Eredivisie Round 6: Five things we haven’t learned
1) If Finnbogason can ever be stopped – Peter McVitie
After a fantastic maiden season in the Eredivisie in which the Heerenveen frontman finished the league’s third top goalscorer with 24 goals, Alfred Finnbogason has started the current campaign in similar remarkable form. The Icelandic striker has netted eight goals in just five games for Marco van Basten’s men and it seems he will never stop. Even on Sunday’s derby match against Groningen, the player seemed to be doing everything right apart from finding the net. The runs were spot on, the control was inch perfect, the turns were smooth, but the shots were always off target. As the afternoon wore on, it seemed this wouldn’t be Finnbogason’s day. The 24-year-old, however, wasn’t giving up. He kept plodding along, making himself available and looking to receive a pass and unleash a shot towards Marco Bizot’s goal. It was eventually made easy for him when Bizot gave away a penalty to the hosts which Finnbogason coolly converted to make it 3-2 to his team.
That wasn’t enough for the player, though, and he kept looking for that next goal which would kill the game off and secure the three points for the Frisians. That search came to an end in the 90th minute. The striker collected the ball on the left side and sauntered towards goal. He evaded the admittedly laughable challenge of Johan Kappelhof with ease and advanced in on Bizot. The goal was inevitable, but few would have predicted such a finish. With the goalkeeper caught terrified, motionless, time stood still for Finnbogason who was able to tuck it nicely through the legs of Bizot and over the line.
It was cheeky. It was silky. It was classic Finnbogason. Even when he looks like he’ll never score, he does. It’s just too bad he’ll be gone in January….
2) If NEC will ever hold onto a lead – Peter McVitie
It’s all getting a bit ridiculous for NEC now. Following three straight defeats, they finally went ahead in a league game when they opened up a two-goal lead on RKC back in matchday four. Those two penalties by Michael Higdon were soon cancelled out through second-half goals from Sander Duits and Aurélien Joachim.
Fast forward a few weeks and NEC lead 3-2 against Rotterdam giants Feyenoord through Samuel Stefanik’s second goal on his debut for the team. There are just 13 minutes left in the game. NEC, it seems, are on their way to picking up their first victory of the new season, which will lift them up from the bottom of the table. The final whistle approaches. The three points are secure, right?
Of course not. This is football….. in the Netherlands….in Nijmegen. It’s never that straightforward. And, fittingly, the dreams of the home fans in the Goffertstadion were shattered. Feyenoord leftback Bruno Martins Indi popped up in the 90th minute to drive a knife through the hearts of every single one of them, the players and new coach Anton Janssen by scoring from close range to make it 3-3. Another lead squandered, another week without victory. Things are getting grim for NEC.
3) If Groningen will ever grasp the concept of defending – Michiel Jongsma
When Erwin van de Looi was appointed manager of FC Groningen, the sole promise he made was ‘more entertaining football’. The Groningen faithful (and the neutrals) have seen more entertaining football alright. Last season, FC Groningen scored only 36 league goals in 34 matches and conceded 53. This season, FC Groningen have already scored 13 and conceded an equal amount of goals in 6 games. That’s a shift from less than 2.5 goals per match to over 4. More isn’t always better though, because the defense of FC Groningen look more prone to error than last season, when they had the imperious Virgil van Dijk bossing the back line. Against SC Heerenveen, a comfortable looking 0-1 in a 10 vs 10 contest (Letschert for FC Groningen and Mitchell Dijks for SC Heerenveen both got their second red card of the young seas0n) before a clumsy header from right back Stefano Magnasco landed on the foot of Yanic Wildschut, equalizing for Heerenveen out of nothing. The second goal conceded saw goalkeeper Marco Bizot make an half-arsed attempt to catch the ball from a corner, the third one was an unnecessary penalty given away.
While in the end it’s harsh to put the victory of SC Heerenveen solely down to the failure of the FC Groningen defense (we’re just way too much in love with Alfred ‘Bogie’ Finnbogason here to take away any glory from any goal he scores), it is quite clear that FC Groningen could’ve had a better start to the season if the boys in defense would’ve tried to focus a bit harder on their defending duties.
4) Why Ajax bought Mike van der Hoorn – Peter McVitie
Many an eyebrow was raised this summer when Ajax bought 20-year-old defender Mike van der Hoorn from FC Utrecht for a fee of €3.8 million. The youngster is a talented defender, of course, but Ajax coach Frank de Boer previously passed up on superior Groningen defender Virgil van Dijk in order to promote from within. Months later, however, he opted to purchase the player from Utrecht for a fee much greater than that which Celtic paid for Van Dijk.
Van der Hoorn was purchased as Toby Alderweireld’s replacement. Now that the Belgian centre-back has left to join Atletico Madrid, one would assume that the new recruit would be immediately brought into the Ajax first-team. That, however, has not been the case. The young defender is apparently not up to the standard of the Ajax starting XI as of yet and must continue to develop in the background before he can make the step up. Instead, it is Stefano Denswil who has partnered Niklas Moisander in the centre of defence in each of the two league games following the sale of Alderweireld. The 20-year-old defender, a product of the Ajax youth system, has fulfilled the void in the heart of the Ajax backline with aplomb.
In Saturday’s win over league leaders PEC Zwolle, a last minute challenge and a goalline clearance summed up another excellent defensive performance from the defender. It looks like it will be Denswil who will line up in the Champions League match against Barcelona this week. If his strong performances continue, it will take something special for Van der Hoorn to replace him and the longer Van der Hoorn’s omission from the starting XI goes on, the more times it will be asked – why did Ajax buy him?
5) The score of Vitesse – ADO Den Haag – Michiel Jongsma
Ha! Because it wasn’t played of course! The field in Gelredome was in such a dire state that the game was called off and at the moment of writing, the new date hasn’t been set yet. On a more serious note: With the ‘everyone can beat anyone’ mentality roaming through the Eredivisie, it’s hard to make any conclusions on contenders at both ends of the table when games aren’t played yet. A loss for ADO Den Haag would have left them in one of the relegation spots, a win would see them warm against the midtable sides. A Vitesse victory would lead to them being seen as dark horses for the title and manager Peter Bosz would have been lauded for a good start to the competition. A loss may have seen them drop into the bottom half of the table. Such is both the fickle nature of football and the fluent state of play at this early stage of the season, with no team laying down the kind of marker Standard have in Belgium. League leaders are PEC Zwolle and they have already dropped five points. Of the more ‘realistic’ title challengers, PSV has done best til now, with 12 points out of 18 and Cocu’s men are the only unbeaten side left in the Eredivisie. Will the clubs keep tumbling over each other or will the regular top teams emerge as soon as their teams have gelled? PEC Zwolle manager Ron Jans stated this weekend that his team had showed ‘they were top of the league with a reason’. His remark reveals that the so-called smaller clubs smell blood and that PSV and Ajax can expect some fierce competition in search of that Eredivisie title.