Netherlands new era under Ronald Koeman began with a 1-0 defeat to England on Friday. Michael Bell draws six conclusions from the loss. 

Defensively, Netherlands look strong

It’s going to take some getting used to but Netherlands are now a team that’s strength lies in its defensive solidity. Oranje’s star men undoubtedly lie in the defence with Virgil van Dijk, Stefan de Vrij and Matthijs de Ligt forming a back three that looked strong and comfortable against a pacey English attack.

Going forward that back three looks to be a perfect partnership that not only gives away very few chances but also look very comfortable on the ball. De Ligt stood out for his tackling and drive, while Van Dijk and De Vrij were commanding in the air and dealt with any crosses that came in with ease.

However, In games to come, all three need to drive into space to help Netherlands moving forward and not just pass the ball between themselves.

Hateboer impressive

A regular for Atalanta in Serie A, Hateboer had been patiently waiting for his chance in Oranje and he got in on Friday.

The right-back grasped his opportunity and impressed me with his defensive work and drive going forward. He was a bigger threat to the English defence than Quincy Promes and deservedly got praise from Koeman after the game.

Netherlands have Daryl Janmaat, Kenny Tete and Joel Veltman for the right-back slot but Hateboer looks to be an excellent option on the right going forward.

Midfield looks bereft of creativity

Koeman, like his predecessors, went for a midfield partnership of Georginio Wijnaldum and Kevin Strooman, and once again it didn’t work. As a two they just do not work together and offer Netherlands nothing going forward.

With Wesley Sneijder now retired, Koeman needs to find a midfielder capable of unlocking a defence with a pass from anywhere on the pitch or someone who is capable of taking possession in his own half and driving forward. Strootman and Wijnaldum are not capable of doing this.

Going forward, Frenkie de Jong looks to be the man for the job but against Portugal, Koeman needs to try a different partnership. Possibly Donny van de Beek and Davy Propper or Tonny Vilhena. The midfield needs a spark.

Memphis looks better for Oranje in a free role

Memphis Depay was Netherlands best-attacking outlet against England but only after switching to a free role in the second half.

In the first period, Memphis took up his usual position on the left wing but didn’t really threaten the English defence, although his link-up play with Patrick van Aanholt was decent at times.

After the break, Memphis moved inside more and looked far more dangerous when allowed to pick up the ball around the field. The Lyon attacker took four shots, three of which were on target, contributed five key passes and was successful with four dribbles.

Without Robben, Netherlands need someone unpredictable up front and Memphis is the man for the job. Giving him the freedom to roam behind the striker may be the best way to get the best out of him going forward.

Bas Dost needs service 

Bas Dost got his big chance on Friday but the Sporting striker looked isolated and frustrated during his 65 minutes on the pitch. The problem has always been that Netherlands just do not play to Dost’s strengths and it was the same against England.

Dost needs crosses launched into the box at all times where he can bully defenders, get knock-downs and win headers. However, Memphis Depay and Quincy Promes are wingers, who prefer to cut inside, rather than race to the byline and swing the ball into the box. Promes was on the pitch for 65 minutes and only produced one cross, while Memphis tried seven with only one accurate.

Off the ball, Dost doesn’t offer much and this is why Vincent Janssen has been preferred in recent years, while even Wout Weghorst looked more energetic when he came off the bench late on.

Koeman has a decision to make against Portugal. Give Dost another chance from the start and use wingers who want to bombard the box, or come to the realisation that Dost’s role with Oranje is best as an impact substitute.

Koeman needs time to mould his Netherlands tactic

Rome wasn’t built in a day and Koeman wasn’t going to turn Netherlands back into world beaters in a week.

The 3-4-3 formation that Koeman wants to use is going to take time to get used to for the players, who have had 4-3-3 drummed into their brain for years. There was some positives to take from Friday and some big issues which Koeman now knows and I am sure given time he will turn it around. Netherlands have big fixtures coming up against Germany and France in the UEFA Nations League at the end of the year and that is when we will see if this tactic can be used going forward.

The most important thing is that Netherlands qualify for Euro 2020, friendlies at the end of the day don’t really matter.

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