The Cooling Down: In love of Karsdorp and Van Beek

As far as Klassiekers go, it was neither one of the best nor the worst. Sunday’s 1-1 draw between Ajax and Feyenoord brought us no massive lessons about either team’s weaknesses or strengths that we did not know before. Those searching for something they can adopt into some kind of overall story will be disappointed.

Ajax saw plenty of the ball but lacked the incisiveness to threaten their fierce rivals well or frequently enough – same old, same old. Dirk Kuyt worked hard, Michiel Kramer under-performed – we could have written that before the game.

Both teams did set out with a narrower playing style than we’re used to or have come to expect from them this term, which was an interesting change but we cannot get excited about that due to their ineffectiveness and how few times they have adopted such a strategy.

Feyenoord can moan about a mistake from the linesman – failing to spot that the ball had crossed the touchline in the build up to Ajax’s equaliser, but there’s no point in dwindling on that point for more than a few seconds.

Sven van Beek’s journey from zero to hero to zero to hero after he consigned his side to defeat against ADO with a comical own goal in the previous game before putting his side in the lead against Ajax is a desperate one to tell, mainly because it’s pointless and boring.

However, there is something quite specific which has been building up for some time at Feyenoord this season and was perhaps perfectly displayed in De Kuip on Sunday.

Feyenoord have boasted some incredible young players over the last few years as they continue to promote from the fabled Varkenoord system. The more proficient area of the field they are producing in at the moment seems to be the defence.

This season, there is one part of the back line which deserves particularly strong praise – the right side of it.

Young right-back Rick Karsdorp and his closest centre-back partner Van Beek have been in impeccable form this term and are developing immensely together. They are very much the envy of the league and Giovanni van Bronckhorst is lucky to have them.

It’s an area of the field in which Dutch sides are particularly strong just now. Kevin Diks has been exemplary for Vitesse and is backed by the ultra-beast that is Guram Kashia, while Ajax’s Kenny Tete continues to impress beside Joel Veltman. Groningen, too, could boast something similar as their 21-year-old right-back Hans Hateboer has been sound, it’s just a shame they have paired him with Etienne Reijnen.

There is a bright future for the national team when it comes to that role, for sure. Karsdorp, initially a midfielder, and Van Beek, however, are leading the way at present, even though Oranje boss Danny Blind seems to have much more faith in Tete and is simply refusing to call up his Feyenoord counterpart.

Sunday’s game saw Tete show his precociousness even further as one of Ajax’s top performers, but the consistency and effectiveness of Karsdorp and Van Beek is impossible not to admire.

Karsdorp is perpetual. There is something Kuyt-esque about his constant patrolling of the right side of the flank and his ability to remain effective for 90 minutes. Unlike many modern full-backs, both sides of his game begin at a high level. His defensive solidity is not compromised by his attacking intent or vice versa because of the intelligence in his passing and positioning, both are aided by his speed.

Van Beek, on the other hand, is wonderfully sturdy and proactive as a defender. For someone who had severe doubts raised over his potential and ability to make it as a professional, he has been excellent since he burst into the team to replace Stefan de Vrij last term.

All attention was on the 21-year-old in his side’s previous game as he secured three points for ADO Den Haag with a comical own goal – his fifth in the Eredivisie already. Van Beek struck the opener against Ajax to hit back at his critics. His own goal record is unfortunate, but his work ethic, strength, positioning and tackling ability is something to marvel at.

The partnership these two share on that side of the back line is truly outstanding. Feyenoord’s defence in general has been sound. They are adept at cutting out chances despite occasionally lacking protection from the midfield. However, this side in particular deserves praise because of how impeccable these two are individually and also in support of each other. If Karsdorp is beaten, he either gets back to recover the ball or can rely on Van Beek to mop up behind him.

Terence Kongolo, used at left-back at the moment, is a remarkably talented defender that Netherlands are lucky to have, but that side of the back line is noticeably weaker than the right. That’s partly because Kongolo has not had the time to get used to new signings Jan-Arie van der Heijden and Eric Botteghin, but it’s also down to the fact that the latter two are not as good defensively. Botteghin is overzealous and sloppy, while Van der Heijden is neither consistent nor strong enough. This leaves Kongolo with quite a bit of cleaning up to do.

Van Beek and Karsdorp, on the other hand, have an incredible balance to their own game and complement each other well. And Karsdorp, it must be said, enjoys extra backup from Kuyt tracking back from attacking roles, a luxury Kongolo is denied in sharing a wing with the less defensively astute Elia.

Mitchell Dijks really struggled to create something for Ajax when faced with them. He eventually turned to an utterly pointless shot from distance followed by a completely futile over-hit diagonal cross (there’s no way he thought these were the best decisions to make in said situations) to simply surrender the ball and kill off his own side’s chances, rather than take another step towards the sturdy duo.

Of course, Amin Younes opened up the chance for Ajax’s equalising goal on Sunday by rounding Karsdorp with a one-two, but the right back was catching up with him as he looked to recover, with the pressure forcing the winger to take the ball out of play. Capitalising on the mistake from the officials, Younes was forced to switch play to the other side of the pitch, where Ajax were able to open up a big space around the box. Klaassen was incredibly lucky to see the ball strike Kongolo and loop over Vermeer.

Lucky, sure, but it is telling that Ajax’s two biggest chances – the goal and a first half shot from Sinkgraven – came from open spaces on the left side of Feyenoord’s defence. Ajax simply could not create anything down the opposite flank.

It was a superb performance from the duo of Karsdorp and Van Beek, but it was little more than we’ve come to expect from either. The 20-year-old full-back/midfielder has been excellent all season, the latter a consistently sound centre-back.

Yet again, Feyenoord can count on another extremely talented young player as they look to mount a serious challenge against Ajax and PSV over the next few years.

Ziyech’s a goner and it’s no surprise

It’s truly incredible that of FC Twente’s 13 Eredivisie goals this season, Hakim Ziyech has either scored (seven) or assisted (four) 11 of them. For a team of that stature to be so heavily reliant on a 22-year-old attacking midfielder says a huge amount about both parties.

Twente are done for. They were utterly shambolic throughout their 4-1 home defeat to Heerenveen. With nine points from 12 games, it seems imminent that they will drop into the bottom three in the coming weeks, possibly on 28 November, when they take on Willem II who sit a place below them. They are not unlucky, not building up to anything, just utterly horrific.

It’s no surprise then, that the man responsible for them staying out of the bottom three until now has decided that he has had enough. Alfred Schreuder’s sacking was the final straw for the attacking midfielder. He insisted the coach who convinced him to move to Enschede instead of Feyenoord did not deserve the boot, adding that he was looking for an immediate exit, it was just a shame that it happened on the final day of the transfer window.

After Saturday’s humbling, Ziyech reiterated that he is open to a move away and really no one can blame him. It’s difficult to see a way back for Twente to the level of challenging for the Europa League playoffs and an ambitious 22-year-old like the ex-Heerenveen man is too good for that.

The Morocco international is immensely talented, teams across Europe will be queueing up to sign him in January and he might be available for a good price considering the Tukkers’ financial situation. It will be a shame to see him leave Netherlands this season, but there is a great chance it will happen considering the magnitude of this young attacking midfielder’s ability and potential.

Roda JC 1 – 1 ADO Den Haag
FC Twente 1 – 4 sc Heerenveen
N.E.C. 2 – 0 De Graafschap
Willem II 2 – 3 Excelsior
PEC Zwolle 1 – 1 Heracles Almelo
PSV 3 – 1 FC Utrecht
Feyenoord 1 – 1 Ajax
SC Cambuur Leeuwarden 2 – 2 FC Groningen
Vitesse 0 – 2 AZ

# Team Games Points +/-
1 Ajax 12 29 25
2 PSV 12 27 18
3 Feyenoord 12 26 11
4 Heracles Almelo 12 25 10
5 Vitesse 12 20 14
6 N.E.C. 12 20 4
7 PEC Zwolle 12 18 0
8 FC Groningen 12 18 -2
9 FC Utrecht 12 16 0
10 AZ 12 15 -2
11 Excelsior 12 15 -5
12 sc Heerenveen 12 14 -2
13 Roda JC Kerkrade 12 14 -7
14 ADO Den Haag 12 12 -5
15 FC Twente 12 9 -13
16 Willem II 12 7 -7
17 SC Cambuur Leeuwarden 12 7 -18
18 De Graafschap 12 2 -21

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