A blog following in Dennis' footsteps. Ajax, Arsenal and Dutch football
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On the fifth of May – Dutch Liberty Day – Ajax claimed their third consecutive Eredivisie title under Frank de Boer. The whole of Amsterdam heaved a sigh of relief. It hadn’t been an easy season: The Amsterdamsche Football Club’s title ambitions only properly started to take shape at the end of February, just like in the previous two seasons. In the end, de Godenzonen’s collective quality prevailed. However, one can’t judge individual players by just looking at the Eredivisie table. Which players have done well? Who’ve been the best players in their position?
Blasphemy. The first word people will think of when they see a Dutch XI lined up as a 4-4-2. But to be able to include all the best players, this is the way to go. So first things first.
On the 24th of June 2011, PSV announced that they had loaned 20-year-old ‘keeper Jeroen Zoet to newly promoted RKC Waalwijk. A season, 34 Eredivisie appearances and a 7th place in the league later, Zoet had a choice: Return to PSV to challenge Przemysław Tytoń for a starting spot or stay at RKC for another year. Jeroen chose the latter, and thanks to Ed de Goey’s guidance he finds himself towering above his colleagues.
Right back: This is where it gets tricky. I promised myself that I’d judge on current performance, not talent, as we all know that talent alone isn’t enough. That’s why I chose Daryl Janmaat. The Dutchman did a very good job in his first season at Feyenoord. Winger-tormenting fullbacks seem to have disappeared, but Janmaat’s stamina and determination makes him a well-balanced defender. Louis van Gaal agrees; Daryl Janmaat has played in 8 international games since he made his debut last September.
Centre backs: Steady Stefan de Vrij is a boyhood dream come true. Joined Feyenoord’s famed youth system at the age of 10, became captain at the age of 20. Rightly so, for the tall Dutchman is reliable beyond his years. A rock at the back for Feyenoord and the Dutch national team.
Celtic came knocking and off he went. It’s an acknowledgement of Virgil van Dijk’s very promising season at the heart of FC Groningen’s defense. Not afraid to move forward with the ball, Virgil is what you’d expect from a Dutch defender.
Left back: Seeing a player go from ‘zero’ to ‘hero’ doesn’t happen often. It was only a season ago that the Ajax faithful wanted Daley Blind to leave. Matches full of confidence-shattering boos, re-found confidence and an Eredivisie title later, Daley was crowned Ajax Player of the Year. More solid than a Nokia 3310, the son of former Ajax player Danny Blind shows us what sheer determination and effort can do for you.
Right midfielder: 12 goals and 15 assists in your first season at a new club. It’s what every player would dream of. It’s Dusan Tadić reality. His assist tally saw him finish second in the league, only just behind new Napoli signing Dries Mertens. Of course, the stats don’t tell the whole story. Dusan has been at the heart of everything good for Twente. The Serbian creator excels at crossing and dribbling, wreaking havoc along the way.
Centre midfielders: With plenty of defendable options to choose from, the two centre midfield positions are the hardest ones to fill. Players like Lasse Schöne, Jordy Clasie, Tonny Vilhena and Kevin Strootman deserve honourable mentions, but your author has chosen two less obvious suspects. Marco van Ginkel, who is about to sign for Mourinho’s Chelsea, has been a revelation this season. A known quantity to the more avid Eredivisie watchers, the Dutchman has improved significantly under Fred Rutten’s guidance. Marco’s senior midfield partner Theo Janssen deserves equal praise, for he relieved the Talent of the Year of a large portion of his defensive duties, allowing the 20-year-old to flourish.
Next up is Siem de Jong, probably the most underrated Dutch player around. While Siem’s colleague Christian Eriksen has been getting all the plaudits, Ajax’ captain is the hard-working, complete architect of Ajax’ rotational midfield. Perhaps a Jack of all trades and a master of none, but Luuk de Jong’s older brother is THE shining light of versatility that every team needs.
Left midfielder: On the left side of this XI’s midfield quartet, we find another Serbian. Nicknamed The Cruijff of the Balkans, Filip Đuričić’ technical ability shouldn’t come as a surprise. Only 21 years old, Filip completed his move to Portuguese giant Benfica a month ago. Success awaits in Lisbon, especially if the highly-rated youngster improves his movement in tight spaces.
A combined total of 54 goals split 31 and 23. Two strong and muscular forwards, who have both been of vital importance to their team, scoring respectively 53,5% and 41% of their teams’ goals. An Ivorian and an American.
Wilfried Bony has taken the Eredivisie by storm with his strength and finishing ability. Supposedly about to sign for Swansea, Daddy Cool more to worry about than Dutch defenders. Whilst excelling in finishing and using his body, improvements need to be made to succeed abroad: Wilfried’s technique is quite average, he needs to improve that to give Premier League defenders nightmares.
Ex-footballing nomad Jozy Altidore has finally settled in Alkmaar. After stints at Villareal and multiple loans at lower league clubs, Jozy is finally showing why he was so highly rated in his motherland. AZ coach Gertjan Verbeek has tamed the 23-year-old who, despite supposed weight problems, seems to score when he wants.
That’s all for now. Coming up with a reasonable XI wasn’t as straight-forward as it looks. Hopefully you’ve learned a bit about the Eredivisie. Despite a lack of money, Dutch football always aims to entertain and produce talent.