Vitesse prepare to go all out attack under new coach Peter Bosz
Following an exciting and successful 2012-13 season, Vitesse have undergone a lot of change in the first-team and coaching staff. It has been an interesting summer for the Arnhem club as they look to develop and make owner Merab Jordania’s dream of winning the Eredivisie title a reality.
The Arnhem side were the surprise package last season as they imposed themselves as title candidates in the early stages and managed to remain in the battle right through until the final weeks of the campaign.
Following the KNVB Beker quarter-final defeat to Ajax in January, Rutten criticised Merab Jordania, the club’s owner, for a lack of spending in the winter transfer window, accusing the Georgian of fooling the fans. For the next few days, the coach failed to turn up to training, insisting that he was “too sick” to go to work. It was evident that he was dismayed and unhappy and he even hinted that he would not remain with the club beyond the end of the season.
After 34 games, Vitesse had been forced to settle for a fourth placed finish and a place in the Europa League qualifying round and, as the summer approached, it appeared there would be much change in the team.
Unsurprisingly, the coach was the first to go. Rutten was quickly replaced with minimal fuss as Peter Bosz was drafted in from Eredivisie rivals Heracles.
The appointment of Bosz, the sixth coach to take over first team duties since Jordania bought the club in August 2010, is one which shows the club’s desire to maintain the attacking and attractive style of football. Under Rutten and his predecessor, John van den Brom, Vitesse had developed into a stronger, more attacking team than under previous coaches and Bosz is the perfect candidate to ensure that philosophy continues to develop within the team.
Bosz started his managerial career with amateur side AGOVV Apeldoorn, where he also started his playing career as a youngster. The fresh-faced coach saw his side crowned amateur champions in 2002 and was snapped up by Eredivisie side De Graafschap, but there was nothing Bosz could do to stop the Gelderland, who had been on a slow decline year after year, from finishing bottom of the league in that season.
The former Netherlands international would leave De Graafschap that summer, but like the Blue and White Zebras, Bosz would also end up in the second tier of Dutch football as he joined Heracles in the Eerste Divisie. In his first season with the Almelo side, Bosz won the league, taking Heracles back up to the top flight of Dutch football since 1985-86. Then, in the 2005-06 campaign, Bosz guided the club to 13th in the Eredivisie and they have finished comfortably mid-table in each of the following seasons.
Following that second season with Heracles, the former midfielder left to join Feyenoord as technical director, where he spent five years as a player. In his role, he worked alongside the likes of Erwin Koeman, Leo Beenhakker, Bert van Marwijk and then Gertjan Verbeek, his predecessor at Heracles. Bosz resigned from his role after three years in solidarity with Verbeek, who was sacked after losing the confidence and faith of the playing staff. Verbeek then returned to Heracles for one season while Bosz took a season and a half out of the game, only to succeed Verbeek once again in 2010-11, after the coach departed to join AZ.
Bosz instilled in Heracles a style of relentless and uncompromising attacking football. With players such as Samuel Armenteros, Willie Overtoom, Thomas Bruns, Ninos Gouriye, Everton, Marko Vejinovic, Lerin Duarte, Luis Pedro and Kwame Quansah, Heracles developed into a fluid, attractive and dangerous team, finding themselves outscored by only five teams in the Eredivisie last season, scoring an impressive 58 goals.
The main issue Heracles had during the tenure of Bosz was the complete lack of substance to their defence. The disastrously disorganised defence was repeatedly caught out by a team which possessed even a smidgen of attacking potency. The epitome of Bosz’ uncompromising style of play was evitable by his reluctance to change his style for the away fixtures against the traditional top three last season. Against Ajax, PSV and Feyenoord, Heracles conceded 14 goals (4-0, 6-0, 4-0). In 2012-13, 12th placed Heracles conceded a whopping 71 goals, only relegated Willem II saw more hit the back of their net. The year before, after finishing in 12th place, they conceded 62, a defensive record better than only five sides in the Dutch top flight. Heracles were at their strongest defensively in the first season of Bosz’s second spell in charge, in which they let in 56.
That 2010-11 season was the last time Heracles conceded less than they scored and was the highest finish under Bosz in that spell.
That’s not to say, though, that Heracles have been in decline due to Bosz’s desire to turn Heracles into a seemingly defensively negligent and ultra-attacking force. Heracles lost a fair amount of key players in each transfer window, including defenders Tim Breukers and Antoine van der Linden while Mark-Jan Fledderus departed as well. More recently though, Armenteros departed in January of this year to join Anderlecht, as did Overtoom to join AZ, meaning Heracles had to see out the rest of the campaign without their two most valuable attacking assets. After the close of the January transfer window, Heracles dropped from a team challenging for a Europa League playoff spot to one stuck in mid-table with nothing to play for.
When Rutten left Vitesse, Bosz was the main candidate to replace him and it didn’t take long for the appointment to be made. The 49-year-old was back in charge of the team where he started his professional playing career.
The new coach is only one of many changes to have taken place at Vitesse, however.
Star striker Wilfried Bony had been linked to a move away from the club throughout all of last season. The Ivorian even tried to force a move in February when he came off the park after scoring a hat-trick against Heracles and insisted that a Russian club were interested and he wanted to join them before their transfer window closed. The move didn’t materialise, however, as Vitesse were never going to let their key asset leave while they were still very much in the title race.
Bony went on to score 31 goals in 30 Eredivisie appearances, an incredible return, and, after various problems and breakdown in communication, he has since signed for English Premier League side Swansea City for a fee of €14million, which could rise to €16million due to add-ons.
Just a week before Bony’s sale, another integral part of last season’s exciting squad, Marco van Ginkel (8 goals, 8 assists last season), also left for the English top flight. Swayed by the words and ambition of Jose Mourinho, the 20-year-old midfielder opted to leave Holland to join the Portuguese coach at Chelsea.
From the sales of Bony and Van Ginkel, Vitesse may have made a combined €22million, but they have lost the partnership which kept the team ticking over.
The striker’s goalscoring record in the last season speaks for itself, but his link up play with the energetic, dynamic, skilful and intelligent young Netherlands international created a plethora of chances for Vitesse. The side in black and yellow were a much more dangerous side due to the duo and the way they brought the likes of Renato Ibarra, Jonathan Reis and Mike Havenaar into play.
The frontman was considered the most important player in the team, but many people argued that when he and Van Ginkel were both absent for the defeat to Feyenoord, Rutten’s side missed the Dutchman more than they did the Ivorian. Vitesse were surprisingly tame in De Kuip and failed to threaten throughout the match as they succumbed to Ronald Koeman’s side. The defeat ensured they were out of the title race and they were stuck behind Feyenoord and PSV, who battled it out for the remaining Champions League spot.
When it comes to replacing Bony, Reis or Havenaar can take up the centre-forward role. Neither of these players will score 31 in 30, but they both know the team very well and have shown over the last year that they are capable of finding the net and suit the team very well.
Bony scored 45% of Vitesse’s league goals last season, so in his absence the goals must be spread out more evenly across the team, such as the midfield. Where new signing Marko Vejinovic or Davy Pröpper will be expected to chip in and show that they are the right option to replace Van Ginkel.
Vejinovic, a 23-year-old who can play as either a central or attacking midfielder or even as a striker, joins on a free transfer after spending four years at Heracles. The Netherlands Under-21 international may have scored one of the most beautiful own goals you will ever see, but there is more to him than that. He is a quick, skilful and technically sound midfielder and he developed a lot following his move to Heracles from AZ.
Pröpper, on the other hand, has been at Vitesse since he was 11-years-old and has been in and out of the first-team since making his debut at 18. He was a regular starter in the 2010-11 season, in which Vitesse managed to just avoid the relegation playoffs through goal difference. Since then, however, Pröpper has been a bench warmer. Like Vejinovic, Pröpper has his own humiliating YouTube moment, as he was the victim of a particularly daunting piece of skill from Ajax star Christian Eriksen. But there is certainly more to Propper than that (even in his YouTube repertoire). He is a versatile midfielder with decent skill and pace and if he develops well, he will have a bright future ahead of him. This is the season in which the 21-year-old must break into the starting XI if he is to continue to develop as a player.
Opportunities will be available for both Vejinovic and Pröpper. Both can play in various positions in the midfield and there may be an extra position in the centre free as Theo Janssen could play a lesser role this season. The 31-year-old considered retiring at the end of the last campaign but pledged to continue his career. It is unknown how big a role he will play under Bosz.
Kelvin Leerdam is another addition to the midfield. The defensive midfielder, who can also play as a right-back, was once an important player for Feyenoord but played only a handful of games in 2012-13 and agreed to join Vitesse in the summer for free. This move gives him the chance to resume his development with regular football if he can break into the first-team.
There was another major reason for Vitesse fans to worry when Chelsea loanees Patrick van Aanholt, Gael Kakuta and Tomas Kalas returned to their parent club. The three players played a key role in the last campaign and it was unclear whether or not Vitesse would be able to bring them back for another season. Luckily, though, Kakuta and Van Aanholt have been loaned back for the coming season, while Kalas remains with the London club. Kakuta and Van Aanholt developed an intriguing and effective partnership on the left wing, with the former playing as a winger and the latter as an attacking full-back. The absence of Kalas, who played in every league match last term, will be felt, but the return of the other two Chelsea youngsters is great news for Bosz.
The return of Van Aanholt ensures that three of the back four remain the same. With the 22-year-old on the left and Jan-Arie van der Heijden and captain Guram Kashia in the centre, only a right back is missing. Kelvin Leerdam will be expected to slot into that role unless a capable natural full-back is found.
The preseason friendly results have thus far been encouraging. In three games, Vitesse have scored a whopping 29 goals, but there isn’t a lot to be read into such matches. Even when it comes to the friendly matches against Standard Liege, Lierse and Bayer Leverkusen which are still to be played, the results stand for very little.
Only when Peter Bosz lines up against his old team Heracles for the first Eredivisie match of the season will we get a proper inkling into what this Vitesse side will look like for the most part of the campaign.
Although it seems unlikely that this season will see Vitesse make Jordania’s dream of winning the Eredivisie a reality, they can certainly mount a credible challenge for the European places. Either way, we can expect an entertaining and attacking side under Bosz.