Chaka Simbeye, an aspiring journalist that writes for Dutch football website Football-Oranje, gives Stretty News some insight about upcoming opponents Feyenoord.
Last week, former Liverpool goalkeeper Brad Jones described Feyenoord as ‘the Liverpool of the Netherlands’ as it easy to see why that comparison felt apt to him. Feyenoord have had a storied history in Europe just like Liverpool replete with a historic stadium filled by a passionate fan base but like Liverpool they have spent the last decade or so in transition.
This transition has led them to appointing former Feyenoord, Arsenal and Barcelona youth coach Giovanni Van Bronchorst as manager at the end of the 2014/15 season with famed Dutch striker Roy Makaay as the striker coach. Van Bronchorst’s tenure so far has been a microcosm at the confusion that has grasped the club and the potential it possesses as they began last season in amazing fashion, dropping only two points at home in the first half if the season before that run subsequently nose dived into seven straight defeats, the worst run in the club’s history. Van Bronchorst stated that a ‘dark cloud’ was hovering over the club and even feared for his job before Technical director Martin Van Geel brought in Dick Advocaat as an advisor to the coaching staff in order to steady the ship.
The season was salvaged with a 3rd place finish and a KNVB Bekker (Dutch FA Cup) triumph to win their first piece of silverware since 2008. This season has again began in excellent fashion as they opened the season with 5-0 away thrashing of a poor Groningen side as they are two points ahead of champions PSV (who they face at the weekend) at the top of the table. The club who are known for their fabled Varkenoord academy products including Robin Van Persie have also added know-how to the squad in the last few years with Dirk Kuyt, Eljero Elia, Jan Arie Van Der Heijden and Eric Botteghin all joining.
This summer they also bought well with Nicolai Jorgensen looking like their most impressive striker since John Guidetti, Brad Jones who was an emergency buy after an impressive six months with NEC Nijmegen in order to fill in for injured keepers Kenneth Vermeer and Walter Hahn and Steven Berghuis who they were lucky to get from Watford without a loan fee. Although, the biggest signing of the summer was tying down youth product Tonny Vilhena to a new two year contract after he spent two weeks in free agency. He is not the only youth product on the team with Rick Karsdorp, Lucas Woudenberg, Terence Kongolo and Sven Van Beek who is currently injured also in the squad.
Although, Feyenoord are at the top of the league, many of their supporters are not getting ahead of themselves after what happened last season. The team are still over-reliant on a wing-based style of play and with Luke Shaw and Antonio Valencia on form, that could be detrimental while the match against PSV on Sunday will act as a measuring stick for where they really are at the moment. Kuyt who scored a hat-trick against Manchester United against Liverpool has been a star performer in the side as he is so effective in the box and looks like he can play until he is 40.
Feyenoord are currently experiencing a dearth of top class ball-playing defenders as Botteghin and Van Der Heijden are old-fashioned hard edged defenders while one can foresee Van Bronchorst tinkering with the makeup of his midfield. Kuyt plays at the tip of the midfield three as an attacking midfield cum second striker, former Aston Villa man Karim El Ahmadi plays at the base of midfield with Vilhena motoring the ball forward in a box to box role. Van Bronchorst has rarely strayed from the traditional Dutch 4-3-3 during his tenure but in the KNVB Bekker he did experiment with a 3-5-2 with limited success.
The front three will be without Eljero Elia who scored an opening day hat-trick but Berghuis and Jens Toornstra either side of Jorgensen have put in some inspired performances but asking them to continously pump crosses into the box instead of having the nous to work the ball through the middle will prove defective. The game will be a massive test for Van Bronchorst and his team as the De Kuip faithful still salivate at the memories of claiming the scalp of Sevilla two years ago in the same competition.
The Feyenoord fans will be out in full force as they always are as tickets continued to sell-out at the stadium, even during Feyenoord’s seven game losing streak last season. Feyenoord and Van Geel have had their best transfer window in a while and certainly have the squad to spring a surprise in this competition. Manchester United will be raring to go after derby day loss to Manchester City so the match could prove to be a tight and intense contest or a hammering, deciding on which Van Bronchorst shows up to the match.