Tag Archives: Vitesse

What if Wilfried Bony was a professional cyclist?

Make no mistake, I think that he is a good player, and that he probably is a very good player, but Vitesse striker Wilfried Bony is not the world-beater that people take him for. The Ivory Coast striker is presently the hottest player in the Eredivisie, thanks to his impressive return of 15 goals in 14 matches. Not bad, is it?

But, join me here on a slightly weird thought experiment.



Imagine if Wilfried Bony would not have been a professional footballer who scores goals for a living, but a professional cyclist instead. After racing in his home country where his talent was quickly recognized, he transferred to Europe to develop further at continental cycling level for a few years, which represents his years playing football for Sparta Prague between 2008 and 2010. After that, he joined a World Tour team, which represents his transfer to the Eredivisie, and the cyclist Bony had a good first season there.

Now suddenly, in his second season at Vitesse, results have really picked up and Bony seems twice as good as last year, may be even the best cyclist in the entire peloton. The cyclist Bony would immediately get linked to rumours of illegal substance use or, to say the dreaded word out loud, doping.

Now, as far as we know, performance enhancing drugs don’t exist in football, or at most they play a marginal role. But in our thought experiment they do, and they go by the name of ‘luck’. The doping that caused the cyclist Bony to perform twice as good in his second year at the club is the luck that caused the football player Bony to temporarily perform at the level he does now for Vitesse.


There are certain parallels between doping in cycling and luck in football, which make it easier to assess the role luck plays in football. Doping has the potential to turn a decent professional cyclist into a good one, or a good one into a true world beater. It won’t turn an amateur racer into a World Champion. Luck has the potential to turn a decent striker into a good one, or a good goal scorer into a world beater. So our cyclist Bony performs significantly above his usual level for as long as the doping effect lasts, and our striker Bony converts way above his usual rate, for as long as his luck lasts.

But taking doping is a deliberate choice, while one can’t control luck. So, think of luck in football as cycling’s doping, but without any control over timing and dosage. Oh, and luck is not illegal as well, as all competitors have equal excess to it. In the case of Bony, this thought experiment helps to point out why his present goal scoring rate won’t last, as the amount of luck he currently experiences is not going to last.

Prior to this weekend’s match, where he scored the winning goal to hand PSV a rare Eredivisie home defeat, Bony had scored 14 goals in 13 matches, having played a total of 1115 minutes. That averages a goal every 80 minutes, which is a truly elite number.

GP = games played ; Sb = subs ; Min = minutes played ; Gl = Goals ; Sht = shots on target

His 14 goals, however, came from just 20 shots on target, for a conversion rate of shots on target into goals of 70%. Out of this world? Yes! Sustainable? No!


25 goals

There are broadly two numbers to compare Bony’s conversion rate with. First there is the normal conversion rate for all players alike, which stands at 30% over the present Eredivisie season. And second, there is Bony’s individual conversion rate prior to this season, which stands at 40 goals from 104 shots, or 38% for his entire career, including his time at Sparta Prague. Or third, we could take his individual Eredivisie conversion history, which stands at 15 goals from 46 shots, or 33%.

Both standards for comparison are nowhere near Bony’s present luck-infused 70% conversion rate. But how many goals can we expect Bony to score over the remainder of the season?

The best estimated guess for Bony’s total goals at the end of this season would be to hold his usual Eredivisie conversion rate of 33%, which is well in line with other quality strikers, against the expected number of shots on target that he will take for the remainder of the season.

Extrapolating on the amount of matches still to be played, and his (and his team mates’) capacity of generating shots on target, we can expect Bony to take 32 more shots on target. This would most likely give him around 11 more goals, one every 171 minutes, rounding off his season total at a respectable 25 goals.

Keep this in mind when judging short term performances. Just like doping in cycling, luck catches up quickly, and both of these performance enhancers are never there for the long run!



Statistics provided by Aaron Nielsen (@ENBSports). Check his site too!

PSV 3 – 1 Vitesse: Not as convincing as the score line suggests

Although the final score line would suggest otherwise, PSV had a lack of grip on their opponents. Aided by an out-of-the-blue opening goal by Tim Matavz, they were given the opportunity to sit back and counter, a game much better executed than their pressing style that formed plan A. Vitesse, meanwhile, defended well up till the opening goal, and grew into the game only when chasing PSV’s 2-0 lead.


PSV’s 4-3-3

The starting line-ups

In terms of formation and first eleven, Fred Rutten is quite consistent. He played the same eleven that disappointingly drew 1-1 at Utrecht last week, starting 18-year old Zakaria Labyad at the right wing, ahead of borderline Dutch international Jeremain Lens. Veteran defender Wilfred Bouma had to do with another start from the bench.


Vitesse’s 4-3-3

After last week’s disappointing 4-4-2 diamond experiment, that ended with a disappointing 0-1 home result against fierce rivals N.E.C., John van den Brom returned to the 4-3-3 of the first half of the season. Missing African internationals Wilfried Bony and Anthony Annan, he played Marcus Pedersen up front, while the return of captain Guram Kashia meant that set-piece taker Jan-Arie van der Heijden, who filled in at centre-back last week, returned to central midfield.

All eyes were on Vitesse’s bench though. Former PSV striker Jonathan Reis, who suffered a severe knee injury in a PSV shirt just 13 months earlier, is by now a Vitesse player, after his PSV contract ran out and he opted against returning in Eindhoven.


The first half

The game started out with PSV pressing their opponents, aiming, as expected, to control this home game. However, things did not work out quite well for the home side, as Vitesse seemed well organized, while PSV made some crucial errors in their pressing game.

Let’s first see what Vitesse did right in this phase of the game. They kept a very compact center, with a midfield three both close together and close in front of the back line. To combat PSV’s options in possession, they effectively eliminated Strootman’s passing options by applying Stanley Aborah in a strict man-marking role. The Belgian-Ghanaian midfielder is well made for defensive midfield duties, and he frustrated Strootman’s game very well.

Interestingly, this caused Vitesse’s most defensive midfielder by style, to play in the most advanced midfield position. Sort of the ‘advanced defensive midfielder’ in response to Strootman playing as PSV’s deep-lying playmaker.

PSV, meanwhile, aimed to press their opponents, hoping for turnovers in Vitesse’s half, where in PSV’s eyes, most of the game should take place. However, their pressing coincided with repeated fouling, their 20 fouls throughout the game offering Vitesse an outlet of pressure on average every 4.5 minutes. Also, these 20 turnovers granted by fouls, compared weak with Vitesse’s 7. Overall, the process of fouling and free-kicks granted Vitesse 13 possession spells more than PSV had.


The opening goal

The match was quite balanced in terms of goal scoring chances, with PSV having limited options due to Vitesse’s well-executed defensive plans, and Vitesse having trouble to bridge the distance to Isaksson’s goal. Despite this, PSV nicked the opening goal after talented winger Zakarya Labyad, whose contract runs out this summer, moved inside for a moment, picked the ball up in central midfield and made a probing central dribble to fire in an excellent long range shot. Vitesse goal keeper Velthuizen, proud owner of the best saves-to-shots ratio of the Eredivisie, had to give up the rebound, which Matavz neatly slotted home.


The second half

While the cliché sounds that a team is strengthened by an opening goal, the reverse seemed true for this match’ second half. Vitesse played further up the pitch, particularly with their wingers pressing PSV’s full-backs further back. Vitesse gained the upper hand in terms of ball possession, though most of it was at the feet of centre-backs Kashia and Kalas, a talented Chelsea loanee.

The most interesting part of the pitch were the wings. PSV’s full-backs Manolev and Willems displayed a lack of grip on Vitesse wingers Chanturia and Ibarra, but, in contrast, the same PSV full-backs regularly exploited the lack of defensive awareness of Vitesse’s young wingers. In short, with the center kept very compact, practically all opportunities arose through wing play.


More goals

With the game being more and more open as Vitesse gradually increased their offensive intentions, both teams were granted more goal scoring opportunities in the second half. A main problem for Vitesse throughout the match was the lack of an effective striker. Marcus Pedersen featured anonymously for the 60 minutes he spent on the pitch, although in the first half his team set out rather defensively and the large gap between himself and the rest of the team made life very difficult for him. He was replaced by Reis at the hour mark, but despite (or because, or unrelated to) all the attention given to his return to Eindhoven, the former PSV did not add anything to Vitesse’s game.

Doing what their team does best, PSV countered to their second goal. A beauty it was though, as Dries Mertens picked the ball up around the half-way line, completed a central dribble and found the upper left hand corner of the goal from outside the box.

Now two goals down, Van den Brom introduced a second striker, with Japanese international Mike Havenaar, son of a Dutch goal keeper who played much of his career in Japan, entered the pitch for centre-back Kashia. Vitesse effectively switched to an offensive 4-4-2 / 4-2-4 formation that overloaded PSV’s mediocre (in defensive terms) full-backs. This brought them their goal, as Renato Ibarra had the better of left-back Willems and crossed for Havenaar to head home.

In the final minutes, PSV increased their lead to 3-1, with Manolev illustrating that he adds to PSV’s game more in offensive than defensive terms. He broke through on the right wing and combined to finish the move himself too.


In the end

The 3-1 score line suggests much more comfort than PSV actually had in this home game. Their pressing intentions during the 0-0 phase of the first thirty minutes were carried out quite sloppy, with repeated fouling helping their opponents out. After the opening goal they proved some danger on the counter, but defended too close to their own goal.

Vitesse, meanwhile, gradually improves and improves as a team. Manager Van den Brom seems to have his grip on a squad he joined only this summer, but Vitesse severely missed the presence of Wilfried Bony up front. Playing PSV by eliminating Strootman proved quite effective, and the concept of an ‘advanced defensive midfielder’ worked very well in this regard.

Vitesse 1 –1 Feyenoord: By all means no winners here

The teams ranked 14 and 15 in the Eredivisie before the kick-off went into this game knowing that, after wins by both Excelsior and VVV, a loss today would bring them close to the relegation play-offs. Unfortunately this insecurity shone through the start of the match with both teams clearly lacking confidence.


Vitesse: under construction

Georgian owned Vitesse is very much a team under construction. No less than fourteen players already made their debuts for the club this season, understandably leading to a lack of regular patterns of play. In his first managing job Albert Ferrer deserves some time to build his team, but at present results are needed even to stay clear of the relegation play-off places.

The starting line-ups. Note both 4-3-3's effectively cancelling each other other out, particularly in their midfield line-ups.

Today Vitesse went with a clear 4-3-3 formation, initially playing with a rather flat and closely grouped midfield, protecting a rather conservative flat back four. Defensive stability dominated over attacking power and lone striker Marco van Ginkel, a natural midfielder of just 18 years old, lacked support upfront. Vitesse missed their 4m euro striker Wilfried Bony who is not fit enough to play yet, but the prospect of having a striker who scored a goal every 128 minutes during the first half of the season at Sparta Prague should install some hope in those supporting Vitesse.

On the right wing Haruna Babangida, one of Vitesse’s recent acquisitions, played an outside pacy winger role while on the left wing Ismael Aissati played the trendy wide playmaker role that was recently depicted by Zonal Marking.


Troubled Feyenoord

Mario Been’s Feyenoord consequently plays a, outside wingers 4-3-3 system. Castaignos features in the lone striker role, today supported by wingers Biseswar and Ryo Miyaichi, the latter making his Feyenoord debut after being loaned from Arsenal. The talented 18 year old Japanese winger is a pacy dribbler with great acceleration who will hope to gain first team experience from this loan move. He is one of no less than four teenagers in today’s Feyenoord starting eleven with De Vrij, Martins Indi and Castaignos being the other three.

Feyenoord’s midfield sees another player making his debut as Marcel Meeuwis, loaned from German side Borussia Mönchengladbach is brought in the physically strengthen the midfield and hopefully install some stability there.


The first half

The pressure on both teams was very much clear right from the start of the game. Both teams looked happy enough to hold onto possession even in their own halves and both three men midfields effectively cancelling each other out meant that both sets of centre-backs resorted to quite some desperate balls over the top.

Feyenoord’s strikers Castaignos hardly got a touch of the ball in the first twenty minutes and he lacked all sorts of support with the midfielders more occupied with their defensive duties than making runs from deep. In addition to that, the distance from the wide wingers to the striker added to the isolated role up front. Unfortunately youngster Castaignos does not possess the physical strength at present to battle it out on his own against the likes of Kashia and particularly the physical presence of Rajkovic.


Vitesse played a teenager up front too as Marko van Ginkel featured in the striker role, preferred over topscorer (albeit with only four goals) Pedersen, who scored all his goals coming from the bench. Van Ginkel suffered from comparable problems as his counterpart Castaignos and he was by and large anonymous in the first part of the game too.

Twenty minutes into the match both managers started making their first tweaks to the teams. Mario Been instructed wingers Biseswar and Miyachi to switch flanks and immediately a handful of right-sided crosses came in from Biseswar. On the left flank Miyachi made some impressive pacy dribbles, but his crosses did not quite connect. Vitesse’s manager Albert Ferrer improved his striker’s support by having Aissati drifting inside in something approaching a free playmaking role from the left wing. In turn, this created space for Vitesse’s Japanse full-back Yasuda to exploit his attacking skills.

In spite of this, the first half panned out with just one Vitesse chance created as Matic played a delightful ball in behind Feyenoord’s backline only for Babangida to waste the one-on-one chance.


Second half changes

Despite again setting out in 4-3-3, Feyenoord’s playing style was definitely different in the second half. Biseswar played more of an inside winger role, lending support to Castaignos and creating space for right-back Swerts to make some runs. Furthermore, Wijnaldum started making some well-timed runs from deep, at one time to be on the end of an excellent one touch Castaignos cross where his tap-in was blocked by Vitesse keeper Room.

With both teams realizing that a draw would help them no further, chances started arising and the game got more of an end-to-end character. And shortly after Vitesse missed another excellent chance, Castaignos got free of his marker to finish a Biseswar cross to give Feyenoord the lead. Their advantage was short-lived though as a clumsy foul by Swerts on Van Ginkel meant an opportunity for Aissati to score from the penalty spot.

With the score now 1-1, both teams certainly played for the win. Both Vitesse’s full-backs lent a lot of support to the wingers and midfielders Matic and Riverola moved higher up the pitch too. Feyenoord switched to a 4-2-3-1 for the final fifteen minutes of the game, introducing tall striker Larsen for winger Biseswar and moving Wijnaldum to the right wing. Castaignos played in the hole behind target man Larsen.


In the end

Despite the attacking intent from both sides, the match finished with a 1-1 score line, but in truth both teams could easily have snatched victory in a closely matched end-to-end final ten minutes of the game. Tactically this was never the most entertaining of matches as both 4-3-3’s effectively cancelled each other out, but the tight battle and both teams desperation to win three points in the face of relegation play-offs made up for it. This draw does certainly not help Vitesse nor Feyenoord as both teams have just a three and two point margin to the relegation play-off places now, making Feyenoord’s next match, at home against Heracles another must-win game.

Excelsior 0 – 2 Vitesse: Half-time words of wisdom win the game for Vitesse

Seven games into the new season and not a word spent on Vitesse yet in 11tegen11. And yet, in some regards Vitesse has been one of the most dynamic teams so far. Disappointingly, however, this only held true for the off-pitch events so far. A change of ownership last August meant that Vitesse is the first, and so far only, foreign owned club in Holland. Georgian Merab Jordania took over the club, speaking of title challenges within three years and building the club into a stable force in European club football. Not the smallest of ambitions for last year’s number 14 of the Eredivisie, is it?

The Arnhem-based club saw an influx of (mainly loaned) players with the likes of Aissati (Ajax), Rajkovic and Delac (Chelsea) and Barazite (Arsenal) coming in. However, building a team is quite a different story so far and despite all this talent that Vitesse brings to the pitch now, results have so far failed to pick up. New owner Jordania, who is rumoured to be financially supported by Chelsea owner Roman Abramovitsj, only picked up his first points today.

Excelsior, a satellite club to Feyenoord and also from Rotterdam, have had a kick-start to their season. Building upon a solid 4-1-4-1 formation Excelsior already obtained an excellent return of 10 points after six matches, winning all of their three home matches of which the beating of big brother Feyenoord certainly helped building their confidence. Key factor in their ‘plan A’ system is pacy lone striker Guyon Fernandez. Plan B is formed by strong target man Roland Bergkamp who sometimes alternates his midfield position with Fernandez in an attempt to confuse the opponent’s defense.


The starting line-ups

Today, Excelsior had to do without their top scorer Fernandez, who suffers from a two match suspension after violent behaviour in the match against AZ. So, it’s plan B today, playing big man Bergkamp upfront. Another player who deserves to be highlighted on Excelsior’s part is captain Ryan Koolwijk. After only making his debut as a professional football players at the age of 22, the tall and skilled mifielder has grown within three years to Excelsior’s captain and deep-lying playmaker. His influential role on their game is not to be underestimated.

Vitesse tends to line up in a rather regular 4-3-3 formation, although off-pitch developments have not allowed manager Theo Bos to build a team and frequent adaptations to the preferred eleven have been seen. Against Excelsior no less than five players featured in the first eleven who were not part of the pre-season squad, before the Georgian takeover.

Intense Excelsior pressure for fifteen minutes

The match surprisingly started out with intense pressure from the home team. Excelsior pressed Vitesse all over the pitch, not allowing them any space to pass the ball. Aided by having a pitch of the minimum required dimensions, they succeeded in limiting space to the extreme. A telling example of this phase was the fact that their biggest scoring chance arose from their right-back missing a left-back cross close to Vitesse’s goal. However, most teams cannot play this type of pressure game for longer period of time and after 15 minutes Excelsior took a deeper stance, taking up their more familiar 4-1-4-1 shape.

In consequence, possession fell to Vitesse, dominating in this area with 66% during the first half. This was not to say that Excelsior lost their grip on the game, since their game of limiting space to the extreme was played very well by the low-budget home team. Vitesse did not force a single chance, but on the other hand, missing the raw pace of striker Fernandez, Excelsior didn’t create their usual chances from quick breaks. The only exception was formed by a beautiful chip into the penalty area from captain Koolwijk, leading to a situation where left winger Vincken was pulled to the ground. Excelsior should have had a penalty there, but as so often happens, it was a lot easier to spot from a close-up camera shot than from the referee’s point of view.

Half-time changes for Vitesse

Some matches are made to illustrate the importance of a half-time managerial talk and this one can definitely be viewed in that regard. Vitesse manager Bos changed things around, subbing off the disappointing Nilsson and Pluim and introducing the experience of Dejan Stefanovic and the technical skills and pace of Julian Jenner.

Both players set out for an energetic return from the dressing room, as can be said for the entire Vitesse team in the second half. Playing higher up the pitch, inducing more pressure on Excelsior’s midfield, they forced more passing mistakes and looked to capitalize on the subsequent interceptions.

The deserved turn-around


The difference between Vitesse’s first and second half couldn’t have been illustrated better than by Dejan Stefanovic scoring the opening goal from an energetic display of work rate, winning the ball at the edge of Excelsior’s box and taking maximum profit.

After this opening goal, Vitesse started to play like a team with self-confidence and the making of something potentially beautiful could be seen. In part aided by the fact that Excelsior had to give up more space given the 0-1 score, Vitesse’s passes connected much better now. Unlike for the English Premier League, no passing statistics are available in the Eredivisie to quantify this type of statements, so we’ll have to do with this sideline observation here.

Excelsior’s ‘plan B’ falling apart


As mentioned before, big target man Bergkamp forms Excelsior’s ‘plan B’ in the absence of pacy striker Fernandez to use in quick breaks. Unfortunately for manager Pastoor, his ‘plan B’ fell apart too, when Bergkamp had to leave the field injured with over half an hour to play. Lacking squad depth for a serious ‘plan C’, Excelsior only was to be applauded for trying anyway.

With the best developments from a tactical viewpoint now having passed, the best moment of football in this game was yet to come. If you’d just check out one moment of this match, make sure it’s this one. A magnificent strike from Ismail Aissati drove the ball over goalkeeper Paauwe into the Excelsior goal from 35 yards out. After this, Excelsior even forced central defender Van Steensel forward, but it was to no effect. Missing their structure from that point, the match was over by then.

In conclusion


Excelsior shouldn’t take too much from this game. Missing the prime focal point in attack, they were forced to a ‘plan B’ from the beginning, and with Bergkamp leaving the field injured, things started looking quite bleak. Not a surprising fact considering the small stature of the newly promoted club. Their return of ten points from seven matches still forms a solid base to achieve their goal of avoiding relegation.

Regarding Vitesse, we might just have seen the first signs of things to come. In for a turbulent season this year, expectations should best be kept inside until next year. Manager Bos seems more than capable of building a squad from all the loose pieces coming to his disposal recently. And given these mutations, it’s just too early to draw conclusions on their playing style and tactics as yet.