The end of an era is inching closer:
Arjen Robben 31 years old, 86 appearances, 28 goals
Robin van Persie 31 years old, 96 appearances, 49 goals
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar 31 years old, 71 appearances, 39 goals
Wesley Sneijder 30 years old, 113 appearances, 28 goals
Rafael Van Der Vaart 32 years old, 109 appearances, 25 goals.
These players have been the staple of the Oranje for the last seven years, now all of them are on the wrong side of thirty. To say that they do not have valuable playing time left would be foolish, Robben is having the best scoring year of his career, and if not for injuries would have eclipsed the twenty goal mark for the first time in the Bundesliga, while Van Persie was the leading goal scorer for Manchester United before also picking up an injury. These injuries are proof that these legendary Dutchmen are slowing down, and that father time is creeping up on them. It is time for change, time for new stars to be bloom and become legends themselves.
Thankfully for the Oranje Crush, young players are making strides at all levels, making their debuts for clubs in Holland, moving to bigger leagues, and are donning the KNVB jersey for the first time at a senior level left, right and center. So who will be the stars of the future? Which players will shine bright on the international stage? Thomas Tittley investigates…
If anyone in the footballing community has not heard of the electrifying left winger by now, they shall soon be introduced to his brilliance as he has just signed for Manchester United and Dutchman Louis Van Gaal. Compared by many to Ronaldo, Depay surprisingly made the national team during the World Cup in Brazil last summer, however was far from disappointing, scoring twice including a stunner against Australia.
The 21-year-old has incredible pace and balance, able to explode down the wing with his fantastic dribbling skills, cut into the middle causing defenders to twist and turn, before releasing a powerful strike with his cannon of a right foot. The young man has found the back of the net 22 times in the Eredivisie this season, many of which have been highlight reel goals, including a whopping seven free kick goals.
Depay will play left wing, a position where the Netherlands have lacked scoring for several years, with Eljero Elia, Ibrahim Afellay and Jeremain Lens all failing to make a serious impact on the squad. Eventually, the young man will have to replace Robben as the main threat on the wing. He will undoubtedly become a world-star, however will he be a big enough star to lead the Oranje to their first major international trophy since 1988.
Yes this one is somewhat surprising, but every great squad needs a great striker up front, and Dost has all the tools to become a great striker. No other country in the world has produced as many quality strikers as the Netherlands, from Marco Van Basten, to Patrick Kluivert, Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Robin Van Persie; there is seemingly no end to the talented goal-scorers. Unfortunately for Holland, Robin Van Persie, the all-time leading scorer for Holland, and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, the third leading scorer, are both 31-years-old.
Dost offers a glimmer of hope, the 6’5 Wolfsburg striker is one of the most polarizing players in football, fans do not know if they should despise his inconsistent play and slow starts, or marvel at his goal scoring tally. Incredibly, Dost has scored 16 times in the Bundesliga, despite having only one goal through the month of November. While he was on his scoring streak he had a shooting percentage of 82%, scoring on more than eight out of his every ten shots. With Dost, the Netherlands could play beautiful attacking football, with him holding the ball up for the insane amount of pace that Holland possess on the wings, very similar to how PSV played with Luuk De Jong. Yet when you have a 6’5 striker who is talented in the air, sometimes the temptation to go route-one is too strong, which was evident against Turkey a few months ago. This temptation is something Guus Hiddink should try and stay away from as it takes the rest of the squad out of the flow of the game and is easy to defend.
Bas Dost could end up as either one of the most prolific strikers in Europe or a total bust, for now just enjoy his quality in front of goal, and pray that he continues to develop.
The 24-year-old Wijnaldum is the rare midfielder that combines skill and athleticism, capable of picking out a brilliant pass, as well as beating a defender for pace. He showed this talent while playing for the Oranje in Brazil last summer where he impressed with his distribution ability and even scored in the bronze medal game against Brazil.
The young man playing in Eindhoven has converted from a winger, which he played at the Under 21’s and was arguably Hollands best player during that tournament, to a box-to-box midfielder. Wijnaldum has impressed both offensively and defensively, as well as being the leader and organiser of the Eredivisie champions PSV Eindhoven. Scoring 13 goals and three assists throughout the season, he impressed many using his athleticism to take defenders on and has terrific finishing in front of goal. Since moving to the midfield he has thrived, his passing ability evident averaging 32.8 passes a game, 1.2 of which are key passes, with and 84.7% success rate (WhoScored.com).
Wijnaldum has also embraced the new defensive responsibilities with 1.1 tackles a game and one interception a game, pretty fair for someone who was a winger two years ago. Now it is time for Wijnaldum to take on a new challenge, with the brilliant season for PSV behind him, Premier League squads are eyeing the attacking midfielder who has been linked with Manchester United, Newcastle United and Liverpool.
Injuries have ravaged promising careers of Dutch players, such as Elia and Afellay, who showed so much promise, were slowed by multiple long term injuries. The Netherlands should pray that Kevin Strootman is different. When healthy, he is one of the best distributors in the world, capable of picking out a pass with ease and slicing open a defence like a knife through cheese. After the 25-years-old Strootman moved from PSV to AS Roma for a hefty £17 million, great things were expected.
Unfortunately, a knee injury in March of 2014 kept him out of the World Cup where he would have without a doubt been the favourite to start in the midfield beside Wesley Sneijder. In January of 2015 Roma announced that Strootman needed ACL surgery which would keep him out for a lengthy period of time. Although these injuries seem grim, in only seven appearances for Roma he already has two assists, making 41.3 passes a game, 1.3 key passes a game, averaging a passing accuracy of 85.9% (WhoScored.com). Those are gaudy numbers for the playmaking Strootman, who will hopefully make a full recovery and continue to open up defenses on the international stage.
The Netherlands have been contending for big trophies for the past decade, if they wish to continue their success and add to the trophy case, then this injection of youth that was seen in the 2014 World Cup, will have to continue throughout the Euro qualifiers and beyond.
Data courtesy of Opta
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