Has the country that gave us Total Football become a Total Turnoff?

Louis van Gaal – Louis van Gaal’s system: Total Football or Total Turnoff? – Adrian Dennis/AFP

The back pages of the Dutch newspapers will not have been pleasant reading for Louis van Gaal, although given the brief exchanges in the wake of the Netherlands’ grim victory over Qatar the night before, the coach probably had a good idea of ​​what it would happen.

“A parody of Dutch football,” wrote Valentijn Driessen, the longtime football editor-in-chief of De Telegraaf, the country’s largest newspaper, in an enthralling assessment of a 2-0 victory against the worst host nation in 92 years of history of the World Cup. “If the Netherlands reach the final playing like this, what’s the point?”

Driessen’s colleague Mike Verweij said the Orange were “sleepwalkers” during the tournament and were set up “mainly not to lose”. “Among the countries likely to finish in the knockout stages, the Netherlands’ attack was the slowest and most laborious of all,” wrote Jeroen Kapteijns after the Dutch set up a round of 16 meeting with the United States al Khalifa. Al Rayyan International Stadium on Saturday.

In typical Louis fashion, Van Gaal had told his critics to go home if they were that “terribly bored” with football and took exception to Driessen’s claims that watching his team was like “gritting your teeth” and that a nation she was fidgeting back to home, despite progress as Group A winners. “I don’t think things are as bad as you say,” Van Gaal retorted.

Louis van Gaal - Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Louis van Gaal – Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

So the country that gave us Total Football has become a Total Turnoff? It’s hardly an exaggeration to say that there was far more fun watching Van Gaal off the pitch than his team on the pitch. From being caught on camera asking his wife Truus if she would like to “make out” at the team hotel, to posing for selfies with an army of admirers, “Iron Tulip” knows how to rock to a crowd. On one occasion, a question about Frenkie de Jong’s pale complexion afforded Van Gaal the opportunity to follow up with a story about how his mother still had “rosy cheeks” on her deathbed and that her tan complexion was a “Gene Matter”.

Equally, it’s worth mentioning that none of the last four World Cup winners have picked up nine points from the group stage and, more pertinently, none of them have been among the most convincing teams during the first three games of the tournament.

Unlike a 38-game league season, or even the 13 games needed to win the Champions League, it’s often pragmatism rather than panache that wins the World Cup. Spain, for example, scored just eight goals in seven games before winning the competition in 2010, a triumph buoyed by solid defense rather than tiki taka talent.

Then again, there is a difference between being pragmatic and passive to the point of being ponderous and the Netherlands has come a long way in the latter category.

Indeed, any proponent of the Manchester United persuasion who saw the Dutchman struggle to a 2-0 victory over Senegal, escape with a fortuitous point against Ecuador and leave everyone feeling rather cold after that victory over Qatar will probably be able to draw parallels with Van Gaal’s last season at Old Trafford. More than a third of United’s Premier League games that season ended in 1-0 wins or 0-0 draws – the most in the division – and United finished the season with just one goal more than fourth bottom Sunderland, who had spent 237 days in the relegation zone.

The forwards have grown exasperated by Van Gaal’s insistence that they should not attempt early shots from balls that cross the penalty area and instead take touch, alarmed wingers by a diktat to wait for their full-back to arrive in ​​​​support rather than take their man. Only Watford, Aston Villa and West Bromwich Albion created fewer chances, United were 15th of 20 clubs for shooting and over a long period Van Gaal’s side played more back passes than any Premier League rival and produced the lowest percentage of forward balls. Players came to view international duty as a welcome escape from the stark monotony of Van Gaal’s “process” and the insistence that “insight” was the enemy.

Frenkie De Jong - Louis van Gaal's system: Total Football or Total Turnoff?  - Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP

Frenkie De Jong – Louis van Gaal’s system: Total Football or Total Turnoff? – Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP

Dutch football in Qatar has, at times, been of an equally bland and strenuous variety. Van Gaal has vowed to keep his 5-3-2 system, rather than revert to the time-honored 4-3-3, and has so far resisted calls to start PSV Eindhoven’s exciting young midfielder, Xavi Simons, alongside De Jong. Manchester United defender Tyrell Malacia would offer more pace and penetration at left-back but continues to be overlooked for Daley Blind, whose father Danny is one of Van Gaal’s assistants.

The United States will appreciate its chances. Despite the emergence of Cody Gakpo, whose three goals were impressive even if there is a risk that the PSV forward and United’s goal will be overestimated, the Dutch missed Memphis Depay up front. Muscle injuries have limited the Barcelona forward to two substitutes and a 66-minute run against Qatar and he is still not 100% fit. At the same time, his teammate De Jong has yet to get into the game, although whether this is a byproduct of Van Gaal’s tactics or the playmaker’s fluctuations in form and his tendency to be physically bullied is more difficult to determine. .

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *