The three faces of the Dutch team under coach Frank de Boer

Three interlands, two points, one goal and a boom in the media: the start of Frank de Boer as coach of Oranje was to the least turbulent. After the extra full interland period, it is not yet clear what exactly his vision is for the Dutch national elftal.By Evert van Zoelen
After a tactical turn, Mexico was lost last Wednesday (0-1), the switch back to the โ€œSystem Koemanโ€ resulted in a shabby tie against Bosnia and Herzegovina (0-0) and a new system led to the best match against Italy (1-1). How did Orange play during these games and what elements went well and not well?
The complete reversal against Mexico In the first game under De Boer he seems to change the helm completely. The 4-2-3-1 formation used under Koeman is exchanged for a 4-3-3 with the tip backwards. Teun Koopmeiners plays as a single controller and Georginio Wijnaldum and Donny van de Beek are placed higher on the pitch.
The Netherlands plays against Mexico with the tip to the back. Source: ESPN.
The Netherlands opens nicely against Mexico. Steven Berghuis moves inward from the right to become playable in the midfield. In addition, the interaction between Ryan Babel and Memphis Depay is good. Every time one of the two moves in the ball, the other makes the run in depth. Because of this the Netherlands still has some movement in the front. It does not lead to really well played opportunities.
Memphis moves inside the ball and Babel goes deep. As a result, the defenders of Mexico are forced to make choices. Source: ESPN.
Defensively, De Boer also opts for a different way of pressing. Spits Memphis drops back to cover Controller – and Ajacied – Edson รlvarez, while outdoor players run Babel and Berghuis from the backs to put pressure on central defenders.
In this case, Babel and Memphis have been switched and Memphis runs into the central defender from the back. Babel covers Controller Alvarez. Source: ESPN.
Because De Boer has decided to give the majority of the basic players who would play against Bosnia rest, it remains unclear whether the blueprint of the Orange under De Boer really is.
Back to system Koeman
De Boer switches back to the system Koeman used at Oranje in the competition against Bosnia. It starts from a 4-2-3-1 system with Frenkie de Jong and Marten de Roon as controllers for the defense. On the right, Denzel Dumfries goes high, so Donyell Malen comes to play between the lines. With this, the system of Koeman with the three ‘tens’ has been restored.
The Netherlands plays again with three ‘tens’ between the lines. Source:CCEIT.
Although the Netherlands has 70% of the ball possession, it only manages to shoot target four times. The build-up is viscous and there is little movement without a ball. This is mainly due to the fact that De Boer encounters a problem that Koeman has encountered several times. Opponents have set themselves to Oranje and recognize that Frenkie de Jong is the main player in the building. Bosnia puts Miralem Pjanic as a mandekker on his Barรงa teammate.
Pjanic‘s covering De Jong. Source:CCEIT.
In principle, this is not a disaster yet, since the Netherlands has two central defenders with Stefan de Vrij and Virgil van Dijk who have a great playing pass. However, the problem becomes significant because the attacking set players in the Dutch team show little variation in their running actions.
When the Netherlands has a free midfielder, Luuk de Jong, Quincy Promes and Malen are often in line with each other. Instead of an alternation between players coming into the ball and in-depth, they often make the same running actions towards the ball. This makes it quite easy for the Bosnians to cover the attackers of the Netherlands and the game of Orange is very slow and without any progression.
There’
s no variation in the running of the attackers at Orange. One option could have been that Luuk de Jong had entered the ball and that Wijnaldum and Promes had gone deep. Source:CCEIT.
When these running actions are made, the fit from the midfield is not good. The ball is given too late or not pure. Or the receiving player has a wrong assumption.
As with Koeman, De Boer tries to put pressure on the Netherlands immediately after losing ball. It is essential that the field occupation in possession of ball is correct. If the distances are too large, it is not too much to get pressure on the ball immediately.
This problem is visible both against the Bosnians and against the Mexicans. After losing ball, the Netherlands immediately tries to put pressure and three or four players sprint towards the ball. But because the distances between them are too large, no one gets pressure on the ball, which makes it easy for the opponent to play out.
The Netherlands tries to put pressure immediately afterBall loss, but there‘s no one who really gets pressure on the ball. Bosnia can therefore easily play out of it. Source:CCEIT.
An additional disadvantage that is particularly visible in the competition against Bosnia is that under De Boer left back Daley Blind has been placed higher. Offensive this can lead to additional possibilities, but defensively it causes the residual defense not to be properly organized. When Bosnia manages to play football under the first pressure, it is often only De Roon, Van Dijk and De Vrij who are still behind the ball in a space of about 70 meters.
Blind makes more forward running. Source:CCEIT.
The residual defense at the Netherlands is not properly organized. Source:CCEIT.
Where the Netherlands was increasingly moving towards defending zones under Koeman, De Boer again opts for mancover in civil society. The Netherlands stands defensively well enough against both Mexico and Bosnia. The few problems arise especially when the communication between the players is not good. For example, De Roon once chased after his opponent, so he suddenly lifted offside.
Against Bosnia, De Boer opts for a different way of pressure than the first race. Luuk de Jong stands between the central defenders and the outdoor players Malen and Promes between the backs and the central defenders. De Jong puts pressure on the central defender on the side of the ball, with the outsider on the non-ball side covering the farthest central defender.
De Jong, Promes and Malen stand between the defenders. Source:CCEIT.
New system brings success against ItalyThe Boer indicates before the match against Italy that he has a certain plan in mind and that the players may decide whether to start with ‘
Plan A‘. When the setups become known, this plan turns out to be a 5-3-2 formation.
In the competition in the Johan Cruijff Arena a month ago (unchannable 0-1 defeat), the Netherlands had difficulty in getting pressure on Italy’
s backs. Right-back Danilo D‘Ambrosio dropped completely alongside the central defenders, while the left-back Leonardo Spinazzola completely attacked. As a result, Italy came to play in a kind of 3-3-4.
From the 5-3-2 the Netherlands gets a lot more grip on it. Spirits Memphis and De Jong sag to head circle and set up in such a way that they cover the pass lines to game makers Marco Verratti and Jorginho, while also being able to put pressure on central defenders Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci. When right back D’
Ambrosio is played, Wijnaldum gets off to put pressure on him. The rest of the midfield will then be put in couples.
The Jong and Memphis cover the pass lines to Jorginho and Verratti. Source: ESPN.
Wine aldum gets off to the rightback. The midfield will then play in couples and Blind will continue on the sagging Barella. Source: ESPN.
On the right it is now Hans Hateboer who can handle Spinazzola as a wingback. In this way, Van de Beek and Frenkie de Jong do not have to tilt to the side, so that they can continue to cover the midfielders of Italy. When Hateboer continues, it is De Vrij who captures Lorenzo Pellegrini on the left.
On the right is the Hateboer who gets out, De Vrij takes over the outdoor player. Source: ESPN.
Playing with five defenders in the back also gives the Dutch defenders the space to move on when one of Italy‘s attackers tries to lower himself. In order to get out of the pressure of the Netherlands, Italy does this frequently. In these cases De Vrije, Ake and Van Dijk continue aggressively to ensure that Italy does not create a free player in the building.
Pellegrini is trying to fall back to get free, The Free steps on him by. Source: ESPN.
This playing style also gives the Netherlands more grip. Because Italy has to meet the wing defenders of Orange, the Italian rightback always steps on Blind. This constantly creates spaces for Wijnaldum and Memphis to move in, creating space in the center for other players.
The drafting of Luuk de Jong ensures that the Netherlands has a point of play when it is put under pressure in the construction. Especially in the first half the long ball from Jasper Cillessen to De Jong is a common option. The ball does not always arrive, but because Wijnaldum, Frenkie de Jong and Van de Beek are always well prepared for the second ball, the Netherlands is still able to play football several times.
In addition, it is especially Blind who creates danger during changeover moments. Since D’
Ambrosio leaves that zone during the construction of Italy, there is often a lot of room for Blind to become playable during chaotic situations. This leads to dangerous opportunities several times.
After a long ball from Italy, a chaotic situation arises after which Blind can walk freely. This creates adangerous 3v2 for the Netherlands that ends with a free headball of De Jong that goes ahead. Source: ESPN.
Conclusion In three matches De Boer has played with three different tactics, so it is still not entirely clear what exactly his vision is for Oranje. After two very mediocre matches against Mexico and Bosnia, the Netherlands came a lot better against the Italians. But when Italy changed tactics after 75 minutes, the Netherlands had a lot more difficulty in coping with it, so the question remains whether this method will have an effect in the long term.
Evert van Zoelen is an analyst for the YouTube channel TheNextManager, has written for policy websites and magazines such as Spielverlagerung, TrainersMagazine and Futbol Netradince and looks at important matches for Football First.