FC Utrecht: Pep’s disciple to preach attractive football
After a bright pre-season under new leadership of the highly rated Erik ten Hag, FC Utrecht are hoping to improve on the last two underwhelming years in the Eredivisie.
Finishing 10th in 2013-14 and then 11th last term, the Galgenwaard club have been on a slippery slope ever since their KNVB Beker win and top six placing under Jan Wouters.
The recruitment of Pep Guardiola’s good friend and former Bayern Munich II coach Ten Hag seems to be a step towards a more attacking style, compared to the flat lifeless way they have been playing for the last two years.
Utrecht have offloaded some deadweight this summer, but the departures of Tommy Oar, Edouard Duplan and Danny Verbeek all for free leaves some big holes in their squad.
Signing Sebastien Haller on a permanent deal is a solid move after he impressed following his loan move in January. The Frenchman scored 11 goals and set up a further five in 17 appearances after he joined from Auxerre. The 21-year-old will hopefully combine well with Ruud Boymans to make a very efficient and solid attack, but 19-year-old forward Rubio Rubin is expected to play a big part this season. The American teenager has shown to be versatile and quick with a good touch and is certainly one of Utrecht’s brightest players.
Utrecht also have 20-year-old Swedish winger Kristoffer Peterson, who looks bright and still has something to prove.
Timo Letschert, loaned last season from Roda JC, became a key defender for Utrecht last term and is a smart signing, while France U20 international Louis Nganioni has come in on loan from Lyon.
With Yassine Ayoub playing the box-to-box role, Utrecht have a young talent who will be the gem of the midfield and continue to link up with the attackers and Willem Janssen.
Oar’s consistent creativity will be sorely missed, but there is enough to Utrecht’s attack to deal with the loss and they should be more effective in an attacking sense this term.
However, there is a lot to be desired and not enough of an improvement in a backline which shipped 62 goals last term – the fifth worst defensive record in the league.
Having worked as an assistant at Twente and PSV as well as the Go Ahead Eagles and Bayern reserves coach, Ten Hag takes his first top flight job. There is the basis of a talented bunch of players to work with, but it is a squad with many weak points and one which has not been able to gel together in harmony over the last year.
Player to watch: Yassine Ayoub.
The 21-year-old midfielder has developed from a more defensive player to a box-to-box runner who can help set the tempo for his team and play a huge role in all aspects of play. With a good engine and sound passing ability, he will be the heartbeat of this Utrecht team and it will give us a good indication of just how far he can go in the future.
BeNeFoot Prediction: 10th