Eredivisie Preview: Title contenders and outsiders
Three consecutive titles, a remarkably smooth transfer summer with no major losses but two major signings in Bojan and Mike van der Hoorn, one of Europe’s most talented managers agreeing to stay for another four years, what could possibly go wrong for Ajax this season? Not a lot it seems. Teams around them have been severely weakened apart from Feyenoord, who don’t look strong enough yet to mount a serious title challenge. Coming off an unbeaten run of 14 games last season and finally having striker Kolbeinn Sigthorsson fit, things are looking rosy for the Amsterdammers. Overconfidence is never good, but confidence is definitely warranted for Frank de Boer and his men, who are finally looking to play a part in the Champions League too this season.
BeNeFoot prediction: 1st
‘Overhaul’ is probably the best word for what happened in Eindhoven. Seven starters left, 40 million euros came in, only a small amount was spent and voila, there was the new PSV team, impressing against Zulte Waregem under new promising manager Phillip Cocu. One thing that looks clear in pre-season: This side is way more balanced than the team of Advocaat last year. Defense has been tightened with loanee goalkeeper Jeroen Zoet returning to his parent club, Rekik and Bruma have been brought in together with right back Arias. The midfield looks smashing with Schaars and Hiljemark covering the ground behind Maher with the possibility of bringing in Wijnaldum at 10 and dropping Maher a bit deeper for even more football. Attack is one big bulk of talent, with Memphis Depay coming in from the left and Bakkali doing his bit on the right. Matavz looks to lead the line but has fierce competition in Locadia. The team is supremely talented and will give Ajax a hard time defending their title, but the lack of experience is likely to cost them in the end.
BeNeFoot prediction: 2nd
When talking wine or whisky, the ripening process is often highly valued as well as pouring the product from the same barrel. From that perspective, Feyenoord are getting riper every season without too many mutations and the luck of having a splendid academy feeding the first team. However, it’s not only coming of age that determines quality and that begs the big question surrounding this squad. Do they have enough to mature into a title winning side? The total dependance on Graziano Pelle when it comes to scoring goals is worrying and it’s something Ronald Koeman is looking to address. For now, there doesn’t seem to be a solution but to pray for the Italian striker to stay fit and keep form. If Feyenoord can get one or two wingers in, they could be in position to put a strong run together, but in the end, it looks like third is the best they can hope for.
Becoming tenth and losing your two standout players isn’t exactly the greatest aftermath of the old and not the greatest prelude for a new season ever. But coming off of a great cup campaign in which they won the KNVB Beker over PSV and with manager Verbeek using the transfer funds coming in for Altidore (Sunderland) and Maher (PSV) well, AZ look more solid and quite exciting this term. The defense has improved immensely with Wuytens and Gouweleeuw and the signing of Gudelj of NAC is nothing short of inspirational.
Altidore’s departure was already anticipated last winter with the signing of Aron Johansson and Johansson looks a very good striker indeed. Maarten Martens will be looking to take up the reigns as AZ playmaker once again after a year of misery and injuries and with Vitesse, FC Utrecht and FC Twente all significantly weakened, AZ look good to improve on last season.
BeNeFoot prediction: 4th
For the opponents of Vitesse, it’s like ‘the axis of evil’ is removed. With the dynamic duo of Wilfried Bony (Swansea) and Marco van Ginkel (Chelsea) gone, Vitesse lose an astonishing 39 goals. Vitesse wasn’t the most fun to watch last season but with Fred Rutten gone and Peter Bosz in, Vitesse are looking to be a whole lot more exciting this term. Midfield general Theo Janssen has already spoken out positively about the new manager, saying that the whole team is playing 10 metres further up the pitch and is finally looking to dominate games. With Ibarra and Kakuta ensuring creativitiy on the flanks and Jonathan Reis carrying the burden of both succeeding Wilfried Bony and finally fulfilling his own promise, Vitesse could well be a potent side and indeed a very enjoyable team to watch. Peter Bosz showed at Heracles he wasn’t compromising to the strength of the opponent and with a stronger squad, this train of thought could well make Vitesse a very strong side again.
BeNeFoot prediction: 5th
From a title contender and a potential mainstay major club, FC Twente have bled quality and turned into a team challenging for Europe again. When you produce quality players that are in demand over the borders as well, you need a very good scouting system and stability in the managerial aspect and both have been missing the last couple of years. This season, Michel Jansen will be at the head of the team, but he is mainly considered the talking head of his assistant Alfred Schreuder, FC Twente’s proposed manager for next season but who still doesn’t have the qualifications to become a head coach. Leroy Fer and Nacer Chadli have been sold while central defender Douglas left on a free and FC Twente haven’t strengthened the squad spectacularly with the money received. Dico Koppers has been brought in from Ajax to provide competition at left back and the same goes at the right for Cuco Martina of RKC Waalwijk. In midfield, a lot is expected from Feyenoord/ Arsenal youth product Kyle Ebecilio. Maybe a year of relative rest and a lack of expectation can help FC Twente re-establish themselves and with players as Dusan Tadic, Felipe Gutierrez and the still promising Luc Castaignos, there still is plenty of room for improvement.
BeNeFoot prediction: 6th