This is where we proceed with the Big Louis van Gaal piece, from De Voetbaltrainer.
Still no pictures (other than the main one) and no way to augment fonts :-(.
So, after all those staffing steps, it was time to select the first squad?
LVG: “No. I first went and looked at our regular hotel. The one where we have been putting up our camp for years now (Oranje Huis ter Duin in Noordwijk). I felt the players were dispersed too much. Across several floors and all that. I want the whole squad together on the same floor. I also wanted a central room on that floor for the medical staff. And I wanted a bigger room for the players to hang in. You know, for entertainment. Or to just sit and talk and be sociable. Players love to play table tennis or air hockey or pool or play cards. Now, after the renovations, we find approx 15 players there at all times. In the past, players went to their rooms to play games or play cards… Call it a player home. I also heard that the players got agitated with the internet speed for their online gaming. So we went to the hotel management and told them about their wishes and they promptly executed all of it. We needed fast internet for our video analysis too, by the way. Not just for gaming, but in general. Webstreaming, etc.”
Ok, so then finally the first squqd for the Belgium game?
“Yes, and it was not hard. Bruno Martins Indi played very strong in Feyenoord’s CL qualification game against Kiev and I was happy to select him. I took the core of Bert’s group and Danny came up with most of the other youngsters. We didn’t spend too much time on this. Was quite easy, actually. We spend more time on the planning of our first get together. Every step, I thought through. What will I say? When will I say it. Where will I say it, etc. What is the best tone of voice. How do I create the right mood? When do I talk and when do I let my assistants take center stage. Which order of individual talks. How do we pick the new skipper. How do I manage the media attention? Which video clips do I want to show them?”
Can you tell us the program?
“We knew there were some issues after the Euros. The KNVB had issues they wanted clarity on, so did I and obviously the players had their own issues. Some of the relationships had turned sour. I normally would have started with a group talk. But in this case I didn’t. I wanted to ask the question: Why do players keep coming back when called up to Oranje, even after such an abysmal Euros tournament? The answer: because they all want to play at the highest level. They want to win trophies at the highest level. So, for me, it was logical with fantastic videos from the last 40 years. All the top notch games, the classic moments…. Then we followed this up with a video in which I presented my football vision, which is not unlike the way Barcelona plays. This is the hardest style of playing and most people say “you can do that at club level, not at national team level”. I don’t agree. We used to play like this. Spain plays like this. In Holland, we do think a bit differently about attractive football. We do not like all the extensive passing and passing that Spain does. We want to do business. Score goals. Be more direct. So we will not “copy” Spain, that is not my intention. We want to play Dutch. And we can. I explained what I want to do with our tactics and I explained the move back to 4-3-3. After that, I sent the players to their rooms. To rest. I wanted them to have it all sink in. Lying on their beds and visualising what this would mean for them.”
And then the group talk?
“No, then we did a media-genic training session, led by Blind and Kluivert. Lots of fun, lots of rondos, lots of playing with the ball. Good for the media. The media got some time to question the players and they were keen to hear about all the problems. But the players couldn’t say more than “we spoke about the football vision and we watched videos and put our objectives out there”. Then we had dinner and after dinner, we had the group talk. I didn’t want all of the players in it. Only the ones who had played at the Euros. I’m sure I would get all the insights from that group and it would have been manageable to do it with 23 players. So, with the fact that some players were missing, we ended up doing this with 13 players.”
So, what room did you use for it?
“A cosy room. Like a cigar bar, but without the cigars. Open fire, soft chairs, lights a bit dimmed. We were in half a circle. No one could escape it. Everyone could see the other ones in the eye. And I had a table at the head of the circle for myself and my notes. I started with video clips, again. The documentary about the Oranje 1996 campaign, under Hiddink. Lots of trouble. And 2 years later, he almost wins the World Cup with the same players. And funnily enough, Pat Kluivert was in that doco and also in the room with us. Which helped. Then we looked at the tremendous WC2010 campaign. And I had an interview with Wesley Sneijder, right before the 2012 Euros, in which he says “With this squad, we need to go for gold”. And then I said: How is it possible that this squad got sent home with zero points? I also asked them if they wanted us in the room (the staff- Jan) and I’m happy to say that they were fine with us there. We talked for two hours. After the talk, I handed out my manifest. The new rules. I have added a couple of rules but also deleted some of my predecessor. I supported our new rules with video images again. One rule is “no more headphones when you are in a public area”. In the bus? Fine. When you walk from bus to dressing room, not fine. It doesn’t look good, is my opinion. After all of that, we asked Wesley Sneijder and Dirk Kuyt to come and talk individually, to discuss the captaincy. They both accepted their roles after talking about it and we concluded Day 1.”
On to Day 2…
“We woke up at 9.15 am. That is standard. I don’t like different schedules. I don’t want players to have to look on pieces of paper all the time. We also have the matra: “slow down, take it easy, haste is not good”. That second day we had two individual meetings. One with Robin van Persie, as he wouldn’t start against Belgium and one with Arjen Robben, as he would have to play on the left, and not on the right. I figured those two could have been intense and difficult meetings but they were both very positive. I explained my motives and they accepted it. Both players can talk very intelligently about football, so they were both very pleasant talks.”
And then you do something extraordinary. You are the first team manager to rotate intensively between the two games in a double match weekend. Andorra and Romania. Totally different squads.
“Well, if you consider that both games will be different, you can utilise different types of players. Huntelaar is a different striker than Van Persie. Huntelaar is the best killer in the box. Van Persie is the better football player, who can also create. You can look at all positions and utilise the best player for that game. Some players have more skills in a narrow space, others do better with space ahead of them. I can explain all my decisions to the group and they seem to accept my motives. And I am very clear. And I am also sharp at training. If I tell a player I pick him for a reason and at training he doesn’t prove to the squad that I was right in my decision, I have a go at him. I say “I picked you because you hardly ever lose possession and now you start giving the ball away?”. I coach very personally. Up close and personal. In their face. I try to reach inside of them.”
But are you motivating or criticising?
“Everything I do and say is to motivate. To make them better. More aware. Every time I see the players, I give them an evaluation moment. I tell them where they stand, in my book. And so do Patrick and Danny. I need to make them better. Or I need to make sure they perform better. And I tell them: I am giving you tools to become a better player. It’s not personal. I am not angry or negative. I see that there is room for improvement. I explain all players how I want to use them. Last time, Gertjan Verbeek of AZ was annoyed that we told Adam Maher we see him as a number 10. In Verbeek’s system, Maher plays right midfield. So what? Verbeek has different players at his disposal and has a different vision. I say it like I see it. In our midfield, we have one more static defensive midfielder, who is the anchor, we have a more penetrating player who can go from box to box and we have a creative shadow striker. I see Maher as that player. Verbeek uses his midfield differently.”
But what if Alex Ferguson decides to use Van Persie as a leftwinger? Will you then do the same?
“It depends of course, but theoretically: yes. If Robin would play a whole season in that role, we’d have to put him in the left winger category and he would have to compete with the Arjen Robbens of this world. But…it’s silly speculation. Which I normally don’t engage in. I leave that to the media.”