Louis van Gaal spoke to the press ahead of the Netherlands’ upcoming Nations League matches, and many of his thoughts and plans regarding the World Cup became clearer.
Here are what we think were the five key takeaways from the press conference…
Van Gaal wants to take four goalkeepers to Qatar
There are four goalkeepers in the current Netherlands selection, but it was widely assumed only three would be on the plane to Qatar. However, if Van Gaal gets his way, that won’t be the case.
FIFA have allowed each nation to take a 26-man squad rather than the usual 23-player limit, and the manager has said that he wants to use one of those extra spots to take a fourth goalkeeper.
As for why, he says because outfield players can be replaced and covered by players from other positions, whereas goalkeepers can’t. He’s right of course, but taking four seems somewhat unnecessary.
Penalty preparation is a priority
The Netherlands and Van Gaal were knocked out of the World Cup on penalties the last time they competed in it, and he’s doing everything he can to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen again.
The four goalkeepers in the squad plus Justin Bijlow and Kjell Scherpen are all taking part in “scientific” tests aimed at improving their ability to save penalties this week, while the manager has admitted that ability will play a part in which keepers make his squad, and has also told his outfield players to practice taking them at their clubs.
It’s often said that penalty shoot-outs are a lottery, but Van Gaal is trying to ensure that won’t be the case.
There are unlikely to be any new faces in central defence
When Bruno Martins-Indi pulled out of the squad with injury, Van Gaal opted not to select a replacement, which says a lot about his thoughts on his backline.
He wasn’t short of options, with Sven Botman and Pascal Struijk both being ideal replacements on paper. The fact that they weren’t called up all but confirms that they won’t go to the World Cup, nor will any other central defender that wasn’t in the original squad this time around.
Memphis Depay remains the main man
He may have become less important at Barcelona over the summer, but it’s abundantly clear that Memphis remains a key player in Van Gaal’s plans.
Gini Wijnadlum was the Netherlands’ vice-captain when LVG originally took over, but with injury ruling him out of the World Cup, the manager has chosen Memphis his new one.
What’s more, he has hired the physical therapist that got Wesley Sneijder fit for the 2014 World Cup to ensure the forward is ready for this one.
There may be some changes yet
We may not see any new centre-backs in the final World Cup squad, but Van Gaal was keen to make clear that, just because players weren’t in this selection, it doesn’t mean they can kiss their hopes of going to Qatar goodbye.
When asked about the likes of Bijlow, Brian Brobbey and Joey Veerman, the manager said they could still be selected in November if they performed well for their clubs.