 assists in 155 games, and Messi has 64 in 174 games. Berghuis is fourth, with 54 in 156 matches. Fifth on the list is Papu Gomez (Atalanta and Sevilla) with 50 assists in 174 games.


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Steven Berghuis shines

Co Adriaanse will claim to have discovered the lanky right winger. He made his debut for FC Twente under the success coach but was considered too lithe, too soft, too easy to push off the ball. He won his first trophy there (the Johan Cruyff shield). He had a loan spell at VVV and moved to AZ Alkmaar.

He played 3 seasons in Alkmaar, finishing third in his third season and qualified for the Europa League. He also won the National Cup with AZ. He wasn’t a mainstay in the team and had good games and invisibility games… But he did catch my eye with his incredible passing range. There was no doubt this kid saw the game and had the ability to make his feet do what his eyes/mind saw.

Watford signed the winger for 6,5 euros, even though Watford played without wingers. He played nine EPL matches for Watford. In his second season, Feyenoord got him on loan where he was an immediate success and he won the Eredivisie title with Feyenoord. The Rotterdam based club signed him permanently for the same amount Watford paid for him.

He developed as a goal scorer, at Feyenoord in his first seasons for Twente and VVV, he’d score 1 goal every 8 games. At AZ he scored 11 times in 22 games (50%). At Watford, he never got a goal and at Feyenoord he scored again in half the games he played (over 4 seasons), every second game a goal. And in this season he almost scored 1:1. Every game a goal. For a right winger, that is exceptional.

So much so, that AS Roma is keen to sign him during the winter break. But more on that in a later post.

Steven Berghuis found his way into the Dutch squad and now in the starting line up thanks to some amazing games, very consistently, for Feyenoord, his work ethics and mentality during Oranje practices and – of course – the minutes he made against Mexico and Bosnia Herzegovina (as a sub).

In the away game vs Bosnia Herzegovina, De Boer left Berghuis out of the starting eleven. He impressed against Mexico, but De Boer decided to bypass him. When Steven entered the game in the second half, he created a number of opportunities and could have decided the match for us.

The next game, away vs Italy, was surely the game in which Berghuis would start! De Boer admitted after Bosnia away, that Berghuis was causing him some headaches. But… no Berghuis vs Italy! This time, the tactical system Frank de Boer wanted to deploy simply didn’t have a spot for him.

The 28 year old returning to his club and had a mediocre couple of games in Rotterdam, much to the chagrin of coach Advocaat: “Nice. Berghuis get ignored with the NT and I have to deal with this for weeks now. He’s not happy.”

The Spain friendly was upon us and De Boer said that he’d play 4-3-3 with Berghuis starting as the right winger. And, De Boer said: the plan is to use the same forward 6 against Bosnia! This meant Berghuis was going to get two opportunities to convince the coach.

The Three Faces of Steven Berghuis

On the ball: Berghuis started this season really well and is leading the goal scorers ranking. He also had 4 assists in the Eredivisie. He again is the MVP in Rotterdam. He is important in and around the box, because of his creativity is also an important playmaker. His mates love to pass the ball to him, as he hardly ever loses it. The skipper loves to have the ball wherever he can, in order to set up the attack, race forward, and if possible receive the ball again to score. Only Dusan Tadic creates more chances from open play. Berghuis is second and AZ sensation Calvin Stengs comes third.

The number of passes he distributes is another indicator of his importance for Feyenoord.

PlayerChances created from open
1. Dusan Tadic (Ajax)24237
2. Steven Berghuis (Feyenoord)16381
3. Calvin Stengs (AZ)14170

At Feyenoord, Berghuis is the Alpha Male. At Oranje, that is Memphis Depay. The first pass is always meant for Memphis. If he is marked, the next one in line is usually Berghuis. In the first half vs Spain, Berghuis is regularly able to create space and time for his team maters, by playing pinpoint passes to the left flank, looking for Memphis or Wijndal. See below

Running in behind

The only negative of playing Memphis, Luuk de Jong and Berghuis is their lack of depth, their lack of running in behind. Both Memphis and the former Watford man love to come into the ball. They like to make the play, create the opening. And Luuk de Jong is a striker who needs to take advantage from his heading capabilities in the box. Not his speed.

It was refreshing to see that De Boer was able to implore to Berghuis to go deep and make dirty yards and stretch the game. He did so against Mexico, and now vs Spain, he did it again, like he did vs Bosnia at home.

The only downside is that in some cases, his team mates overlook him – focusing on Memphis first. And in some cases, the ball did come but Berghuis failed to score.

Here is a situation where we fail to benefit from his runs. Georginho Wijnaldum drives the ball forward. Berghuis crosses from the right into the central area, coming from Garcia’s shoulder. The defender doesn’t see the Feyenoord captain. Wijnaldum omits to send the pass deep in the stride of Berghuis but opts for the safe route: Memphis.

Now the 36th minute. A new moment, but comparable. Luuk de Jong made space for Berghuis who is coming inside (number 7). The Spanish CBs Garcia and Martinez step forward while Berghuis avoids the off side trap and is ready to be launched in front of goal. He offers Frenkie de Jong a chance for a deep pass. Frenkie sees it but overcooks the pass and the goalie can clear.

Or this one. Frenkie de Jong, a bit under pressure. He can play the pass to Berghuis. Not an easy one, but someone like the Barca midfielder should be able to do it. Instead he opts for a square pass to Luuk de Jong.

Statistically, Berghuis had zero attempts on goal in that first half. But could have had a hattrick too.

Disciplined without possession

Coaches think in couples and triangles. Hateboer played three Oranje games in a row and has demonstrated to be a great force moving forward, keeps in running and always positive. But defensively, vulnerable. Against Spain, Berghuis is up against Gaya and Reguilon, two offensive players. He is tested repeatedly but never lets off. He is really good at containing their threat. There needn’t be any doubts about his ability to help out the defenders.

Against Spain, he could have had a hattrick, if only his team mates would have serviced him properly.

Against Bosnia, he could have had a goal and two assists (one assist stands, the other one was ruled illegal). With a bit of luck, he would have 4 goals and 2 assists. Not bad.

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