Spencer Steevens argues that Netherlands need to ditch their Total Voetbal ways if they are to ensure this years Euro failure doesn’t happen again.

oran v czeDutch football enthusiasts love talking about the rich history of their nations influence on its favorite sport. From Johan Cruyff and Total Football, to the Euro Championship in 1988, and Dennis Bergkamp leading Arsenals “invincible’s.” We love (and rightfully so) taking credit for the emergence of Cruyff’s Barcelona, which has led to one of football’s greatest dynasties, and pride ourselves on having revered coaches that are exported all over the world to spread the name of “Dutch” football. With the shocking non-qualification for the Euros next summer, it’s become glaringly obvious we need to close the chapter on Total Football.

Fans even complained that despite reaching the World Cup Final in 2010, the team played a brash, abrasive style – far from the free-flowing Total Football they were raised with. When you have the likes of Mark Van Bommel and Nigel De Jong as your defensive midfielders, and their brash style gets you within 3 minutes of a World Cup final penalty shoot-out – the tactics are justified. There was a similar complaint in 2014, when Louis Van Gaal switched his main formation to a defensively focused, counter-attack style 3-5-2. Again, people in Orange all over complained again. That team, which most experts didn’t have leaving the group stage, was a few poor penalties away from another World Cup final.

After the World Cup, Guus Hiddink decided to revert back to the classic 4-3-3. When it didn’t go well, pundits raged that Hiddink’s ideas were outdated. They were. Hiddink’s ideas were those of classic Dutch Football – outdated, and obsolete in today’s game.
It could be argued that the current crop is not world class. Maybe. But they’re good enough to qualify for an expanded Euro campaign, meant to give chances to the little guys, not the giants. The coach, whether that be Danny Blind, Ronald Koeman, or maybe even (shhh!) a foreigner, must build a team around the players. They cannot be successful if they stick players into an abstract idea. Even the notoriously stubborn Louis Van Gaal knew a philosophy is worthless if you don’t have the correct players. When Kevin Strootman was injured, LvG went back to the drawing board and created a new tactical regime to fit with what he had.

Given the landscape Blind inherited, it would be unfair to call curtains on his tenure just yet; especially considering the unfortunate injuries that plagued the campaign. Had Robben, Vlaar, De Vrij, Willems, and a handful of others been fit, the outcome may have been different. However, he must use the upcoming friendlies and time off in order to come up with a real plan. Continuity and hoping for the best is not good enough. Blind has to experiment with players, formations and tactics.

Yes, this may lead to some more lost games, but it will be part of a learning process, as opposed to stubbornness rooted in pride for past glory.

In 10 months, World Cup qualifiers begin, with a much more difficult road ahead than the Euro failure. Holland must top either France or Sweden to have any shot at qualifying for the tournament. By September 2016, let’s hope a new chapter of Dutch football has started. So we can begin to look forward, instead of always looking to the past.

Spencer Steevensz (104 Posts)

I'm a digital/social marketer out of Chicago. I grew up loving Dutch football - total football is the only way to play. I support PSV in the Eredivisie, and whatever team has the most Dutch guys on it in any other league. Hup Holland Hup!