The European Championship is coming and Frank de Boer still has two matches to prepare the orange for next summer and to adjust his playing style. What are the improvement points for the Dutch national team and how do we currently relate to the favorite title?
Written by Everett Van Zoolen
1. Completion of many opportunities
A month ago, Dwight Ludwigs gave a webinar at KNVB. That evening, he discussed opponents analysis and how this was reflected in Orange’s own playing style. One of the elements that came back a lot was the structure of the Dutch national team. It regularly happens that the accumulation begins on one side of the playing field: then the orange opens on the other side, trying to take advantage of the attack there.
In such situations, De Boer would prefer to see his midfielders move the match to the other side, as seen in the match against Turkey. This is possible with a (high) ball to Stephen Berguis or with a shorter pass to Kenny Tite. Source: Sky Sports.
With this way of playing, Orange was able to create an average of ten chances per match, more than major countries like Spain (nine) and France (seven). Remarkably, the Netherlands does this mainly through crosses. Since Frank de Boer was national coach, the orange has averaged 21 cross passes per game. This is much more than France (fourteen), Spain (sixteen), England and Germany (both eleven). Moreover, intersections in the Netherlands with an “reach rate” of 38 percent are considered very effective, only Spain achieve comparable figures.
Partly because of this, the Netherlands were able to get the ball into their sixteen opponents an average of 24 times per match. In this area too, we scored higher than France (eighteen), Spain (22), England (21), and Germany (eighteen). It is therefore not surprising that the Netherlands offer more so-called key passes – a pass that leads to a shot on goal – than other countries. Orange gives an average of eight such passes per game. France (4.4), Spain (5.6), England (4.8) and Germany (5.2) don’t all come close.
But the question arises: if the Netherlands comes in 16th place more often, provides more and better crosses and can score more key passes than other (higher) countries, then why do Orange win their tough matches?
This is mainly due to termination of opportunities. If we look at the expected goals – the number of goals a team “must” score based on the chances created – then Holland will end up with 2.7 goals per game. Also in this area, France (2.1), Spain (2.1), England (2.3) and Germany (1.92) lag behind. But if we look at the goals already scored, the Netherlands is suddenly at the bottom of the table with just 1.8 per game. So Orange deals with opportunities much less than the competition. The Netherlands is taking advantage of eighteen percent of the opportunities created, France (thirty), Spain (22), England (25), and Germany (24) doing it much better.
An amazing statistic that goes along with this is the low yield that Orange is making from meters. Only fourteen percent of the counters set up by the Netherlands in the past 10 matches have led to a goal attempt. The fact that France (23 percent) is higher than the Netherlands can be explained by the fact that France uses a completely different style of play than the Netherlands. However, even a “holding country” like Spain makes 24 percent, and struggling Germany also gets more returns than counters (eighteen percent).
What Orange’s supporters particularly worry about is that the Netherlands is fighting back well against Bosnia and Herzegovina, Turkey and Latvia. These were the only opponents in the past 10 matches in which the Netherlands were able to achieve a counter-return of at least twenty percent. Against countries where Holland has little possession of the ball, Orange can’t take advantage of space when they conquer the ball.
Holland managed to set up twenty enemies against Italy, but only five percent of these counters also resulted in a shot on goal. Things went a little better against Spain, but Holland didn’t create much risk of a switch: seven goals with fourteen percent back. The biggest drop was the two matches against Mexico and Poland. Then Orange was not once able to create an opportunity from the switch.
2. Arrange the rest of the defense
It sounds like a Dutch disease: the desire to combine everything in the opponent’s half and then lose the ball, after which the opponent can immediately set up the counter and score. We’ll stick with the counters for a while: their defense could also be improved.
In the Bosnia-Herzegovina match, the remaining defense was not well organized, so that there are many spaces in the substitution. Source: NPO.
Where Orange itself gets a relatively low yield from the meters, opponents of the Netherlands know what to do with it. The Netherlands receives an average of twelve counters per game: one in five of them is followed by the opponent’s attempt. The only country that is worse in number is Germany (with an average of forty runners with an effectiveness rate of 21 percent). Spain, France (ten at 10 percent effectiveness) and England (eight at 13 percent efficiency) have better control over their opponents’ transformation.
Turkey resist the Netherlands after a corner kick. Source: NPO.
The best way to prevent counters is to switch collectively immediately after losing the ball and hitting the ball. When you do it well as a team, you don’t give the opponent a chance to play football under pressure so you can get the ball back quickly.
So what is the most important condition for a good transformation? That the team already takes into account the possibility of losing the ball during the moment of possession. So the team must ensure that the mutual distances do not become too large, so that the players can immediately put pressure on the ball.
In Orange, this fieldwork is often messy. In fact, the players are very far apart, and then there is a complete chase towards the ball. In recent games this is usually fine, but the question is whether this will not cause problems against stronger teams. When played under first pressure, it is fully open from the back.
The Netherlands are going forward against Bosnia and Herzegovina with three players, but no one is really pressing the ball. Source: NPO.
3. Establishing the defense organization
Defensively, De Boer chose to play in pairs in midfield as much as possible. In the front, it is the striker who presses the central defender with the ball, while the wing comes on the other side to cover the second defender.
Stephen Burgess drops in with the linebacker, Luke de Jong presses the ball while striker Memphis Depay comes in to catch up with the second defender. Source: NPO.
In general, the Netherlands exerts less pressure than other countries. In the so-called high block, to squeeze half of the opponent, the Netherlands and France have a success rate of 49 percent. However, England tops the list with 60 percent, with Spain and Germany coming in at 56 and 53 percent, respectively. If we look a little ‘inferior’ on the field, only France does less than Orange Glaucoma 41 per cent succeeded in pressing half of them against 44 per cent with the Netherlands. Here too, the English were the most successful with 57 percent, followed by Germany and Spain (49 percent).
The problems facing the Netherlands lie mainly in the cohesion of the team. The lines are often too far apart for players to support each other. In addition, players are regularly delayed in coverage and the man cover ensures that players are pulled from their normal position.
The boost up to 3-0 through Turkey and Holland. It was too late for Martin de Ron to press the ball, while Burak Yilmaz drowned in the middle of the field and could receive the ball. Source: NPO.
Alvaro Morata was launched between the lines through the Netherlands and Spain. Source: NPO.
Therefore, it is not surprising that the opponents of Orange were able to achieve a higher expected ratio (0.99) than the opponents of Spain (0.53), France (0.68) and England (0.66). Only Germany does 1.36 less.
It is therefore important that De Boer works hard with his style of play in the lead up to the European Championship, based on these points. Wednesday night there will be practice against Scotland, Georgia awaits on Sunday and then the big action will start on June 13.
Evert van Zoelen is an analyst for YouTube channel TheNextManager, has written for tactical websites and magazines such as Spielverlagerung, TrainersMagazine and Futbol Netradince and watches top matches for VoetbalPrimeur.
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