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Dutch Football Column: Depay’s comeback, the relegation battle and more

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 talking points in Dutch football.

Depay Milik

Depay’s comeback

37 days. Five weeks. Seven games. That’s exactly how much time Memphis Depay missed through a groin injury picked up on the 15th of September against PEC Zwolle. A superb start to the campaign with 5 goals and 2 assists in 5 games had promoted Depay to the spot of the most wanted player in the Eredivisie. PSV fans lamented the loss, other fans rejoiced. But they were all proved wrong: PSV won 5 out of their 6 following Eredivisie games, only conceding twice, including one in their most recent 1-5 trashing of Utrecht. PSV sit comfortably on top of the Eredivisie with four points more than the runners up, and favourites, Ajax. But the results didn’t tell the whole story. Philipp Cocu’s team badly missed Memphis Depay’s creativity, pace and his overall ability to create danger out of nowhere.

Take Di Maria out of the current United team, and you’ll get the exact same effect. So it’s no wonder the team of Eindhoven were so happy to get their little prodigy back. On his return, on Thursday, he scored PSV’s only goal in their draw with Panathinaikos. And on Sunday, he scored yet another goal for PSV, and had a very good game overall, almost scoring an impossible goal with a shot from inside his own half touching Utrecht’s bar. That shot was the incarnation of Depay’s return: PSV have their technical leader back, and their title hopes are as alive as ever.

Relegation battle: Heracles or Dordrecht?

Let’s move on to the ugly part of the Eredivisie: the relegation battle. The way things are going this season, it seems like Dordrecht and Heracles will be fighting not to end last. In Holland, the team that finishes 18th, last, goes down directly. The teams that finsih 16th and 17th get into the playoffs to save their Eredivisie spots, and quite often, they manage to stay in the Eredivisie. Dordrecht started their season superbly, managing a 1-2 win away at Heerenveen. But ever since, it’s gone from bad to worse. Only two draws in the following nine games. They have scored only 9 goals, and already conceded 23. They look completely out of their league: most games are lost by big margins. The other relegation candidate, Heracles, started the season by almost setting a new Eredivisie record: they lost their first 7 games.

When they beat NAC Breda 6-1 nearly three weeks ago, it seemed like they finally managed to turn things round. But it was too good to be true, and with two more losses, they sit last in the table. Heracles score a bit more, and do seem to have more fighting spirit, but so far, both teams just haven’t showed us why they should be in the Eredivisie next season. The battle will be a tough one, but certainly not the most beautiful one to follow.

Milik vs Sigthorsson?

For a bigger battle, let’s head back to Amsterdam. Just like last week, Ajax will feature prominently in this column. This summer, Ajax bought Groningen’s 17 year old talent, Zivkovic. But since his arrival, he hasn’t featured in Ajax’s squad once in the season. On the other hand, Ajax’s other transfer this summer, Arek Milik on loan from Leverkusen with an option to buy, has featured way more frequently. The battle for the striker spot is between Milik and Sigthorsson. The Icelandic striker was close to a move this summer, but decided to stay to impress Europe a little more. He is yet to do so at Ajax however. He scores just enough goals, but never produces great seasons, never impressive enough to convince the people in Amsterdam that he’ll become a top striker. He wastes too many opportunities. Milik on the other hand, is fresh, young, and full of energy. He has scored 3 and assisted 1 in 6 Eredivisie games so far. More notably, he scored five goals in a Dutch Cup game against a lower league side. But his performances are encouraging. For Poland, he scored a winner against the German World Champions.

At Ajax, the debate goes on and on. Who deserves to play?The more experienced Sigthorsson, or the younger, more in form Milik? So far, Frank de Boer hasn’t made a definitive choice yet. Both play every second game. But a choice will have to be made soon. And if you ask me, Milik deserves it. He’s a top striker in the making; it seems like the same can’t be said of Sigthorsson anymore.

Talent Radar Player of the Week

Time to talk about another young talent, and incidentally, my Talent Radar Player of the Week. If you’ve watched this weekend’s Eredivisie games, the choice is easy. Daley Sinkgraven is the name. At only 19 years old, he’s been one of Heerenveen’s best players this season, and one of the main reasons they currently are fifth in the Eredivisie. His progression curve says a lot about his talent: he got his first Eredivisie minutes last season, in January, aged 18, coming in as a 92th minute sub against Roda JC. He came in as a substitute in the following 8 games. Then, in the last five games of last years season, he played the full 90 minutes, assisting 3 goals in the process. Is it a coincidence Heerenveen won 4 of those last 5 games, and drew one? I highly doubt it. Daley Sindgraven is probably one of the biggest talents in Dutch football right now. He’s got it all: a slick touch, a creative foot that can produce moments of genius, a good finish and enough power to dictate the game. I don’t have to talk too much about Sinkgraven; watch for yourself.

This weekend’s game between PEC and Heerenveen, in the 61th minute, Uth comes in from the left, plays into Sinkgraven, who controls the ball and plays an unreal scooped assist ball back into Uth’s path, who calmly finishes to give Heerenveen the lead. Apparently, Manchester United have sent their scouts a couple of times to watch the young midfielder play. No doubt they will step up their interest soon if he plays this way the whole season.

Written by Yannick Bloem

Yannick Bloem

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