Willem II: Streppel’s men are at it again
While Marinus Dijkhuizen and Excelsior received most plaudits for their remarkable season last year, finishing 15th and reaching the semi-final of the Dutch Cup, it was Willem II that actually made the biggest jump on the football ladder in the Netherlands. After winning the Jupiler League in 2013/14, Streppel’s men finished ninth last season with an impressive 46 points, just four off qualifying for Europa League play-offs. The last few years, Willem II have been a typical jojo club, with two promotions and two relegations in the last two seasons. Before that, the Tilburg club were as stable as they came.
Under Jurgen Streppel, Willem II are now looking to regain that stability and although the team that finished ninth has been largely dismantled – with club top goalscorer Samuel Armenteros returning to Anderlecht, Mitchell Dijks moving back to Ajax and Ben Sahar, Ali Messaoud and Frank van der Struijk leaving on a free – there has been done such astute business it should leave the KingSide confident of another successful campaign. With a contingent of loanees from the club from the capital Willem II are looking to live up to their nickname ‘Ajax van het Zuiden’ in more than ever.
Ruben Ligeon has been brought in to fill in at right back, Lesley de Sa offers options on the right wing and potential sensation of the season is the signing of Richairo Zivkovic, who did well for Jong Ajax last term but was overlooked by Frank de Boer for the senior team. In Dico Koppers, another former Ajacied has been signed to succeed Mitchell Dijks and with Erik Falkenburg (signed from arch rivals NAC), Guus Joppen and Funso Ojo the squad has been severely strengthened in terms of depth. With Streppel at the helm of a promising squad, Willem II are looking to re-establish themselves as an Eredivisie regular, something the club from the sixth city of the country should be striving for.
Player to watch: Richairo Zivkovic
A year ago, Richairo Zivkovic was portrayed as the rising wonderkid striker that would become the striker that would fill the void Robin van Persie and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar will leave. Fast-forward to now and he is seen as a bit of a trouble-kid who really needs to get his career together. Whereas the former statement was over-the-top, so is the latter. After all, at the beginning of this season Richairo Zivkovic is still only an 18 year old, one that has produced consecutive seasons with 10+ goals on senior level nonetheless (although the last was in the second tier). Frank de Boer never really got on with him from the looks of things, but in Jurgen Streppel he has a manager who will relish the challenge of bringing out the best in the Ajax-loanee. The youngster from Foxhol has the pace, the composure, the technique and the cockiness to become a very good striker indeed and with Streppel’s reputation of reviving striker’s careers that have hit a bit of a snag (both Boymans and Armenteros flourished under his guidance) the former FC Groningen-striker could well again hit top gear.
BeNeFoot Prediction: 9th