The season has ended… Most of the decisions are in. Yes, the play offs for European Football and Promotion/Relegation are still on, but the key decisions are in: Ajax wins the double (and had one leg in the CL finals as well of course), and NAC gets relegated.
We will congratulate Ajax here on a sensational season! A season that made us all drool. Not just us Dutchies, but football fans from across the planet fell in love with this Ajax team!
They won matches, they won trophies, they outplayed the bigger guns (Benfica, Bayern, Real Madrid, Juve, Spurs) and were so close to playing the CL finals! And all of this with great football.
So, expect more posts on Ajax and Oranje in the coming month!!
Interviews with Ten Hag, Overmars, analysis of their games, the Ajax future, etc.
Expect more on the Nations League too, of course.
But despite Ajax’ successes and my inbred support for Feyenoord, this posts needs to give some deserved credit to PSV Eindhoven!
It’s not my club. But this season they really impressed and Ajax coach Ten Hag did praise them, as they kept Ajax sharp (and vice versa) throughout the season.
Because we tend to forget that PSV had its complete technical management replaced, this last summer. Marcel Brands left for Everton. Cocu went on his Turkish
dream nightmare job and the youth academy coach left as well.
WK 2010 reunion, with from left to right: Mark van Bommel (standing), Arjen Robben, Technical Manager John de Jong, Nigel de Jong (unrelated), Wes Sneijder and Bert van Marwijk
John de Jong (former PSV midfielder) took over from Brands while Mark van Bommel was promoted from the youth system (PSV2) to the first team.
And the headstrong and outspoken Van Bommel left his mark immediately.
And credit where credit is due! He put his team out there. He instilled his principles into the team. And he started winning games like no tomorrow.
On the first day of the season, Ajax dropped points (Heracles) while PSV won. The two points lead was there all the way until only a couple of weeks ago!
And PSV didn’t dazzle. PSV did win some games in a “fortunate manner”. And they were bumped out of Europe in the CL group stages.
But lets look at at that more closely.
Van Bommel instilled a more modern and dynamic playing style into the team. “I want my teams to be the boss. That doesn’t mean we need the ball all the time, it also doesn’t mean we want to be playing some fantasy football or be attacking all the time. It means we determine what is going on, also without the ball.”
The personality of Mark van Bommel made its way into the team and with some strong signings, he did squeeze the best of out his – also young – team.
Van Bommel and John de Jong as players… the latter had his career cut short due to injuries…
I could even argue that Van Bommel did a better job than Ten Hag. But I won’t.
So Van Bommel wanted his team to press higher up the park and have more grit, more fight and more of a killer mentality. Where Cocu tried to adopt a more Dutch football style (and with a lot of Barcelona DNA which never really came of), Van Bommel added some German and Italian elements to this PSV.
Jeroen Zoet is a capable goalie. Not world class, but definitely top for the Eredivisie. Schwaab and Viergever are vulnerable and limited centre backs. But they did show what focus and determination and communication can do. Schwaab is German and brings that solid and focused approach. Viergever is mainly experienced and an obedient soldier. Nothing flash.
But the full backs compensated in spades. These two made the difference. Angelino is quickly becoming an A team player for Spain. While Denzel Dumfries is already consider Oranje’s best right back. Both players have assists in their locker, both players love bombing forward and can create and score goals (Dumfries more so than Angelino, but the Spaniard has a gifted left and a good partnership with Luuk de Jong).
Denzel Dumfries… From Sparta via Heerenveen and PSV to the top?
Van Bommel learned from his father in law Bert van Marwijk and used two holding mids in his 4-2-3-1 set up. Initially, Hendrix and Rosario took the job but throughout the second half of the season, Van Bommel needed more and started to change the team around. Many criticaster will tell you that was the start of PSV undoing but Van Bommel will know better.
Rosario deserves a mention. The kid came from Ajax, via Almere City of AGOVV or something. “Not good enough for Ajax” although it probably was due to his behaviour and his dad’s behaviour.
But Rosario is a rare player. So young, yet so disciplined, so astute tactically and such a wonderful passer of the game. He would have been more effective in the Ajax team, I do think, but he was a joy to watch in his first real season as a starter.
Jorit Hendrix is a solid club player. With some outstanding moments, but something is lacking with him. He’s too average for my liking. He’s like Ten Hag was, as a player. He’s not quick enough, not tough enough, not tall enough, not technical enough, doesn’t score enough, etc etc.
Which is the only true criticism Van Bommel probably listened to. The PSV midfield didn’t score enough goals! Hendrix maybe 1? Rosario literally zero goals in the Eredivisie. Not good enough. Vilhena scored 7, Toornstra scored 8, Schone scored 5… you want your midfielders to score… Criticism that applies to Frenkie de Jong too, but he creates a tremendous number of chances and criticism Jordy Clasie gets as well.
The #10 in PSV is a problem and Mark solved it eventually by putting Luuk de Jong there. That happened in the period of the season where PSV would end up losing the title, but still, it somewhat worked.
Mexican Gutierez wasn’t good enough (Van Bommel: “The pace is still too high for him”) and Pereiro simply doesn’t seem to be consistent enough. A truly gifted lad, but not dominant enough.
With Ihatarren, PSV has a gem for that role. And Mark tried him on the #10 spot and the youngster made his debut at 16 years old. But can’t carry PSV yet.
So with Malen as the #9, Lozano and Bergwijn on the flanks PSV tried it with target man Luuk de Jong as #10. It did work, but simply not good enough.
Luuk de Jong did win the golden boot, shared with Tadic, and had a very strong season but I do think the captain needs to lead the line… The #10 role is hopefully a temporary one.
Cody Gakpo and Ihattaren: PSV’s future?
Ramselaar realised that his game is over at PSV. Along with Adam Maher, another prospect that didn’t really enjoy his time at PSV. Gutierez might well be the next one…
Lozano had a good start this season but somehow the Mexican doesn’t seem to be consistent. He picks up a lot of yellows and reds for petulant behaviour, diving and at times vile tackles. He seems to be playing for Lozano and seems to be wanting to make his mark and leave to a bigger club.
Bergwijn had a break through season. Scoring goals, using his explosive runs, creating goals and he made his way into the Oranje squad.
But the last months, he seemed to slow down. Not enjoying his game, maybe? Or…getting ready for a big move to his old stomping ground at Ajax?
Anyway, PSV deserves credit and Van Bommel deserves credit for the next wave of talented youngsters coming through. In the olden days, Sparta and Feyenoord would be the harbingers, alongside Ajax… Today, it’s PSV and AZ along side the Sons of Gods developing and keeping talent.
Potential new signing from Germany…
Ihatarren, Gakpo, Salinec, Malen, Rosario…all lads who played under Mark in the B-team and are making their way into the first team… Gakpo reminds me of Beckham, Ihatarren of Afellay, Salinec is a young Van Bommel and Malen and Rosaria, well…you know enough after seeing them play this season.
Van Bommel might be on hitlists in Europe already (AC Milan, Bayern) while numerous players will be scouted too (Angelino, Pereiro, Luuk de Jong, Lozano, Zoet)…
So who knows where PSV will be next season, but they definitely contributed to Ajax’ success (and Ten Hag rightfully thanks PSV) and they gave us some exciting new talents to watch!
Next season, we actually might see a new exciting Dutch talent coming in from a Bundesliga club: Arjen Robben… He doesn’t want to go to China, the sand pit or the US. He needs his medical team close and he wants to be close to his family… He also doesn’t want to compete for 6th spot, so it seems he is exclaiming quite loudly “PSV!!” but we’ll need to wait and see…