Eredivisie week 7: Five things (+1) we haven’t learned this week
Can Ajax recover from the loss of Christian Eriksen and Toby Alderweireld? – Peter McVitie
The reigning Eredivisie champions lost their two key players in the summer transfer window and, although they have replaced them with midfielder Lerin Duarte and centre-back Mike van der Hoorn, they are clearly lacking in the two areas the recent departees fulfilled.
In Sunday’s 4-0 hammering at the hands of PSV, Ajax were void of any attacking potency or creativity. Completely inefficient and impotent in attack, there was no real pace or direction as De Boer’s men moved forward. Before leaving Amsterdam to join Tottenham last month, Eriksen was Ajax’s star player going forward with his incredible, instinctive passes which unlocked defences with ease and created numerous chances for the likes of Kolbeinn Sigthorsson and Viktor Fischer. Duarte is a talented player, one capable of playing in the iconic red and white of the Dutch giants. However, he lacks the creativity that Eriksen developed and showed throughout his time with the club and it is such qualities that Ajax are sorely missing at this time. With such flat and toothless performances, that ingenuity and imagination of the great Dane will be sorely missed.
One such issue for Ajax is bad enough, but their flaws stretch beyond that. Their defensive frailties were exploited incredibly easily on Sunday. The back line shipped four avoidable goals. One of them was conceded courtesy of a Kenneth Vermeer howler, the other three down to the inadequate and ill-organised Ajax defence. That Alderweireld’s replacement, Van der Hoorn, isn’t ready to start in the heart of the back four is somewhat worrying, meaning 20-year-old De Toekomst graduate Stefano Denswil has been drafted in. The youngster has so far proved to be a strong and talented player, but he is far from the finished article and his partnership with Niklas Moisander has a lot of developing to do. The strength, leadership and technical ability of Alderweireld is sorely missed.
Coach Frank de Boer has been hailed as a technically proficient manager in his three years at the helm of Ajax as he has guided the team to three straight league titles. However, plugging the gaps left by Alderweireld and Eriksen will be one of the toughest tests for the 43-year-old. PSV now sit top of the league and there’s every chance that they won’t throw it away in the manner they did last year, meaning De Boer must fill the voids quickly and get the best out of his team if they are to recover and challenge in their attempt to make it a fourth consecutive title win.
Is Ron Jans’ Indian Summer over? – Michiel Jongsma
Well, that was fun while it lasted. After four consecutive wins and a draw to kick off the season, PEC Zwolle suffered a second consecutive defeat against Vitesse. With the other loss being away against Ajax, nobody expected de Blauwvingers to get something from these matches. But whereas the Ajax loss (2-1) was one from which manager Ron Jans could take plenty of positives, there was nothing good to conclude from this defeat. Vitesse were far the superior side and PEC was lucky that towering Japanese striker Mike Havenaar can’t find his shooting boots (and forehead) anywhere, otherwise this could’ve been a serious mauling by the Arnhemmers. PEC is still in third position after seven games, a very admirable achievement, but they wouldn’t be the first to slip away after a fine start into mediocrity. Given the squad that Ron Jans has at his disposal and looking at the first few games, a neutral can do nothing but warm to the side. PEC have been incredibly entertaining so far, with midfielders Kamohelo Mokotjo, Mteusz Klich, Jesper Drost and the recently departed Youness Mokhtar (FC Twente) a particular highlight. With the upcoming matches in mind, there is necessity to keep up the good spirits by getting a result again.
What will be left of Feyenoord when Pellè’s not around? – Jens van Pieterson
In what quite possibly was the most inanimate game in De Kuip for the past two seasons, Feyenoord managed to grab a 1-0 win against FC Utrecht yesterday. The Domstedelingen, coached by Jan Wouters who was rocking an incredible cardigan and tie combo on the sideline, started off well with playmaker Jens Toornstra hitting the cross-bar with a freekick in the 8th minute. Eventually Feyenoord youngster Tony Vilhena fired his team 1-0 up in the 35th minute after some terrible defending by PSV loanee Timothy Derijck. The Utrecht defender completely misjudged a long ball from Feyenoord’s Joris Mathijsen and allowed Graziano Pellè to chest the ball towards Vilhena on the edge of the box who fired it past keeper Robbin Ruijter. It was the Italian striker who was given most opportunities to cement Feyenoord’s lead but forgot to do so. It’s probably forgive and forget for Feyenoord’s Ronald Koeman. It’s the three points that count for De Trots van Zuid.
The aforementioned Graziano Pellè wasn’t the goalscorer this time around, but was again involved in a Feyenoord goal. For the Feyenoord faithful, it must be a joy to see the big man is still around. But what if he leaves in the January transfer window? Feyenoord’s attack looks worrying with 18-year old Jean-Paul Boëtius (who recently returned from an injury) being the only player alongside the Italian that can spark some imagination up front. Anderlecht loanee Samuel Armenteros and Dutch international Ruben Schaken are both struggling with form. The only real danger comes from playing the long ball to Pellè. Maybe it’s time for Koeman to change tactics, while Pellè is still here.
Are Cambuur just going to nullify their opponents all season? – Peter McVitie
Sitting in tenth place in the league, things are going well for newly-promoted Cambuur in the early stages of the season. They have one of the best defensive records in the league, having conceded only five goals in the first seven games of the season, which equals that of PSV and Twente. However, they also have the joint-worst attack, having scored only six, four of which came against Groningen, the other two against Heracles. The Leeuwarden side have already been involved in three goalless draws, which makes us think their tactic for surviving in the top flight might be to just nullify their opponents and go through the season drawing all of their games. It’s an interesting way to go about things. With 27 games remaining, if they draw all of their games (probably 0-0) it will likely be enough to keep them in the league as they’ll end up with 36 points. In each of the last ten seasons, that was enough to see teams finish the season outside of the relegation spots, so it’s a tact which could see Cambuur through to next season…. and the season after that.
A team which doesn’t concede often nor score often is something the Dutch league isn’t used to. They are, essentially, the anti-Heracles of Peter Bosz. In all honesty, we really don’t know how to react to this. Is catenaccio finally coming to Holland? Bloody hell, we hope not!
‘In Zeefuik we trust?’ – Michiel Jongsma
Few players have been laughed at like Genero Zeefuik. The, in all fairness, chunky striker has had weight issues ever since his tranfer to FC Groningen and when he wasn’t fit at the beginning of the season, even we at BeNeFoot were starting to have doubts if the talented forward would be able to maintain a professional football career. But seven games into the season and Zeefuik is on three goals and an assist from 148 minutes (3 games), which means the striker has been involved in a goal scored every 36,5 minutes. More importantly, with his goals he earned a point against both Ajax (1-1) and Go Ahead Eagles (3-3) and last weekend, he was responsible for assisting the opener and, temporarily, putting the game beyond doubt with the 2-0. Zeefuik is still not in ‘sportsman shape’ and did next to nothing for 60 minutes against RKC, but the fact that he had the class to set up the attack that lead to the 1-0 and his anticipation to head in the 2-0 on a rebound showed that there is more to come from him. At least the crowd was appreciative of him, as they chanted his name when he was substituted in the 91st minute.
Zeefuik is set to improve on his woeful goalscoring record of last season (4 goals in 27 games, 2 assists), and some might argue he’s already there since he converted two penalties last season. With Nick van der Velden, who was somewhat of a father figure for Zeefuik at N.E.C. earlier, now at FC Groningen, the striker seems more comfortable and calm. If he gets in shape, he should be able to produce more flashes of brilliance than the odd two or three a game he’s able to show at the moment and who knows, maybe the player who once was a big TALENT but is now known as a BIG talent could become the former again.
Stats provided by Opta Sports
Bonus point six, talking six goal games: Just how many 3-3 draws will we see this season? – Peter McVitie
Saturday’s 3-3 draw between Roda JC and Heerenveen was the fourth such result the Eredivisie has seen this season, despite the campaign being just seven weeks old.
Heerenveen have now been involved in two of the six goal draws this season, in fact, all but two of the Frisian’s league matches have ended with six goals (a handy stat delivered by Simon Gleave). They also saw out one 3-3 draw last year and the reverse of Saturday’s fixture in December 2012 was a thrilling 4-4 tie.
Last season, there were six 3-3 draws in the league (thanks again, Simon), a remarkably high occurrence for such a scoreline. The score produces a snapshot of the two main aspects of the Dutch league – terrible defending and strong attacks. The league is famous for being so high scoring as there are some fantastic attackers who currently ply their trade in the Netherlands. Heerenveen’s own Alfred Finnbogason currently leads the goalscoring chart with nine goals in six appearances, while Graziano Pelle follows behind. Ajax’s Kolbeinn Sigthorsson is yet to hit his peak this season, but he is a very good striker and his compatriot, Aron Johannsson of AZ, is doing well as Jozy Altidore’s replacement.
Conversely, though, the Dutch top flight is severely lacking in strong defenders. While there are good individuals in some of the backlines in the Netherlands, such as Stefan de Vrij, Bruno Martins Indi, Karim Rekik and Dico Koppers. However, defensive units in the Eredivisie are generally flimsy and poorly organised, which causes them to leak a lot of goals.
With four 3-3 draws already this season, we might be seeing a few more over the remainder of the campaign. We look set to see more than we did throughout last term, but just how many remains to be seen.