Eredivisie week 4: Five things we haven’t learned this week

As ever (yes, we know this ‘ever’ is only for the fourth week running), we bring you the ‘Five things we haven’t learned this week’. Contributions of this week are of Nikos Overheul (2, 3, 4), Peter McVitie (1) and Michiel Jongsma (5).

1) Do you even need a ‘Plan B’ when ‘Plan A’ is so excellent…. and pretty?

Pretty Pelle celebrates

Pretty Pellè celebrates

This is getting ridiculous. Feyenoord went three games without a win and, according to some, the pressure on the team and coach Ronald Koeman was steadily building. A lot of questions were being asked as the team seemed worryingly lacking in creativity and threat up front. The concern that they needed a “Plan B” instead of relying on frontman and last season’s top scorer Graziano Pellè was increasing every week.

On Sunday, however, the Italian Stallion smashed in a hat-trick against NAC Breda to give Feyenoord a comfortable 3-1 victory. It was the striker’s first ever such haul and it lifted the confidence and belief in the team as they got their first points on the board. This poses the question: Do Feyenoord even need a backup plan to their star striker?

The team continues to develop and Pellè’s power, strength, aerial prowess and goalscoring ability make him fiendishly difficult for Eredivisie defences to contain. It seems that Ajax are one team who simply cannot contain him – he managed to score against them last week just with a terrible first touch. Also, if you take Pellè out of the team you are committing a crime. The forward is so incredibly good looking, that it would be ridiculous to deprive the Rotterdam faithful and the other Eredivisie fans of his rugged good looks for even part of a game. He simply must start as when he does start, he tends to score given the right service.  In the first pointless three weeks of the league campaign, many of Feyenoord’s problems seemed to lie elsewhere in the team, not to mention the fact they were playing very difficult opponents. In short, it remains to be seen if Ronald Koeman has to plan for life without Pellè, which is good, because we still can’t get enough of watching the beautiful man strut his stuff in De Kuip.

2) Do NEC have a win in them?

After they had failed to grab a point in the first three matches of the season, relegation candidates NEC finally got off the mark against RKC Waalwijk. What’s more, they managed to score twice! They did, however, need two penalties to achieve this. NEC haven’t won a match in ages and it’s unclear how long this winless streak will continue.

Two things are working in NEC’s favour, though. Firstly, of their next three matches, two will be away to NAC Breda and ADO Den Haag. Neither represent the toughest of tests and NEC should be able to score against them and possibly even return home with a point or two. Secondly, NEC have been so incredibly bad over the last few weeks that it’s almost impossible they won’t improve, even if it’s just down to the law of averages.  Cheer up NEC, even a squad as terrible as yours can’t be this bad for long.

3) Are Zwolle going to challenge?

What a difference a year makes for Ron Jans.

What a difference a year makes for Ron Jans.

PEC Zwolle are the hottest thing in the Eredivisie right now. The only team to win all four matches and the only team to not have gone behind so far, they are currently enjoying the best start to a season in their history. All of this has people wondering how far Zwolle can go. Can they maintain this level of play and make an improbable title push?

No. No, they can’t. Not even close. In fact, Zwolle really aren’t even all that good right now, despite appearances to the contrary. Now, you might wonder why Zwolle are top of the table if they’re not particularly good. One: they’ve faced very weak opposition. Out of the teams PEC have faced so far, only Feyenoord are a good team and Zwolle beat them last year. It’s quite easy to get 9 points from matches against Heracles, Cambuur and NEC. Zwolle are top of the table now and should enjoy it while it lasts because they’ll come crashing down to earth soon enough. Ron Jans, suddenly back in vogue after it quickly went pear-shaped at Standard Liège, admitted as much at the weekend.

4) Have Roda JC really improved?

Roda JC narrowly avoided relegation last season, having had to go through the promotion/relegation play-offs in order to ensure their survival. This season has started well for them, though. They’ve collected 7 points and are in 5th place. It’s obvious they’ve improved a lot, right? Well, no. In fact, Roda JC have been a lot worse than their 7 points haul suggests. That they’ve even managed to collect this many is a minor miracle. They’ve been comfortably outshot by the opposition, even without taking the Ajax match into account.

Only NAC Breda have recorded less shots than Roda. Furthermore, the team from Kerkrade conceded a great deal of shots as well. Roda have been very lucky so far. Against ADO Den Haag, they managed to score 4 goals from 12 shots. That’s literally twice as a good as the Eredivisie average, from a team not known for its goalscoring abilities. Everything about Roda’s performances suggests they’ll drop down the table in a hurry in the coming weeks. They don’t belong in 5th place and won’t reach that spot again this season.

5) What will this Ajax side look like come September?

One substandard, one exceptional Dane.

One substandard, one exceptional Dane.

A 3-3 draw against SC Heerenveen isn’t a bad result, but given the circumstances the appearance of some players was rather suspicious. Some seemed a bit too good for this level (Finnbogason for de Friezen and Eriksen, who stood out for Ajax) while some were just not up to standard. Whereas Heerenveen only have their Icelandic gem ‘Bogie’ to worry about, things are looking a good deal more uncertain at Ajax. With the aforementioned Eriksen justifying the enormous interest from abroad in his services with some impressive displays so far this Eredivisie season (2 goals, 3 assists) and Alderweireld still being courted by English and Spanish clubs (Atletico Madrid the most likely destination at the time of writing), Ajax are likely to lose some genuine quality. These are the two obvious players linked with a move, but PSG sent a scout to run the rule over Ricardo van Rhijn last Friday and Kolbeinn Sigthorsson has been linked with several English clubs. Furthermore, goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer hasn’t been his usual reliable self in goal and with Jasper Cillessen as his rival for the goalkeeping spot, he could well be replaced by the former N.E.C.-player. Bojan and Viktor Fischer have been rather mediocre on the flanks for Ajax and with Siem de Jong out for a few weeks due to a collapsed lung, Ajax’s foundations are not quite as secure as many would have anticipated after a relatively calm summer. As Marc Overmars put it when discussing Alderweireld’s future, up until now it’s been the calm before the storm.

Stats in the article are provided by Opta Sports through OptaJohan.

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