Ron Jans and PEC Zwolle – out to bring down the “unimpressive” PSV

According to many pundits and fans, PSV have the league title already in the bag. Frank de Boer and his Ajax team might as well just save their energy and time, give up and hand over the trophy they have held for the last four years to their rivals. They have no chance.

With 12 points from four games, including a 3-1 win over Ajax in the Amsterdam ArenA, and an impressive record of 14 goals scored and only three against, PSV have started the season in impeccable form.

With the likes of Jeroen Zoet, Jetro Willems, Joshua Brenet, Karim Rekik, Jeffrey Bruma, Oscar Hiljemark, Adam Maher, Luciano Narsingh, Jurgen Locadia and Luuk de Jong they have a spine of talented players. Add to that the luxuries of the summer extensions of Memphis Depay and Georginio Wijnaldum and the loan of Andres Guardado and they seem to have the makings of a formidable force destined to bring a glutton of titles before a shower of money to the club.

Listen to the analysts, though, and you get a completely different idea. According to the likes of the excellent Sander IJtsma and Simon Gleave, Phillip Cocu’s men are a bit of a defensive nightmare.

No team in the Eredivisie concedes more shots per game than the Eindhovenaren, who see on average 17.8 shots fired towards their goal each week. That tendency to give away so many chances is simply unsustainable and, if it continues, is a disaster waiting to happen.

There is one more perceptive voice to add to those who have looked deep into the numbers.

“I’m not impressed by PSV,” PEC Zwolle coach Ron Jans.

“They do not play like a top team. They never never impose their will upon their opponents.”

The 55-year-old might regret those words come Saturday evening after his side come face to face with the Eindhoven side, but at the moment he has reason to not fear them and, in fact, be quite confident. That reason stretches beyond PSV’s defensive incompetence, though. Crucially, that weakness is something PEC will be sure of capitalising on because of their own speed and attacking potency.

Zwolle head into the game in third place, just three points behind Cocu’s team – the 3-1 defeat to NAC Breda two weeks ago the only black mark on their domestic campaign thus far.

While the Zwollenaren had started last season with four wins from four and have already lost one this year, according to Simon Gleave’s SCoRe graphic, they still have two more points from the same fixtures from last season.

PSV may have kept their best players and improved even further from last year, Zwolle have lost several players but so far have shown no signs of decline.

The loss of Kamohelo Mokotjo, one of the best players in the league last season, to Twente for a meagre €1.5 million came as a huge blow for the club, especially as the move was confirmed just a few days before they opened the new campaign.

The South African midfielder wasn’t the only player to leave the Ijsseldelta Stadion this summer. Mateusz Klich, Darryl Lachman, Fred Benson and goalkeeper Diederik Boer have also departed, with the latter moving to become a benchwarmer at Ajax just before the close of the transfer window. Meanwhile, Guyon Fernandez returned to Feyenoord after the end of his loan period.

Despite these losses, though, Zwolle remain in a great position to enjoy a similar season to that of 2013-14. The staggering 5-1 demolition of Ajax in the KNVB Beker final may well have been a once in a lifetime achievement and chances of lifting the cup again may be extremely unlikely as it relies purely on the luck of the draw. However, when it comes to the domestic league, they should certainly be confident of matching their 11th placed finish of their two years in the league and thus getting close to the Europa League playoff places.

It is, though, very impressive the way Zwolle have been able to build such expectations since their promotion to the top flight under Art Langeler in 2012.

It’s all down to the system they have in place. Their attacking 4-2-3-1 formation with quick, skilful wingers, a balanced and mobile midfield and a resolute defence, they can slot new signings into it quite easily if they fit the bill. Ben Rienstra, for instance, is in personnel a massive downgrade on Mokotjo, but he has squeezed into the centre of the park right away and become a key acquisition. Like Mokotjo before him, for a free transfer, he is an excellent signing.

Tomas Necid, on loan from CSKA Moscow, already looks to be a good addition and looks more suitable to the team than his predecessor Benson. The early signs from Thomas Lam and Soufian Moro following their free signings are positive and the two youngsters can add a lot to the team over the course of the campaign.

These signings severely boost a squad which has a plethora of talents in other areas. Jody Lukoki, joining from Ajax, is a very quick winger with skill and a decent cross on him. Not only fitting the team’s system, he is one who has a good sell on value. On the left-flank, Zwolle have a very bright talent in Ryan Thomas, another quick youngster whose development is years ahead of even his own schedule. The two will put Willems and Brenet under real pressure on Saturday, trying to catch them out of position as the two drift up the park.

Behind those two lie Jesper Drost and Mustafa Saymak alongside Rienstra in midfield. The duo are bright young technically proficient players make the midfield more dynamic and threatening as they recycle possession and link up with Lukoki, Thomas and Necid. On Saturday, they will be able to capitalise on Maher’s poor positioning and defensive work, which will help them put the visitors under real pressure and create a lot of chances. That, mixed with Necid’s mobility will give Rekik and Bruma a lot to track and cope with.

This respectable attack sits in front of a back four which is lead by 34-year-old Joost Broerse, a key figure in the heart of defence for the last two years. Meanwhile, Bart van Hintum and Van Polen – two reliable fullbacks who have the difficult task of marking Depay and Narsingh.

In goal is Zwolle’s main problem. When you hear of a goalkeeper with nine fingers, you might not expect them to be a reliable one, but that’s what Diederik Boer is and his departure leaves Jans with a real problem. Warner Hahn is the main option, having joined on loan from Feyenoord to complete the transfer circile (Feyenoord signed Ajax’s second choice keeper Kenneth Vermeer), while talented, he has never played an Eredivisie match. His first test of coming up against the trigger happy Depay and De Jong is a difficult one.

Everything ties together very well for Zwolle and they are lead by the wily coach Jans. Dangerous through the middle and on the wings, coming up against a PSV team who have a tendency to give away far too many chances, PEC have every reason to feel confident of getting something from the game.

Having already claimed the scalps of Ajax and Vitesse this season, they now look to take on another formidable foe and it could be from here that it all comes crashing down for PSV.

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