Eredivisie round 8: Five things we haven’t learned
Will the De Toekomst graduates rescue Ajax again? – Peter McVitie
Completely devoid of creativity and defensive stability, Ajax’s disastrous performances following the sale of Christian Eriksen and Toby Alderweireld has left many to believe their Eredivisie dominance is about to come to an end. However, it looks like once again Ajax’s production and nurturing of youth has given them fighting chance of recovering from the departure of their two most important assets.
While summer recruit Mike van der Hoorn, who cost a whopping €3.8 million, is still not of the required level to slot into the back line of the reigning champions, it is Ajax’s homegrown centre-back Stefano Denswil who has been utilised alongside Niklas Moisander. The 20-year-old has been with the Amsterdam side since he was eight-years-old and is blossoming into a very strong young defender. While Frank de Boer’s side have been leaking goals as of late, there are reasons to be cheerful. The Denswil – Moisander partnership is still fresh but could develop into something similar to that which the Finn shared with Alderweireld.
Ajax have also been lacking immensely in forward areas due to the only source of creativity and imagination being shipped off to London, but it looks like there are some special young talents ready to step in to compensate for this void. Praised by De Boer for his excellent performances in the Eerste Divisie with Jong Ajax, young winger Lesley de Sa was given his first league start with the club in Saturday’s 6-0 win over Go Ahead Eagles. With his speed and skill, he was a constant threat down the right side and chipped in with an assist and a goal. It probably won’t be his last start for the club as Bojan could be out for some time with his hamstring injury and it seems De Sa will be the one to take up that spot. This could even work out to be beneficial for Ajax as the Barcelona loanee is not a winger and tends to narrow the play, while De Sa has Ajax DNA in him and suits a system to which width is key.
Meanwhile, Lucas Andersen and Davy Klaassen are two more players breaking into the first-team. Andersen, who played over 40 league games for Aalborg BK before joining Ajax as a 17-year-old, is a very talented left winger and has impressed immensely with Jong Ajax recently. Klaassen is a central player who, with Viktor Fischer, was the heart and soul of the Under 19 team. He made his first appearance for the senior team in November 2011, coming off the bench against NEC and scoring just a minute later. More was expected of him the following season and he made two appearances in the first three weeks but then a terrible groin strain kept him out of action for the remainder of the season, halting a very important stage in his development. Now the 20-year-old is back and, after some strong appearances with the reserves, he is among the first-team and came off the bench a few minutes before Andersen.
Andersen is generally a left winger, but can play on the right, this opens up the opportunity for De Boer to experiment a bit more with the side. There is always the possibility to see him used on the flank with his compatriot, Fischer, moved into the middle. This boosts the options to fill the void left by Eriksen.
There is room for experimentation and development in the Ajax squad as these young players move up to boost the team. However, it could take time and it’s one thing to impress against Go Ahead Eagles, but the true extent of the talent will be tested when they meet bigger teams such as PSV, Feyenoord, Vitesse, Twente and AZ.
Can breaking up a happy marriage lead to two happy marriages? – Michiel Jongsma
When a team is as much fun as Heracles Almelo was last season you just hope that the man who constructed the side, Peter Bosz, and the club will remain together for a long, long time. The exquisite taste of Heracles Almelo when it came to picking their partners had been proven before by the choice for rugged manager Gert-Jan Verbeek (more on him later) and with Peter Bosz they had another gem of a manager who was able to entertain the Almelo crowd even though the budget of the club is minimal. Heracles scored loads of goals and conceded a lot too so it is safe to say that the black and white striped ‘Heraclieden’ got value for their money with appointing Bosz. On his turn, Peter Bosz had a torrid time as a technical director at Feyenoord before taking up the management job in the cosy and small village in the East of the Netherlands. To say Peter Bosz became a more relaxed man is an understatement and where his period at Feyenoord had tainted his reputation Heracles proved quite the recovery room.
But as in way too many marriages, one is comfortable with another direction than the other and Peter Bosz had ambitions. So when Vitesse came knocking, Bosz knew it was time to go. There were many doubts on if Heracles could find themselves another decent manager and if Peter Bosz was able to clean up his tactics in defense. As mentioned, Heracles conceded a lot of goals (71) and that was all fine when Bosz was at a smaller club but Vitesse has title ambitions. Meanwhile, Heracle needed to clean up their act too, as they were dismantled attacking wise, selling over 40 of their 58 goals over the course of last season.
Two months in and both seem fairly comfortable. Bosz can go top with Vitesse if they win their postponed fixture against ADO Den Haag this Wednesday and only three teams have conceded less goals so far. Meanwhile, Heracles are safe in midtable and after conceding over two goals per game on average last season, they are now on a tighter 1.5. Both teams seem to improve and it seems all parties are happy. For now. Can a good thing spark two good things?
Is it smart to fire a winning manager? (Are AZ repairing the roof when the sun is shining?) – Peter McVitie
The morning after seeing his side beat Eredivisie superpower PSV and climbing to fourth place in the league, AZ coach Gertjan Verbeek was fired. It came as a huge surprise to many. The coach had guided the Alkmaar club to success in the KNVB Beker (Dutch Cup) only four months ago and the current campaign was shaping up to be a very positive one. The board, though, had other ideas and decided to fire him, insisting there was a “lack of chemistry” between the coach and his players. It seems several players didn’t like his management style, which caused concerns for the board and justified the dismissal of the coach after a long review and much consideration.
For AZ, this seems more of a precautionary sacking. Taking actions before the wheels fall off, meaning the next manager can keep driving the team forward, as opposed to having to completely turn around the team. However, it’s a very dangerous road to go down. In acting based on the complaints of the players, the board have set a precedent of handing the power of the dressing room over to the players.
It will be interesting to see how AZ do from here on in. Verbeek’s style may not have been popular, but it seemed to be working. After finishing tenth in the league last season, they want to push up and finish fourth or fifth. If the new coach comes in and can’t replicate the 51-year-old’s success then AZ’s dismissal of the coach could prove to be the stupidest thing they could have done.
What is RKC’s way out? – Peter McVitie
Erwin Koeman’s team struggled towards the end of last season and came close to dropping into the relegation playoff spots before saving themselves in the final weeks and it looks like this season is going to be similar for the Waalwijk team. After eight weeks, RKC have only five points and have lost each of the last four matches, in which they have conceded 14 goals (20 in all eight games). Of the 11 goal they have scored all season, four came in one game, meaning they have been as flat in attack as they are weak in defence, while in the middle, they have no fight or urgency about them.
The 4-1 defeat to Heracles on Saturday, which followed a hammering of the same scoreline to Groningen, was particularly embarrassing and worrying. RKC created little and struggled throughout the match. With games against PSV, Ajax, Heerenveen and Feyenoord coming up in the next six games, RKC could slip further in the next few weeks unless they experience a minor miracle.
While Aureliem Joachim, Sander Duits, Michael Lemy and Romeo Castelen are all decent players, there really isn’t much more to RKC, which gives Koeman many reasons to worry.
How many title contenders are there? – Michiel Jongsma
It’s like they are all messing with us. Eight games in and all teams have at least dropped seven points already. PSV follow a convincing 4-0 win over Ajax up with a 2-1 loss at AZ, who in their turn lost 3-0 at NAC last week. Ajax were, based on their first half against Go Ahead Eagles, ready for their first relegation in their history (according to Peter McVitie), but the second half saw them win 6-0 winners comfortably. FC Twente beat FC Groningen 5 – 0 and were very impressive this week, but had a three game streak without a win earlier this season and Feyenoord had their worst start to the season ever only to find themselves racking up 13 points from their last 5 games. Meanwhile, sc Heerenveen don’t look all that, but with Finnbogason they have one of the most exciting strikers in Europe in their ranks. As things stand, there is only a six point gap between the league leaders FC Twente and number 15 Go Ahead Eagles. In comparison, Arsenal have a six point gap with Aston Villa, who are 9th in the Premier League and in Italy, Fiorentina (5th) are seven points behind first placed Roma. In Spain and Germany, being six points behind Barcelona or Borussia Dortmund would earn you a place in the Champions League preliminaries. Some might say it is a sign of strength of the competition, but we know better. At the moment, it is impossible to see who will be the real title contenders as all teams have a hint of mediocrity about them. It does add to the excitement so we’d better enjoy it while it lasts.