Netherlands look set to try out a 5-3-2 formation in the upcoming friendly with Ecuador with the intention to use it at the World Cup. But is it the right tactic for the Dutch?

  • By Michael Doodeman
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training nethWhen one thinks of Dutch football, the traditional 4-3-3 system comes into mind. However, under certain circumstances, this particular system may not be the answer for Louis Van Gaal’s men to pursue in Brazil. Why? According to Mr. Van Gaal, there are three reasons:

1) Kevin Strootman’s role as a versatile midfielder cannot be fulfilled by any other player.

2) There is not one certain left back who is established enough to convince in the starting 11.

3) There must be at least 3 creative midfielders controlling the flow of the game. The Oranje will experiment the 5-3-2 formation in this weekend’s friendly against Ecuador, and if things go as planned, you can expect to see this formation in June.

How it works: Wesley Sneijder referred to this system as similar to the Italian style; however, I’m sure the Dutch spin will be added, especially due to the fact that one of the greatest tacticians, Louis Van Gaal, is managing the squad.

Defence: The young defenders in this squad show great promise while on the pitch, however, let’s face it; they’re young and relatively inexperienced, therefore prone to make mistakes. In the 5-3-2, there will be 3 definite centre backs at all times which will ensure stability at the back.  Along with the back 3, 2 wingbacks will be hustling up and down the flanks to strengthen the back line and to add width in attack. This system allows a potential of 5 defenders when needed, but while attacking, it can commit the 2 wingbacks forward as well. The three centre backs will probably be Vlaar, Martins Indi and DeVrij, with the option of Veltman to fill in. The wing backs must be very fit and comfortable in attack and defense, Janmaat will occupy the right wing back position. On the left side Daley Blind will most likely start, being the most experienced among all the left backs, however the young Terence Kongolo may take his position.

Midfield: In the 5-3-2, there is one strict central defensive midfielder, one versatile midfielder, and one attacking minded midfielder. Protecting the back line in the CDM role should be the AC Milan enforcer Nigel De Jong. Playing in the versatile role will most likely be Jordy Clasie, however the likes of DeGuzman, Wijnaldum or Fer may be on Van Gaal’s mind to occupy the position. The final role in the midfield is the more attacking minded position. Sneijder seems the logical answer, however, he seems to have lost his hierarchy and prominence in the squad. Perhaps Van Der Vaart, Wijnaldum or even Arjen Robben may be preferred to occupy this role rather than Sneijder in Louis Van Gaal’s mind.

Strikers: It’s always a risk playing with two strikers: the team will have two less defending players, it can be hard to identify a successful striking partnership, and it doesn’t offer the same width as other formations with one striker. The striking partnership already seems to be an issue within the squad. Klaas Jan Huntelaar will be looking to finally receive his chance at a major tournament, unlike WC 2010 and EC 2012. It has been made clear that Van Persie is for sure the one of two starting up top, however he could be paired with either Huntelaar, Robben or perhaps Depay.

Feyenoord, who used the tactic to good effect at the end of the Eredivisie season, used their right winger Ruben Schaken as a second striker in the formation. Van Gaal may look to emulate this with Robben or Depay, who will look to use their pace to link with Van Persie and run at a defence on the counter.

Flaws of the Formation:

-In defense, one setback is perhaps the strength of the starting wingbacks. Both Janmaat and Blind can offer quality going both ways on the pitch, but will they have enough gas in their tanks to play a convincing 90 minutes of play? Their fitness and persistence will be tested against Spain and the speedy Chile.

– This particular 5-3-2 system can seem to be an issue for utilizing the great players of the squad. Arjen Robben has showed he can pay the CAM or striker role, but it’s undeniable he poses the greatest threat while attacking down the right flank. This formation doesn’t offer a lot of width which is indeed a weapon in the Oranje’s toolbox with the likes of Robben and Depay. The wingbacks will offer some support in wide positions going forward but will not be able to play in such an advanced role throughout the match as regular wingers would. Finally, the system does not have room to include all of the superstars in the squad, Van Gaal will have to limit and pick 3 of the following players: Robben, VanPersie, Sneijder, Huntelaar, Depay and VanDerVaart. Overall, this formation could work wonders or it could be a style to forget, which is why VanGaal will have the 4-3-3 system available at all times, as mentioned before.

In my opinion Robin VanPersie, Arjen Robben, Memphis Depay and Wesley Sneijder are crucial players in the starting XI. If Van Gaal is to use the 5-3-2 formation, the following conditions should be met:  Nigel De Jong, being the best defensive minded midfielder, should start in the CDM role. Wesley Sneijder should start in the CAM role: he is hungry to show the world he is still world class, and will have a great amount of freedom in this formation. Robben must be included whether he is a CAM or a “striker” but in order to utilize his talents, he should also be able to drift wide at times as well as playing the striker role. Should the midfield consist of DeJong, Clasie and Sneijder, it is also worth noticing that the average height of the 3 players is 1.71 meters (5 feet 6 inches). This Saturday will be exciting to see as to how this formation will work out, have faith in the players and in Mr. Van Gaal! Hup Holland Hup!

Michael Doodeman (12 Posts)