Tag Archives: ADO

ADO 2 – 0 Tauras: Half time improvement sees ADO through to the next EL qualifying round

Judging by the score line of 2-0 ADO did a good job beating Lithuanian side FK Tauras, admittedly of a lower standard, to reach the third qualifying round of the Europa League. But the performance to go along with it was rather flat, with ADO only taking full advantage of their superior playing qualities in the second half, when the pressure on their opponents was significantly increased.

 

ADO’s 4-3-3

Manager Maurice Steijn made two changes compared to last week’s line-up. The first one was a forced change, as newly acquired left-back Luksik was suspended after his direct red card. Steijn shifted Christian Kum to the left-back spot, moving Ramon Leeuwin back into central defense, much like he did during the previous match to compensate for Luksik’s dismissal. In midfield Tjaronn Chery, a substitute in the previous match, played beside Jens Toornstra.

The starting line-ups

The second change wasn’t forced by last week’s game, but it was definitely related to it. Tauras played a compact formation that effectively doubled up on ADO’s wingers and succeeded in frustrating ADO’s desired wide winger game with it. Partly as a result of this, Charlton Vicento played a disappointing game and didn’t start this game. Another new acquisition did, as winger Marc Höcher, more technically skilled than Vicento, but less athletic, started on the left wing.

 

Tauras’ optimistic 4-2-3-1

The obvious disadvantage of formational notations is that they hardly cover the subtle difference that might exist between them and in fact, Tauras’ formation wasn’t all that different compared to last week’s 4-4-1-1 that they played for the best part of the game. With both wingers pushed up just a bit more in possession a 4-2-3-1 seemed the most accurate description of their formation.

 

The first half

Apart from an early minutes chance for striker Lex Immers, the match gradually turned into a disappointing affair for ADO. Fans had come to the stadium with high hopes to see their team walk over an underestimated opponent and a few early whistles were to be heard.

Tactically spoken, ADO left quite some space between their back four and the front three. Their narrow midfield three, with Aleksandr Radosavljevic in his usual conservative role in close proximity to the central defenders, had a tough time covering this much space. Tauras, on the other hand, crowded this space with their midfield three and added the defensive efforts of their wingers too. As a result, ADO frequently lost possession even before reaching either of their wingers.

 

ADO’s ineffective crosses

The mainstay of ADO’s game in their successful previous season had been their wide winger crossing game. Both Verhoek and Kubik (now departed to Russian side Kuban) connected very well with target man Bulykin, resulting in the Russian striker’s second place in the top scoring charts.

With Immers playing the striker role now that Bulykin’s loan contract could not be renegotiated, ADO will have to fine tune that aspect of their game. Immers does not possess the physical qualities that Bulykin displayed over the past season and needs more support upon incoming crosses.

In that regard Ado fell a bit short during the first half. Immers regularly was the only ADO player in the box when Höcher and mainly Verhoek delivered their crosses. During the second half ADO fixed this issue and significantly increased the effectiveness of their crosses. Overall, the rate of 4 shots on target out of 15 attempts illustrated the lack of quality in ADO’s finishing game.

 

The opening goal

Often regarded as  an ideal timing to score a goal, ADO opened the score on the brink of half time. Assisted by Tauras’ goal keeper Borysenko, who dropped an out-swinging Verhoek cross and provide Jens Toornstra with the easiest of opportunities.

 

 

The second half

During the half-time break Steijn seemed to have addressed the first half issues. ADO’s defensive line played at least twenty yards further up the pitch, thereby reducing the amount of space in front of them and providing the required support for central midfielders Toornstra and Chery. The two of them, in return, were again able to support Immers in dealing with the incoming crosses and ADO’s game was a world of difference compared to the first half.

In truth, with Tauras needing at least three goal to qualify for the next round, the outcome of the tie had pretty much settled with Toornstra’s opening goal. Tauras seemed reluctant to chase an equalizer, knowing that ADO would take advantage of any space in behind their defensive line. Their sparse moment of counter attacks now began from a much deeper position and their counter play was significantly reduced as a result.

 

In the end

With the best effort of the game, Tjeronn Chery introduced himself to the home crowd in Den Haag with a delicious long range effort to chip the ball over Borysenko. The 2-0 final score line pretty much justified the face of the game with ADO having made a huge improvement during the half time break.

FK Tauras – ADO 2 – 3 : An eventful return to European football with a happy end

Only 46 days after their miraculous escape in the Europa League qualification play-off final against Groningen, it was already time for ADO to get their 2011/12 campaign underway. They did so with an away match in the second qualification round of the Europa League against Lithuanian side FK Tauras, who came in fourth last season and are currently ranked ninth halfway through the present season in Lithuania’s twelve team league.

Given the over achievement of the past season, when presumed bottom-half team ADO managed an impressive seventh place, ADO fans feared the departure of most of their eye-catching players. Well, the most significant departure was a rather unexpected one. Successful manager John van den Brom, who played an impressive 324 games for Vitesse, was lured to Arnhem with last season’s assistant manager Maurice Steijn, who played 98 games for ADO himself during the nineties, appointed as his successor.

 

Summer transfers

ADO lost two important offensive players, as their top scorer Dmitri Bulykin’s loan contract from Anderlecht could not be renegotiated and Slovakian left inside winger Frantisek Kubik left ADO for Russian side Kuban after just one year in Den Haag. On a positive note, right winger Wesley Verhoek stayed true to ADO, at least so far, with all sorts of rumors about his future going on. As a replacement for Kubik, winger Marc Höcher was attracted on a free transfer from Helmond Sport, after scoring 15 and assisting 14 goals in the Jupiler League last season. This would assume that Charlton Vicento fills in the striker role. Another option would be to advance Lex Immers from central midfield to that position.

Both central defender Timothy Derijck and upcoming midfield talent Jens Toornstra, like Verhoek, have received offers from Utrecht, but stayed at ADO so far. ADO made a straight swap at their left-back position, where Mitchell Piqué left and 26-year old Slovakian Filip Luksik was brought in. Finally, Pascal Bosschaart and Danny Buijs, regular substitute players during the past season left the club on free transfers.

 

ADO’s formation

The starting line-ups

ADO enjoyed a fantastic 2010/11 season with their optimistic wide winger 4-3-3 formation. Aleksandr Radosavljevic consequently covered in close proximity of the back four, while both central midfielders Toornstra and Immers made well timed connecting runs forward. However, with no direct replacement found for Bulykin as of yet, Immers played as central striker today with Leeuwin drafted in from central defense to the right-sided central midfield place.

This swap, Leeuwin for Immers in midfield, meant less offensive input from that area for ADO, while part of their success of the past season was the confusion they brought about with two central midfielders looking to overload formations playing with a single holding midfielder.

 

Tauras’ 4-1-4-1 / 4-4-1-1

Despite starting out with a clear 4-1-4-1 formation, Tauras swapped for a 4-4-1-1 early on. ADO’s midfield shape, with Leeuwin playing practically beside Radosavljevic, forced Tauras’ central midfield triangle to a better fit. A few chances were conceded in the process though, mainly from moves starting at the feet of Radosavljevic, who escaped Tauras’ pressure in deep positions during their early 4-1-4-1 line-up.

Other than that, ADO had quite a tough time breaking their opponent open. Due to the crowded centre of the pitch and ADO preference for wide wingers, most offensive moves were played out on the sides of the pitch. Right winger Verhoek fired in some of his trademark crosses from deep, but left winger Vicento struggled to make an impact.

His problem was most of ADO’s problem too. Tauras kept their two bands of four close together, as was to be expected, which led to their full-backs receiving constant cover from the wide midfielders. With ADO mainly used to wide wingers and central midfielders arriving in the box with late runs forwards, their full backs are not all too adept at playing an offensive role. And that was exactly was caused the problematic second part of the first half. Tauras simply outnumbered ADO’s wingers and kept their opponent at an adequate distance from the goal.

 

Second half changes

ADO manager Maurice Steijn seemed to realize the lack of bodies in the wide areas of the pitch as full backs Luksik and particularly Ammi increased their offensive input, making those much needed overlapping runs.

ADO’s game plan, however, was undone early in the second half as Tauras deserved a penalty on practically their first possession in the opponent’s box. Left back Luksik was sent off on his debut for the club and striker Jerkovic slotted the penalty home to put the home side 1-0 up.

 

ADO's unusual shape after left back Luksik was sent off

No shortage of events

Put to the test like that, Steijn made some drastic changes. Ramon Leeuwin dropped a line to fill in at centre back, to allow Christian Kum an unusual left wing back role, where he covered most of the left side of the pitch. Immers was initially withdrawn to a central offensive midfield role, with Verhoek and Vicento operating as a pair of central strikers. Later on, with the introduction of newly acquired Tjarron Chery, Immers moved back to the striker role with the substitute operating in the hole. In formational notations a 3-3-1-2 would seem to cover best what ADO lined up like.

Whether it was due to their change of shape or not, space opened up for left sided attacks and a quick move by Kum allowed Verhoek to fire in his first left sided cross, which Immers finished off. But ADO’s comeback was short lived as Tauras only Dutch (!) player, Regilio Seedorf, a second cousin to Milan’s Clarence, put the home side 2-1 up with an out of the blue screamer from distance, only their second attempt at goal.

ADO’s abrupt change from a wide winger game to a narrow pair of front strikers operating with a man-in-the-hole kept providing them with opportunities though. And it was club icon Lex Immers who leveled the score from the penalty spot after Chery was clumsily fouled on the edge of the box. In the final second of extra time things took a turn for the worse for Tauras as centre back Sirevicius found the back of the net of his own goal to give ADO the win.

 

In the end

Not many would have expected such an eventful game from a second qualifying round of the Europa League tournament. A red card, two penalties, five goals and a drastic change of approach of tactics by ADO made for a highly enjoyable match. Of course it is very early in the season, but at least we’ve seen ADO’s new manager at work, put to a test with his team being a goal and a man down in their much awaited first European match in 24 years. His drastic change of approach changed the face of the game and overcame an opponent that managed two goals from two attempts.

ADO 5 – 1 Groningen: First leg trashing fires ADO into Europe

In a first leg of what many expected to be a tight affair, ADO trashed Groningen and went on to win 5-1, thereby virtually securing their win in this season’s Europa League qualification playoffs. Groningen conceded the midfield to ADO by playing a formation bordering on 4-2-4 against ADO’s compact 4-3-3. In turn, ADO played to their strength very well and consequently circulated the ball to the feet of wingers Kubik and Verhoek. In the end, a weak performance by Groningen goal keeper Luciano did the rest.

 

The line-ups

The starting line-ups. Note ADO's 3v2 dominance in the midfield, due to Bacuna's advanced position.

ADO went into this match without their suspended first choice striker Dmitri Bulykin and his preferred replacement Charlton Vicento. Instead Van den Brom played Lex Immers, who had been drafted from his offensive midfield role into the striker position on numerous earlier occasions this season. The vacated spot in ADO’s central midfield was filled in by advancing versatile defender Ramon Leeuwin into central midfield, making place for Christian Kum in central defense beside captain Timothy Derijck.

Groningen also started without their preferred first choice striker. Tim Matavz, still believed to be on his way to Napoli next season, still struggles with his fitness, therefore Petter Andersson made another start in the striker position, just like in Groningen’s last match, the home win over Heracles in the EL playoffs semi final.  Thomas Enevoldsen saw his energetic substitution performance from that match rewarded with a start at the right inside winger position.

Groningen’s main absentees must have been Danny Holla and Tim Sparv, who developed into an excellent defensive midfield partnership. Holla misses out through a hamstring injury, while Sparv is suspended after his second yellow card in the hard-fought Heracles match.

 

The first half

The first ten minutes saw a dominant ADO, while Groningen patiently sat back and absorbed their opponent’s pressure for the moment. But around that time the game was suspended for nearly a quarter of an hour due to technical problems with the stadium lights. A break that was well used by Pieter Huistra to direct his team to a more offensive stance. Groningen re-appeared with a higher back line (which ultimately cost them a goal later on) and more offensive intentions.

Overall, ADO clearly dominated the first half, playing excellently though their strengths: the wings. Nearly all midfield balls were played out wide, into the feet of Kubik or Verhoek, who clearly had the better of Kieftenbelt and Stenman. Ironically, their opening goal came via a rare attack through the centre of the pitch. Groningen was paid for letting the pressure on ADO’s midfield slip for a moment, as Immers laid the ball off for Radosavljevic, who had escaped the attention of an overly advanced thinking Leandro Bacuna. Radosavljevic’s excellent through-ball played Toornstra in behind Groningen’s defensive line and the midfielders finished off nicely.

In the build-up to that goal, several of Groningen’s key issues in this game were illustrated. Bacuna took a very optimistic offensive stance, pressuring almost beside striker Andersson, which seemed out of line with the more conservative stance taken by the rest of the team. As a result, Groningen’s formation turned from a compact 4-2-3-1 into a stretched 4-2-4, which left space in midfield that was well exploited by ADO’s narrow midfield three of Radosavljevic, Toornstra and Leeuwin.

In possession, Groningen had their problems too. They hardly succeeded to connect more than four passes in a row, partly due to the aforementioned 3v2 ADO-dominated midfield, but also due to the absence of both Holla and Sparv, who are excellent passers of the ball. Although the Eredivisie does not provide data on pass completion, my guess would be that the both of them are among the best passers in the league when it comes to pass completion, which is a vital ingredient in the holding midfield role.

 

Second half changes

Huistra attempted to fix the first half issues by replacing right-back Kieftenbelt, who was clearly dominated by Kubik, with Virgil van Dijk, but he failed to address the midfield issues, where ADO continued to dominate.

After a short spell where Groningen seemed prepared to fight back into the match and their fighting spirit won a few tackles in midfield, ADO took advantage of a horrible kick by Groningen goal keeper Luciano, who placed the ball straight into Toornstra’s feet. On the resulting long range shot by Immers Luciano gave up a central area rebound, which was fired in by man-of-the-match Jens Toornstra, who whose run, again, was not tracked by Ajilore.

 

Clear winners

Despite a short surge of hopes for Groningen, when Ivens scored a close range header from a Dusan Tadic corner (his 22nd assist of this season!), ADO ran out clear and deserved winners with a score line as high as 5-1.

The story of the first half continued as Groningen gave up too much space in front of their back four and was punished for playing with a higher defensive line in search of the much needed away goal. First Immers won a ball in between Groningen’s central defenders and later on he also proved instrumental in ADO’s fourth goal by winning a header off Granqvist. Toornstra won a subsequent tackle off Ivens in Groningen’s box and fired in through the legs of Luciano. Ultimately, Ramon Leeuwin increased the pain for Groningen as he fired in from long range and saw his effort being deflected in the back of the net by Luciano.

 

In conclusion

With the danger of overexerting the same point over and again, Groningen’s midfield errors cost them the game, and with that, the possibility to crown the club’s best first half of a season ever with a qualification for European Football. Playing attacking midfielder Leandro Bacuna mainly beside striker Andersson did not fit with the (appropriate) more defensive stance taken by the rest of the team.

As a result, Groningen’s midfield effectively consisted of only Hiariej and Ajilore, who replaced Holla and Sparv in that area. ADO easily dominated that department with a close midfield three consisting of Radosavljevic, Leeuwin and a particularly excellent Jens Toornstra. They consequently succeeded to circulate the ball to wingers Kubik and Verhoek, who exploited their pace and crossing skills very well.

The resulting 5-1 home victory should ensure qualification for the qualification rounds of the Europa League, where ADO will (probably*) follow the footsteps of Utrecht, whose 2010/11 season started back in July already.

 

* In the past 10 seasons of EL and CL knock-out football, none of eleven teams losing the away match 5-1 went on to qualify from that tie.

ADO 3 – 2 Ajax: Two comebacks denied by late winner

With the Eredivisie nearing its end ADO won three very important points in their battle for direct Eruopa League qualification. Ajax, meanwhile, lost three important points in the chase of Twente and league leaders PSV. Major defensive issues cost Ajax dearly as ADO managed to grab the lead three times in this match, with Ajax unable to make up for their defensive frailties.

 

The line-ups

Ajax went into this post-European football match with a starting eleven that was changed on several places. Blind was left out after his early substitution against Spartak Moscow. This moved Anita to the left-back spot to play ADO’s talented right winger Wesley Verhoek. It also meant that Eyong Enoh returned to the squad in the holding midfielder role. Dario Cvitanich made a rare start up front, moving De Jong into the right sided central midfield position over Demy de Zeeuw. Finally, at the right wing spot, as expected, Araz Özbiliz started instead of the suspended Ebecilio. With Maarten Stekelenburg out until the end of the season, Jeroen Verhoeven was Ajax’ goalkeeper.

ADO was able to field a full-strength attack and midfield three. In defense, manager Van den Brom seems to prefer Kum over Piqué, and moving him from the left central defense spot to left-back freed up a starting place for Pascal Bosschaart in ADO’s central defense.

 

Two 4-3-3’s

The starting line-ups: two very similar wide 4-3-3 formation, both looking to overload the opposing single holding midfielder.

Of all identical formations playing each other, two 4-3-3’s is perhaps the best prospect for an attractive match. Both teams deploy a single holding midfielder, while attempting to overload the opponent’s defensive midfield with two generally attack-minded central midfielders. In that sense, Ajax and ADO deploy very comparable systems, both also favoring wide wingers on both sides of the pitch.

The element of trying to overload each other’s holding midfielder proved crucial to understanding the developments during the first half of this match. From the kick-off, Ajax dominated the first fifteen minutes, but was then countered by ADO very well, with the home team balancing the game and creating the best chances themselves from that moment on.

 

The opening fifteen minutes

During the first fifteen minutes of the game Ajax had the initiative on the midfield, and with that, dominated possession. ADO’s midfield triangle had a lot of difficulties, particularly in tracking Enoh and Eriksen. They seemed to have had an initial plan of competing with Ajax face-to-face, and to try and press right back at their opponents. But in doing so, holding midfielder Radosavljevic was regularly overloaded by the presence of both De Jong and Eriksen in his zonal marking area. On the other hand, this should have brought a comparable advantage to ADO in their attacking midfield zone, but as Ajax dominated possession, they took most advantage here and particularly Eriksen displayed what qualities he has in the central midfield area when allowed the space to move between the lines.

Van den Brom adjusted his formation after this opening phase, moving his defense and midfield much closer together. His attempt to restrict this space, where Ajax had dominated the opening fifteen minutes, worked very well. Radosavljevic became the spare man to cover up in front of the defensive line and Immers and Toornstra played a bit deeper, picking up Eriksen and De Jong. This left Enoh completely free, only for the Cameroon midfielder to demonstrate his shortcoming: midfield distribution.

The line-ups after ADO's adjustment: the midfield sat seep, closer to the defensive line. Enoh was deliberately left free.

 

ADO sitting back, but dominating

Generally, the team with most possession is described as the most dominant team, but in this game it should have been different. ADO looked happy to sit back with their, now compact, defensive unit and spray long passes to aerial target man Bulykin. Verhoek and Kubik used their pace well to connect with the strong front man and after an initial warning by Immers, when his header was only just cleared off the line by Anita, ADO put themselves a deserved goal up.

Admittedly, it took a combination of individual defensive errors by both Van der Wiel and Alderweireld, but ADO deserved the goal on the basis of their highly effective counter play, using the strength of their team to full effect.

The remainder of the first half saw the same pattern. Ajax dominated possession about 60-40, but with mainly Enoh in possession in defensive midfield and Eriksen and De Jong denied space at the flanks, the ball was mainly circulated sideways and goal scoring chances were scarce for Ajax. On top of that, wingers Sulejmani and Özbiliz, who started well, but faded early in the game, did not succeed to dribble past their direct opponents. ADO showed excellent discipline here, doubling up on Ajax’ wingers, either by dropping their own wingers back, or by moving one of the central defenders wide.

 

Second half changes

From the end of the first half on, and all throughout the second half too, Ajax deployed a libero playing from defense. In order to avoid Enoh being the main midfield passer, Vertonghen and Alderweireld took turns moving into midfield, with Enoh dropping deep. This positively influenced Ajax’ direct passing, and although it were mainly long range attempts, a number of shots resulted from it.

Upon the hour mark, de Boer decided to remove Cvitanich from his largely anonymous role. It must have been painful for the Argentine striker, with the absence of El Hamdaoui, to have been replaced by Geoffrey Castillion, who made his debut of Ajax’ first team in a game where potential Champions League football, or even Ajax’ chances of winning the Eredivisie were actually at stake. De Boer’s issues regarding the lack of a defensive passing midfielder were well illustrated when he removed Enoh for veteran central defender Ooijer, with either Vertonghen or Alderweireld now definitely moving into a defensive midfield position.

 

 

Two equalizers, but no points

Despite equalizing twice in the second half, Ajax still lost the game after a late winning goal by ADO captain Derijck. First Jan Vertonghen fired in an equalizer to make it 1-1 with a 108 km/h bullet shot from a text book set piece variant. Then goalkeeper Verhoeven looked bleak on an in swinging ADO free kick that was well fired in by Lex Immers.

With the match nearing its end, Ajax looked to come away with a points, despite all shortcoming described above, but Eriksen’s equalizer was erased in the end when Timothy Derijck, one of the most underrated central defenders of the Eredivisie, scored his second goal of the season to give ADO the full three points and a marvelous double win of rivals Ajax.

 

In the end

ADO won this game on the basis of their excellent switch to a grouped defense on the fifteen minute mark. Van den Brom realized in time that competing with Ajax in a comparable stretched and wide 4-3-3 would not match with the difference in technical individual player qualities and adjusted excellently.

Ajax lost this game lacking the excellent goalkeeping and set piece organizing qualities of Maarten Stekelenburg. Furthermore, the lack of passing quality in defensive midfield was very much clear and, in hindsight, moving Anita to left-back and re-installing Enoh allowed ADO to play as they did so well after adjusting their game plan. Finally, it was clear that Ajax lacks a striker that is either capable of holding up the ball and distributing from there, or capable of finishing moves himself.

ADO 2 – 2 Feyenoord: Another lead given away by Feyenoord

High-flying ADO went into this match with high expectations. A home win over troubled Feyenoord would  strengthen their fifth place in the Eredivisie, which would probably be enough to guarantee Europa League football next year. That is, if either Ajax or Twente will go on to win the Dutch Cup over fellow semi-finalists RKC and Utrecht. Unexpectedly, ADO went 2-0 down before half-time, only to snatch a draw with two goals within the final ten minutes. Feyenoord let a win slip for the third time in the past four matches.

 

Two similar 4-3-3’s

The starting line-ups

Most times when two teams with similar formation play each other, a fierce tactical battle is hardly to be expected. And indeed, both teams played a fairly similar 4-3-3 system, deploying wide wingers, looking to cross balls into the box. As can be seen from the starting line-ups diagram, most players face a direct opponent, rather than a zone with different opponents appearing now and then. Both teams full-backs clearly face a wide winger and the two midfields look like inversed mirror images. Feyenoord’s midfield is slightly more on the conservative side with both Meeuwis and Leerdam being naturally more inclined to defend than to attack, while ADO fields two more attacking minded players in Immers, who is capable of playing a decent striker role at times, and Toornstra, who provided two goals and two assists in ADO past five matches.

And these similarities are exactly where both managers tried to unsettle their opponents too. A potential weakness in most 4-3-3’s is the single holding midfielder who can be overloaded in several different ways. The Anderlecht – Ajax game showed two different ways of trying to unsettle the opponents single holding midfielder. Anderlecht had their attacking midfielder deploying an unlimited amount of positional freedom, hoping to drag Ajax’ holding midfielder out of position. Ajax tried a different option by regularly dropping striker El Hamdaoui beside attacking midfielder Eriksen into the midfield in a false nine role, overloading Anderlecht’s holding midfielder. In this match no clear attempt to dislodge either Radosavljevic or Meeuwis could be seen, until Van den Brom altered his formation when chasing a two goal lead.

 

The first half

The opening phase was clearly dominated by ADO as the similar formations meant that a lot of play developed on both wings with the two midfields more or less cancelling each other out conceding a huge number of fouls in the process. And as Verhoek and Kubik clearly had the better of De Cler and Swerts, who both played a weak game, ADO dominated the game. After the first fifteen minutes, Feyenoord managed to involve Miyaichi more in their game and they started developing some chances themselves too, most of them created by the Japanese dibbler himself.

 

Curiously, there was a clear difference regarding ADO’s defensive strategy versus Feyenoord’s wingers. On ADO’s left side of defense the full-back was consistently helped out by the left centre-back, Leeuwin, moving over to provide cover, with Derijck covering lone striker Castaignos. This worked very well, as Biseswar hardly posed any attacking threat during the first half at all. On ADO’s right side of defense, Derijck hardly moved over to cover his full-back, Ammi, and left this task to midfielder Toornstra, who had a lot of ground to cover because of this. Feyenoord could have taken more advantage by having either Wijnaldum or Castaignos preferentially drift out to the left side, looking to outnumber ADO on this tactically weaker flank.

Despite ADO having the better of their opponents during most of the first half, an out-of-the-blue goal by Castaignos put Feyenoord ahead. The talented youngster who will move to Inter during the next summer transfer window in a 6.5m deal, was played in behind ADO’s defensive line and finished the move with a beautiful lob. A close range finish from a corner shortly hereafter even meant a brace for the 18-year old as he put Feyenoord 2-0 up before half time.

 

Second half changes

Instead of being able to make some offensive changes, ADO manager Van den Brom was forced into two injury-substitutions first. His entire left flank, that was quite dominant in the first half, had to be replaced within a few minutes. First left-back Mitchell Piqué was unable to start the second half and he was replaced by Kum. Then a few minutes later pacy left winger Frantisek Kubik twisted his ankle and young Charlton Vicento was brought on.

The only notable tactical change at this time was ADO’s choice to play split wingers in the second half, moving Verhoek to the left wing and playing Vicento on the right wing. On top of that, Wesley Verhoek was given more freedom to drift inside, roaming behind striker Bulykin at times.

Up until the 70th minute Feyenoord was able to hold on quite comfortably, even being close to a third Castaignos goal as the striker hit the post on a quick counter break. Van den Brom’s decision to bring midfielder Visser for defender Leeuwin proved a game-altering move. Playing a 3-4-3 formation from that moment on, ADO dominated the game in midfield, albeit at the cost of a handful of Feyenoord breaks because of the one-on-one defense. Central midfielders Immers and Toornstra took turns in joining Bulykin up front and Feyenoord’s central defense had their hands full with the two of them appearing there.

Just like Roda manager Van Veldhoven in the game against Ajax a week before, Van den Brom saw his courageous move rewarded with a come-back. With ADO now dominating the midfield, they started overloading Feyenoord’s box and were regularly able to place three attackers within the box for the arriving crosses. ADO’s midfield dominance was well illustrated in the build-up to their first goal as Immers drew De Vrij from his defensive line with Feyenoord’s midfielders already occupied with ADO’s other midfielders. Immers found Vicento on the edge of the area and a powerful shot ensured the first ADO goal.

Despite the clear midfield problems, Feyenoord manager Been did not reply well. He brought Fer for Wijnaldum, a clear one-on-one substitution that did not alter their system, so did not alter their problems. Instead of removing one of the three strikers, who all made a rather tired impression anyway, he chose to replace Meeuwis, by that time Feyenoord’s anchor man in midfield, with a more technical attack minded player, Luigi Bruins.

Feyenoord ultimately paid the price as a move involving quick passes of all three starting ADO midfielders Radosavljevic, Immers and Toornstra ended with a cross for Bulykin who fired in the 2-2. The Den Haag cult hero celebrated by making a ‘stork’ pose, a celebration requested by ADO fans earlier that week.

Bulykin's stork celebration

In the end

Feyenoord managed to give another lead away by conceding in later stages of a game. While an element of luck may be needed to win games like these, the tactical problems during the final fifteen minutes of the game, after ADO went 3-4-3, cannot be ignored. Been’s substitutions did not illustrate any attempt to tackle this issue as he left three strikers on the pitch and ultimately paid the price for it.

Roda 1 – 1 ADO: The 4-4-2 diamond doesn’t help Roda at home

Roda remain unbeaten at home, but fail to win a home game again. Difficulties to convert their possession into chances which seem connected to their formation and playing style seem related to their 3-6-0 home series. ADO replaced missing winger Kubik with Vicento, a similar type of player, rather than making adjustments to their system like in the away loss at AZ  and came away with a point in a game they might just have been able to win.

 

Roda’s 4-4-2 diamond

The starting line-ups. Note Roda's narrow formation against ADO's wide wingers.

Manager Harm van Veldhoven has his team play a 4-4-2 diamond as regular followers of 11tegen11 would know. This formation seems to suit his players quite well, allowing Vormer to excel in a holding midfield role and having Jansen put in his hard-working game behind the striker pair of Hadouir for creativity and Junker for finishing.

As the famous Dutch philosopher Cruijff once put it, every advantage has its disadvantage. Such is also the case with Roda’s formation. While operating from a strong narrow midfield the diamond certainly strengthens the center of the pitch, at the same time making it vulnerable to either wide formations or teams able to quickly circulate the ball from one flank to the other.

 

ADO’s 4-3-3

And that’s where ADO’s formation comes into the equation. Operating as a wide 4-3-3, both home and away, ADO is a team set-up around an outside winger philosophy and the fact that ADO has won as much points at home as they did in away games goes to illustrate this. In this match ADO misses left winger Frantisek Kubik due to suspension. In their previous match, against AZ, ADO missed their other winger, Verhoek and was punished for replacing him with Ricky Van den Bergh, a very different type of player. Well, Van den Bergh is not just out of the team, he’s out of the club too as he decided that a fringe role was not what he himself had in mind. This time manager Van den Brom replaced the missing winger with a similar type of player, Vicento.

 

Two quick goals

The game started of with two early goals. First Roda opened the score through Willem Janssen who finished off a Junker pass after displaying his aerobic skills in a run from his own half, ending up with a close range finish of a quick counter. An individual error by holding midfielder Radosavljevic, generally quite reliable in keeping possession, formed the base of conceding the goal. He did the one thing you would not want a holding midfielder to do: dwelling on the ball with most of his teammates in front of him.

But just as quick as Roda’s opening goal, they conceded one themselves. Pa-Modou Kah left Bulykin too much space at a corner and the Russian scored his eleventh goal of the season to level the score after thirteen minutes of play.

 

The pattern of the first half

Well, there was not so much one pattern on show as both teams kept on adjusting to each other, which was also a great game to watch. ADO started the game quite offensively, as expected. A tell tale of their intentions was the frequent runs from deep from the full-backs and the offensive stance of their wingers, pinning Roda’s full-backs back. This derived Roda from one of their strategies to provide width to their diamond, but there was another strategy left.

Striker Hadouir and attacking midfielder Janssen smartly took advantage of ADO’s advanced full-backs and got in behind them on more than one occasion. In turn, this led to ADO adjusting their full-backs and taking a deeper stance in general. This diminished the pressure on Roda’s midfield, who suddenly found lots of space to pass the ball around. ADO could not let this happen and ended the first half applying more of the much needed pression, making life more difficult for Roda’s midfielders. All in all it was a balanced situation with both sides generating some chances, but no more first half goals.

 

The second half

ADO’s pressing continued in the starting minutes of the second half and Roda’s passing suffered as a consequence. ADO took control of the game, but their finishing was rarely on target. Feeling the pressure of being the home team, and although unbeaten at home, also having drawn no less than five of their eight home games, Roda refused to sit back under ADO’s pressure. This initially led to a series of ADO through-balls and crosses, but gradually the match balanced out as ADO’s players paid the price for pressing a lot early in the game.

Particularly in the second half Roda’s passing was below-par, often ending their offensive moves before they actually started. As the same problem kicked in near the end of the match for the fatigued ADO players too, the final part of the match was hardly the best. Both teams gradually came to realize that a draw was on the cards.

Pointing ADO in the right direction: John van den Brom

In the end

Another game unbeaten at home for Roda, but also another game they failed to win. A 3-6-0 home record will not be enough for Roda to build upon and a relation with their playing style may be seen here. Their 4-4-2 diamond allows for a grouped defense, but the lack of width makes it difficult for their players to find space in possession and as a consequence the pass completion suffers. Being a top half side brings that most opponents will settle for a draw playing Roda away and Roda’s strongpoint of fast counter-attacks is hardly effective in these situations.

ADO will be the happier side although more clinical finishing could have won them the game, particularly early in the second half. Their style of play is based on the old adage of cropping space in defense and stretching play in possession and they do this very well. Manager John van den Brom spent his first three coaching years at Ajax’ youth and the Ajax way of thinking is reflected in his approach. The 4-3-3 wide winger system is a clear example of course, but he has adapted this style well to suit his current squad. Reverting the midfield triangle, making the arrow point backwards and installing an anchor man in front of defense reflects the fact that Van den Brom smartly adjusts his philosophy to the strength of the squad he’s managing. ADO’s current eighth spot is quite something for an Eredivisie manager making his debut.

ADO 0 – 2 AZ: Fixing the wingers wins the game for AZ

Winning at ADO means an important result for Verbeek’s AZ. After an unconvincing start to the season, his team are on a six match unbeaten run, including victories over Ajax and Twente. AZ have by now firmly established themselves among the top six of the Eredivisie, the top six that would be five points clear should Roda win their postponed match at relegation-threatened VVV. ADO drop to the eighth spot and will see themselves battling for play-off places five to eight from now on.

 

ADO’s problems

The starting line-ups

ADO missed two essential players due to suspension and this was a very important factor today. Captain and central defender Timothy Derijck was replaced by Pascal Bosschaart and high-flying right winger Wesley Verhoek was replaced by fans’ favourite Ricky Van den Bergh. That last change in particular had quite some impact on ADO’s playing style.

Their formation would look like the usual 4-3-3 and they would still draw on a direct play, looking to find target man Dmitry Bulykin early on, but the usual amount of crosses flying in from Verhoek’s right foot were sorely missed. Van den Bergh is not only a very different type of player, but also possesses a very different character. Verhoek would tend to stretch play wide, aiming to get his crosses in and thereby be an important player to link ADO’s midfield with their striker.

Van den Bergh, on the other hand, tends to involve himself in central midfield positions, sees a lot of the ball and has trouble restraining himself to a right wing role. ADO’s game was sincerely disturbed by his, well intended, tendency to help the central midfielders out, thereby leaving his wide position and limiting ADO’s attacking options.

 

AZ’s 4-2-3-1

In their early season games, AZ tended to get ahead of themselves. They consequently played a hybrid 4-3-3 / 3-4-3 system where one of the full-backs would advance into a wide midfield role in every single attacking move. While theoretically sound, the system had its practical limitations. Their defensive frailty is illustrated by their failing to keep a clean sheet in the first five matches, winning only three points in the process. By that time, Verbeek adjusted his principle and AZ’s hybrid formation took a more realistic stance.

The full-backs did not advance that much anymore, so the wingers had to provide the needed width. The central midfield trio played a more narrow triangle and the 4-3-3 / 3-4-3 formation was in effect turned into a 4-2-3-1. Four clean sheets in five consecutive wins meant that Verbeek fixed what was wrong with his formation and AZ stormed the Eredivisie table.

Against ADO they featured their full first choice line-up, which now means that Pelle earned his spot as the starting striker after a series of excellent performances as a substitute.

 

The first half

ADO gradually dominated the opening phase of the game, at least possession wise. This was in no small part a result of Van den Bergh’s effort in the midfield battle. He played something of a free playmaker role, whilst also involving himself in a midfield tackle or two. This meant that ADO created a 4 v 3 situation in central midfield, where they won most of their possession.

On the other hand this also meant that their right wing was often vacated, and although right-back Leeuwin tried to fill in here, that fact he had to defend the skilled Maarten Martens limited his options. This vacated right wing invited striker Bulykin to come deep here to try and receive ADO’s direct balls, but he lacked support to lay the ball off to.

So ADO dominated possession, won most midfield tackles, saw AZ forced into quite some midfield fouls, but found itself unable to turn their possession into chances.

ADO manager Van den Brom

AZ’s first half adjustments

AZ did adjust a bit for this game. Their defense played on the high side, keeping Bulykin far from their goal and thereby limiting his dangerous flick-ons. Furthermore, as the first half carried on, Martens, probably in response to Van den Bergh’s tendendy to help out in midfield, started to do the same. This alleviated the pressure on AZ’s midfield and made the second part of the first half look like a stalemate.

But a sudden AZ penalty turned a stalemate into a 0-1 just before half time. Bosschaart made a clumsy sliding tackle, taking more of his man than of the ball and Elm converted the penalty for AZ.

 

The second half

Tracing the game 0-1 one would have expected ADO to fix their obvious right wing issue, but still Van den Bergh kept on drifting inside. AZ, on the other hand, did stretch their attacking line, forcing Martens back into a classic winger role, placing right winger Holman wider too. This change provided AZ with more passing variety than before and they were able to do what they could not in the first half, keep possession.

ADO manager Van den Brom illustrated the fact that we was certainly aware of ADO’s problem area in this game by taking Van den Bergh off the pitch after an hour of play, but that game was in fact already over by then. A few minutes earlier Martens had doubled AZ’s lead by finishing a Holman cross with a placed diagonal shot in a move where Pelle managed to drag his marker out of position by dropping off to the right wing.

The remaining half hour of the match saw AZ comfortably defend their lead, by the most effective defensive means possible, holding onto the ball. ADO was unable to change the face of the game and AZ was happy enough with the 0-2 score line.

Dearly missed: ADO's Wesley Verhoek

In the end

In this match ADO paid the price for Verhoek’s suspension and Van den Bergh’s tendency to drift inside at all times. The positive side for ADO was their dominance in terms of possession in the first half, but the fact that they had severe problems linking their midfield to their striker meant that they were unable to build upon their share of possession.

AZ was assisted by a rightfully awarded but ‘out-of-the-blue’ penalty kick. After that, Verbeek spread his attackers out wide for the start of the second half and saw his team able to keep possession much better. An early second half goal effectively put the game beyond doubt for them.

Willem II 2 – 4 ADO Den Haag: Willem II lacking manpower upfront and ADO producing another high-scoring game

Willem II and ADO Den Haag are amongst the teams that expected to battle against relegation this year. The ‘Tilburg Tricolores’ avoided relegation only in the play-offs of the past season after finishing in 17th place, while ADO only just avoided these play-offs by grabbing six points from the final four games of the season.

After six matches, Willem II are still pointless, conceding 20 goals in the process. This weekend’s 2 -4 home loss against ADO Den Haag was extra painful in that context, as Willem II might see ADO as a rival for the relegation places, come the end of the season.

 

 

ADO, on the other hand, find themselves on the 8th spot after six games, having produced a W2 D2 L2 start to the season, and the average number of goals in matches involving ADO is as high as 4.5. Since the start of the play-off system, where the 16th and 17th placed team enter the promotion/relegation play-offs, now seven seasons ago, the number of point needed to place at least 15th has been 27 to 34, averaging 31 points. And with 6 of 34 games (17.6%) of the games played, ADO has already acquired 8 of these 31 points (25.8%). Okay, this is never any sort of guarantee, but things are looking good in Den Haag.

Things look even better when considering ADO’s  fresh and attacking 4-3-3 formation, making excellent use of the physical abilities of striker Bulykin, who joined their campaign after three games. The strong target man is supplied by excellent crosses, especially by right winger Verhoek and receives his share of long balls in ADO’s direct style of play too. His return of three goals in as many matches proves that manager Van den Brom has installed a playing style that fits his group of players well.

 

The formations

Willem II missed three important players in Sheotahul, Hakola and Wojciechowski, much like Utrecht missing most of their first-choice attackers away at Groningen. This led manager Heerkes to a rather defensive 4-5-1 formation, packing the midfield, aiming to control possession there. They refrained from pressing ADO in their attacking half, drawing up a curtain of tricolored shirts around the halfway line. In Maceo Rigters, their new leading striker who was contracted on loan from Blackburn, featured in the lone stiker role. He left the Eredivisie in 2007 to join Norwich City in the English Championship and was transferred to Blackburn Rovers the following season, but did not score a single goal during the past three foreign years.

ADO, as mentioned before, lined-up in a 4-3-3 formation with strong target man Bulykin leading the line. His supply consisted mainly of crosses, especially from right winger Wesley Verhoek, and of long balls from defense. The midfield consisted of Toornstra and Radosavljevic in controlling roles and fans’ favourite Lex Immers looking to connect with the strikers, making more probing runs from midfield.

 

A quick goal

Ironically it was Maceo Rigters who found the net after just five minutes of play. ADO mainly used the opening minutes to play the ball around at the back, and Willem II manager Gert Heerkes was seemingly still busy organizing his midfield. Rigters seized upon the first opportunity to shoot , following a weak headed clearance by ADO, and ended his three and a half year of goal drought with a powerful effort from the edge of the area.

After this early opening goal, ADO kept searching a way past, through or around Willem II’s packed midfield. By exerting more pressure than their opponents, even as far as Willem II’s central defenders, ADO succeeded in dominating possession, but mainly in their own half where Willem II sat back. The best chance in this phase fell to Willem II, forcing Coutinho to block a close header from an indirect free kick.

 

ADO finding a way back into the game

After about twenty minutes, ADO succeeded in imposing their game plan on Willem II. Taking advantage of the lack of pressure on the full-backs, they successfully circulated the ball to their wingers, leading to a series of crosses and therefore. The lack of an outlet on the wings meant that Willem II’s possession spells became shorter and shorter, leading to an ADO-dominated phase shortly before half-time. In the end it was through a deflected long range effort by midfielder Radosavljevic that ADO got the deserved equalizer.

The remaining minutes before the half-time break saw an insecure Willem II clearly affected by the disappointing equalizer. Defensive midfielders Van der Heijden and Landgren took a very defensive stance, almost changing their 4-5-1 into a 6-3-1-like defensive fort. ADO’s bombardment, however did not produce a second goal and manager Heerkes and his Tricolores safely reached the dressing room, just in time for some much-needed tactical changes.

 

The second half

And indeed, Willem II started the second half with more pressing, now drawing the line about ten meters over the halfway line. But, still having a lack of outlet on the wings, the possession that they now won more often was only short-lived. And to add to their misery, a 49th minute series of comical defending allowed Frantisek Kubik a free shot on goal to score his third goal of the season.

But Willem II did not leave it at that. Another moment of irony saw Willem II scoring from practically their first cross into the box, after ADO bombarded their area with crosses in the first half. The highlight of this goal was certainly the technically skillful cross by Jan-Arie van der Heijden that found the head of captain Levchenko who scored the 2-2, just minutes after Kubik put ADO in front. A glaring marking error where two ADO defenders marked the same player after a textbook cross of runs by two Willem II players did not help either.

Strengthend by this equalizer, Willem II took matters more in their own hands now. Their midfield played much further up the pitch, using Van der Heijden’s passing skill and Levchenko’s experience to dominate ADO, simply outnumbering their midfied 5 v 3. To be fair Willem II lacked a bit of luck when, again, Van der Heijden hit the bar with a long range effort, which took a deflection on its way in. After having been used as a central defender in the opening matches of the season, it’s these type of efforts that highlight why Heerkes should definitely play him in midfield as he does now.

 

Dimitry Bulykin indicating to his team-mates how he likes to receive the ball

 

ADO wins in the end

The 70th minute mark is probably where fatigue kicked in as Willem II’s midfield fell back a little and ADO lacked passing accuracy. It was ADO scoring the winner in the 79th minute after hesitant defending and slightly sloppy marking allowed Verhoek to cross the ball for Kubik to score his second goal of the evening.

After this, the match was practically over. Willem II lacked all sorts of attacking options on the bench and ADO survived up to the final whistle, even scoring a fourth goal in the process. Bulykin got his deserved goal in injury time, settling the score at 2-4, another high scoring ADO game.

 

Only  28 matches left

With six games gone, Willem II manager Heerkes is left empty-handed. Against ADO, his defensive 4-5-1, partly forced by his injury-plague, lacked both pressure and an outlet on the wings. On a more positive note, the appearance of Jan-Arie van der Heijden in a passing role on their midfield might offer something to build on.

Once the injured players return, a form of 4-3-3 seems the most logical way forward for Heerkes and his men, positioning Levchenko in front of defense, Van der Heijden as playmaker in midfield and having Lasnik link up with solo striker Rigters. As the latter is neither known for his goal-scoring ability, nor for his pace, Willem II should definitely try to connect their attacking midfielders and their wingers with their new acquisition upfront. A slight withdrawal of the wingers turns this formation into a 4-1-4-1, offering more stability for away matches and in defending a much desired lead.

ADO, as mentioned above, are well on course to their target of staying clear of this year’s relegation places. New manager Van den Brom quickly found a suitable formation and playing style in a direct 4-3-3 which will bring them a nice season if the first six matches are anything to go by.