Daniel Wallis takes a look at Feyenoord’s success this season and looks to the future for Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side.

A tenth successive win and the second of the season against defending champions PSV has put Feyenoord within reach of their first Eredivisie title since 1999. With ten games remaining, the league leaders sit five points clear of Ajax, who they will face again before the end of the season in April’s De Klassieker.

History repeats

Het Legioen has been made to wait far too long for Feyenoord to bring the title back to Rotterdam. Despite being separated by almost two decades, both of these sides play the Feyenoord way; their success is the product of the sum of their parts.

This can be seen in the distribution of goals throughout the side. Nicolai Jorgensen may be the league’s top scorer with 15 so far this season, but he is not the only threat. With three goals in the past three games, Jens Toornstra now sits on nine this season, while Elijero Elia and Dirk Kuyt have added seven each.

Compare this with the team of 1999, where Julio Cruz, Jon Dahl Tomasson and Jean-Paul van Gastel scored 38 goals between them, and the advantage of multiple goal scoring threats across a well-drilled side becomes obvious.

The engine

There is a real balance in Van Bronckhorsts’ formation. Each player provides a clear role that benefits another. When they have the ball, they know exactly what to do with it, having averaged more passes in the build-up to a goal than any other side this season.

The engine that powers this system is based on movement off the ball, and a quick progression once it has been won, particularly from the back. Eric Botteghin and Rick Karsdorp are the catalyst for this. Botteghin leads the Eredivisie in interceptions, while both rank near the top for passing accuracy and is why that right flank has become one of Feyenoord’s most successful points of attack.

On the left, Terence Kongolo has the highest duel success percentage of any outfield player in the league, and is able to shift play quickly to Toornstra positioned as the teams anchor in midfield.

The efficiency in Feyenoord’s play has been put to great effect this season, as seen by the fact that they have scored more and conceded less than reigning champions PSV, despite fewer shots and having faced more.

Looking ahead

The season following their last title win, Feyenoord went on to reach the last-16 of the Champions League. Yet recent history has shown that the Champions of Holland are no longer fit to meet the challenge set by the top flight of European football.

Champions League qualification could provide a valuable apprenticeship in preparation for being more than just spectators in next season’s tournament, but the club now finds itself in the paradox of Dutch football; struggling to remain good enough to be great again.

It has taken Van Bronckhorst time to shape this Feyenoord side, and with the prospect of Champions league qualifying beckoning, it is time he will not have if the club cannot keep hold of its players.

The importance of this balance was clear for all to see in the 1-0 win over ADO Den Haag. With Kongolo and Vilhena rested, it was as if Van Bronckhorst had fielded an entirely different team. In order to compete in Europe next season the club cannot let any key players go, while finding new additions to strengthen the squad.

A fit and healthy Sven Van Beek will provide a much-needed boost, but competition for Jorgensen is one of several weaknesses that require addressing in order to launch a meaningful European campaign.

Balance and efficiency of play will not be enough next season. If Feyenoord are to compete with Europe’s elite and continue as Eredivisie contenders, they will need to fight for what has taken 18 long years to build.

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