All posts by Will Burns

AZ Alkmaar – FK Viktoria Plzen Preview

SECOND QUALIFYING ROUND

AZ ALKMAAR vs. VIKTORIA PLZEN (CZE)

WEDNESDAY 26TH AUGUST 2020 – 3.30pm BST

Even though the Bayern Munich celebrations are still ongoing from their triumph on Sunday evening, AZ Alkmaar begin their quest for Champions League qualification on Wednesday afternoon in a proverbial banana skin one-legged match against Czech side FK Viktoria Plzen writes Will Burns.

We zullen er woensdag staan', zegt AZ-trainer Arne Slot, 'd ...
The AFAS Stadion is far from complete but will play host to this all important tie for AZ.

Even though the Bayern Munich celebrations are still ongoing from their triumph on Sunday evening, AZ Alkmaar begin their quest for Champions League qualification on Wednesday afternoon in a proverbial banana skin one-legged match against Czech side FK Viktoria Plzen.

Due to the current worldwide pandemic situation, UEFA introduced one-legged ties in the interim which introduces more uncertainty into the competition. By halving the length of the ties, this now matters least to the teams of similar ability and most to the teams of contrasting ability and provides more chance of an upset.

AZ head into the game as favourites but Plzen will be hungry for victory in this unfamiliar one-legged affair. The Czech’s experienced great disappointment at this stage last season, tasting defeat to Olympiakos, before coming a cropper just a few weeks later to Antwerp in the Europa League qualifying.

They qualified for this year’s competition by finishing second in the Czech 1.Liga in 2019/20 and have dished out convincing performances in recent friendly games. Plzen opened their league campaign up with a 3-1 victory over SFC Opava on Friday while resting a few players. Although they conceded first and missed a penalty, they ran out resounding winners by two goals.

GALERIE: SESTŘIH: Plzeň - Opava 3:1. Favorit otočil proti deseti ...
French striker Jean-David Beauguel will lead the line for Viktoria Plzen on Wednesday afternoon.

Plzen will led up top by their top scorer last year, Frenchman Jean-David Beauguel.  He notched 14 goals last term but was rested in Friday’s win until an injury forced him into the game late in the first-half. He went onto net once in the 3-1 win.

The Czech’s possess a strong midfield and creative attack and the AZ will have to be aware of that constantly. Teun Koopmeiners, Jordy Clasie and Dani de Wit will be in for a tough night and will have to play with great caution.

Despite just one win in six friendly outings and competing in an empty, half-finished home stadium on Wednesday afternoon, AZ are still favourites to win. As captain Teun Koopmeiners said in an interview earlier this week “Last year, the pre-season results were not as we wanted, but we won our first league game 4-0”, so spirits should not be down in the AZ camp.

UEFA Europa League: Who are AZ Alkmaar, Manchester United's Dutch ...
AZ’s Teun Koopmeiners is hopeful for a good performance.

They were boosted earlier this week as coach Arne Slot stated that veteran defender Ron Vlaar and speedy winger Calvin Stengs are both declared fit for the clash, however both men would be highly unlikely to see a full 90 minutes.

Stengs will be vital in the AZ forward line that worked so well last year. On the left, Oussama Idrissi will start and Myron Boadu through the middle, and the trio should create chances copiously to trouble Plzen keeper Ales Hruska.

If they can perform to the standards of last season, then advancing to the third round of qualifying should be a formality.

PREDICTION

Although they will not be up to the usual performance and condition that Plzen may be, due to sheer abundance of pace and sheer talent in attack, I see an AZ win here. This is the same team that took Ajax to the limit last year, they are yet to lose any of their talents to the bigger leagues and they should have enough quality to see off the Czech league runners-up.

AZ to win with Both Teams to Score (4.00 at Bet365)

TotalDutchFootball.com

We will post preview/betting articles for the Eredivisie, Eerste Divisie, European and International competitions like this one throughout the year and we will keep track of our profits and losses for the whole 2020/21 season.  This is not an official bet due to lack of football from the Dutch sides over the past few months. Official bets will be begin in September.

EERSTE DIVISIE 2020/21 SEASON PREVIEW

DUTCH FOOTBALL IS BACK!  The Dutch first division gets underway this Friday night as the twenty (…well 16) teams of the Eerste Divisie begin their journey vying for promotion to the Eredivisie writes Will Burns.

Henk de Jong’s SC Cambuur should run out as favourites to clinch promotion, when the season kicks off this Friday night.  In the cut-short 2019/20 campaign, the boys from Leeuwarden lead the division and much thanks to the goals of loanee Robert Muhren from Belgian outfit Zulte Waregem. One vital piece of business this summer was securing Muhren down for another season. If he can repeat his tremendous feat of scoring 26 goals last term in 29 games, Cambuur should produce a strong challenge for that top spot again.

SC Cambuur tipt Ronald Koeman: Mühren in Oranje | Nederlands ...
SC Cambuur hitman Robert Muhren scored 26 goals in 2019/20.

However, to ease the burden on Muhren they have signed Maarten Pouwels from Go Ahead Eagles on a permanent basis.  The 21-year-old managed to score four times in 13 appearances for the Eagles last term, he should get plenty chances to outlast that figure this time round.  They have kept the majority of their core as midfielder Jamie Jacobs, defenders Doke Schmidt, Sven Nieuwpoort and Calvin Mac-Intosch, goalkeeper Sonny Stevens and wingers Jarchinio Antonio and Issa Kallon are still in Leeuwarden to help mount a serious challenge.

Levering NAC-shirts loopt opnieuw vertraging op, club probeert ...
Stokkers and Dogan need to start hitting the target more often for NAC to succeed.

NAC Breda have strengthened during the break and look a sturdy contender for the ascension to the top league.  Experienced in the Eredivisie, Dion Malone and Thom Haye have joined on frees from ADO Den Haag.  Haye making last years’ loan move a permanent one, while Scottish youth international midfielder Lewis Fiorini has flown in from Manchester City.  The striking power of Finn Stokkers and Huseyin Dogan needs to improve.  They notched just 11 league goals last season, if Breda are to mount a serious challenge, they will need to find the net more consistently.

Despite losing highly-rated winger Anthony Musaba to French giants AS Monaco, N.E.C. Nijmegen should still be a contender.  New coach Rogier Meijer has brought attacking players Rangelo Janga (loan from FC Astana), Anton Fase (free transfer from AZ) and Elayis Tavsan (free from Sparta Rotterdam) into the squad to soften the blow of Musaba’s departure.

The Nijmegen side also lost Mike Tresor Ndayishimiye to Willem II and defenders Bas Kuipers and Josef Kvida to Go Ahead and Greek side Pafos FC respectively but the permanent capture of former Jong Ajax midfielder Jordy Bruijn from SC Heerenveen is a real coup for N.E.C.

Van Wonderen gematigd tevreden over eerste oefenpot Go Ahead ...
Kees van Wonderen leads Go Ahead into the new season.

Go Ahead Eagles, following a sixth-finish under Jack de Gier last year, sees Kees van Wonderen take the helm in Devanter.  The Eagles overhauled their midfield options which were high on Paul Bosvelt’s (Technical Director) agenda. Jay Idzes (FC Eindhoven) and Erkan Eyibil (FC Mainz) have been drafted in joining Kevin van Kipperslius, Scotsman Frank Ross, Bradly van Hoeven and former Den Bosch favourite Luuk Brouwers to bolster the squad that saw a substantial turnover of staff over the protracted off-season.

Elsewhere, there is some debate who will wear the number one shirt following Hobie Verhulst’s move to AZ. Ex-Volendam keeper Mitchel Michaleis arrived to compete with 20-year-old Jay Gorter for the starting berth in-between the sticks. The playoff should be the target for van Wonderen’s side and a vital piece of the playoff puzzle will come from the goals of Frenchman Antonin Rabillard. The 24-year-old found the goal 11 times in 28 outings last season, and the Eagles will be hoping he builds on what was an impressive first season at the club.

Sterk spelend De Graafschap verslaat sc Heerenveen met ruime ...
Experienced defensive midfielder Rick Dekker is now plying his trade at De Graafschap.

Mike Snoei will lead De Graafschap into the new season with an abundance of new talent in his squad. After claiming fees for Leeroy Owusu (Willem II) and Branco van den Boomen (Toulouse), Snoei used the resources to bring in highly-rated goalkeeper Rody de Boer on loan from AZ and experienced midfielders Rick Dekker from PEC Zwolle and Johnatan Opoku from VVV.  They have retained the services of Ralf Seuntjens up top with Joey Konings joining him from Heracles in attack. Konings will look to revitalize his career after failing to nail down a permanent forward slot in Almelo.  Right-back Julian Lelieveld arrives from Vitesse on a free to benefit the options in defence.

Hij was ooit deel van een 'gouden generatie' bij Anderlecht ...
He’s back. Francesco Antonucci returns to play for FC Volendam this season.

With one of the youngest squads in the division, Wim Jonk’s FC Volendam may struggle to match their third-place last year, with minimal new blood injected into his team.  The former Dutch midfielder saw Francesco Antonucci return to the club after impressing last term. The 21-year-old Belgian playmaker was loaned in from AS Monaco last year but Feyenoord intervened in the summer to purchase the players and allowed Jonk to loan him back to Volendam for further playing time.  Scoring 11 times in only 20 appearances inspired Jonk to pull out all the stops to bring the midfielder back. However, losing left-back Gijs Smal to FC Twente was a blow and Jonk is yet to replace him.

Richelor Sprangers - Fotos | imago images
Telstar will pin their hopes on Haiti striker Richelor Sprangers to score goals this season.

Excelsior lost influential midfielder Rai Vloet to Heracles but coach Marinus Dijkhuizen will turn to new arrivals Reuven Niemeijer or Mitchell van Rooijen to fill the void.  Telstar were forced to part with top scorer Reda Kharchouch as his 20 goals in the last campaign saw him attract attention of Sparta Rotterdam. Big hopes will be placed on the shoulders of Haitian striker Richelor Sprangers to do the business in front of goal.

We are in for another interesting season in the Eerste Divisie, which fills our Friday nights with excitement and goals galore.  We will see more young talents emerging with Jong Ajax, Jong PSV, Jong AZ and Jong Utrecht, obviously unable to clinch promotion, looking to take points off the promotion hopefuls in the process.

TotalDutchFootball.com

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EREDIVISIE REPORT: Ajax humiliated by Feyenoord, PSV stretch lead further

Header-EredivisieReport

The nineteenth round of Eredivisie action got underway at the Rat Verlegh Stadion where a goal from super-sub Gervane Kastaneer five minutes into the second half ultimately proved enough to earn struggling NAC Breda a priceless point from their clash with ADO Den Haag in their battle to beat the drop.

Saturday’s action began in Almelo where goals from Mike van Duinen and Lennart Thy saw a resurgent PEC Zwolle post back-to-back victories for the first time since the end of September by seeing off hosts Heracles.

Elsewhere, goals from Luigi Bruins and Mounir El Hamdaoui saw Excelsior snap a run of five games without a win at the expense of rock bottom De Graafschap while a first-half double from Hirving Lozano saw reigning Eredivisie champions PSV Eindhoven negotiate the challenge of visiting Groningen to open up a five-point lead at the top of the standings.

The day’s action was concluded in Venlo where a last-gasp effort from Michael Chacón in the fifth minute of added time saw FC Emmen snatch all three points in a five-goal thriller with VVV.

Sunday’s Eredivisie action began in Sittard where a 92nd-minute strike from Finn Stokkers saw Fortuna snap a run of three games without a win by seeing off visiting Vitesse

Image result for feyenoord 6-2 ajax

Elsewhere, there were remarkable scenes at De Kuip where Feyenoord claimed Klassieker honours in emphatic fashion by hitting title-chasing Ajax for six while a lone Daniel Crowley effort a minute into the second half ultimately proved enough to earn Willem II all three points on the road in Utrecht

The nineteenth round of Eredivisie action was brought to a close in Friesland where an own goal from the unlucky Sherel Floranus and an Oussama Idrissi effort saw AZ Alkmaar make it three wins on the bounce in all competitions with a victory over Heerenveen.

Results: Week 19

NAC Breda 1-1 ADO Den Haag

Heracles Almelo 0-2 PEC Zwolle

Excelsior 2-0 De Graafschap

PSV Eindhoven 2-1 FC Groningen

VVV Venlo 2-3 FC Emmen

Fortuna Sittard 2-1 Vitesse Arnhem

Feyenoord 6-2 AFC Ajax

FC Utrecht 0-1 Willem II

SC Heerenveen 0-2 AZ Alkmaar

Team of the Week

GK – Mickey van der Hart (PEC Zwolle)

DF – Jeremiah St. Juste (Feyenoord)

DF – Kingsley Ehizibue (PEC Zwolle)

DF – Menno Koch (NAC Breda)

DF – Jurgen Mattheij (Excelsior)

MF – Jens Toornstra (Feyenoord)

MF – Ousamma Idrissi (AZ Alkmaar)

MF – Younes Namli (PEC Zwolle)

FW – Jonathan Opoku (VVV Venlo)

FW – Robin van Persie (Feyenoord)

FW – Steven Berghuis (Feyenoord)

Player of the Week

Steven Berghuis (Feyenoord) – 2 points

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Ajax target Bayern youngster as De Jong replacement

The Dutch side has reportedly targeted Bayern Munich youngster Meritan Shabani as a replacement for the Barcelona bound Frenkie De Jong. De Jong completed a £65m move to Barcelona this past week writes Will Godley.

Image result for meritan shabani
Shabani has emerged as a target for Ajax

German newspaper Bild have reported that Shabani is seen by the Dutch club as De Jong’s successor.

Shabani is a Munich-native, having joined Bayern when he was seven years old. He is currently contracted to the club until 2020 and trained with the first-team in Doha during the German winter break.

The 19-year old is seen as one of the most promising youth prospects at Bayern Munich and has made three first-team appearances.

However, with so many talented midfielders currently at Bayern, opportunities will be hard to come by for Shabani unless he moves away.

Ajax appears to be very interested in the player and should now step up their interest, after the sale of De Jong earlier this week. The Eredivisie side is keen to integrate Shabani into head coach Erik ten Hag’s team during the second half of the season and hope to make a deal before the January window closes.

Bayern may consider inserting a buy-back clause or a first-option clause into the player’s contract, should he leave the Allianz Arena.

It is no secret that Bayern is interested in Ajax’s 19-year old centre-back, Matthijs de Ligt. With that mind, they may also consider giving Ajax favourable terms in the Shabani deal to get an upper hand in future negotiations for De Ligt. Any advantage would be favourable, considering the size of the club’s competing alongside them for the signature of the Dutch youngster.

Shabani is most comfortable in an advanced midfield role. His skill set has allowed him to move further forward during his career and he is capable of playing on either wing. However, he is more confident operating centrally.

He was promoted to the Bayern U19 squad at the age of 16. Shabani’s rapid rise continued from there, moving up to the Bayern II team, before earning a first-team call-up.

Jupp Heynckes gave the youngster his first-team debut in the Bundesliga against Eintracht Frankfurt last season, after Bayern had already won the league title.

Since then, his confidence has grown. He featured prominently in the club’s pre-season tour of the US and made another Bundesliga appearance against Frankfurt this season. He has also appeared in the DFB Pokal.

Image result for meritan shabani
Shabani is a German U20 international

Shabani is a dual national, who is eligible to represent Germany and Kosovo at international level. Although, Germany appears to be winning the race for his services. He is currently an U20 international for the Germans.

The midfielder’s statistics are very impressive. For the Bayern U19 side, Shabani scored 15 goals and made 12 assists in 69 appearances. For the Bayern II team, he has scored 9 goals and made 4 assists in 19 appearances – including 3 goals in 4 UEFA Youth League games.

Shabani has good ball control and likes to run at defenders. That, combined with his impressive goals tally, makes him a real attacking threat.

Will Godley

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Doelman Dilemma: Who will succeed Andre Onana as Ajax number 1?

With the recent flurry of transfer activity revolving around many prominent members of Ajax’s current first team squad – most notably Frenkie de Jong’s record-breaking switch to FC Barcelona, a number of questions regarding next season and beyond are yet to be resolved by Messrs Overmars, ten Hag and Co.

One of which is, with his departure seemingly imminent, who will succeed Cameroon international Andre Onana between the sticks at the Johan Cruijff ArenA?

Image result for andre onana
Big Andre’s tipped to move to the big leagues in the summer.

Despite no move materialising during the current transfer window, it appears almost guaranteed that Onana will be snapped up in the summer and, as Kostas Lamprou’s recent performance – standing in for the injured 22-year-old in an eight-goal thriller with Heerenveen on January 20th that saw Ajax squander the chance of leapfrogging reigning Eredivisie champions PSV Eindhoven into first place coupled with the resultant media backlash that saw accusations of poor judgement aimed in the direction of director of football, Marc Overmars, head coach, Erik ten Hag and even the club’s goalkeeping coach, Carlo l’Ami, from an irate Dutch media proved, a long-term successor to Ajax’s current number one is far from clear.

As such, we here at TotalDutchFootball.com have compiled a list of both short and long-term solutions for Ajax’s ‘doelman dilemma’.

Image result for kostas lamprou ajax
Onana’s current understudy Kostas Lamprou

Promote from within?

Despite both arriving at the club in the summer of 2017, Kostas Lamprou and Benjamin van Leer have thus far failed to really stake any sort of claim as Andre Onana’s long term successor. Despite an impressive stint manning the nets for Willem II, the Greek international’s few first-team appearances in an Ajax shirt have been far from convincing and his current deal, which expires in the summer, is unlikely to be extended. Meanwhile, despite being initially tipped as a potential solution to the Ajax goalkeeping conundrum following his switch from Roda JC, having slipped behind not only Onana but Lamprou as well in the pecking order for a starting berth in Amsterdam, Benjamin van Leer now finds himself on a season-long loan with NAC Breda and, despite having a deal that runs until the summer of 2021, it appears unlikely that the club will turn to the 27-year-old when Onana does eventually decide to look for pastures new.

Despite being capped at U17, U18 and U19 level for the Netherlands, with just fifteen senior appearances to date, 21-year-old Sven van Bladeren appears to lack the necessary experience to shoulder such a burden at this stage in his development while the same can be said for both Croatian U19 glovesman Dominik Kotarski and Moroccan U23 stopper Issam El Maach who are both just eighteen years of age.

Image result for maarten stekelenburg
Former Dutch no.1 Maarten Stekelenburg

An experienced hand?

Should the club conclude that the aforementioned inexperience of Messrs van Bladeren, Kotarski and El Maach means that promoting from within is not an option and a short-term solution is instead required, Ajax may turn their attention to a familiar face in the form of Everton’s Maarten Stekelenburg. A product of the club’s famed youth system, Stekelenburg manned the Ajax nets with distinction until his departure for Roma in the summer of 2011. At the age of thirty-six and with no real likelihood of first-team football on the horizon thanks to England international Jordan Pickford’s presence at Goodison Park, Stekelenburg may jump at the opportunity to finish his career where it all began while a true long-term successor is prepared. However, it should be noted that Stekelenburg’s current deal with Everton runs until the summer of 2020 and thus might make any move financially unfeasible at this stage.

However, Michel Vorm’s current deal with Tottenham Hotspur is set to expire in the summer and, at the age of thirty-five, seeing out his career at the Johan Cruijff ArenA may well appeal to the former FC Utrecht stopper.

Image result for Kjell Scherpen
Youngster Scherpen halts a PSV attack in its tracks

One for the future?

Should Ajax opt to recruit an experienced glovesman with a view to buying time while a long-term replacement is readied, one name immediately springs to mind – FC Emmen’s Kjell Scherpen. Despite being just 19-years-old, Scherpen has played all but one of Emmen’s twenty games in all competitions this term and has been impressive throughout. Given time to acclimatise, the Dutch U19 international could well become the long-term solution Ajax are looking for.

A ready-made replacement?

However, should Ajax desire a ready-made replacement, the club may well look to AZ Alkmaar’s Marco Bizot. The 27-year-old has enjoyed an impressive campaign thus far having posted ten clean sheets in his twenty-four appearances in all competitions and his good form resulting in a call-up to the Dutch national team.

Whatever the club decides, recent events clearly illustrate that it is imperative a decision on Andre Onana’s long-term successor be made sooner rather than later.

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EREDIVISIE REPORT: PSV falter but Ajax have a late four(all)

Header-EredivisieReport

With the winter break over, the eighteenth round of Eredivisie action got underway on Friday evening in Arnhem where a 67th-minute effort from Maikel van der Werff ultimately proved decisive as Vitesse edged out visiting Excelsior in a five-goal thriller.

Saturday’s action in the top flight of Dutch football began at the AFAS Stadion where AZ Alkmaar got back to winning ways by hitting FC Utrecht for three without reply.

Elsewhere, PEC Zwolle kicked off the Jaap Stam era in style by putting three past visiting Feyenoord while VVV Venlo made it back-to-back victories by hitting an undermanned ADO Den Haag for four on the road in The Hague.

The day’s Eredivisie action was brought to a close at the Hitachi Capital Mobility Stadion where a new-look Groningen posted their first win since the start of December by smashing Heracles for three.

Image result for nicklas pedersen

Sunday’s action got underway in Tilburg where goals from Pol Llonch and Marios Vrousai saw Willem II claim the bragging rights against an undermanned NAC Breda in the Brabantse derby.

Elsewhere, bottom-of-the-table De Graafschap gave their survival hopes a much-needed shot in the arm by smashing Fortuna Sittard for five while two goals in the space of the final ten minutes from Nicklas Pedersen saw FC Emmen snatch a late share of the spoils in their clash with defending Eredivisie champions PSV Eindhoven.

Image result for ajax 4-4 heerenveen

The eighteenth round of Eredivisie action was brought to a close in spectacular fashion at the Johan Cruijff ArenA where a late leveller from Kik Pierie in the first minute of added time saw Heerenveen claim a last-gasp share of the spoils in an eight-goal thriller that also denied title-chasing Ajax the chance to replace PSV at the top of the standings.    

Week 18: Results

Vitesse Arnhem 3-2 Excelsior Rotterdam

AZ Alkmaar 3-0 FC Utrecht

PEC Zwolle 3-1 Feyenoord

ADO Den Haag 2-4 VVV Venlo

FC Groningen 3-0 Heracles Almelo

Willem II 2-0 NAC Breda

De Graafschap 5-1 Fortuna Sittard

FC Emmen 2-2 PSV Eindhoven

AFC Ajax 4-4 SC Heerenveen

Team of the Week

GK – Warner Hahn (sc Heerenveen)

DF – Ricardo van Rhijn (AZ)

DF – Kenneth Paal (PEC Zwolle)

DF – Maikel van der Werff (Vitesse)

DF – Bram van Polen (PEC Zwolle)

MF – Youssef El Jebli (De Graafschap)

MF – Thomas Bruns (FC Groningen)

MF – Martin Odegaard (Vitesse)

FW – Sam Lammers (sc Heerenveen)

FW – Fabian Serrarens (De Graafschap)

FW – Patrick Joosten (VVV Venlo)

Player of the Week

Fabian Serrarens (De Graafschap) – 2 points

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Eredivisie Betting: Stam’s underdogs could bite Feyenoord

Header-EredivisiePreview

The team of Will Burns and Steve Davies already hold massive profits of £81.75 from 18 bets this season and Will looks to add to the pot in Jaap Stam’s bow as PEC Zwolle head coach.

Jaap Stam could see success in his opening game

PEC Zwolle vs. Feyenoord
6.45pm Saturday

Saturday evening marks the debut of Jaap Stam as PEC Zwolle boss as his side faces the stiff competition of Feyenoord at the MAC3PARK Stadion.

During the winter break, Stam has brought three signings to Zwolle to strengthen a squad that lies in 16th place on just 15 points from 17 games. Former Ajax youth Pelle Clement joined from Reading, German striker Lennart Thy returned to Holland after a previous spell with VVV and the 2017 J. League’s Best Young Player award winner, 21-year old central defender Yuta Nakayama joined permanently from Kashiwa Reysol.

Clement failed to make an impact at Reading, as the attacking midfielder failed to score a goal in 29 appearances and made only two goals. Stam will be looking to get a vastly improved output from the 22-year-old.

German forward Thy scored eight goals in 34 VVV appearances last term

Lennart Thy managed to notch eight goals in 34 outings for VVV in the last season and Stam will be aiming for the 6ft centre-forward to take the goalscoring burden off Mark van Duinen, who has only hit the back of the net four times this season.

Japanese defender Nakayama is looking to improve under his new boss and also look to grab a few goals himself after notching three in 19 in the J-League last season. He was quoted this past week in saying: “In his era, the manager was quite the defender, so I want to learn from him in that department. On the other hand, I also want to impress him with my attacking play.”.

After watching his style of play at Reading, I can see Zwolle frustrating the Rotterdammers with Stam’s emphasis on possession-based football and they could easily grab themselves a point or even all three.

In the Eredivisie this season, Feyenoord have failed to win in five of their eight away games and will struggle to name a strong defence with a host of first-teamers missing. Ridgeciano Haps, Eric Botteghin and Jeremiah St. Juste will all sit out due to injury and Bart Nieuwkoop is suspended. Although with the quality of Robin van Persie, Steven Berghuis and Jens Toornstra in the attacking third, they have the weapons at their disposal to expect a win.

However, I think at a price of 2.43 at 888Sport, the Zwolle/Draw Double Chance is worth sticking a fiver on in a game where Jaap Stam will have his side organised and fully motivated to try and make a good start under his leadership.

Recommendation
PEC Zwolle/Draw Double Change 
£5 on at 2.43 at 888Sport

Season Record

W9-L9

Profit – £81.75

Team news
PEC Zwolle
Stam goes into his first game with Denis Genreau, Gustavo Hamer, Dico Koppers and Gianluca Scamacca set to miss out due to injuries and goalkeeper Diederik Boer is serving a suspension. New signings, Clement, Nakayama and Thy could make their bow.

Feyenoord
Head coach Giovanni van Bronckhorst is without Bart Nieuwkoop (suspension) and Eric Botteghin, Ridgeciano Haps, and Jeremiah St. Juste are ruled out with injuries.

Key stat
Feyenoord have failed to win in five of their eight league away games this season.

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TotalDutchFootball.com

WHAT FULHAM SHOULD EXPECT FROM RYAN BABEL?

Once he was dubbed the next Thierry Henry. The following decade has seen him drifting from Abu Dhabi to Galicia to an unexpected revival in Istanbul. But Cetin Cem Yilmaz asks can Ryan Babel save Fulham from relegation? 

“I can’t do the goal celebration by myself, sorry.”

We are standing in the middle of an empty stadium: Ryan Babel, a videographer and me. We are at the Beşiktaş Park on a weekday morning and shoot some B-roll footage to accompany our UEFA.com interview. We ask the Dutchman to replicate a goal celebration but the answer is negative.

“I only have one celebration,” he says, adding that he doesn’t do that alone. The move involves two players jumping in unison and crashing into each other. This is just a celebration but somehow fits into Ryan Babel’s role at Beşiktaş. Since arriving at the Black Eagles in January 2017, he has never been the leading man but always excelled in the supporting actor role and he will need to do more of the same to save Fulham from relegation.

Image result for ryan babel fulham

YEARS OF REVIVAL

Babel arrived in Turkey as a player who barely revived his career in Deportivo La Coruña, following spells at Kasımpaşa and Al Ain. He is leaving Turkey now as a well-decorated player. In the two years since his arrival, no player in the Turkish top-flight has won more games than him (52). This stretch includes a Super Lig title, a UEFA Europa League quarterfinal appearance against Olympique Lyon (losing on penalties), an unbeaten UEFA Champions League group campaign (a record for a Turkish team), and a return to the Netherlands national team after six years of absence.

Player Goals Games*
Anderson Talisca 31 70
Ryan Babel 29 89
Cenk Tosun 27 48
Álvaro Negredo 18 49
Vincent Aboubakar 12 16

*Beşiktaş players in all competitions since Babel’s arrival in January 2017

He redeemed himself at Beşiktaş, but helped the Black Eagles a lot on the way. Only Anderson Talisca has scored more goals (31) for Beşiktaş than Babel (29) since his debut, but the Brazilian did that in playing 19 games less. Still, that is remarkable for him, given he was outscored not only by Fernando Torres, Steven Gerrard and Dirk Kuyt, but also by David Ngog whilst at Liverpool (Ngog scored nine Premier League goals in a red shirt onwards 2008, while Babel managed only eight in that period – overall, it was 12 in 91 games for Babel).

Player Assists Games
Ricardo Quaresma 30 82
Oğuzhan Özyakup 21 84
Caner Erkin 15 62
Anderson Talisca 13 70
Ryan Babel 12 89

Beşiktaş players in all competitions since Babel’s arrival in January 2017

What he did in the assists department is not striking at first glance: He is the fifth Beşiktaş player in that regard. Ricardo Quaresma and Oğuzhan Özyakup dwarf him in that category while even Caner Erkin and Anderson Talisca delivered far more in fewer games.

CONSISTENT SCORING

If you look at his overall stats throughout his career, you see a guy delivering similar stats in minutes per goals or assists, either as the wonderkind in Amsterdam, or “the next Thierry Henry” at Merseyside, or the fall guy in the periphery of the Süper Lig elite at Kasımpaşa. Babel kept scoring or assisting once in every two games. His image and career trajectory might suggest otherwise, but Babel is a pretty reliable player in terms of production. And while Fulham fans should not expect him to go on a scoring spree, they can be relieved that he would be there, getting on the score sheet every two weeks (Fantasy Premier League players, take note!).

Team Games Goals Assists Mins/Goal Involvement
Liverpool 146 22 18 167
Ajax 133 29 19 175
Hoffenheim 51 6 4 412
Kasımpaşa 59 14 12 190
Deportivo 12 5 1 130
Beşiktaş 89 29 12 181

Beşiktaş players in all competitions since Babel’s arrival in January 2017

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THE ENABLER

However, Ryan Babel did something more in his second trip to Istanbul. He was just another member of a star-studded frontline at Beşiktaş, and managed to shine when it mattered. The front four of Quaresma – Talisca – Babel – Cenk (Aboubakar in his first half year) was plenty for opposition to handle – especially in Europe, when Beşiktaş had the luxury to find more spaces instead of a squeezed box-play in the Süper Lig. Throughout 2017, Beşiktaş faced remarkable European opposition in the shape of Porto, Monaco, RB Leipzig, Olympique Lyon, Olympiakos – and were never outplayed.

Babel struck key goals in Europe, and overall, he scored with 43 percent of his shots (six goals from 14 shots) in Europe, compared to his still-admissible 22 percent shot conversion rate in the Süper Lig. Much more than this, his movement and intelligent play gave Talisca and Cenk the perfect stage to shine (both made very lucrative deals to China and England, respectively). While right winger Ricardo Quaresma is a trigger-happy crosser, Babel offered flick-ons, one-offs or cutbacks from the other wing – that was how Talisca and Cenk scored dozens.

FULHAM DIAGNOSIS

But what should Fulham be expecting from Babel? After all, a brief look at the table would show their main problem is not the attack, but rather the fact that they are leaking goals. At 49, they have allowed at least six goals than the next poorest defence, which is Burnley, and their goal difference is a shocking -29. For comparison, they have scored 20 goals as did Crystal Palace, who are slightly more comfortable on 14th spot.

However, Fulham, unlike other relegation-battlers, are a team looking to have more time on the ball. Their average possession of 47.1 percent is 10th in the league.  Their passing accuracy is 78.4 percent, sandwiched between other purveyors of the beautiful game, Wolves and Bournemouth (all trail “the Big Six”). Their 177 successful passes in the opposition half per game is better than any other team besides “the Big Six” in the Premier League.

What they do with the ball is another question: Fulham are only sixth from bottom when you question successful passes in the final third (76.7 per game). Despite all this possession stats, they shoot 12.1 per game, and this is higher than only six clubs in the league. And, 47.6 percent of their shots are from outside the box – the higher rate in the league. This 127 shots overall has an xG of 3.25 (mind you, they have only two goals from outside the box).

Team xG
Huddersfield 15,09
Newcastle 19,32
Brighton 22,38
Fulham 23,02
Cardiff 23,33

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The system in which Babel was thriving at Beşiktaş was one with four attackers but Fulham are mostly using three in the front. Claudio Ranieri is still trying to find the right mix between Ryan Sessegnon, André Schürrle and Aboubakar Kamara in either side of Aleksandar Mitrović. They all find the net every now and then, but for Fulham, the problem is more about creating than about converting. If Ryan Babel manages to be the “enabler” guy as he was in Beşiktaş, the one making spaces and enabling Anderson Talisca and Cenk Tosun to find spaces, there could be hope for Fulham.

Team Goals xG Difference
Crystal Palace 20 25,90 -5,9
Southampton 23 27,47 -4,47
Cardiff 19 23,33 -4,33
Wolves 23 27,25 -4,25
Newcastle 16 19,32 -3,32
Fulham 20 23,02 -3,02

Önder Özen is a current television pundit but before that, he served at two big Istanbul clubs, as an assistant to Zico at Fenerbahçe and a sporting director to Slaven Bilic at Beşiktaş. He coached Babel during his brief head coaching stint at Kasımpaşa and would later command the Dutchman as one of the better professionals he worked with, much to his surprise. With his carefree social media presence, his ever-changing hairstyles and cool goal celebrations, it is easy to mistake him for a maverick. And indeed, sometimes he is one. In the last six months, he openly criticized Beşiktaş’s Twitter account for not sharing the videos from his YouTube channel, entered into a couple of online arguments with the club’s fans, even using profanity. Last month, when he was still out of the squad due to this feud, he celebrated his birthday by posting a video, which was soundtracked by all the critics dismissing him.

That is Ryan Babel for you. At his worst, you have a mutiny on your hand. At his best, he will score goals and make things better for everyone around him. The fine line between the two is usually all about support from around – the coach, teammates and the fans.

After all, he doesn’t like to do things by himself.

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Why should Arsenal sign PSV’s Denzel Dumfries?

As history has proven, the Eredivisie is a breeding ground for talented footballers that always make way to the dizzy heights of the Premier League, La Liga or the Bundesliga. Or even in recent times, the attraction of the even bigger payday in Russia or China.

One player that has really impressed over the last three seasons is PSV right-back Denzel Dumfries. At the ripe age of 22, Dumfries cemented his place as first-choice full-back for Netherlands head coach Ronald Koeman last year after exceptional performances in the UEFA Nations League.

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Tenacious – Denzel boots France’s golden boy Kylian Mbappe into touch

In addition, since moving to PSV this past summer, he impressed all eyes across Europe with stunning displays in the UEFA Champions League against Barcelona, Inter Milan and Tottenham Hotspur.

Over the next 12 months, Denzel will become a hot commodity and I see him fitting right at home at the Emirates Stadium for Unai Emery’s Arsenal.

Spanish full-back Hector Bellarin recently picked up a calf injury and the lack of depth at the position was glaringly obvious when his replacement turned out to be 34-year Swiss stalwart Stephan Lichtsteiner. The third-in-command would be Ainsley Maitland-Niles who is primarily a central midfielder.  For a big Premier League club like the Gunners, a 22-year-old attacking full-back would fit Arsenal’s system wonderfully and would challenge Bellarin for his shirt.

Dumfries possess all the attributes to be a success in England’s top tier. He is an imposing full-back standing at 6ft 2 with vast strength and physicality.  He bombs down the line with great attacking prowess as he holds tremendous pace. Creative, with good vision, he has currently 84% success passing rate in the Eredivisie and has also notched himself three goals so far in 2018/19 in 17 appearances for the Eindhoven side.

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But unlike many fast full-backs, he holds great awareness to gather himself, get back into position to deliver the crunching tackle to halt any attack. Ask Kylian Mbappe after experiencing this in the Dutch’s 2-0 win over France back in November last year. Dumfries has been vital in PSV’s success this term, they have just conceded eight goals in 17 games.

If Arsenal wanted Denzel immediately, they may be in for a wait. Dumfries is unlikely to leave before the summer and PSV will not want to lose him as they hold prime position to win the Eredivisie this coming May.

Come the summer transfer window, PSV may be ready to hunt for a new youngster to fill that role and Arsenal may have to pay a big price to get this talented youngster to move to London.

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TotalDutchFootball.com

Is your team looking for some creativity? Here’s the boys they need this January.

With the January transfer window in full force, Steve Davies is on hand to guide you through some of the notable Dutch-based players and Dutchmen abroad who may soon be on the move.

The potential transfer receiving the most column inches ahead of the January transfer window involves Ajax’s Frenkie de Jong and while the club are well stocked in terms of replacements should either the 21-year-old Dutch international or Ajax’s Moroccan midfield maestro, Hakim Ziyech opt to make their move, with the club going strong on all fronts this term, Erik ten Hag will hope the major pieces of his Ajax puzzle remain in place until the summer.

However, one Ajax midfielder who does appear set for a temporary change of scenery is highly regarded 20-year-old, Danny de Wit with the Dutch U21 international in line for a loan move to another Eredivisie outfit to gain some much-needed top-flight experience ahead of playing a more prominent role in ten Hag’s plans next term.

In Eindhoven, having fallen out of favour with coach, Mark van Bommel, and with just seven appearances in all competitions to his name this term, the forgotten Bart Ramselaar could do with a switch, be it temporary or permanent.

Meanwhile, any hopes the reigning Eredivisie champions may have harboured of recapturing the influential Marco van Ginkel on loan once more have been dashed by the news the Chelsea midfielder will remain sidelined with a knee problem until next season.

However, there has been some encouraging news on the recruitment front for the Eredivisie pacesetters who, along with Groningen, are widely reported to have veteran Dutch international Arjen Robben in their sights. The 34-year-old’s current deal at Bayern Munich is set to expire in the summer and will not be renewed.

Over at Feyenoord, despite having a deal that runs until mid-2020, with just six appearances in all competitions this season, Peruvian international Renato Tapia appears to be the odd man out in Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s midfield equation and may look for pastures new in January.

Elsewhere, with fifteen goals and five assists in all competition already this term, the form of ADO Den Haag’s Abdenasser El Khayati is turning heads and despite his current deal in The Hague running until mid-2020, the 29-year-old may well find himself in demand in January.

Image result for arber zeneli
Cash-strapped Heerenveen will cash in on Zeneli this month

Another midfielder to have caught the eye over the course of the first half of the season in the Dutch top flight has been Heerenveen’s Kosovar international, Arbër Zeneli. With four goals and ten assists in just eighteen appearances in all competitions and a contract that is set to expire in the summer, expect the 23-year-old’s signature to be much sought after during this transfer window.

Finally, another player with a rapidly expiring contract that is worth keeping tabs on during the coming transfer window is Heracles’ 24-year-old Swedish international Kristoffer Peterson. With ten goals and two assists to his name in his nineteen appearances in all competitions this term, the Swede could well be on the move in January.

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TotalDutchFootball.com

Which Eredivisie stoppers could be on the move?

So the Winter Transfer Window is wide open across Europe and Steve Davies take a look at some of the goalkeepers that could be on the move over the next month.

We begin in Amsterdam with the perennially in-demand Andre Onana. While Ajax’s talented young stopper will surely be on the move sooner rather than later, given Ajax’s progression in the Champions League, it appears unlikely that any move will come to pass in this transfer window. However, with Onana apparently staying put this does cast some doubt over the future of the club’s other two senior glovesmen – Benjamin van Leer, who is currently on loan at NAC Breda and Kostas Lamprou, whose deal at the Johan Cruijff ArenA expires in the summer.

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Staying put – Andre Onana (Ajax)

Meanwhile, in Eindhoven the situation is even more congested. With Jeroen Zoet having seemingly been out the proverbial door on more than one occasion in recent years, PSV have covered their bases by drafting in not one but three possible long-term replacements in the form of Eloy Room, whose contract at the Philips Station expires in the summer, Hidde Jurjus, who is currently on a season-long loan at former club, De Graafschap and the man seemingly most likely to inherit the starting spot when Zoet finally makes his long-awaited move abroad – German keeper, Lars Unnerstall, who, upon arriving at the club on a free transfer from VVV over the summer, promptly found himself loaned back to the Venlo-based outfit for the duration of the current campaign

In Rotterdam, despite the departure of rival, Brad Jones this past summer, the form of Feyenoord’s talented young keeper, Justin Bijlow has left the experienced Kenneth Vermeer out in the cold and with the Dutch U21 international having recently penned a new deal keeping him at De Kuip until the summer of 2023, the writing appears to be on the wall for Vermeer, who, at the age of 32, is currently in his goalkeeping prime and unlikely to want to waste any more time of what was once a promising career playing second fiddle to a much younger man.

Elsewhere, in goalkeeping terms, there is one name in particular that has been making waves in the Dutch top flight this term – FC Emmen’s 18-year-old wonder-kid, Kjell Scherpen. While the Dutch U19 international is contracted at De Oude Meerdijk until the summer of 2020, it wouldn’t come as a great surprise if one of the ‘big three’ or indeed one of the division’s more established clubs, laid claim to his services in this transfer window before allowing Scherpen to see out the remainder of the campaign with his current employers.

Outside the Netherlands, it may be worth keeping tabs on the status of former FC Utrecht keeper, Michel Vorm, whose contract at Tottenham Hotspur is set to expire next summer while, at the age of 36, the under-utilised Maarten Stekelenburg may yet, despite having extended his current deal with Everton until mid-2020 this past summer, opt to look for first team football away from Goodison Park.

Finally, will Barcelona’s Jasper Cillessen remain the ‘world’s best back-up goalkeeper’ forever? Only time will tell.

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TotalDutchFootball.com

EREDIVISIE REPORT: Winter breaks but PSV and Ajax don’t

Header-EredivisieReport

With the near month-long winter break looming large on the horizon, the seventeenth round of Eredivisie action got underway on Friday evening at De Koel where goals from Tino-Sven Susic and Patrick Joosten saw hosts, VVV Venlo snap a run of five games without a win by turning away the challenge of an undermanned PEC Zwolle.

Saturday’s action in the top flight of Dutch football got off to a false start with ten-man Fortuna Sittard and struggling Groningen drawing a blank.

Image result for PSV Eindhoven 3-1 AZ Alkmaar

However, while goals were in short supply in Sittard, that certainly wasn’t the case elsewhere as reigning Eredivisie champions, PSV Eindhoven hit in-form AZ Alkmaar for three to open up a five-point lead over Ajax in second and, in the process, claim the title of ‘winter kampioen’ while, at the other end of the table, struggling NAC Breda gave their survival hopes a timely boost by hitting nine-man Heerenveen for four.

The day’s action was brought to a close at the Van Donge & De Roo Stadion where Heracles got back to winning ways by hitting hosts, Excelsior for three without reply.

Sunday’s action began at the Stadion Galgenwaard where Ajax rounded off the year by smashing hosts, Utrecht for three to cut pace-setting PSV’s advantage at the top of the standings back to two points once more.

Elsewhere, a 77th minute spot-kick from Abdenasser El Khayati saw ADO Den Haag grab a late share of the spoils from their clash with an undermanned Feyenoord while a 65th minute leveller from Vitesse Arnhem’s Matus Bero denied bottom-of-the-table De Graafschap a much-needed three points in Doetinchem.

The seventeenth round of Eredivisie action was concluded in Emmen where goals from Aras Ozbiliz and Fran Sol saw Willem II end the year with a win.

Results: Week 17

VVV Venlo 2-0 PEC Zwolle

Fortuna Sittard 0-0 FC Groningen

NAC Breda 4-2 SC Heerenveen

PSV Eindhoven 3-1 AZ Alkmaar

Excelsior 0-3 Heracles Almelo

FC Utrecht 1-3 AFC Ajax

ADO Den Haag 2-2 Feyenoord

De Graafschap 2-2 Vitesse Arnhem

FC Emmen 0-2 Willem II

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EREDIVISIE REPORT: De Graafschap crumble to the powerful Ajax

Header-EredivisieReport

The sixteenth round of Eredivisie action got underway on Friday evening where ADO Den Haag got back to winning ways by hitting hosts, Willem II for three without reply on the road in Tilburg.

Saturday’s action in the Dutch top flight got off to a false start at the MAC3PARK Stadion where it was frustration all round for both PEC Zwolle and visiting, NAC Breda as it ended goalless between two sides struggling at the wrong end of the table.

Elsewhere, a 94th-minute strike from substitute Bjørn Johnsen saw AZ Alkmaar snatch all three points at the death from their encounter with visiting Excelsior while reigning Eredivisie champions, PSV Eindhoven put European elimination firmly behind them by hitting nine-man Heracles for four to move five points clear at the top of the standings.

Saturday’s Eredivisie action was concluded in Arnhem where an 80th-minute effort from Oussama Darfalou ultimately proved enough to see Vitesse edge out visiting VVV Venlo.

Sunday’s action began in Friesland where FC Utrecht withstood a second-half fightback from hosts, Heerenveen to ultimately emerge victorious in a five-goal thriller.

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Elsewhere, title-chasing Ajax closed the gap between themselves and table-topping PSV to just two points once more after smashing a hapless De Graafschap for eight while a late double from super-sub Nicklas Pedersen saw FC Emmen come from behind to snatch a late win against fellow strugglers Groningen.

The sixteenth round of Eredivisie action was brought to a close at De Kuip where goals from Lars Hutten and substitute, Ahmed El Messaoudi saw Fortuna Sittard bag a shock victory over Feyenoord.

Results: Week 16

Willem II 0-3 ADO Den Haag

PEC Zwolle 0-0 NAC Breda

Heracles Almelo 0-4 PSV Eindhoven

AZ Alkmaar 2-1 Excelsior

Vitesse Arnhem 2-1 VVV Venlo

SC Heerenveen 2-3 FC Utrecht

AFC Ajax 8-0 De Graafschap

FC Groningen 1-2 FC Emmen

Feyenoord 0-2 Fortuna Sittard

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