Eredivisie previews: Heerenveen and FC Groningen
Sc Heerenveen – It’s 2012 all over again
Sc Heerenveen have a history of excellent attackers and it was only two years ago when the Frisian club had arguably the most exciting attack in the Eredivisie, boasting Oussama Assaidi, Bas Dost and Luciano Narsingh. That summer, the trio left, leaving a huge gap to fill for the northern club. On top of that, a fairly successful coach in Ron Jans had to be replaced. Fast-forward two years and history has repeated itself. This time it is about Rajiv van la Parra, Alfred Finnbogason (who topped the goal charts with 29 league strikes) and Bilal Basacikoglu. In another parallel to two years ago, a new coach has been installed in Dwight Lodeweges, who has replaced Marco van Basten. The Dutch legend did an admirable job in difficult circumstances and has moved to AZ. Canadian-born Lodeweges is not a man to pity, but he has one hell of a job on his hands. With uncertainty surrounding that other standout performer in attack last season Hakim Ziyech, Lodeweges will be praying de Friezen can keep hold of the 21-year-old, who was the fulcrum of the Heerenveen midfield. FC Twente are sniffing around as they eye a top-class replacement for Dusan Tadic.
But it is not all doom and gloom for Heerenveen. Reliable Swedish goalie Kristof Nordtfeldt is set to stay and Viktor Noring has been brought in to provide fierce competition for the no. 1 spot. Furthermore, defensive prospects such as Jens-Jurn Streutker and Doke Schmidt have ripened at other clubs and German striker Mark Uth is back after an impressive loan spell at Heracles Almelo. The arrival of experienced forces such as Jordy Buijs and Danish striker Thomas Dalgaard somewhat offsets the departure of Christian Kum, Arnold Kruiswijk and Ramon Zomer. Lodeweges will hope that exciting talents Joost van Aken, Daley Sinkgraven and Luciano Slagveer will continue their development and if Yanic Wildschut, once a promising winger, can rediscover the form he showed during his spell at VVV-Venlo two years ago. Young Norwegian midfielder Morten Thorsby has also been tipped to make an impact.
All in all, Heerenveen are up for another season of hope rather than expectation. Last season they finished six, only to be knocked out by AZ in the Europa League play-offs. With the current crop a similar finishing spot would be an achievement.
Player to watch: Daley Sinkgraven
A son of former professional footballer Harry Sinkgraven, Daley is a talent to be reckoned with. At 18 he made his first strides in the first team and quickly made himself irreplaceable. Now at 19, the midfielder that stands out for his silky passing and terrific vision seems on to bigger things. Sinkgraven himself said he’d like to join Ajax and then move on to Barcelona, a good season at Heerenveen would well fit in for him on his way to that bigger podium.
FC Groningen – Something to build on
After seven seasons without European competition football, last season saw the ‘Trots van het Noorden’ finally re-claiming a place to win European fame again after finishing seventh and winning the Europa League play-offs. But the adventure was lived short, as a shock 1-2 aggregate defeat to Aberdeen was enough to end any aspirations on foreign soil. What remains is the domestic season and despite (as traditional over the last few years) the departure of a couple of key players in goalkeeper Marco Bizot (Racing Genk), who was sensational for the green and whites last year and 17 year old wonderkid Richairo Zivkovic (Ajax) who was their league top goalscorer last season, there is enough left to expect another enthralling season for the club from the university city.
Big question marks still surround the situation around left winger Filip Kostic and central midfielder Tjaronn Chery and while their stay would make a lot of difference, FC Groningen have done good business so far. Zivkovic has been replaced by Danny Hoesen, an intelligent striker still waiting for his breakthrough but one that has showed a lot of promise. Marco Bizot has been replaced by Sergio Padt, an equally gifted goalkeeper but one that needs to build confidence before he can perform at a similar level. Meanwhile the back has been strengthened with the signing of former academy player Martijn van der Laan and with the signing of Go Ahead Eagles winger Jarchinio Antonia much needed pace has been brought to the forward line. With the defence and midfield intact FC Groningen could be up for another good season. FC Groningen look sturdy to say the least. Hans Hateboer has impressed at right back last season, Botteghin was an impressive physical presence in the centre with Johan Kappelhof making up for his lack of pace. Lorenzo Burnet has had a renaissance at left back and the duo of Rasmus Lindgren and Maikel Kieftenbeld will be looking to mop up the dirt as Tjaronn Chery is the player to make it all happen as their playmaker. With FC Groningen still rumoured to be looking to strengthen and an upwards turn in their turnover this could promise to be a good season for the Green-White army.
Player to watch: Tjaronn Chery
Already 26, but still not near the prime of his career it seems, the creative midfielder has grown into last season and by the signs of pre-season has picked up that form into the new one. A nifty left-footed midfielder with a great shot and eye for a pass could well become one of the sensational players in the Eredivisie 2014/15. Already singled out by Ajax manager Frank de Boer last season as one of Groningen’s interesting players Chery will be eager to show that he is one of the more talented players in the league next season. If FC Groningen can keep hold of him they just might reap the benefits.