The loss of Kevin Strootman in March after suffering a knee ligament injury has meant that Van Gaal has had to change his plans going into the World Cup. The injury has resulted in the Dutch moving from their well renowned 4-3-3 formation to a more cautious 5-3-2.

  • By Harry Taylor
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de vrij blind indiThe introduction of a 5 man defence is a rather new concept for the Dutch as they have mainly been stubborn in sticking to their beloved 4-3-3 which has shaped the identity of football in the Netherlands for the past 40 years or so. This new change in tactic has led to criticism from the media, as they feel this is against the true values of Dutch football, with the 5 man defence being more associated with Italy’s catenaccio approach rather than that of totaal voetbal.

Whether the approach is ethical is one matter, but speaking from a pragmatic point of view, will it work? Will an additional defender be enough to ensure that the Oranje can keep a clean sheet? Well firstly by having an extra defender it means that the Dutch will mostly likely end up defending deeper due to sacrificing an extra man from the attack. By defending deep  it makes it extremely difficult for the opposition to break down a side playing 5 at the back as they are able to play with a sweeper behind the 2 other centre backs; meaning if anything gets past Martins-Indi and Vlaar then De Vrij will be there to clear up any danger. This also means however that De Vrij will have to stay fully concentrated and any lapses could be fatal, this is a huge responsibility for the 22 year-old centre-back.

The main defensive weakness of using this formation is arguably its main attacking strength. The wing-backs in this system, most likely Blind and Janmaat, are the players that could be constantly exposed. This is due to them being required in the build-up, making the Dutch prone to counter attacks as other teams will exploit the space left from Blind and Janmaat being involved in the attacking third. This means that it is essential that the two wing-backs have great energy and are able to bomb up and down the wing throughout the full 90 minutes, otherwise there will be a lack of attacking potency and defensive stability. Also it is crucial that when in possession each player can keep hold off the ball and not lose it cheaply, as giving away possession in the build-up play will have a detrimental effect on the rest of the team.

So whether or not this change to a new stratagem will be tactical master-class from Van Gaal or a complete catastrophe is yet to be known, the 3 friendlies were not against teams with a great attacking threat compared to that of Spain and Chile. With this in mind and with the dull performances shown in those matches there seems to have been a drop in expectations for this Dutch side, meaning with less pressure from expectations they may be able to perform with greater freedom. And with a repeat of last year’s final as there first game, the Dutch will show us a real indicator of whether with this set-up they have the ability to go all the way.

Harry Taylor (30 Posts)