With Van Bronckhorst’s contract running out in the summer, Nicholas Koopman looks at why it might be time for the Rotterdam Club to part ways with their manager in the summer.

When Van Bronckhorst joined Feyenoord at the start of the 2016-17 season, as a rookie manager, no one could have expected the kind of success that the club would have under him. Since the millennium, the clubs only previous success, before Van Bronckhorst, was a single cup win against Roda JC in the 2007-08 season. In the last three years the club has gone on to win the KNVB Beker twice and captured their first league title in eighteen years. Something that alluded the current Netherlands manager Ronald Koeman during his time in charge of the Rotterdam side.

Feyenoord struggle to compete financially with the other two Eredivisie giants PSV and Ajax. What Van Bronckhorst has achieved with the squad, which lacks depth and quality in certain areas, has been nothing short of amazing. He has managed to get the team to buy into his message and the players to give their all for the club. What’s more, Van Bronckhorst has never complained about the clubs shortcomings, he just goes about the job in a professional and dignified way – a true gentleman. When he had to take tough decisions regarding player’s futures, such as with Kramer and Boetius, he acted swiftly to avoid unrest – moving both players out of the club. Proving he has strong man management abilities.

However, despite the recent success, all is not well at the Rotterdam club. Feyenoord have put contract talks with Van Bronckhorst on hold until February and the club are again, for the second year running, out of the Eredivisie title race in January. The main reason is Feyenoord’s inability to change the course of the game especially against lower ranked opposition. The blame for this must lay squarely at Van Bronckhorst’s door, the manager’s job is to find a successful plan B when plan A isn’t working. Whenever Feyenoord are struggling to break a team down, or trying to find a way back into a match, Van Bronckhorst will rarely venture away from his trusted cross the ball to the wings and then into the centre tactic and his 4-3-3 formation.

This inflexibility to change tactics has meant opponents read Feyenoord’s game, knowing precisely what they’ll do and when, and has led to some shock defeats such as against PEC Zwolle and De Graafschaap. The bigger teams, such as Ajax, can exploit this weakness from the outset having prepared for it and, as a result, inflict big and predictable defeats. Until Feyenoord find a way to solve this issue, a sustained title challenge seems out of the question. The biggest worry for fans and management alike is the standard of football has dropped off considerably this season so that teams now believe they can pick up points from Feyenoord both home and away.

The tactical inflexibility has led to some players becoming frustrated with a lack of playing time and seeking a move away from the club. The departure of Sofyan Amrabat after only one season because of limited playing time is example of Van Bronckhorst’s inflexibility to change, the same fate seems to await Yassin Ayoub. While Van Bronckhorst must be given credit for giving younger players such as Tyrell Malacia, Dylan Vente and Orkun Kokcu a chance in the first team and allowing them to develop. The majority of these changes were forced upon the manager as a result of injuries to starters such as Haps, Jorgensen and Van Persie rather than genuine desire to change outlook and approach.

Feyenoord are still fighting for the KNVB Beker this season, a trophy the club must win in order to avoid regression on last season’s achievements, so any rash changes are unnecessary and undeserved at this point. Nothing would be gained with an immediate change of personnel.  Nevertheless, Feyenoord will face a rebuilding process in the summer, if players such as Vilhena and St. Juste seek pastures new, and they must have a coach who can rebuild the side to close the gap on both PSV and Ajax. Van Bronckhorst needs to use the remainder of the season to learn on past mistakes and develop alternatives to the tried and tested.  

If he can’t, Feyenoord need to bring in someone who can. A change of manager in a rebuilding period is a normal process with fresh ideas and vision needed to implement the necessary change, Feyenoord must not be scared of that.

Whatever happens in the coming months, Van Bronckhorst deserves credit for all he has done for the club. Whenever he leaves, Feyenoord should give him a send off he deserves for ending their long Eredivisie wait.

Nicholas Koopman (93 Posts)