The Netherlands’ squad for the upcoming Nations League matches has been announced, and it tells us a lot about Louis van Gaal’s plans.
Here are our four key takeaways…
The goalkeeper spot is up for grabs
As recently as yesterday, it was widely believed that Justin Bijlow is Oranje’s first-choice goalkeeper, even if he has made a somewhat shaky start to the 2022/23 season.
However, Van Gaal has clearly taken notice of that start as well as the impressive form Jasper Cillessen, Mark Flekken, Remko Pasveer and Andries Noppert have been in, including all of them in his squad ahead of Bijlow.
He clearly doesn’t think the Feyenoord man is playing well enough to be his nation’s keeper, but also isn’t sure who is the best replacement, calling up all four potential candidates.
Cillessen is most likely to take the number one jersey, but how each of them performs in training and in the matches in the upcoming break could well determine who starts in Qatar.
The backline is set in stone
While there are question marks about who will be playing behind them, it seems clear how the Netherlands backline will shape up in Qatar.
The only potential changes were Pascal Struijk and Jeremie Frimpong coming in for Bruno Martins-Indi and Devyne Rensch, but while they’ve been more impressive at club level Van Gaal has decided to stick with what he knows.
Which players will be in the starting XI’s backline is not yet fully decided, but which players the manager will be choosing from is, barring any injuries.
The search for the perfect partner to Frenkie de Jong goes on
The Netherlands’ transition from a 4-3-3 to a 3-5-2 has been a smooth one, but one thing Van Gaal has struggled to do is find the perfect midfield partner to De Jong in the new system. Teun Koopmeiners and Gini Wijnaldum have failed to impress, leading the manager to play Davy Klaassen and move Steven Berghuis further back.
That’s not an optimal solution though, being too defensively weak against top teams, and clearly still hoping to find a better one, the coach had decided to give Kenneth Taylor a chance.
The Dutchman has been impressive for Ajax and, on paper, has a set of skills that make him the ideal partner to De Jong at the base of the Oranje midfield. If he can impress in the next two matches, the spot could be his.
Brian Brobbey has missed his chance
Memphis Depay and Steven Bergwijn will start for the Netherlands at the World Cup, but Van Gaal has openly said he’d like to take a more “pure” striker as backup to serve as a Plan B. Many thought Brobbey would be that man, but that now doesn’t look to be the case.
He hasn’t exactly set the world alight at Ajax this season, and has recently lost his place in the starting XI to Mohammed Kudus. Vincent Janssen and Wout Weghorst meanwhile have both performed well at their new clubs in Belgium and Turkey respectively.
Unless he goes on an incredible run of form, Brobbey will have to wait for his chance to represent Oranje with Van Gaal choosing between Janssen and Weghorst instead.
Joining one of those two and the two first-choice options on the plan will most likely be Arnaut Danjuma, Donyell Malen and Noa Lang. They weren’t selected for this squad due to fitness issues but, assuming they’re fit, will replace the fourth goalkeeper and whichever target man isn’t picked and fill the 26th spot that Van Gaal left vacant for the upcoming matches.