Excelsior: More of the same, please!
Never in recent history have Excelsior Rotterdam stayed in the Eredivisie for any longer than two seasons in a row. The pattern has always been the same: promoting to the top tier, having a surprisingly good first season, and then being relegated anyway in the second year.
If history repeats itself this time, it will be a crucial year for Excelsior. There is reason for Excelsior to be optimistic, as they have not lost any key players this term – not defensive stronghold Sander Fischer, young winger Jordan Botaka, industrious midfielder Jeff Stans or even star striker Tom van Weert.
However, the club’s biggest loss this summer came off the field. Coach Marinus Dijkhuizen made a surprise move to Brentford, and is succeeded by Fons Groenendijk. The repercussions could be serious for Excelsior.
Dijkhuizen was a reformer who dared to play in a more rigid defensive style than is usual in the Eredivisie, whilst Groenendijk is a more traditional Dutch coach, playing in a 4-3-3 with an attacking midfielder and two wingers.
This year will be tough for Excelsior, and not just for historical reasons. The team has not impressed in pre-season friendlies, with a loss against lower qualified FC Den Bosch. They didn’t win any of their last nine Eredivisie games last seasons and, so, in the end, barely avoided the relegation play-offs.
The team has its qualities and with the signing of former Roda JC and FC Dordrecht man Filip Kurto a new goalkeeper. Yet it needs to lose the comfortability that has been surrounding the team for months now.
Talking to Algemeen Dagblad, Groenendijk said that he was frustrated by his players repeating that “everything will be fine eventually”. With the club’s history in mind, indeed he should be.
Players to watch: Brandley Kuwas
Signed on a free from FC Volendam, the 22-year-old winger has impressed over his three years in the Eerste Divisie. He has finally been rewarded with a step up to the top flight and very much suits Groenendijk’s attacking style. The attacker can be a direct threat on goal for Excelsior but will also settle in well with Van Weert and provide the star striker with great service.
BeNeFoot prediction: 17th