Tense Oranje finds flow

As per usual, the expectations of the Dutch fans were high. We all want to cheer away the Czech and recent Norwegian blues, while clearly the Covid-restrictions also add to the level of expecations of the crowd. While the race fanatics get to enjoy the first F1 race in Zandvoort with idol Verstappen in 36 years or so on Sunday, the football crowd was desperate to cheer the Oranje players again.

Three matches in 7 days, a new coaching staff, differences in fitness levels and hardly any preparation time. That is what was on the table and like in Norway, Oranje started the match slow, deliberate, a bit cautious and lacking a bit of confidence too, maybe?

Van Gaal had been outspoken in his criticism of the team in the Norway game and will have used that criticism to push a couple of the key players in his plans (Memphis, Gakpo, Berghuis). Van Gaal also had to deal with some forced changes, as Van Dijk’s fitness levels (and hand injury) stopped him from playing, just like Daley Blind was ruled out due to suspension.

So two new players in the back four. Nathan Ake the logical choice at LCB and Malacia the logical choice for LB. The Feyenoord talent did make his debut but Van Gaal opted for De Ligt as LCB next to De Vrij.

Van Gaal decided to give Berghuis another chance (as the coach – like me- analysed that it was Timber who impeded Berghuis in playing his best football), this time with Dumfries behind him. Gakpo started again on the left with Memphis in the centre.

The first 20 minutes or so were dramatic, so much so that I feared for another debacle. Berghuis tripping over the ball, Wijnaldum invisible, Memphis wasteful, and hardly any zip or pace on the ball. The only players seemingly escaping that slow start were De Vrij, Frenkie de Jong and Klaassen.

It was the Ajax midfielder’s header on the cross bar that changed things, and got some confidence and some oomph in the team. Van Gaal needed to get vocal making sure Berghuis and Gakpo would not drop too deep and it was up to vice-captain Memphis to make the difference with his incredible work rate.

So after 20 minutes of slowly passing the ball square, Oranje found its spring in its step, and the answer was: Memphis and his runs.

Like Norway, Montenegro tried to keep the field compact with a 4-5-1 when Oranje had the ball. An easy defensive tactics, but usually not something teams can sustain over 90 minutes. Van Gaal knew his team needed to be patient and play the opponent dizzy over a longer period. A bit like handball: defenders around the circle and the attackers passing the ball around to find a gap.

Memphis played the perfect #9 role, by coming into midfield when possible to become an extra midfielder and to make runs in behind, stretching the opponent. He wouldn’t get great service in the first half, but his movement created space for Klaassen, Frenkie and Gakpo.

Look at this moment here (see above). Frenkie has possession and Montenegro moves into their shape. Memphis darts away, deep, and stretches the opponent. Both central defenders have to react.

You can see below how that opened up spaces in the midfield and via Malacia, the ball does end up with Memphis who plays in Gakpo, who in turn see Klaassen using the space created by Depay, who binds three opponents!

This is the task Frenkie, Wijnaldum and Memphis have against these types of opponents. It’s important to pull the opponent in, as these three will be seen as the danger men in orange, but by their movement, others will get more freedom.

Klaassen and Wijnaldum both switch up their play, from ball in feet to ball deep in behind. Van Gaal was adamant about this: “Find the right timing for your sprints!”. Below two situations, where he comes deep first, pulls a midfielder out of position. Then he moves deeper and forces the defenders to choose.

In the second photo, you can see Berghuis again launching Wijnaldum in the half space, which resulted in a goal against Norway. This time, Gakpo gets an opportunity to shoot.

These moments are typical for the attacking play we need. Runs in behind by the big players, to create space for themselves or for their mates. Look at the first goal here.

Memphis starts his run in midfield and gets the through pass from Gakpo. Klaassen has forced the defence back so the Barca striker is never off side. Gakpo’s pass is perfect and Memphis has the skill to trick the defender: penalty! And Memphis then gives a master class in penalty-taking.

The 2-0 was also the creation of the three attackers. Both Berghuis and Gakpo are instructed to stay wide and stretch the opponent. Memphis lures the right back by being active in the half space. De Jong uses his short passes to suffocate the space and allow room for Gakpo. That results in an attempt on goal by Berghuis, which gets blocked, and in the rebound a great goal by Memphis, who can’t stop scoring it seems.

The third goal also started with Memphis. Gakpo and Berghuis keep their width, Wijnaldum makes his run into the box and after some short passing, Memphis finds Berghuis, who finds skipper Gini with a nifty little through-ball and the 3-0 was there.

The more Montenegro got tired (and the more stalwarts they lost), the more space for Oranje. Look at the 4-0. It’s Memphis and Malacia who now dominate that space on the left and Gakpo makes his way to the striker position. Malacia got his assist, Gakpo demonstrating his glorious kicking technique and it’s 4-0.

Earlier in the second half, Malacia almost also had an assist for Montenegro. It ended well though for the debutant, who saw experienced De Vrij do the same almost, allowing Bijlow to claim the headlines with his highly composed control of that situation. Don’t go to ground, just wait what the player wants to do and deal with it.

The 4-0 was a symbolic goal. It showed the class of this new Oranje. Leader Memphis working his butt off, youngster Malacia and Gakpo with quick feet and a high work rate of all involved.

This is the Oranje Van Gaal wants to see: build up patiently, use the width of the park, and have a high intensity off the ball with lots of runs and movement.

This seems to be the right step up to that next game (Turkey). All that went well can be improved upon, while all we gave away were the result of lazy defending. Something Van Gaal will most definitely stamp out of this squad.

Wijnaldum: “We needed this. The Euro exit is still fresh and we couldn’t really dazzle versus Norway, so the pressure was on. We had to do it tonight and after a slow start, we managed to do it.”

Van Gaal: “I don’t like standing at the touchline to yell commands to my players. I believe you haven’t done your job if you need to do this all the time. But I did step up to instruct Gakpo and Berghuis to push up more, stay wide and high and allow space for others to use. I think that went well. Our first 20 minutes were abysmal, but our last 70 minutes were pretty good.”

My player ratings:

Justin Bijlow – 7.5

Calm and collected. Bijlow’s distribution was fine and when he was needed he did what he had to do. Plays with the swagger of a 28 year old. I think we have our new goalie for the next 10 years.

Tyrell Malacia – 7

Played as if he has been playing in the NT for years. Needing too many fouls in the beginning, but smart in his positioning and using his low centre of gravity in any aerial duels. Showed his quick feet and more than decent cross and worked tirelessly. Good for him to get an assist. He will battle it out with Wijndal and maybe Jetro Willems on the left.

Mathijs de Ligt – 6

Strong enough and good enough, but showing some rust in his passing and did time wrong a number of times, almost repeating his clumsy defending versus the Czechs at one point. But he did play in a role that he doesn’t prefer, and the future is obviously his.

Stefan de Vrij – 6

Played strong, was focused and alert. Tried to dribble in and support midfield where possible but also had a weak moment at the back with a short back pass putting Bijlow into trouble.

Denzel Dumfries – 6,5

Played great for a player who just had Covid and hasn’t played since the Euros. Defensively tricked once, in the first 20 minutes, otherwise a solid performance, although would be wise to play more simple and cross the ball in when he can. Got his usual chance at the far post again but needed a bigger shoe size.

Davy Klaassen – 7

Played to his strength and thanks to Memphis runs in behind, he was able to use his typical qualities more than against Norway. He did have a header on the bar and some close moments in the box but no cigar. A fine performance.

Frenkie de Jong – 7.5

Constantly prowling and hunting and scouting for openings. Strong on the ball, and in my view the player who added some oomph and pace to the game when after 20 minutes or so it was clear that the way Oranje was going was not going to cut it.

Gini Wijnaldum – 7

Added the runs to his game, made dirty yards and connected well with Berghuis on the right flank this time. Got his usual goal and was subbed by Van Gaal to keep him fresh for Turkey.

Cody Gakpo – 7.5

Cody needed some coaching initially re: his positioning but grew into the game and demonstrated his class at various times, whether it’s crossing, dribbling, pass and move or finishing. A glorious goal for him and boy did he enjoy it.

Memphis Depay – 8

Memphis led the line, Memphis gave the right example. He overcame a weak start and pushed himself to glory in this game. His penalty was a masterpiece and the Barca striker ran more than 11 kilometers for the team. Smart passing, some nice trickery for the fans and even an on-pitch selfie with a young fan. A mature performance.

Steven Berghuis – 7

Berghuis too needed some attention from the coach and after a horrid start grew into the game. He will always play his own game: passing with risk, trying to find the opening. I still feel he plays with the handbrake on as he had a couple of options to shoot himself. He created the Wijnaldum goal with a nifty flick and was involved in many attacks.

Steven Bergwijn – 7

Usually, a sub who has 20 minutes or so to play will not be able to impress much but Bergwijn had some amazing runs and great footwork (and a panna) to show the coach he truly is back. An amazing all round athlete, who can most likely play in the Memphis role, if need be.

Louis van Gaal – 7

Louis did what he needed to do. Logical tactics, logical player choices, logical substitutions.

It seems this will be Van Gaal’s system of choice, until he has more time to really work on the 5-3-2 or 3-4-3 system.

Wide wingers, a false #9, a dynamic runner on #10 and creative but ball-sure midfielders. He is right, we don’t have many wingers, but when you have Bergwijn, Malen, Gakpo, Berghuis, El Ghazi and Danjuma, you’re not in bad shape.

Memphis, Malen and Bergwijn can play the false 9. Luuk de Jong and Weghorst can act as pinch hitters when needed.

The dynamic #10 (as opposed to the playmaker #10 such as Bruno Fernandez) is also available in Klaassen, Van de Beek, Van Ginkel and Til, while Frenkie, Koopmeiners, Gravenberch and Propper can play in the creative deep playmaker role.

Tell my your thoughts!

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  1. The player surprised me the most was Berjwin.i was not following him..He was threatening in all aspects..fabulous,gave torid time for monetnegro…Danjuma is the guy to be called on emergency basis.He is the Roben we have,Gakpo can pull a Persie-sneijder combo..
    Danjuma,Malen,Berjwin,Depay,Gakpo, plus any one of Luuk/Weghorst/Lammers…
    Malacia was sweating looking so nervey at national anthem…it affected his earlier game…but he improved with time and had excellent game…He has something Blind and winjdal doesnt have…its Malacia should be our no1 left back with Jetro,Rensch(dextrafoot),Sinkgraven ….Its high time yo call Jetro williams and sinkgraven as we dont have a back up for Malacia..No one sees the blunders of Gini wijnaldum and De vrij…they are forgiven…while a 20 year old playing his first game under fire is getting screwed and looking doubtfully…winjdal didint do a S@$$t to make us qualify for EC2020 and He was crap at EC2020..

    1. You mention, sinkgraven, when Bakker has dethrone him from first choice LB at Leverkusen.

      Like I said Malacia will need to prove himself more defensively vs above average teams. Offensively he ticks all the boxs but thats not just it. Willems was in the same boat as well but defensively a liability when going into duals.

      1. Despite in height of 1.68m Malacia is strong like Patrice evra…he is incredibly fast…He is better defensivly than Blind,winjdal etc…i agree hei snot perfect,winjdal is not good at defense and offense…Blind lacks the speed and agilty to move up and down…Tyrell has outclassd both…Tyrell is better than Bakker for team flow…bakker tad stronger physically..

    2. Malacia wasn’t sweating from nerves at the anthem, buddy. They do a fierce warming up before the anthem and their bodies are warm and they all sweat. And who are you talking about when you say a 20 year old is being screwed. Please be specific.

      1. I saw Malacia so tensed,pressure at anthem…i clearly saw it on screen..He was reckless at challenges initially made blunder mistake this all proves that he was nervous…i dont blame him he is 20/21 AND THROWN IN TO fire ,such a critical match…He did excellent Job..Simplay we dont have better option than malacia now…so no point in blaming him..

  2. Im looking at the tight schedule of these qualifiers, there will be some tired leg out there vs Turkery given they rested their big players vs Lativa while van Gaal did not.I hope this doesnt come back to haunt him.

    1. Agree Van gaal didnt give rest…but now he has to rest Wijndnaldum,Berghuis,Blind compulsary…Koopmeiners is tall and physical and move Frenkie up front….
      Malacia—Virgil—-De vrij–Dumfries
      ———Bilow ——————
      Will beat the hell out of average Turkey team who owes to FDB..

  3. @ Jan,

    I Think you are very bias when it comes to Berguis. You gave hime a 7, are kidding me? Berguis have lost every single ball in this game. He should of been taken off and you gave him 7. HAHAHHA
    I guess you were watching a different game. I know we don’t have a lot of good players but i still don’t know why Van Gaal isn’t playing with Steven Bergwijn on the right wing. To give Berguis a 7 is crazy. This guy only deserve a 4 in my book.

    1. Re-watch the match. You are exaggerating or simply wrong :-). A player who is involved in goals, with an assist and doing what the coach wants him to do can not get a 4, but mate… give him a 4 :-). Doesn’t matter one thing.

  4. @Jan, Really nice analysis of the in game tactics. Might watch the game again just to focus on the runs and movement you mentioned. Thank you.

    If De Roon starts, that would be at the expense of Klaassen? Any thoughts or clues as to whether it will be Blind or Malacia at lb?

    1. @Yan, they needed an extra player for training. From FootballOranje.com:

      “The midfielder has impressed Louis van Gaal in training with the U21’s and he was rewarded with a place in the main Oranje squad’s practice on Sunday morning.

      Van Gaal needed an extra player to complete an exercise and decided to choose Timber, whose brother Jurrien was also present. The players who played against Montenegro on Saturday did recovery work in the gym.”

  5. @Jan, you are very generous to most of the Oranje players. I would deduct two points from Malacia and Berghuis. I am always very sensitive to any person who has relationships with AZ Alkmaar and Steven was great in my club but his performance in the last two games were so bad that I am surprised how LvG still keeps him in Oranje. The claim that Berghuis is the best right winger in the Netherlands shows the depth of the football crisis in the country…With respect to Malacia, the boy lacks power in the back, his clumsy tackles can easily lead to penalty or dangerous free kicks with more powerful teams. Yes, he is good offensively but his main job is defense and he has not been convincing in that term. I would still prefer to see Blind on that position against Turkey.

  6. Verdicts:

    Biljow- 6.5

    Didn’t have enough to do to warrant any kind of rating positive or otherwise. Was alert off his line to save de Vrij from calamity. Can’t wait to see how he fares against Turkey as he certainly will be tested.

    Dumfries- 7.5

    Made a difference getting back into the team. Van gaal needs to look no further especially as he is insistent on playing Berghuis on that side. His athleticism was most welcome.

    De Vrij- 6.5

    Thought he didn’t have the best of nights exemplified by his hurried back pass which nearly led to a goal. Otherwise solid.

    De ligt- 6.5

    Partnered well with de vrij. Wasn’t much of a threat in set-pieces(possibly service) but didn’t put a foot wrong defensively either.

    Malacia- 6

    Quite the game to throw a young player in. Grew into the game but his nerves surfaced at moments nearly culminating in a goal from a back pass. Defensively suspect and may have opened the door again for Blind(if it ever was closed)

    Wjilnaldum- 6

    I worry about Gini and his disappearing acts. He seem to do well when the team is doing well. Yesterday’s game was no exception. Still can’t think of a game where I feel he couldn’t do more.

    FDJ- 8.5

    Maestro indeed. Pull the strings and came ready to play. Can’t help but think what he could do a little further up. Sort of a hybrid winger/#10. Oranje star by a mile.

    Klaessen- 6.5

    A performance of this rate, and that of the Norway game against upcoming Turkey, and Klaessen would have possibly earned a spot in Qatar. Has an eye for goal, rugged and a technique not to be embarrassed of. Qualities de Roon will never boast of. And he had his chances.

    Berghuis- 5.5

    Berghuis’ play left a lot to be desired. Passes are short. Can’t really beat a man and has an annoying habit of losing balls in promising plays. Also grew into the game and got better as the team did. Can we call on him when the team is struggling?

    Depay- 8

    Had one of his better games and played without much fuss. With Depay, less is more. If only he can keep it simple(very simple) and not seem to be caught in ten different minds in every play.

    Gakpo- 7

    Kid has an eye for goal and his shot was absolutely unstoppable. Has a lot to learn(decision-making) but he is worth the time and investment. One for the future.


    Berjwin- 7

    Deserves a shot over Berghuis. Direct, strong and annoying in the little time he came on

    De Roon- 5

    He came. He saw. He ran around.

    Van gaal- 6

    Team played relatively well but lower score for insisting on Berghuis and de Roon

  7. Good rating! I think Dumfries is a little high, he is definitely an upgrade over Timber but there was no end result. There are two reasons for that: we play with no target man in the box most of the time and the play on right wing is easily predicted by the opponent due to Berghuis.

    1. Agreed. Dumfries was probably a 6/6.5 but still the best option on the right. Wish they had given Karsdop a chance before any monopoly on that right side.

  8. We played a lot better this game.

    Left wing is good now, especially with Depay drifting to the left often. Malacia is able to overlap with the winger allow Gakpo options to either release the ball for Malacia to run deep and cross in or Gakpo will run deep and receive the ball. Gakpo did have a very good game. The combination of Depay + Gakpo and Malacia cause multiple issues for the opponent.

    Right wing is better but not a lot. Dumfries is able to run deep and receive the ball, thus Berghuis can pass the ball to the center or release the ball for Dumfries. However, this is relative easy to predict. You can see multiple times that Montenegro players steal the ball from Berghuis when he move the ball the left side, they also always prepare to chase Dumfries when he run forward. Bergwijn show in his short time in the pitch that he regain his form. Bergwijn and Dumfries played together at PSV before and they clicked together better.

    Middle kinda work but not effective. Depay often move out of the center to allow space for the midfielders to run and finish. However, Wijnaldum and Klaassen do not use that space effectively. Klaassen hit the bar and did not put a shoot on target when Berghuis pass the ball to him in dangerous position. Do we have alternate options? Maybe FDJ can play attacking mid but against stronger team, who will hold the DM position? De Roon can not pass and for some reason, Teun Koopmeiners was never given any chance.

    Overall, i think the play is better now but the strength of the opponent is unknown. So the real test will be against Turkey.

  9. you just cant expect this squad, this team to go to the world cup. there has to be some more changes. Injury to Depay or Frenkie will be catastrophic for the team and there is a need a for good balance upfront even if it takes to bench Depay. this time around the players are there and transfers has been good as well. I also dont understand why coaches have been so stiff towards koopmeiners. he has been around since komen era, FDB and now Van Gaal but continues to be overlooked for starting spot with a alternate midfield options. he could have easily started vs Montenegro.

    1. @ Wilson that’s because the NT has always viewed any kind of change or shake-up as bad. I remember when we were struggling in qualifications many years ago and public was crying out for Sneijder and co to be integrated into the team. It was like pulling teeth. Right at the brink and with all to lose the NT relented. Sneijder started against Scotland and the rest as they say is history. NT have a culture of settling too quickly and that stubborn streak have cost us a lot of great players.

  10. Is so I think ( and hope) bergwijn will start

    The current bergwijn is a better one than last season . At least that’s the way I have seen since the last few games he starter for Spurs ( and that 20 min ) for oranje last time .

    Gakpo is good got potential but I don’t think he should be our starter right now . He meets to improve and get stronger a bit .

    Bergwijn is not oranje material . I don’t understand why Van gaal trust in him perhaps now there is really no one better and he can’t take the risk to give youngsters a chance . Maybe later after we get trough the qualifications first

    1. Who wont be agited seeing somebody else play when you have been training for it. Off course it demoralizes the persons spirit amd confidence level and in directly its goes to so the Jury dont not trust Ake and playing at City level is good enough. This is what you get from the selection choices.
      Then why you bloody call them up.

      I have nothing against De Ligt, but these are times to built the depth and not when somebody gets injured and then you start looking for backup choices.

      Does Ake has a solid grip at CB in NT, not yet, why because he doesnt get to play so why not build on it. He needs to play more at CB, and when the opportunity does arise, this happens”overwrite” I can guarantee you if Daley Blind wouldnt have being suspened, he would have got the nod ahead of De Ligt. So again its pretty much the jury and this is what they are cooking. So you have Blind who weak, mistake prone but can still get the nod, De ligt as well but Ake cant. This is what I can translate from this. When will this end man.

        1. Sorry to hear, Wilson, but it’s probably because you need to spend some more time on understanding team tactics. When you play Montenegro (1 striker) you don’t need two defensive CBs / man markers, and a holding mid.

          Every coach in Holland would play Daley Blind as CB replacement for Van Dijk. You need a CB with passing and build up capabilities. You don’t need a strong defender. I am an Ake fan, but it would be overkill.

          Ake hasn’t played much for City in recent weeks and for you know, Ake wasn’t impressive on training.

          Van Gaal picks the team he thinks will win the game. Van Gaal is not the type to select De Ligt because he likes him more. Or because De Ligt buys him wine. Or because De Ligt used to play for Ajax.


  11. Confirmed by NOS Sports broadcast on their Sunday night show: Steven Berghuis #1 in chances created over the two last games (which was 1,5 game for him).

    But… haters keep hating…

  12. Derek’s comments may have got lost in the previous posts. I will copy and paste here:

    “This blog is becoming so frustrating to be a part of. Every day it’s just the same people writing the same negative comments, starting them with things like “I’ve been saying this for years.” There’s nothing constructive, it’s just a bunch of people trying to prove they were right about certain topics.”

    “It’s just terribly depressing reading this blog nowadays (not the content, Jan, that’s always great), but the comments are awful.”

  13. This was my response:

    Thanks man. you have no idea how I appreciate this. It strikes me too that some people have nothing positive to say about the current players (they always want to find messiahs in lower teams or players who have not proven anything or have failed everywhere (Zivkovic, Diks). They never think to acknowledge a blog post. Most people don’t even comment on the posts I write, they go straight into their hate drivel (Kuyt, Berghuis, there is always someone they pick on) and they never really support the blog. They take take take and hardly ever give any “love”.

    The times I have considered burning the blog, because I do wonder: why do I do this?? I don’t use ads or silly things to make money out of this, it’s for the other fans, but there are more haters than fans… Thanks Derek…

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