Eredivisie week 9: Five things we haven’t learned this week
Oh no, no Europa league review? No Eredivisie round 9 preview? Unfortunately, we do struggle from time to time to publish all of our regular features. But fear not! The ‘Five Things We Haven’t Learned This Week’ is here as usual.
Is Jan Wouters a better manager than people give him credit for? – Michiel Jongsma
In the first half of Ajax v FC Utrecht, Jan Wouters’ side looked dominant and gave the reigning champions quite a scare. Cedric van der Gun squandered a glorious chance and Steve de Ridder looked lively, while Yassine Ayoub was superb in midfield for Utrecht. It wasn’t a total surprise. In the previous four league encounters between Frank de Boer’s Ajax and Jan Wouters’ Utrecht, De Boer never
succeeded in getting the better over his old teammate. When Siem de Jong strutted off the pitch with an injury, things only started to look worse for Ajax, but substitute Thulani Serero managed to seize on an error from the amazingly poor Timothy Derijck, giving Ajax a 1-0 lead before heading into the dressing rooms for half time. Unlucky, but still, Utrecht could be proud of their first-half performance. They have lost a lot of talent over the years, but still look a genuine top half side. This is in no small amount down to Wouters himself, who has done an amazing job steadying the ship at the tumultuous club, even though he has far less talent available than his predecessor, who performed worse. The fact that Ayoub was dismissed by the Ajax Academy, but is now being nurtured as one of the biggest talents at Utrecht is testament to the great work of Wouters and his men. The second-half did show some of the flaws of Utrecht, as the shambolic defending continued and Ajax eventually ran comfortable 3-0 winners. How a team coached by one of the best defenders the Netherlands have ever had has conceded 18 goals from 9 matches is incomprehensible. It leaves Utrecht, who finished fifth last season, in fifteenth place. So what is the deal with Wouters?
How long can Richairo Zivkovic be kept on the bench by Van de Looi? – Michiel Jongsma
With a 1-1 scoreline against AZ and the feeling that FC Groningen could do something here, the crowd were chanting for Richairo Zivkovic to come on. In the 70th minute, coach Erwin van de Looi decided it was time and, 48 seconds later, Euroborg was rocking as the 17-year-old headed in the winner from a Nick van der Velden cross. The young prodigy already took both the record for youngest Eredivisie player and Eredivisie goalscorer for Groningen off of Arjen Robben and if he can develop himself in the same manner as his predecessor, Zivkovic could become yet another world class player produced by the Groningen academy. The striker has pace, awareness, good technique and the natural ability to position himself well. With 3 goals already this term in 9 substitute appearances, the fans are becoming more and more excited about the prospect of seeing him start for once. Van de Looi is reluctant for now: “We have a lot of options at the moment and Zivkovic as well as Zeefuik are two of those. One is better suited to use the space when we’re under pressure, while Zeefuik can help us when we’re putting pressure on our opponents.” As Van de Looi is looking to play dominant football, there is some logic at preferring the more experienced Zeefuik. However, in this game, he played a midfielder in a false nine role in Van der Velden, as Zeefuik was ill and couldn’t participate. With Zivkovic making an instant impact when he came on, shouldn’t he be given a chance as a starter, or at least be seen as an option for that?
Are Feyenoord capable of more than just Plan-Pellè? – Jens van Pieterson
Certainly. Many doubted if the Rotterdam side were indeed capable of playing football without involving Pellè. In the early games of this season, Feyenoord looked like a giant red and white leech that had attached itself to the Italian striker. The midfield lost its creativity and defenders De Vrij and Mathijsen stuck to playing the long ball, hoping the Italian could do wonders with hit.
Nevertheless, this weekend Feyenoord proved their critics wrong against title-outsiders Vitesse by grabbing their first away win since March of this year. For the first 60 minutes of the game, Ronald Koeman’s side looked strong, full of confidence and although Pellè
netted Feyenoord’s second goal there was something that looked like a will to win. Something the team lacked during recent weeks and raised questions of whether or not the team were title contenders. With Joris Mathijsen losing his place in the starting XI of the team and Bruno Martins Indi moving from left-back to centre-back, it has to be said that Miquel Nelom is quite the surprise. With firm crosses and quick rushes, the young fullback is making name for himself. Some say Nelom will be the surprise of the season.
After something that quite possibly was the most nerve-racking ending of all Eredivisie games this season with Vitesse goalkeeper Piet Velthuizen nearly heading the equalizer past Feyenoord’s Erwin Mulder and striker Mike Havenaar hitting the post (both in injury time), Feyenoord escaped with the luck that all title contenders need. Will Feyenoord manage to grab the title this year? Maybe two separate plans will be the answers.
Will luck return in time to give the relegation candidates the results they need? – Michiel Jongsma
RKC were battling their way to a very deserved point against PSV on Sunday. With seven minutes to go, the score was 1-1 and the Eindhoven giants looked bereft of any inspiration. Phillip Cocu’s men had fired a humongous amount of shots at goalkeeper Jan Seda, who had been tremendous all afternoon. But then, a silly second yellow for RKC captain Sander Duits for time wasting gave PSV renewed hope. To top it all off, a cross swung in from the right by Jeffrey Bruma was missed by the outcoming Seda and met by Jurgen Locadia. The PSV striker hardly knew what was happening, but when he saw the stadium explode he knew he had settled the score and led his team to a 2-1 victory.
Harsh on the Waalwijkers and they clearly bared the luck they needed.
A day earlier, N.E.C. found themselves in an even bigger mess. After going behind 3-0 within the first half, they looked down and out against Go Ahead Eagles. But somehow, they recapped themselves in the last 20 minutes through goals by Michael Higdon and Jakob Jantscher and when Ryan Koolwijk equalized 3 minutes from time, a new spark of hope surrounded the Nijmegen team, who were waiting for there first league victory in 18 games. How cruel can football be. With N.E.C. pressing, Go Ahead countered and a cross from the right was slid into his own goal by N.E.C. forward Alireza Jahanbakhsh. Again, a loss for N.E.C. .
RKC Waalwijk and N.E.C. are now 4 and 5 points respectively away from safe 15th spot and luck has been riding against them. N.E.C. haven’t won in 19 and RKC last emerged victorious seven games ago. Can they recover from this late blow and resurrect after the international break? With neither looking particularly good and confident, a miracle is needed.
Should the football pitch and its quality be the priority of every stadium? – Michiel Jongsma
For the second time this season, a game at the stadium of ADO Den Haag was postponed and you can have serious doubts if that shouldn’t have been three already. Last Wednesday, the game between ADO and Vitesse (2 – 1) saw the lowest amount of successful passes for over three years in Eredivisie football. The standout performer? The pitch. In an utter negative way. The game on Saturday between ADO and Heerenveen was called off on the Friday. Last season, ADO’s pitch was fine, or at least worthy of professional
football. The reason it is a horrendous football theatre this season is that a new layer has been implemented under the pitch to ready the stadium for the hockey World Cup finals next year. All good and well, but the main purpose of the Kyocera Stadion is football. Whatever happens in such a stadium during the non-match days is none of our business, as long as it doesn’t affect the football itself and the latter is what is happening here. The quality of the pitch is what is instrumental to football. With football being a millions industry, it is baffling to see that the one thing a club hasn’t taken care of is the pitch. Real Madrid were ridiculed for signing Paul Burgess of Arsenal to take care of the field, but in all fairness, isn’t this where the magic happens? While sky boxes are being improved and all kinds of merchandise gurus make their ways into the stadium, it is this kind of thing a football team should be worrying about.