A brand new feature on this website is the introduction of weekly & fortnightly columns focusing on various leagues, countries and regions across the World. Yannick Bloem analyses and gives his opinion here on the latest events in Dutch football.
Adam Maher’s rejuvenation
Touted as the next Wesley Sneijder two seasons back playing for AZ Alkmaar, Adam Maher impressed viewers and attracted interest from all over Europe. Scoring 10 goals and assisting 10 others, at only 19 years old, the Moroccan born Dutch player showed the whole world that the hype around him was justified. He forced a move out of Alkmaar and ended up at PSV Eindhoven, a side bursting with an emphasis on young players. Maher has always been a smart player on and off the pitch, he could’ve gone abroad, but unlike many before him, he chose to stay in the Eredivisie rather than a pre-mature foreign adventure.
But last season was a major disappointed for the youngster, who failed to replicate any of his AZ Alkmaar performances at his new club. He crucially lost his touch of genius, the flair that made him a superb midfielder and kept him above the plethora of young midfielders in domestic Dutch football. With only 3 goals and 1 assist to his name, Maher ended up on the bench regularly even in important games as PSV settled for a 4th place finish without ever making a significant title challenge.
This week, against his former club, the young midfielder scored a brace in the resounding 3-0 victory that put PSV Eindhoven 4 points clear at the top, owing to other results going their way. With a turn-around of fortunes for his club, the individual too seems to be benefitting and admirers are once again left in awe at his impeccable technique. His influence all over the pitch was finally back and with an impressive return of 4 goals and 2 assists in his last 4 games, maybe it isn’t a coincidence that this game against his old team finally gave him the opportunity to shine once more.
Himself, PSV and more importantly Dutch football and its fans will hope he can keep this pace up the whole season, because when the tiny midfielder gets going, he is tough to stop. At only 21 years old now, he has still got his whole career ahead of him, and his recent performances have proved his talent didn’t vanish in last season’s poor showing, it just took a sabbatical.
You can read a detailed Scout Report on Adam Maher here. The midfielder also featured in Outside of the Boot’s list of 100 Best Young Players to Watch in 2014 and more recently was named in the Talent Radar Team of the Week for his performance against Cambuur.
Peter Bosz’ Vitesse replicate their attacking prowess
Speaking of things that are tough to stop, it’s impossible not to mention Vitesse’s current form. Under then newly appointed, Peter Bosz, Vitesse started last season looking like real candidates for the league title. Half way through, Vitesse were sitting pretty on top and surprising half of Europe with their commendable challenge for the Eredivisie. Even without their top scorer of the previous two seasons, Wilfried Bony, Vitesse were threatening in front of goal, scoring plenty and continuously creating. Chelsea loanee Lucas Piazon, was the new mastermind behind this wonderful season connecting everything in the attacking third.
But the fluid system suddenly seemed to have take a steep slump, with an absolutely woeful second half of the season, resulting in Vitesse ending the season in 6th place, missing out on European spots and well away from champions Ajax Amsterdam who they were more than competing with during the early stages of the campaign.
The start to this season reassured nobody and has been another disappointing continuation from the previous campaign. With 3 defeats and 1 draw to start the season, Vitesse sat in the relegation zone leaving fans more worried. But momemtum switched, and in their last 3 games, Vitesse have scored an incredible 16 goals. They are now unbeaten in the last 5, including 4 victories, and for the first time in the season, they sit in the European qualification spots. Credit has to go to Peter Bosz, who has managed to finally find a good mix between his attacking style of play and more solid defensive stability. If they keep going this way, a top 5 spot is absolutely a possibility for the team from Aarnhem.
The worry though, remains that inconsistency that plagued their previous campaign as well. On their day, Vitesse certainly appear to be a side holding their own, but failure to string a series of positive results can always prove to be a set-back. Peter Bosz has got his team playing the way he wants them to, he now has to ensure they do so on a consistent basis.
Kenneth Vermeer justifying his De Klassiker switch
A man who also stood out yesterday was Kenneth Vermeer. The Dutch goalkeeper made a very interesting transfer move this summer, shifting De Klassiker clubs, joining Feyenoord after a 10 year spell at Ajax Amsterdam. Of course, his move was justified as over the past season or two he didn’t feature much for Ajax, replaced by the Dutch national team & World Cup goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen. The reaction in Amsterdam was mixed. Some understood the move, sympathizing with the keeper and accepting that the temptation of regular first team football at a top club would be hard to turn down. Others however chose to provide an emotional justification for their reactions, stating that a move to their traditionally fierce rivals is completely unacceptable.
This weekend, in the last minutes of the game, Kenneth Vermeer produced two top class saves to preserve Feyenoord’s 2-1 advantage over Heracles as the side hung on for a crucial three points in what has already been a worrying start to the season. With the score at 2-1, Vermeer virtually secured the three points single handedly, with an assured performance at the De Kuip. Although his move has been controversially received, his ability is finally on display for a larger audience to view on a regular basis as Vermeer makes a potential claim for a senior team call-up once again.
Though Ajax supporters may find it hard to come to terms with the switch, it’s no doubt that the more rational of supporters are being convinced by Vermeer’s displays at his new club.
Sides yet to impress but Ajax expected to retain
PSV are leaders of the 2014/15 Eredivisie race and are looking good, but defensively there seem to be serious issues to contend with, while the loss of Memphis Depay has taken a hit on their attacking ability as well. Ajax always dominate possession in games under ex-Barca player, Frank De Boer, and usually end up converting that possession into meaningful goals, but again seem to be lacking some attacking flair.
Behind them, the usual top teams aren’t in sight with Feyenoord, Vitesse, Alkmaar all a couple of points off. Cambuur and Zwolle are surprising everybody so far, but nobody expects them to keep the pace the whole season.
The general feeling in the Netherlands among the press and supporters at the moment is pretty unanimous: Ajax will retain their Eredivisie title. With a squad well experienced in title challenges and a manager who has seen them through four consecutive championship victories, Ajax could certainly end up at top spot despite their less than impressive start as others have thus far struggled to take advantage.
Talent Radar Player of the Week
This week’s Talent Radar Player of the Week is undoubtedly the rejuvenated Adam Maher after he impressed in that 3-0 win over AZ Alkmaar. With AC Milan boss, Filipo Inzaghi, watching on, Maher scored twice including an exhilarating run cutting inside from the right flank and utlising his pace to strike past the keeper, a move which involved getting past six AZ players. His first was a simple tap in after good work from Jetro Willems down the left and poor handling from the keeper left the goal gaping for Maher to strike.
Written by Yannick Bloem
- Dutch Football Column: Depay’s comeback, the relegation battle and more - October 29, 2014
- Dutch Football Column: Adam Maher’s rejuvenation, Vitesse’s return of form & more - October 20, 2014