Paul Gellard reflects on Feyenoord’s campaign so far as they prepare for the 2nd half of the season.

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toorn feyIt was a summer of change at De Kuip this year, it’s fair to say. Not only was there the departure of Ronald Koeman, who guided Feyenoord to a 2nd place finish last season, but playing personnel also took a hit. Top-scorer Graziano Pelle followed Koeman to Southampton, after netting 23 league goals (26 in all competitions) in 2013-14, while Daryl Janmaat headed to Newcastle United, Bruno Martins Indi moved to FC Porto and Stefan de Vrij signed for Lazio in Italy. Thus, a 2nd place finish, just 4 points behind Champions, Ajax, was always going to be a tough mission for the new coach.

Enter Fred Rutten. Formerly coach of FC Twente, PSV Eindhoven, Vitesse Arnhem and German club, Schalke 04, who was officially unveiled on 3rd March 2014 and charged with building on Koeman’s phenomenal success.

The first job for the new coach was to look to experienced signings to replace the outgoing successes. In came Dutch internationals, Khalid Boulahrouz and Jens Toornstra, as well Moroccan international, Karim El Ahmadi and Australian international, Luke Wilkshire, signed from Dynamo Moscow but also previously of FC Twente. There was also youth in the form of Dutch-born Turkish Under-21 international, Bilal Başaçikoğlu, who was signed from SC Heerenveen.

The season began with a 5-2 aggregate defeat in the Champions League Qualifiers to Turkish side, Besiktas. Despite a good start to the new league campaign which saw the Rotterdammers win 1-0 at ADO Den Haag on 10th August, the club soon began to hit the buffers. League losses to Willem II, FC Utrecht and bitter rivals, Ajax, as well as an exit at the first hurdle in the KNVB Beker to Go Ahead Eagles had many predicting that Rutten would not last too long at the helm. The uncertainty surrounding Jordy Clasie’s on-off proposed move to FC Porto also helped to unsteady the ship. However, a 4-0 thrashing, and instant revenge, of Go Ahead Eagles in Deventer on 27th September heralded a turnaround in fortunes as they went on to win 7 of the next 8 Eredivisie games. This included a particularly impressive 2-0 win at De Kuip against the highflying PEC Zwolle thanks to goals from Jean-Paul Boëtius and Sven van Beek.

Feyenoord’s recent 2-2 draw with AZ Alkmaar at De Kuip was a game in which the Rotterdammers trailed 2-0 at half time. They regrouped to take the game to the visitors in the second half and come away with a well-deserved point. And it was this game that summed up a good deal of Feyenoord’s change in fortunes.

The player who was arguably most responsible for earning Feyenoord a point against AZ was Kenneth Vermeer. Many eyebrows were raised when Feyenoord signed the stopper from Ajax on 1st September but he has had a superb start to his career in Rotterdam and made two absolutely fantastic stops from one-on-one’s with AZ’s Swedish striker, Muamer Tanković. He has now made the number 1 jersey well and truly his own at De Kuip and time will tell whether Ajax may regret letting him head south. He has certainly been a big reason for Feyenoord’s record of only 11 goals conceded this season, a feat matched only by PSV Eindhoven at this stage. The two young centre-halves, Terence Kongolo and Sven van Beek, will certainly draw confidence from playing in front of an experience and performing ‘keeper.

Another important piece of the puzzle for Feyenoord has been the loan signing of Colin Kazim-Richards on a season-long loan from Turkish club, Bursaspor. The Turkish international has taken over in the lone striker role from Mitchel te Vrede and, while many have questioned whether this has been a success or not, he has fitted into the role well and managed 7 goals since joining on 15th August. With a powerful physique, Kazim-Richards is capable of causing the most determined centre-halves problems, even when he’s not finding the net. And it is difficult to see how te Vrede will win his place back anytime soon if the Turkish striker stays fit.

A good run in the Europa League has seen Feyenoord win Group G by a point from Spanish side, Sevilla. The group also featured Croatian side, Rijeka, and Belgian side, Standard Liège. They will now face AS Roma in February, with the first leg in Rome, in order to progress to the Quarter Final stage.

In conclusion, it’s a brave person who writes off Feyenoord’s title hopes for the Eredivisie just yet. True, they trail leaders PSV by 12 points, but a superbly competitive performance in the game at the Philips Stadion in December could yet open all kinds of possibilities for “de club aan de Maas”. With young talents such as Terence Kongolo, Sven van Beek, Jean-Paul Boëtius and Elvis Manu being complimented with steady and seasoned professionals such as Joris Mathijsen, Khalid Boulahrouz, Lex Immers, Kenneth Vermeer and Luke Wilkshire, Feyenoord fans can be reasonably optimistic in this mid-season break.

Paul Gellard (1 Posts)