Sneijder and van der Vaart: The Dutch Dilemma
Marco van Basten was faced with this problem last summer, and his successor Bert van Marwijk is facing this problem now. Just to top things off, Real Madrid coach Bernd Schuster is about to face the same problem.
Last summer, the Dutch dazzled and impressed with spectacular performances against Italy, France, and Romania. The midfielders were instrumental in these performances, especially Wesley Sneijder and Rafael van der Vaart. All is well, one would assume.
Well, all is not well in windmill and tulip country. You see, our entire national team is out of balance. We have two world class attacking midfielders, all aiming for the same position in the team. Two of them were once team-mates at Ajax, and are now teammates at Real Madrid.
Actually, there's more than two options, but Robin van Persie is generally utilised as a forward or a winger and Clarence Seedorf will probably not be called up anymore, due to some incidents in the past.
Still, that leaves us with two talented players, both gunning for the same position.
Both have their own unique skills. Van der Vaart can score a lot of goals every season, has superb technique, and the ability to decide a match out of the blue. He's what we Dutch call a shadow-striker, a man playing just behind the deep forward. Sneijder is a more controlling player, who plays less far forward. He has a superb pass, an excellent shot with both feet, and he can read a match and dictate tempo.
However, both players don't really like to defend. Sure, they'll make the occasional run back, but they prefer to stay upfront. This means that when a coach fields both players, he has to compensate for both players not really performing a lot of defensive duties.
Their managers at Ajax had already noticed this. Ronald Koeman, who is generally tactically incompetent, was spot on for once when he stated that fielding both his young starlets at the same time in a similar role would ruin the defensive balance in his team. Sure, the team would score more goals, but they would also concede more.
Our national team is faced with a similar problem. Van der Vaart and Sneijder are not wingers or defensive midfielders. They are attacking midfielders, who are best utilised in the centre of the pitch. We can field Van Persie, Kuyt, or Amrabat on the right wing, Afellay, Babel, or Robben on the right wing, but we lack proper defensive midfielders to cover for two prima-donna's who do not defend.
Don't get me wrong, both of them are brilliant players, but we cannot field them both at the same time and it makes no sense to use either of them as a winger, as there are better alternatives available. We don't have enough class defensive midfielders to cover for them, so the manager will have to make a choice.
It's a really a bit of a luxury problem, because either one of them is a brilliant player, but it's also a difficult choice. The media and fans all have their favourites and will criticise a manager for not fielding their hero.
Van Basten tried to compromise by fielding Van der Vaart on the wing. Rafael played okay, but wasn't as good as he can be. Van Marwijk hasn't had to make a choice, as one of the two was always injured or not match-fit when-ever there was an international fixture.
I'm wondering, who will Van Marwijk pick? And while I'm at it, how will Schuster cope? Will he pick either one, or will he just field another defensive midfielder to compensate? Who would lose his spot in the starting line-up?
I present to you, the Dutch dilemma.
Now what would you do? Pick either one, pick both, pick neither of them? Re-build the squad around them or make them play the way the team has played for years?
So just tell me, what would you?
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