Five things we haven’t learned Week 11
Are Heerenveen the new Feyenoord? – Peter McVitie
Throughout last season, Feyenoord were criticised for having their entire game revolve around their star striker Graziano Pelle. A superhuman-ultrabeast, the Rotterdam club struggled to find the net whenever the Italian Stallion wasn’t on the park.
While that lack of a Plan B has carried onto this season (Feyenoord haven’t won a single game this season in which Graziano Pelle hasn’t either scored or got an assist), there is another team who look one-dimensional.
Heerenveen have now suffered two straight defeats in the league and in both matches their star man, Alfred Finnbogason was not at his best. Even more, since the Iceland striker joined the club, they have only won two games in which he didn’t score.
Rajiv van La Parra said after last week’s defeat that Alfred was slightly less sharp than usual, while following this weekend’s surprise 2-1 loss at the hands of NEC, the striker came under immense criticism from his manager, Marco van Basten. The Heerenveen boss accused him of complacency and arrogance, which he says won’t be tolerated.
However, it hasn’t been easy for Finnbogason in the past two weeks.
Throughout the entire first-half on Friday, the Frisian side’s entire game plan was to get the ball to Finnbogason and let the Icelandic frontman run free. There was a succinct lack of movement around him and no support either, while NEC defended strongly and crowded around him. While he was on the end of some chances – one golden opportunity which he knocked past the post – he was isolated for the most part of it by his own teammates.
In the second-half, though, Finnbogason often tried to do too much on his own, trying to beat a player when there was a passing option available to him.
In the end, without Finnbogason playing at his best, they succumbed to the might of NEC, as Michael Higdon’s fantastic brace gave the Nijmegen team their first league win of the season.
Heerenveen’s over-reliance on their talisman could become a problem. Week 11 is the first week this season in which he has failed to score. If he isn’t playing well or the support for him isn’t good enough, the team fails. They need to ensure they have other options available and that the goals are spread throughout the team more evenly.
They need a Plan B! Or else they will become the new Feyenoord.
Is Michael Higdon settled in the Eredivisie? – Peter McVitie
With his team struggling immensely, Michael Higdon had a rough start to life in the Netherlands following his move from Motherwell.
He missed his first penalty (it was horrendous) and his two goals were penalties, but from then on he has looked much brighter.
He was instrumental in his side’s first win of the current season in the Eredivisie, scoring two goals as the Nijmegen side beat Heerenveen to lift themselves off the bottom of the league. A lovely header at the back post to open the scoring and then a nice finish later in the game to double his team’s lead secured the three points, despite Hakim Ziyech’s perfectly placed free-kick five minutes from time.
Friday night’s brace means Higdon has scored six goals in eight games for his team, getting an assist along the way.
It looks like the SPFA Players’ Player of the Year last season is starting to get settled into the Eredivisie, but it’s still too early to judge.
He looks more mobile, sharper and the team is starting to serve him better, though, so we hope last season’s SPL top goalscorer continues to enjoy himself in the Eredivisie.
What on earth is actually going on? – Peter McVitie
It seems no one, not one single team, in the Eredivisie wants to be at the very top of the league.
Last weekend, Ajax, Twente, PSV and Feyenoord all dropped points, and this week those four giants plus Zwolle, Vitesse and Groningen all had the chance to take over the number one spot of the Dutch top flight and they all failed to win. Only AZ of the top pack picked up three points to go level on points with Twente and Ajax.
Twente had the chance to maintain their stay in pole-position when they faced ADO Den Haag who were demolished 6-1 the previous week. Although we at BeNeFoot convinced you that ADO would lose the home advantage because of their fancy new pitch, however, we forgot about one critical factor. Mike van Duinen.
ADO stormed ahead with a two goal lead, only to throw it away to goals from Luc Castaignos and Roberto Rosales.
The two teams looked set to share the points, but in the 88th minute, 21-year-old Van Duinen picked the ball up in his own half and burst forward. He charged past two defenders down the left side before going through on goal and he absolutely belted it beyond Nick Marsman to earn a vital win for his team.
That defeat gave Ajax the opportunity to leapfrog the Tukkers into the top on Saturday night as Frank de Boer’s team, who had won all five of their previous home league games, welcomed RKC to the Amsterdam Arena. Erwin Koeman’s side had lost their last six matches in the league and sat bottom of the table before kick-off.
Ajax, though, were absolutely horrendous and the resilient RKC defence ensured a goalless draw as Ajax could only pull level with Twente.
Next up, it was PSV’s turn, as they met Roda JC in Sunday’s early kick-off. It looked like PSV would take top spot when Tim Matavz opened the scoring. Then Bakkali and Depay had chances to extend the lead, while Guus Hupperts and Mark-Jan Fledderus could have tied it at the other end.
In the second-half, Roda pressed forward even more and equalised through Fledderus. Four minutes later, Depay was sent off with a second yellow. It got much worse later when Krisztian Nemeth’s 25 yard strike put Roda 2-1 up and they went on to win the game.
Then Zwolle and Feyenoord’s games against AZ and Heracles, respectively, began at the same time. Heracles went in the lead, while Zwolle succumbed to the might of Dick Advocaat’s team. Feyenoord quickly fought back to equalise, but halfway through the second half, they conceded again! Catastrophe then struck when star striker Graziano Pelle was sent off and Heracles took all three points.
That result meant that the winner of Vitesse v Groningen would go top of the league. Vitesse took a one goal lead when Mike Havenaar headed a Lucas Piazon cross past Marco Bizot. Then, in the second-half, Piazon knocked the ball down to Davy Propper who smashed it home.
Two minutes later, though, 17-year-old super-sub Richairo Zivkovic expertly tucked it home and then a further three minutes later, Tjaronn Chery levelled it all up.
That brought an end to the game and ensured that Twente stayed top of the league, level on points with Ajax and AZ.
This means the top nine teams in the Eredivisie are separated by only three points. It’s incredibly tight and it’s very, very interesting, but we’re wondering if anyone will ever actually take charge of the Dutch top flight!
What is Siem de Jong worth when Eriksen is not around? – Peter McVitie
In December 2012, a survey on Voetbal International saw Ajax captain Siem de Jong named the most valuable player in the Eredivisie. His influence was undoubted and his importance to the Amsterdam powerhouse was undeniable with his goals, assists and the way he generally tied the team together.
While Christian Eriksen was the main source of creativity and Christian Poulsen added some balance to the midfield with his defensive ability and short, sharp passes, De Jong linked everything together with his engine, intelligence and leadership. However, the sale of Eriksen and the lack of creativity has left the Ajax midfield out of sync, incredibly flat and predictable.
De Jong, then, is left to do far too much at one time. He’s trying to help fill in the gap left by Eriksen while still linking everything together in between. The captain had a very poor game against RKC on Saturday as the impotent Ajax failed to even threaten the Waalwijk team in the Amsterdam Arena.
It seems the wound left in the team following the departure of the Danish goldenboy has become infected and is starting to spread. It has damaged De Jong, almost making him a hindrance, while Viktor Fischer has struggled without his compatriot in the team too.
Who else will the disease in the Ajax team claim?
Are we looking at a new Marco Bizot? – Peter McVitie
In the last two matches, FC Groningen goalkeeper Marco Bizot has made a total of 19 saves. That’s only three less than he made across the entire first nine weeks of the campaign.
The 22-year-old shot-stopper was absolutely crucial in those two matches. He pulled off some impressive saves in the 1-0 win over PSV and Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Vitesse to earn some vital points for Groningen.
Against Vitesse in particular his saves made it possible for his team to come from two goals behind to earn a draw through strikes from RIchairo Zivkovic and Tjaronn Chery.
Leaking a lot of goals to teams like Cambuur, Go Ahead Eagles, Twente and Heerenveen, which he did in the first nine rounds, will be a thing of the past if Bizot keeps this form up.
The young goalkeeper has a lot of potential (of course the proof is in the fact he made BeNeFoot’s Top 25 earlier this year) and if he keeps playing like this, Groningen’s good run of form will continue as they stay within the leading pack.
Stats provided by OptaJohan