Despite a summer of change, reigning Eredivisie champions PSV Eindhoven sit top of the table once again and have qualified for the Champions League. Charlie Pritchard takes a look at Mark van Bommel’s side and their excellent start to the season. 

So far this season, PSV Eindhoven have encapsulated everything that we love about Dutch football. Their free-flowing attacking panache, elevation of fledgling players and seamless ability to evolve within an increasingly wealthy European transfer market has been remarkable.

The reigning Eredivisie champions have had a rampant start to the new season, scoring fourteen goals in just four games, effortlessly picking up from where they left off last term. Not only have the experienced players such as Jorrit Hendrix and Luuk de Jong continued to lead by example, but wingers Hirving Lozano and Steven Bergwijn have continued to blossom, indicating another potentially outstanding season for the club. 

The transition between the departure of PSV trainer Philip Cocu to Fenerbahçe and the arrival of Mark van Bommel as his replacement could have been complicated, but has instead been a smooth process. Cocu left PSV for the Turkish giants after leading the club to a 24th Eredivisie title and a third triumph under his stewardship. Furthermore, long-term technical director Marcel Brands left for Everton, leaving van Bommel with a tough act to follow. However, the PSV legend has been unfazed thus far by the weight of expectation in Eindhoven. 

PSV have won their first four Eredivisie matches, as well as progressing to the UEFA Champions League group stages after seeing off BATE Borisov 6-2 on aggregate in their qualification tie. Since their disappointing loss to Feyenoord on penalties in the Johan Cruyff Shield in August, PSV have now hit their stride and are playing some wonderful football. 

Their strong performances this season owe a lot to van Bommel’s work on the team’s shape and playing style. The Dutch trainer has been bold in redesigning the midfield area, placing trust in the creative Uruguayan Gastón Pereiro alongside Hendrix and Pablo Rosario. This midfield has so far exhibited a perfect blend of energy, flair and stringency, with each player offering an array of different talents. 

The dazzling performances of Pereiro provide a case in point of van Bommel’s confident strategic manoeuvring. Alongside the robust Hendrix and the box-to-box livewire Rosario in central midfield, Pereiro’s attacking freedom has added an innovative dimension to PSV’s build-up play. 

Indeed, Pereiro’s selection is in part response to Marco van Ginkel’s unavailability, as it remains uncertain as to whether the PSV captain from last season shall return to the club after his recovery from knee surgery in 2019. Nonetheless, Pereiro’s relationship with van Bommel suggests a bright future for the 23-year-old. Nearing 100 league appearances for PSV, netting 34 times in the process, Pereiro boasts a record that suggests a maturity beyond his years. He is emerging as a significant player this season for the Dutch giants, and is certainly the ‘artist of Montevideo’, as De Telegraaf  have dubbed him. 

Not only has van Bommel introduced intricate changes such as bringing Pereiro into the team on a regular basis, but he has also struck the balance between changing the components of the Cocu era and guaranteeing continuity. Of course, it may be easy to follow in the footsteps of a trainer who won the league the previous season, but van Bommel has kept his players inspired to achieve further greatness. 

The individual development of left winger Bergwijn has been a prominent story of PSV’s flawless start to the season. The Dutch youngster has evidently been working in the gym over the summer and in doing so has continued to draw comparisons with his predecessor on PSV’s left flank, Memphis Depay. A position that he shared with Lozano last season, Bergwijn seems to have taken ownership of his role on the left, not only cutting in onto his right foot with deadly precision, but also catering for his teammates in a notably selfless way. 

His strength and ability to twist and turn from opposition players, as well as his aptitude in beating defences for pace has been magnificently complimented by his decision making, an area which needed improvement if we were to be hyper-critical of his performances last season. 

As PSV were 3-0 up against Utrecht on opening day, Bergwijn slalomed through their defence from the half way line, threatening to release the trigger at any moment, only to cutely square the ball across the box to de Jong, who unluckily failed to convert his chance, perhaps surprised by Bergwijn’s unselfish decision not to shoot himself. 

The attacker, who switched from Ajax to PSV in 2011, said last season, ‘I’m in no hurry, just come and see’. He wants to be watched, and now he is not just a regular, but one of van Bommel’s shining stars, determined to win more silverware and become a PSV hero again. 

De Telegraaf said in June that Bergwijn was ‘at a crossroads in his career’, but after a summer where he and Lozano have been regularly linked with the biggest clubs in England, France, and Spain, they have both stayed in Eindhoven. So too have Jeroen Zoet and de Jong, and PSV have retained their best players for another season at least, which may prove to compensate for a lack in new acquisitions. 

PSV did have to account for the departures of experienced full-backs Santiago Arias (to Atlético Madrid) and Joshua Brenet (to Hoffenheim). The astute purchases of Denzel Dumfries from Heerenveen and Angeliño from Manchester City to replace Arias and Brenet have so far been highly successful. 

Dumfries has played almost every minute for PSV this season (withdrawn after 74 minutes against PEC Zwolle). His debut goal against Utrecht capped off a fantastic opening day for PSV, and the right-back has effortlessly fit into van Bommel’s new-look defence. At left-back, Angeliño has played the full 90’ in PSV’s last three games, providing two assists during his latest outing, the 6-1 rout at home to Willem II. He and Bergwijn have wreaked havoc on the left flank for PSV, combining twice to create goals during the Willem match to van Bommel’s delight. 

Daniel Schwaab and Nick Viergever have enjoyed a successful start to the season despite conceding three goals and not quite matching Ajax’s near perfect defensive record. Over time, the two centre-halves will construct a cohesive partnership in van Bommel’s machine. PSV do not have any concerns in offensive play, and once the defence becomes tighter, we should see results similar to PSV’s opening day thumping of Utrecht and the like. 

Van Bommel deserves immense praise for his team’s intensity going forward despite risking complacency following their title victory last term. The trainer also deserves admiration for his gallant decisions across the board; refusing to chop and change Bergwijn and Lozano’s wing positions, constructing a highly attacking midfield unit, and placing his complete trust in new full-back signings Dumfries and Angeliño, believing that there was no time to wait for them to settle in. 

As his players continue to develop and alert the watching European elite, van Bommel, on a personal level, could enhance his own reputation as a coach and tactician this season. No doubt humbly privileged and enormously devoted to coaching his club PSV, van Bommel’s stock could also markedly rise come the end of the season if he leads the club to a 25th Eredivisie title, taking them ever closer Holland’s undisputed giants AFC Ajax. 

Of course, the season is long and greater tests await after a favourable set of opening fixtures, but what remains certain is that PSV Eindhoven are in excellent shape to retain their title despite many departures in coaching and playing personnel. PSV should not fear Ajax, and if we know anything about Mark van Bommel’s character, we know that he will not fear the club’s arch-rivals one iota. 

Charlie Pritchard (9 Posts)