Tag Archives: N.E.C.

Twente 2 – 0 N.E.C.: Don’t judge a game by it’s score line!

Don’t judge a book by its cover, and along that same line, don’t judge a game by its score line. Yes, Twente further reduced the gap with league leaders AZ with this seemingly comfortable win, with a nice home clean sheet in the process too. But, no, Twente played below par for most of the match, most notably in the first half, due to positional issues that were rightfully addressed during the break. N.E.C. deserves more credit than the score line gives them, for winning the first half on points. But producing the best chances counts for nothing in football, unless you convert them into goals.


Twente’s 4-3-3

The starting line-ups

Coming off a series of three draws in their last four home games, Twente aimed to break the trend with a slightly offensive variant of their usual system. The versatility in the 4-2-3-1 / 4-3-3 crossover system lies in the behavior of central midfield Denny Landzaat. This time around, he didn’t sit beside Brama, but rather played in an advanced role beside central playmaker Nacer Chadli.

With top scorer Janko starting from the bench again, Twente played the same starting eleven as they did in the 6-2 win at Utrecht last week.


N.E.C.’s compact 4-5-1

Manager Alex Pastoor gained a lot of credits for keeping Excelsior in the Eredivisie on an extremely tight budget last season, playing some flashes attractive football in the process. His move to N.E.C. initiated high expectations in Nijmegen and many pundits deemed N.E.C. likely to be the overachievers this season. Unfortunately for Pastoor, the results didn’t pick up as expected in his first matches at N.E.C., with finding the target and converting shots on target being the main problems. Things do look a bit more brightly as of recently, with the away win at Feyenoord and last week’s final minute draw at Groningen.

Against Twente, Pastoor played the same eleven as he did last week, apart from the absence of central defender Van Eijden, which meant a first start for Hungarian defender Zoltan Szelesi.


The first half

N.E.C. surprised their opponents with a wave of pressure early on. They did so from a very compact 4-5-1- formation which took excellent advantage from the space conceded in behind Twente’s advanced full-backs and in front of the back line, where Brama seemed unable to cover that entire area on his own. Despite creating a series of goal scoring chances, N.E.C. seemed unable to convert, a problem that so often showed itself this season. At times N.E.C.’s compactness showed Pastoor to take a leaf out of Arrigo Sacchi’s coaching book with regard to the movement of defensive, midfield and offensive lines and having the outfield players move as a well coordinated unit.

Twente produced a short spell of initiative around the tenth minute, which resulted in two goal scoring chances for Nacer Chadli, but the Moroccan international failed to open his goal scoring account so far. Immediately after this short spell, the compact playing N.E.C. team regained control of the match and starting building chances.

They did so by smartly using their single striker in a target man role, having Zeefuik receive a ton of difficult balls played out from defense. The N.E.C. striker did an excellent job winning duels from Douglas in order to provide both an outlet from defensive pressure and a stepping stone for N.E.C.’s offensive breaks. All in all, Zeefuik, who failed to score a goal in 597 minutes of competitive football this season, provided an excellent display of the usefulness of a non-scoring striker.


The second half

After hearing his team being whistled off their own pitch by Twente’s fans, Co Adriaanse turned things around at half-time. He introduced top scorer Mark Janko for winger Emir Bajrami, a move that fixed several out-of-position issues at once. Janko played up top, with Luuk de Jong in the advanced midfielder zone and Nacer Chadli coming from the left wing.

Both De Jong and Chadli immediately displayed more comfort and routine. Luuk de Jong, despite his tall stature, tends to thrive when he is able to receive the ball at feet and make probing runs at defenders. Nacer Chadli, the presumed central playmaker of Twente’s 2011/12 season, doesn’t quite display the movement that this position demands, though the departure of Bryan Ruiz shifted a lot of pressure onto his shoulders. Add to that the fact that Chadli only just returned from a three months injury and this issue may still come good for Twente.

As if to illustrate their appreciation for the manager’s half-time changes, Twente produced an early second half excellent chance that involved Nacer Chadli crossing from the left wing, Janko laying off with a header and De Jong closing in on Janko, only just failing to open the score just yet.

The opening goal was only minutes away then, as Luuk de Jong was able to pick up the ball on the half-way line. He did not find the slightest of pressure on his path towards the N.E.C. box and fired in from the edge of it, finding the corner of the goal.


The changed game

As is so often the case, the opening goal changed the game. N.E.C. was forced to trade their compactness for more pressure, conceding more space in the process. Pastoor brought on an extra striker as Melvin Platje replaced Nick van der Velden, which meant a switch from 4-5-1 to 4-4-2, as system much more adept at playing in an open space game. Shortly after coming on, Platje provided Zeefuik with an excellent through ball, but N.E.C.’s conversion issue troubled them again. Before today’s game they ranked 17th in that regard, needing on average 7.3 shots on target to score a goal, and today’s failure to convert any of their many chances against Twente won’t improve that number.

With Twente’s second goal, where Chadli opended his account for the season, firing in from a nice Luuk de Jong assist, the match was effectively over. Only having score more than once in five of this season’s fifteen Eredivisie match, there seemed no way N.E.C. could produce two goals in the remaining twenty minutes of the match.


In the end

Based on the result, Twente beating N.E.C. 2-0 at home doesn’t sound all that bad, but judging the game by the score line leaves a lot unmentioned. On one hand, N.E.C. deserve a lot of credit for their smart compact playing style, which made life difficult for Twente. On the other hand, their failure to convert any chances in this game illustrated where their game needs fixing.

Twente disappointed in many regards. Too many players played way beyond their usual levels, with left-back Tiendalli and out-of-position Chadli the most obvious examples. Introducing Mark Janko, and shifting De Jong and Chadli to more familiar positions fixed the game for Twente, but the only reason they were still in contention at that point is the above mentioned conversion issues of their opponents.

Don’t judge a book by its cover, and along that same line, don’t judge a game by its score line.

N.E.C. – PSV 2 – 2: Two costly points lost by the league leaders

N.E.C. managed to maintain their excellent home record of just two losses this Eredivisie campaign as a fierce gung-ho final minutes brought them a late, but deserved equalizer. PSV lacked creativity, playing without Toivonen, leaving Berg and Koevermans on the bench and of course, missing Afellay since the winter transfer window.


Two 4-2-3-1’s

The preferred formation in this Eredivisie season is definitely the 4-2-3-1. Both PSV and N.E.C. consequently play this formation and variety should not be expected in terms of tactics, but more in terms of the starting eleven.

The starting line-ups

PSV manager Rutten finally punished Markus Berg for his recent substandard performances and gave young striker Genero Zeekfuik his first start for the club. Behind him, Otman Bakkal replaced Ola Toivonen who suffers from a four game suspension after his elbow on Jan Vertonghen in the game against Ajax. Otherwise, PSV played their standard first eleven, this time with Maza Rodriguez and Wilfred Bouma in the heart of their defense and Marcelo on the bench. Rutten has tended to rotate between his three central defenders during recent games.

N.E.C. welcomed Leroy George for his second start since his injury against the away game against PSV earlier this season. The right winger’s pace seems an important asset to provide some variety in their attacking play, as the majority of goals have simply been scored by one man, Belgian striker Björn Vleminckx. In defensive midfield they miss passing midfielder Niki Zimling, as the Danish international is suspended after his late direct red card against ADO. He is replaced by Lorenzo Davids.


The first half

PSV started the game positively, pressing their opponents back and dominating the opening five minutes. But after this early opening phase, the home team grew into their game more and more. PSV still had the better of the game, but N.E.C. improved their control on the midfield part of the game. Bas Sibum did a good job man-marking Bakkal out of the game and debutant striker Zeefuik had a tough time against the physical presence of both Nuytinck and Zomer in N.E.C.’s central defense.

PSV did create a handful of opportunities, mainly through Jeremain Lens, who had an excellent game and displayed a high work rate. He more than once had the better of his opponent, the Frenchman Amieux. PSV’s main source of danger was this right flank. Bulgarian right-back Manolev is known for his overlapping runs, and, it must be said, also for his abysmal crossing. But this time around, it was his excellent cross that found Balasz Dszudszak at the far post for PSV’s equalizer. While it was certainly not against the run of play for PSV to score, the fact that it was Dszudszak scoring contrasted with his unusually anonymous game up to that moment.

N.E.C. had just a minute before gone a goal up thanks to a magnificent long range strike by Leroy George. He had indeed been N.E.C.’s prima source of danger during the few times that they succeeded in playing him in behind PSV’s defensive line.

The main difference between the teams, apart from the individual player quality of PSV’s wingers, was made in midfield. N.E.C. lost numerous balls here which allowed PSV to start their counters in their opponent’s half. Particularly Davids’ passing was off the mark and N.E.C. seemed to miss their passing midfielder Zimling here. PSV, on the other hand, connected quite well in midfield as Lasse Schöne often preferred to step out of the midfield to press PSV’s central defenders. This left Davids with both Engelaar and Hutchinson and that explained why PSV had a relatively easy game in the midfield passing department.


The second half

Initially the game went on in the same pattern as the first half, but gradually PSV gained more control. Bakkal got himself more involved than before after taking a slightly deeper role, playing more as a true third midfielder than playing as the advanced midfielder that Toivonen usually does.

But N.E.C. upped their game, clearly motivated by manager Vloet and they did not hold back in tackling their opponents. Their midfield passing game might have been astray today, but they certainly made up for it with their tackling. Particularly Davids played a much better second half in this regard.

Despite these positives, N.E.C. suffered a goal around the hour mark as Lens got a free run at the goal after left-back Amieux suffered from a muscular injury during a tackle. The PSV winger rounded Zomer and fired in at the first post to give his team the lead.

But instead of controlling the game and playing for the third goal, PSV seemed to have problems controlling possession. Lacking Afellay in midfield, they had a tough time playing around N.E.C.’s committed tackling.

With fifteen minutes to go Rutten replaced Zeefuik with Berg, perhaps hoping for an improvement in ball retention up front, but the Swede played a large anonymous role in his part of the game. Vloet, meanwhile, removed one of his defenders. Actually, Wellenberg, who replaced Will earlier that half, suffered from a knee injury, and Vloet took the opportunity at hand to bring young striker Ricky ten Voorde. Now playing a sort of 3-1-3-3 formation, N.E.C. certainly took the game to their opponents.

And in the final minutes of the game they saw their commitment and gung-ho style of attacking rewarded with the equalizer. Captain Ramon Zomer crowned a decent game in defense with a second post header to give the hosts the point they deserved.


In the end

PSV certainly lost two important points in this tricky away fixture in between the Europa League meetings with Rangers. Not being able to play around N.E.C.’s committed tackling and failing to take enough offensive profit from their earlier dominance in the midfield passing department, they got punished with a late equalizer in the end.

Roda 1 – 1 N.E.C. : Vloet answers Roda’s diamond with a three man defense

Roda’s fifth Eredivisie home match brought them a third draw, but despite maintaining their unbeaten home record, discontent will prevail. Wiljan Vloet lined N.E.C. up in an unconventional 3-3-3-1 formation which posed insurmountable problems to Roda’s 4-4-2 diamond. Therefore N.E.C. came away with an unexpected, but deserved point from this match.

Roda’s diamond beating NAC

Roda’s 4-4-2 diamond has been discussed quite extensively in yesterday’s review of their 2-1 away victory over NAC Breda.  A 4-4-2 diamond inevitably weakens the flanks in favor of a strengthened centre of the pitch. Roda solved this weak flanks with their full-backs in the second half, having both de Fauw and Hempte making probing runs from deep. The complete lack of NAC’s wingers tracking back meant a dominance in midfield and this brought Roda last weekend’s victory.

The starting line-ups: Roda's 4-4-2 diamond vs N.E.C.'s unconventional 3-3-3-1

N.E.C. goes three at the back

N.E.C. seemed to have learned from NAC’s shortcomings and made some interesting and quite unexpected changes to their formation. Most notably, they fielded a three man defense to avoid the problem of ‘overdefending’. Should their back four be guarding Roda’s two strikers, as in their usual 4-3-3 or 4-5-1 formation, they would come one player short and lose the midfield battle.

So instead, by fielding three at the back, they could inject an extra midfield player. On top of that, Vloet had his wingers playing a fairly defensive role, so the overall formation would be noted as a 3-3-3-1. The two midfield band of three were never far apart, especially in the first half, so at times their formation came close to a rare 3-6-1.

The first half

The opening phase of the match was characterized by an extremely crowded midfield. Roda effectively played four midfielders against N.E.C.’s six. At the same time, N.E.C. patiently sat back and only pressed their opponent from around the halfway line. Even in possession, the 3-3-3-1 formation was maintained and the lack of attacking passing options was seemingly accepted. For fans of goalmouth action it might have been a boring opening phase, but from a tactical point of view it was interesting to see Roda struggle with N.E.C.’s unconventional formation.

It took the entire first half for Roda to figure out a way to play around this densely packed N.E.C. midfield. Strikers Meulens and Junker started making some wide runs in an attempt to drag the three man defense apart, but this was more exception than rule at that time.

Half time changes

As often before this season, Van Veldhoven made some successful tactical adaptations during half-time. He realized that in fact it was his side that ‘overdefended’ this time, playing a back four against an isolated striker. Instead of advancing the full-backs to strengthen the midfield, this time both centre-backs started taking turns in making runs from deep, both with and without the ball at their feet.

Shortly after the half-time break it was exactly such a run by Pah-Modou Kah that wasn’t adequately picked up by N.E.C.’s midfield. Kah provided the much needed unpredictability that allowed for a dangerous move and Arnaud Sutchuin finished the team move to score his third goal in the past three matches.

Three upfront too

N.E.C. manager Wiljan Vloet

While N.E.C. might have been expected to advance their midfield and switch to a 3-3-1-3 immediately, it took quite some time for that to happen. First, injured holding midfielder Zimling was replaced with winger Chatelle, signaling Vloet’s attacking intentions with over half an hour to play. And later on N.E.C. did indeed switch to the much needed three man upfront.

It must have been the first N.E.C. cross with more than one of their players in the opposing box that created the equalizer. Vleminckx converted a Sibum shot that would otherwise have missed the target and N.E.C. got the reward for the courage that their formation represented.

In the end

To say that the key to unlock Roda’s 4-4-2 diamond has been found is perhaps a tad early, but playing three at the back solved the problem of ‘overdefending’ that previous Roda opponents had. Furthermore, the double banks of three midfielders effectively frustrated Roda’s play an neutralized the game. Not too exciting in terms of goalmouth action, but all the more innovating from a tactical point of view. Hats off to Vloet tonight for making this three at the back happen. Let’s see whether Roda’s next opponents, dead-last Willem II and troubled Feyenoord, have the courage to follow N.E.C.’s example.