FC Twente: No money, mo’ problems?
Heading into the 2014-15 campaign with a squad brimming with talent and an upcoming manager highly rated by the club, FC Twente were seen as one of the strongest teams and one capable of making a push for the title.
Fast forward a year, though, and things look totally different for the Enschede side who won the Dutch top flight five years ago.
On and off the field, it has been a rather tumultuous year.
Poor management has seen the club slip into severe financial difficulties, which led to chairman Joop Munsterman resigning during the season. His successors found that the situation was much worse than expected and they soon lost their main sponsors.
Meanwhile, Alfred Schreuder was proving to be out of his depth as head coach of the Tukkers. Despite boasting the likes of Hakim Ziyech, Jesus Corona, Kamohelo Mokotjo, Andreas Bjelland, Bilal Ould-Chikh and Luc Castaignos, the Enschede club finished 10th in the league.
The financial predicament has seen a host of players flea in the summer transfer window, with Castaignos (Eintracht Frankfurt), Bjelland (Brentford), Ould-Chikh (Benfica), Cuco Martina (Southampton), Kasper Kusk (FC Copenhagen), Dico Koppers (Willem II) and Darryl Lachman (Sheffield Wednesday) all leave. Meanwhile, Georgios Katsikas is the only signing , joining for free from PAOK, while Bruno Uvini, Michael Olaitan and Thomas Agyepong have joined on loan.
Schreuder’s squad has been downgraded significantly overall, but there remains a talented group of players at his disposal. With Ziyech, one of the most creative players in the league, Mokotjo and Felipe Gutierrez, Twente still boast one of the most dynamic and impressive midfields in the division. Corona is a devastating attacker who, like Ziyech, is not long for this team or league, and Younes Mokhtar is a fine and effective winger.
The striker position remains a mystery, though, with Olaitan, Torgeir Borven and youngster Jari Oosterwijk options, while 20-year-old Tim Holscher could also play there.
Apart from Robbert Schilder, the defence is completely different without Bjelland, Lachman and Bengtsson, as it seems Katsikas and Uvini will play a role alongside 18-year-old Hidde ter Avest. The uncertainty that comes along with such drastic changes is made even worse by the fact Twente have failed to upgrade on Nick Marsman and Sonny Stevens between the sticks.
The downgrades and the financial uncertainty are bad enough, but the ineptitude Schreuder showed last term gives Twente fans good reason to be concerned. The club wanted to sack their boss, but were undone by their own absurd management, with the 42-year-old tied to a long term contract and them being unable to afford to pay him off.
This season is a huge test for Schreuder and there is not a lot of evidence to suggest there is going to be a big improvement from last term. He failed to get the best out of a potent midfield last term when it was bolstered by strong surroundings. While the midfield is the jewel of the team again, the supporting cast does not look so convincing this time around. That coupled with the financial issues looming over the club, it could be another tough year for Twente.
Player to watch: Felipe Gutierrez
The 24-year-old missed all but five league games last season because of injury, playing the full 90 minutes only once. A quick and dynamic central midfielder, he was a big loss for Schreuder’s men last season. Teaming up with Mokotjo and Ziyech, the Chile international will feel like a new signing heading into this campaign and will ensure they still have one of the league’s strongest midfields.
His injury hindered his development, but one full season without any problems will allow him to get back to full fitness and show his true talents once again. If all goes well for Gutierrez, it could be his last year in the Netherlands.
BeNeFoot Prediction: 8th