It is always interesting to see how football fans respond to things going on, versus what experienced (ex-) players or coaches say. We had years of discussion about Kuyt, Daley Blind, Nigel de Jong and Heitinga, to name a few and now recently Berghuis is also on the list.
For me, it’s about how fans watch football and how the pros watch football. Spoiler: the pros use statistics nowadays to support their decisions.
I posted an analysis of Daley Blind some months ago, explaining using stats why Blind is actually in the top 10 of Europe (!) in a certain stat and this makes him quite unique.
Looking at Berghuis, we can do the same. Because surely, coaches like Van Gaal, Danny Blind, Erik ten Hag and Alfred Schreuder would not play Berghuis if they watched football they some of us here do.
Steven Berghuis was not very remarkable in his performance against Senegal. But important, he was.
In the 79th minute, the number 11 sign comes up and #20 is going to replace him. Berghuis was seemingly invisible and made way for Koopmeiners, whom he had beaten for the starting spot next to Frenkie.
Data analysis shows that the criticism on Berghuis is not valid. Berghuis only played 79 minutes, whereas the other starters who were not subbed played 98 minutes. Almost 20 minutes more. But no other Oranje player was able to play more successful passes into the final third of the opponent.
Berghuis (and Daley Blind) both played 14 balls into the attacking zone successfully.
Frenkie de Jong came after them with 11 successful passes. Then Dumfries, with 7, followed by Bergwijn (6), De Ligt and Ake (both 5) and Virgil van Dijk a mere single successful pass.
Senegal plays it smart versus Holland. They used Gueye, their defensive mid, high up the pitch to make life hard for Frenkie. The Dutch build up was made harder due to the fact that behind Gueye, two holding mids played quite narrow.
Oranje analysed the game plan patiently and after 15 minutes of probing, it’s Berghuis who breaks the spell. He’s constantly scanning the pitch and when the ball is played into him in the mid circle, he already knows what is happening behind him and he turns and curls the ball in one time to the left flank where Daley Blind has escaped Senegal’s block.
Just before the break, there were two moves again started by Berghuis, resulting in flowing attacks. First, he floats to the left side of the pitch where he finds space for a pin point pass to Bergwijn.
The Ajax forward drops the ball to Frenkie who immediately plays in to Vincent Janssen, but just too heavy, so it doesn’t result in an actual chance for the Antwerp man.
Next up, there is a one-two combination with Frenkie allowing Berghuis space in between the lines. There will be four orange jerseys in the box but no cigar, as Dumfries doesn’t manage to cross the ball in good enough.
In the second half, Berghuis role is diminished a bit, as these stats show.
First half: 33 touches, 25 successful passes, 92.5% pass accuracy
Second half: 16 touches, 12 successful passes, 80% pass accuracy
This is the result of a tactical change. The invisible Gakpo needs support so Berghuis is moved higher up the pitch, by Van Gaal. The Ajax midfielder becomes a second “10” next to Gakpo in what would become a 4-2-2-2 system. In this way, Gakpo doesn’t need to battle two midfielders, and Berghuis is sacrificed to support the PSV youngster.
Still Berghuis has the best pass in the game which is the result of a wicked mind. He sees right back Sabaly isolated against two players. Berghuis recognises the opportunity and has the skills to execute. Memphis bounces the ball back and the whole left flank opens up for Daley Blind. Berghuis plays a firm ball into space for Blind to pursue. His cross resulted in a half chance for Dumfries who can’t control the ball.
The lanky and lightfooted Berghuis will never be the midfield duel monster that a Pogba or Rodri or Rice is, but with his specific qualities in his left foot, he will always be the go to man, if you want to penetrate an opponent with forward passing. This is why he and Blind are almost beyond criticism with Van Gaal. And the stats simply support this.
This is the dats profile of Berghuis on FBref. Progressive passing and touches are actions in which the ball is played at least 11 yards forward, vis a vis the previous six passes.
Thanks to VI Pro