Five things we haven’t learned: Eredivisie round 17

Ha! Hey! We’re back! And no, we haven’t been lazy. Just very busy.

1) Will Finnbogason ever return to the Abe Lenstra Stadion? – Michiel Jongsma

Is it cheating to make a question out of this? It probably is. Looking at Finnbogason’s form this year, it is hard to imagine the ice cold Icelandic in a Heerenveen-shirt in 2014. With two away games at AZ as the last games of the year (one in the cup and one in the league) and given the prolificness shown by Finnbogason it would be strange, to say the least, to see him stay in Friesland. People in medialand were already thinking of a Finnbogason crisis even though the striker had only failed to score for a mere 200 minutes. And to emphasize the doubt, before the game against PEC a stat was shown that he had only scored two of his goals away from home this season.  He instantly doubled his tally for the season in the IJsseldelta Stadion. The Icelandic striker scored his 39th and 40th Eredivisie goal and while the first was a penalty, the latter was one only more to savour, as he dinked the ball over goalkeeper Diederik Boer in lovely fashion. It took his tally up to 40 goals in 45 Eredivisie appearances. In comparison: It took Wilfried Bony 59 games to get to that tally. And it could be argued Bony had better service too. Finnbogason is a striker to be cherished while it is a shame if he would leave the Eredivisie, it would be great to see him dealing out damage in a Top Five League. The Eredivisie still produces great goalscorers and there is few doubt (here at BeNeFoot anyway) that he is one of them.

2) Is the worst part over for PSV? – Peter McVitie 

PSV have finally done it. They have won a match. Having gone a disgraceful run in which they won only one (Europa League victory over Dinamo Zagreb) of 12 games in all competitions and scored only nine goals, they have finally picked up three points on Sunday as they disposed of Utrecht. What was particularly enlightening for all PSV fans, well-wishers and sympathisers was that they won in style – demolishing Jan Wouters’ side 5-1 away from home. Phillip Cocu’s charges approached the game in a very dark mindset. Probably the darkest in which any team has ever approached a game in history. They arrived at the Galgenwaard with absolutely no confidence – only a week ago they were crushed 6-2 in their own stadium by Vitesse and then on Thursday they were sent crashing out of the Europa League when they lost to Chornomorets. Regardless of their mental fragility, they took charge of the match against Utrecht and went ahead through Adam Maher only three minutes into the game. From there they turned into an unstoppable footballing machine as they took a 4-0 lead before the break. Utrecht got a consolation goal through Dave Bulthuis but Maher compounded further misery on the hosts when he netted a fifth in the 90th minute. It was one huge moment of relief for Cocu and a huge lift for his team. PSV were simply much more clinical against Utrecht than their previous matches. In recent weeks they have been somewhat unlucky. Sander IJtsma recently insisted in his article for Volkskrant that PSV’s issues were mainly down to the quality of their shots and chances. That is something PSV have been improving recently. Against Heerenveen they appeared to be getting into better shooting positions but were undone by a very strong Kristoffer Nordfeldt. In the meeting against Vitesse, it was a similar story as they were the better team but their own inadequacy in front of goal as opposed to their shooting position was the main problem. Then, when they fell behind they fell apart and Vitesse were able to capitalise on the mental weakness and completely humiliate them. Sunday’s win, though, was the reverse. They took the lead nice and early and it seemed to lift them a bit and they were shooting from better positions. It’s simply impossible to say if Cocu’s men are now beginning to take strides forward. However, but if they can beat ADO Den Haag this weekend in their final match of 2013, it will provide Cocu’s men with a big confidence boost. From there they can regroup during the winter break and return in January a stronger side ready to climb back up the league.

3) Is Brood the right one to victimise after Roda demise? – Michiel Jongsma

‘Ruudje rot op’, a banner said in the away end after N.E.C. 4 – 3 Roda JC. Ruudje, of course was Ruud Brood and the Roda fans got their way. Apart from the strange affection shown in naming him Ruudje rather than Ruud, the sacking of Brood has a bit of a sour and odd taste to it. Of course, losing 4-3 against bottom of the league N.E.C. never looks good, especially after going 0-2 up first. But isn’t it also indicative of the level of the squad that Brood had to his proposal? While Hungarian striker Krisztian Nemeth and winger Guus Hupperts have been very good for the Kerkrade club this season, it is the backline and goalkeeper that really have failed their (now former) manager. After 17 games, Roda JC have scored 29 goals, which is encouraging. The 39 goals conceded (a club record at this stage of the competition) is not, but putting everything together and considering that Roda have been around this points tally for the last few years anyway there is a case to be made that Brood should have been given another chance to improve. There aren’t too many class managers available at the moment and apart from former FC Twente, PSV and Vitesse coach Fred Rutten any new appointment would be a bit of a gamble.

4) When you’re in trouble, is it always good to turn to an Advocaat?  – Peter McVitie

AZ enjoyed a very bright start to the season, which was shaping up to be a great turnaround after their abysmal 2012-13 campaign in which they finished tenth in the league. However, the day after beating PSV 2-1 and lifting his team to fourth place, Verbeek was sacked, with the club insisting there was no chemistry between the coach and his playing staff. Verbeek was then replaced by Dick Advocaat, who had enjoyed a successful spell in Alkmaar when he coached them in 2009-10. Advocaat picked up exactly where he left off as his side won their first three games under his guardianship and drew the next three. Since then, however, they have lost their last three matches. Whereas once they were beating PSV and Ajax and drawing with Vitesse, now they are losing to the likes of bottom of the league NEC and uninspiring Heracles, although they cannot complain too much about the defeat to Twente. The Alkmaar club have since dropped to seventh place, 12 points behind leaders Vitesse, who they were neck and neck with only a few weeks ago. Their last match before the winter break is against Heerenveen, who have two points more and are looking strong with Alfred Finnbogason, Hakim Ziyech and Rajiv van La Parra. They are in serious danger of falling 15 points behind Vitesse if they suffer a fourth consecutive defeat, a deficit which will be very difficult to recover from in the second half of this campaign. AZ have gone from a team of serious title contenders under Gertjan Verbeek to one losing ground on the league’s top teams under Advocaat. Perhaps the players are happier now that they have a more amicable coach and have rid themselves of the authoritative figure of Verbeek, but they are not necessarily better off. Will the AZ board be regretting their decision after two months?

5) Are the not-so-fantastic four ready to challenge each other for the title?Michiel Jongsma

Ajax went on to win after one of their poorest performances of the year (1-2 at Cambuur), a complacent Vitesse was a class above NAC (3-2), FC Twente recorded a routine victory over Go Ahead Eagles (3-1) and Feyenoord struggled past top half side FC Groningen (1-0). All four finally displayed the type of performance one would expect from a team that has its hopes set on the title. With AZ (see point 4) and naturally FC Groningen dropping off, PSV on a considerable distance already and Heerenveen  likely to lose their top asset in Finnbogason, is there finally the cut-off for the title battle? On the other hand, Ajax are still looking vulnerable and Feyenoord are struggling with their Pelledependenzia. Vitesse and FC Twente have been looking better, but both lack a top striker, although Piazon has been providing the goods for Vitesse and Castaignos is looking more and more the talent he was at Feyenoord. It’s perhaps to early to call, but this weekend in terms of results could prove to be quite pivotal for this Eredivisie season.

And the BeNeFoot Eredivisie Team Of The Week Round 17:


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