FC Twente: A special kind of omnishambles

From Eredivisie winners and perennial title contenders just five years ago to a complete disaster on and off the field, things have gone sour for FC Twente and their precarious situation is getting even worse.

A coach they rated extremely highly has been sacked after little over a year in charge, one of their star players who had expressed a keen desire to stay departed on transfer deadline day and the team captain and beating heart of the side has said he wants to follow.

It’s a financial, sporting and PR catastrophe that is beyond repair and the extent of it is still to be determined.

This time last year, they were seen as a side capable of challenging Ajax and PSV for the league crown, one that, considering their budget, players and stature, most teams should fear. But now the Tukkers resemble a side that the league’s smaller teams not only have no reason to fear, but now relish coming up against. Even further, they have become a joke and a plaything to their smaller neighbouring rivals.

Heading into Saturday’s clash, Heracles fans presented Twente boss Alfred Schreuder with a cake and a letter to tell him they had appreciated what he has done to the club.

The Almelo fans were laughing at them off the pitch, the players were doing so on the field. They beat Twente 2-0 on Saturday and it could have been more. That result came a week after they were well beaten by PEC Zwolle, another perennially smaller neighbour.

On Sunday, it was announced that Twente had sacked Schreuder. The fledgling coach they had given a contract which was to run until 2019 was given the usual kind farewell. “We have come to know Schreuder as a skilled and passionate coach and he has had to work under very difficult conditions,” president Aldo van der Laan said. “Alfred Schreuder has always shown loyalty to the club.”

The situation was tough for the coach given the off field issues. Things are dire. Mismanagement of the finances put the club in serious trouble and they were twice docked points by the KNVB last term. Chairman Joop Munsterman announced he would depart in the summer, only to eventually flee months earlier. His successors found that the fiscal issues were much more severe than they had been led to believe and the main sponsors, Xximo, terminated their deal with the club prematurely.

Still, though, it is ridiculous to argue that Alfred Schreuder should not have done better with the players at his disposal. The Tukkers thought they were working with a future elite coach, but in reality they had handed their sporting fate to a man Malcolm Tucker would insist was about as effective as a rubber phallic sex toy made from a particular sugary treat of honey and almond meal.

With the likes of Hakim Ziyech, Jesus Corona, Luc Castaignos, Kamohelo Mokotjo, Andreas Bjelland, Kyle Ebecilio and Bilal Ould-Chikh, last season’s 10th placed finish in the Eredivisie was a massive disappointment for the Enschede club. However, the way things are shaping up this term, it would be a welcome relief if they occupied such a high spot come 8th May 2016.

With just one point – and it was undeserved – to their name after four games, they are already in a tough position but it is hard to see how they can get out of it. Schreuder’s inappropriate focus and lack of a game plan is gone, which is a positive, but it comes with a sting. Jesus Corona was sold to Porto in the final hours of the transfer window and the star of the team, Hakim Ziyech, is desperate to go too.

“Schreuder didn’t deserve this,” he said after hearing the news. “I’ve had contact with my agent. If a good club comes in, I won’t say no.”

If anything it seems so typically Twente. Any moderately good news is met with something disastrous. Schreuder’s gone? Good, but now they have to pay him a €2 million settlement… and now Ziyech hopes to go too. Corona is sold for €12 million to Porto to help deal with brutal finances? Okay, but remember they only owned 30 per cent of his rights. It’s ridiculous and horrifying. A constant state of self-destruction. From bean to cup, they f**k up.

By far the most potent and decisive player in the team – he was directly involved in 21 of their last 22 goals and in 30 of the 56 since his arrival- Ziyech’s stance is the worst possible knock-on effect from the dismissal of the coach. The board and whoever is brought in to lead the team will have to come equipped with a rather sturdy mop to clean up the mess left after a disastrous hurricane.

Whether this side is trying to play a restrictive, defensive style or a more expansive attacking game, it seems the players are never quite sure of what they are expected to do. ‘Give the ball to Ziyech and let him work his magic’ seems to be the only discernible strategy. Building around the attacking midfielder makes sense, but there is a massive over-reliance on him to pull them out of the hole in which they constantly find themselves.

There have been key changes over the summer, but performances should be more encouraging than they have been so far. The extent of their one-dimensional focus on Ziyech is itself quite worrying. In Corona they have lost a daring, skilful and deadly winger. If Ziyech follows, either now or in the winter, they have lost the very heart of the team.

With Michael Olaitan and Alessio da Cruz in attack ahead of a midfield of Ziyech, Gutierrez and Mokotjo, Twente have the makings of a fast-paced counter attacking team, which could be fierce if set up well. But that they have been so easily dominated by Groningen, ADO Den Haag, PEC Zwolle and Heracles so far shows just how poorly the execution has been.

It has been an abysmal period of mistake after mistake for Twente and they are paying for it with interest at the moment. They are at a new low in their recent history and it is hard to take because of the potential they had shown a year ago. The club needs to be careful about how it deals with the financial situation, how they try to charm Ziyech into staying and continuing to pull the strings for the side and, crucially, who comes in to give direction to this squad. Every week it seems to be getting worse at Twente, one can hope things are about to pick up after reaching a new low, but it is tough to be optimistic.

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