Being a national coach is tough. It’s not easy at all, with the media hounding you and criticizing your every decision. The pressure is immense and the entire nation is involved in everything you do.
After Euro 2008, we replaced Marco van Basten with Bert van Marwijk. The new man has managed the team for a few matches, so let’s have a look at how Bert van Marwijk has faired.
Starting off with his choices in selecting certain players, I intend to have a look at the goalkeeper issue and his choices in defence.
With Stekelenburg and Timmer out, Van Marwijk re-called Edwin van der Sar, instead of calling up youngsters like Vermeer, Velthuizen, or Vorm. Van der Sar may be a better 'keeper at the moment, but he’s not getting any younger and we should make sure that his successors get some playing time in the national squad as well.
We should build up their confidence and show some trust, even if they make a mistake. Van der Sar played an abysmal first international match, as Holland went down 1-0 away to Belarus. Van der Sar failed to save a semi-decent shot by Sergey Gerasimets. He wasn’t dropped from the team and in the end, he re-paid this trust with stellar performances.
We should do the same with either of the three goalies listed above. Take a chance on one of them, it’s better for their long-term development and for the long-term development of Dutch football in general.
Next up, he selected Dirk Marcellis to play as a right wing-back. Marcellis is a centre-back. This was evident in the past two matches. Marcellis did okay as a pure defender, but he lacked the offensive capabilities we seek in a wing-back.
Van Marwijk also selected PSV’s Jan Kromkamp. Kromkamp is not good enough for the international stage, something which became painfully clear during his spells at Villarreal and Liverpool. So don’t select him…WBA’s Gianni Zuiverloon seems a decent alternative and at least this guy is an actual wing-back. If he was good enough for the U-21 team, surely he has the potential to be a full international as well?
At the position of left wing-back, midfielder Giovanni van Bronckhorst was given a chance. This worked out pretty well against Iceland. Against this weak opponent, Gio was able to move forward and reinforce our midfield. Against Norway, this didn’t work out at all. Why not utilize Feyenoord’s wing-back Tim de Cler for such a match?
In midfield, Van Marwijk has kept the faith in his son-in-law Mark van Bommel, despite the latter losing his spot in the starting line-up at Bayern. This paid off, Van Bommel rewarded the granted confidence with two outstanding performances and a game-winning goal against Norway.
This move could’ve back-fired if Van Bommel had performed poorly. The media would’ve wondered why he fielded his son-in-law, despite the lad being not good enough for the Bayern starting eleven. His decision didn’t backfire though, so well done Bert.
In midfield, Van Marwijk had the balls to pick either Van der Vaart or Sneijder, a decision Van Basten was afraid to make. To be fair, Sneijder did help a bit by being not fully fit, but still.
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 Marwijk handled this well and Van der Vaart re-paid this confidence with two good performances.
Last up, there’s the matter of Van Persie and Sneijder bickering in the media. This could’ve caused a rift in the team, but it hasn’t. We’re not sure what Van Marwijk did to patch things up, but it worked.
It's perhaps a bit premature for all of this, but so far Van Marwijk has done okay. There's certain choices he has made I don't agree with, but the winner is always right and so far he has won every important match he has played.