Monday, June 16, 2008

Ernst Bouwes on the Dutch

I recommend Ernst Bouwes's take on the Dutch resurgence. A couple thoughts:

1. More grist for the notion that modern players are overcoached and there is an advantage to be gained by gaffers loosening the reins and letting their teams have some freedom. I first thought this when Chelsea started to put on good displays under Avram Grant. Holland's performance under van Basten is Exhibit B. This explanation also makes sense of the fact that the Dutch never produced this level under van Basten. Essentially, Marco tried to force Holland to play the 4-3-3 even though the personnel did not fit. The result were some uninpsiring performances for the first three years of his tenure. Liberated from pressure in his last tournament in charge of the Oranje, van Basten is listening to his players and giving them freedom. His coaching approach is more laid back, thus producing better football.

1a. It remains to be seen if a laid-back approach to tactics will work against a Scolari-coached team as opposed to teams coached by Domenech and Donadoni, neither of whom are especially good at what they do.

1b. The Dutch have already gained vengeance over the sides that knocked them out of the '96 and '00 tournaments. If the vengeance circle is to be completed, then they will have to vanquish Portugal, the side that knocked the Dutch out of Euro '04.

2. Irony alert: the Dutch have a tradition of playing the 4-3-3, which van Basten is violating. They also have a tradition of players: (1) inserting themselves into the coach's decisions; and (2) having freedom to move all over the pitch (hence the concept of Total Football). Van Basten has broken one tradition, but in so doing, has upheld others.

3. Wankdorf. Huh huh huh huh.

4. Bouwes is spot-on when he says that van Basten has figured out that the best way to protect a lead with his average back line is to pile more offensive pressure onto the opponent and get more goals. After 13 years of watching Lloyd Carr try to nurse narrow leads for obscene amounts of time by running the ball and trusting the defense, it's liberating to root for a side whose approach to protecting a 1-0 lead is to score three more goals in the second half.

4a. In case you were wondering whether my whining about Lloyd's policies and procedures with a lead would end after his retirement, the answer is "no."

12 comments:

Godot said...

When Van Basten put in Robben and Van persie, I thought I was dreaming. Been advocating it for a while, and the main reason I think is that with the lead, Robben becomes even more effective running into open spaces, and teams have to be wary of pushing forward with Persie on one wing, and Robben on the other.

Btw, nice blog. Braves, Barcelona and Dutch football. Guess I am not that unique! :)

Michael said...

I totally agree on Robben. He's highly effective when he comes on and runs against tired opponents who have been sucked forward. In contrast, if the Dutch are behind and facing a packed defense, would you leave on Kujt for heading purposes or Robben to beat opponents off the dribble?

The web was invented for people with esoeric tastes, right?

Kanu said...

1. Barcelona didn't do too bad there for the last 5 years with laid back Rijkaard at the helm, who certainly seemed not to overcoach his players and give them plenty of freedom to do their thing.

4. And yay to anyone, anywhere who thinks that they best way to defend a 1-0 lead is to score again and go up 2-0.

Here's hoping they keep it going and don't become another in a line of teams who kicked ass in a group stage only to flame out in the knockout stage.

Michael said...

The big difference between Rijkaard and van Basten is that Rijkaard stuck with the 4-3-3 even when the team and the rest of the world wanted to see what a 4-4-2 with Eto'o and Henry would look like. (It might have stopped Thierry's sulking for a red-hot minute before he ate a bad batch of Paella or stepped on a sidewalk crack.) Van Basten has proven to be more flexible about picking a formation that suits the talent on his team. The Dutch also have good esprit de corps right now, which is the absolute antithesis of what Barca had during the season. Van Basten has gotten better as a lame duck; Rijkaard got worse. And I say all of this despite the fact that Frank is one of my favorite managers of all time and never quite got the credit he deserved.

Godot said...

I am not a believer in Kuyt. As a baseball analogy, he reminds me of David Eckstein. Given Robben and Van Persie started today, I think the Dutch are going to stick to starting Kuyt and getting these 2 on as subs. If behind, still bring on Robben, and also throw in Huntelaar for size in the box.

Looks like Italy is going to face Spain. They found their near ideal combination today, though I would prefer Del Piero to Perrota, and and a dead body to Gattuso. Luckily for Spain, pirlo is going to miss the next game. Unluckily for Spain, so is Gattuso. But then, they might get a Cammanoresi sighting. Which always is good news for Italy's opponents.

Michael said...

I was never a fan of Kujt with either Liverpool or Holland, but I can see how he works in this side. The difference between him and Eckstein is that baseball players don't need to gel together. Every at-bat that's taken by Eckstein is an at-bat that is not taken by someone who can hit the ball out of the infield. In soccer, you can't field the equivalent of 11 Barry Bonds the way you can in a baseball lineup. You need Makeleles with your Zidanes. Kujt works with Sneijder, RVN, and van der Vaart because he doesn't need the ball to be effective. He does the donkey work of making runs and he's effective at heading the ball. If you replace him with Robben or van Persie, then you have four attackers who all need the ball at their feet. The Dutch looked so average two years ago because none of their attackers meshed well together. Some of that was the formation and some was the type of players combined together.

Michael said...

I was never a fan of Kujt with either Liverpool or Holland, but I can see how he works in this side. The difference between him and Eckstein is that baseball players don't need to gel together. Every at-bat that's taken by Eckstein is an at-bat that is not taken by someone who can hit the ball out of the infield. In soccer, you can't field the equivalent of 11 Barry Bonds the way you can in a baseball lineup. You need Makeleles with your Zidanes. Kujt works with Sneijder, RVN, and van der Vaart because he doesn't need the ball to be effective. He does the donkey work of making runs and he's effective at heading the ball. If you replace him with Robben or van Persie, then you have four attackers who all need the ball at their feet. The Dutch looked so average two years ago because none of their attackers meshed well together. Some of that was the formation and some was the type of players combined together.

Kanu said...

M-

Agreed on all points as far as last season- I meant more big picture overall the last 5 years and being so laid back and not overcoaching or being too over technical with his team. You'd certainly know more that me but it seemed his style of management was a big part of the 05-07 success.

So Holland have 9 goals now in 3 matches, but I think they have come from 7 different goal scorers: that's scary.

Italy-Spain will be absolutely tasty.

Kanu said...

M-

I'm sure you've already seen this, but the summer Novella de Barca has well and truly begun- Pep says R10, SE9, & D20 are not in the mix for next year.

http://soccernet.espn.go.com/news/story?id=548007&cc=5901

Godot said...

My Eckstein analogy was that he seems to work hard, has no exceptional skill, and gets praised despite mediocre results.
In football, you definitely need players who will do the yeoman work of running up and down, chasing down balls and players. But I don't think Kuyt does that. He is pretty bad when he goes back to defend. The Dutch can let Kuyt play as Boulharoz(sp? ) doesn't come forward at all. But if searching for a goal, I rather spread Robben and Van Persie wide, with Huntelaar and Ruud in the middle, and Sneider as the fulcrum.

Luca Toni makes me laugh. He is as inept as Pippo, but he doesn't have Pippo's lucky charm of finding the net on some weird broken play.

Jerry Hinnen said...

Before this tournament, I would have agreed with you about Kuyt, godot. He was useless at WC '06 and every time I've watched him with Liverpool he's been even worse than that. But give him credit--he made perfect passes for both the second and third goals against the Italians and scored the all-important opener against the French. I think he's earned the right to start against Russia/Sweden, particularly given Michael's excellent point that he works well w/ RVN, RVDV, and Sneijder and that Robben becomes even more dangerous IMHO as a late change-of-pace.

Bizarre, bizarre feeling to watching the Romania match today.It felt good as always to see the Dutch score, but it still also felt awfully hollow at the final whistle realizing that those goals kept the Italians in the tournament--the same bleeping Italians that you just know are about to eliminate Spain and the Dutch 1-0 before taking the final to penalties. Bah.

Anonymous said...

Bobby P says:

Michael - as to the overcoaching aspect - I agree with you entirely. As a Manure fan, I think that's always been one of the keys with Fergie - he gives his attacking players a ton of freedom. I know you will disagree that he didn't do that for a couple of matches in Europe last year, which is true, but in the league he let's his front five play pretty much however they want.