Tag Archives: Karim El Ahmadi

Feyenoord – A Tactical Analysis

If you are an Eredivisie fan and you love the tactical side of the beautiful game, then you are probably very impressed with the tactical manoeuvres of Feyenoord this season. The Rotterdam giant saw a huge exodus of players at the end of last season and many people thought they would have had a very challenging time this season. Those people were partially right, since Feyenoord struggled at the beginning of the season and only won one of their first six games. However, since then, the 2002 UEFA Cup winners have made significant strides. They currently sit 3rd in the league and are playing some of the most dominant and invigorating football in the Eredivisie. Home games against Ajax, AZ and FC Twente as well as the away game against PSV have been some of the most stimulating and entertaining displays we have seen from any team in the league this season.

This relatively successful season so far is largely down to how well the players have been able to maintain the tactical set-up of this team. The 4-3-3 formation utilised is being executed with great discipline, hard work and skills by the players. The three main aspects of this Feyenoord system and strategy are as follows:

The Goalkeeping & Defensive Shake Up

Let’s start by looking at the goal keeper and the back four. Vermeer was brought into the team at the beginning of the season to bring more solidity to the defence and he has done just that. His experience, agility and calmness under pressure have not just curtailed the number of goals the team concedes, but it has also seemingly helped to bring confidence into the young centre backs of Van Beek and Kongolo.

The back four of Nilom, Van Beek, Kongolo and Wilkshire have all been playing very impressively. Van Beek brings great physicality and grit to the centre of the defence and Kongolo’s ball-playing and anticipation skills have been complimented by Wilkshire’s exuberant runs along the right full-back position. Nelom has also put in his best performances as a Feyenoord player this season. He has moved from being a very shaky, inconsistent and error-prone left-back last season, to becoming a much more solid and reliable full-back this season. There are still occasions of lapsed concentration and needless giving away of the ball by Nilom  this season, but they have been less numerous than last season and his reading of the game has evidently improved.

The Midfield Dynamics

The Feyenoord midfield has been very impressive this season. Clasie continues to be a pass-master and he even ramped up his tackling and overall work rate. El Ahmadi has looked much more impressive in the box-to-box role this season than he looked most of his time at Aston Villa. His very intelligent forward runs have been a great advert for how to play that running midfield position with balance and poise. Immers is the kind of attacking midfielder who runs all game and constantly puts himself in positions to receive the ball. This man is a maverick to some fans as he is not very fast and not particularly technical, nevertheless, he can be quite an effective attacking midfielder at times. Most people would probably agree though that it is his huge selfless work rate that makes him such a useful player.

These three midfield players at times behave as one dynamic organism with an almost telepathic relationship. When Clasie gets the ball he never takes too much time to pick out the runs of Immers or El Ahmadi, each player seems to be fully aware of the intentions of the others at any given time and in any situation. El Ahmadi seems to know when to make a rampaging forward run without leaving Clasie in too much of a vulnerable situation to provide cover for him and Immers is always looking for El Ahmadi’s position to ensure that he can assist with any required covering or forward run. In the recent home game against FC Twente, Immers was practically switching with Clasie as the holding midfielder on several occasions and he still managed to venture forward to score. This dynamic midfield system has been partly responsible for some of the most dominant displays we have seen this season.

The Strike Force

This Feyenoord system requires a fast, strong centre forward that is very good at holding up the ball and getting his teammates into the attacking third. Colin Kazin-Richards plays that role quite well. He constantly moves around the penalty box to pull his markers out of position and use brute strength to hold off central defenders. This holding up of the ball essentially allows his wingers and midfielder to get into the attacking third. And with very fast wingers like Manu and Boetius, it only takes a few seconds for these guys to make runs ahead of him and get into good positions to take a lay-off and cross into the box for Immers or El Ahmadi. Both Beotius and Manu are fast wide men and Manu in particular is deceptively strong. These guys provide very direct runs into the box and with improvements to their finishing, could become much more effective.

Toornstra is playing out of position on the right, but if one didn’t know his resume from his Utrecht and ADO Den Haag days, one could think he is a natural right winger. Toornstra isn’t the flamboyant speedy winger that we are used to seeing in the Dutch top flight. However, this man embodies hard work, dedication and drive for results. He is also, probably one of the better readers of the game in the entire Eredivisie. In fact, he is quite similar to Dirk Kuyt. Both players aren’t very fast, but they read the game very well, track back and defend astutely.


This Feyenoord team is playing an exhilarating, entertaining and dynamic brand of football where the young players are all improving constantly and each line of the team consists of well drilled vibrant players moving in a constant state of relative cohesion and discipline.


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Can Mitchell te Vrede be Feyenoord’s permanent attacking answer?

A few weeks of struggling for Feyenoord had one positive upside. The silver lining in their poor start is Mitchell te Vrede, who is responsible for five of the six goals Feyenoord has scored in all competitions. Is he good enough to be the first striker? Martijn Hilhorst does not think so…

Te Vrede started his career at AFC, an amateur club who is known for their connections with Ajax. In 2008, he was snatched away by AZ Alkmaar who saw some potential in the big striker. His first season at a professional club was partially successful, as he was selected to make his debut for the Netherlands Under-18. Although he was not performing well on a club level. He was an official member of the first squad at AZ in 2010/11 (he was already 20 years), but he did not played one minute for them.

AZ still wanted to extend his contract after a year like Mitchell had, but he decided to sign a year deal at Excelsior where he was promised to play more. It could have been a season for him to gain experience, responsibility as a first striker for a Eredivisie club. Eventually playing nineteen matches in which he scored twice, but his greater performances were in the second squad of Excelsior which was a team in combination with the Feyenoord youth. Scoring tons of goals for Excelsior/Feyenoord that season.

Feyenoord’s Technical director Martin van Geel then decided to give him a chance – a free, scoring striker behind your first striker. Who does not want that? During the 2012/13 season, Graziano Pellé made jaws drop all across the Netherlands with his staggering amount of goals so, Te Vrede only played in one match that season.

The season afterwards (last season) was one more successful for Mitchell. Due to injuries, match bans from Pelle he was given more minutes to show off his icy veins. He played in fourteen matches (eleven of them not 100%), playing mostly a substitution and he then managed to score on four occasions.

Not bad, but surely not enough to be the first striker after the departure of Pellé to Southampton. Feyenoord have been looking for months now to buy a top class striker in which they did not succeed in yet. Manchester City’s John Guidetti won’t be their new forward and Wolfsburg’s Bas Dost does not seems to be eager for a return to the Eredivisie. However, they still need a striker.

Yes, he did score three goals in the same amount of Eredivisie matches this season, but looking more detailed to him you could clearly see that Te Vrede is simply not good enough for the way Feyenoord plays. His first-touch is not brilliant while his passing this season haven’t been impressive (69%) and in three matches he only managed to create one single chance. It’s a bit unfair to compare him with Pellé, but the Italian created 57 chances in 28 matches previous season – an average around two per match.

All in all, that is the problem with Mitchell te Vrede. He isn’t capable of controlling the ball and see what is happening around him. His technical abilities are not the required level you would expect from a striker at such a big club. For example, Lex Immers is invisible in the ‘number ten’ position due to constant bad decision-making from Te Vrede.

The opinions around him did shift around because of his great start this season, but it is obvious that he is not the player who will make your team better. Feyenoord did make some bad decisions on the transfer market in the past. So they have to be careful with their next move. With all the news around Feyenoord it is hard to predict if they even will buy a striker. Their focus seems on a replacement for Jordy Clasie who will leave for Southampton or FC Porto.

A internal solution could be the following: Mulder, Wilkshire, Van Beek, Mathijsen, Kongolo; Clasie/El Ahmadi*, Toornstra, Vilhena; Basacikoglu, Immers, Boetius.

* Most likely the replacement for Clasie.

So in a 4-3-3 formation with new signing Jens Toornstra as a ‘number ten’ and Immers as a striker. Feyenoord is known for their brilliant youth and the departure of Pellé isn’t one to panic about. In the price range Feyenoord are currently in they could not buy a striker who is significantly better than Mitchell te Vrede, but in my opinion this seems like a great solution and that even without over-paying on the transfer market, because there is only one week left.


Feyenoord slowly becomes the team they used to be. Footballers such as Schaken, Vormer, Kazim-Richards and Te Vrede are perfect bench material. And with the transfers they already did it is inevitable that they will be a serious contender with Ajax and PSV to become champions.

*All stats courtesy of WhoScored and Squawka, via Opta.


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